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Return to Rwanda (part 2)
Wednesday, 17 August 2011 Written by Doug Shaw

Teachers with Gifts from CanadaThere are two terminals at the Addis airport. One is quite new, western-looking, modern and clean. The other is older, Soviet-inspired in architecture, dated, and worn. We land in front of the new building, walk into the new building and then are ushered through the new building to the opposite end of the terminal.

We are then lead outside to a shuttle bus that will take us to the old terminal. Despite being only 100 meters apart the bus loops completely around and travels perhaps 800 meters in total before dropping us off. Inside the terminal there is more the feel of a small bus station than of an airport.

Tim and I look around the terminal to find Jean Paul. Paulo (Jean Paul’s nickname) had spent the last 3 months at Olds College in a special program designed to increase his knowledge of carpentry and to introduce to him new concepts in pedagogy. I taught him four hours in the morning and he was with a first year apprenticeship class in the afternoons. Originally all three of us planned to travel together to Rwanda but Paulo had to be rerouted due to the imposition of a transit visa on the Africans by the UK government. Not wanting to delay his arrival in Canada by a further month, we had rerouted his flight through Paris, would meet him in Addis, and then travel together to Kigali.

Jean Paul and I decided on freshly roasted, ground espresso style coffees, while Tim had a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. Everything was delicious. Every person in the terminal was exceedingly polite and helpful.  The terminal layout itself was a little unusual. The eating area morphed into a smoking area and that in turn morphed into the toilets. Opposite to the food area was the shopping area which was obviously very highly inspired by the Ethiopian marketplace. It was the antithesis of Heathrow’s Harrods store that we passed through a few hours before.

I explored the little shops and bought a litre of Scotch (reasonable quality and produced in Scotland) for 12$US. The Napoleon Brandy for 5$US a litre also tempted me. Other shops had crafts, coffee, jewelry, and clothing. I must say that these were the most reasonably priced and most fun little airport shops I have ran across yet in my travels. In fact, this was probably my favorite airport terminal - in a homemade cookie kind of way, of course.

The two and a half hour flight from Addis to Kigali was a blur as I finally managed to sleep on the plane after being awake for the last 40 hours or so. Tim and I were one of the first off the plane and quickly lined up to have our passport stamped. We had applied for visas online and had been issued a 15 day visa for 60$US which we were to pay upon arrival.

After getting in line we realized that we had to get an arrival form and fill it out. We didn’t realize this as you could not see the desks were the forms were located and had to rely on one of the Rwandan officials to guide you over there and he had not yet made it to his post when we went through. After filling out the forms we got back in line. We were now about the middle of the pack.

We got up to the window when the official decided that those of us who had to pay the visa fee should pay for it first and then go to the next booth which housed the immigration officer. So to the back of the line we went again. However when it was our turn to see the immigration officer the first official decided it made more sense to have us get back in line and start all over rather than taking one sideways step. Back to the end of the line again.

We were not the very last through but we were second last. Strangely we were only charged 30$USD and had our passports stamped for 30 days rather than the 15 day 60$USD we were expecting. Perhaps the length of stay is proportional to one’s patience. I wonder what kind of a deal the very last two people got!

All our luggage arrived; two guitars and four large suitcases. We were met by Ivica and his friend, colleague, and fellow Croat: Sebastian. Ivica’s little Toyota Starlette would not have been able to carry all of us along with our luggage so extra help was solicited.

We decided to stop and have a beer and brochettes which has become our traditional reason over here to stop at a hotel. We stopped at Chez Lando, a Kigali 5-star establishment, and ordered beef and some goat brochettes. I had a Guinness. The mere fact that a restaurant carries this brand gains it three stars in my rating system; two additional stars are available if it is served cold. Tim concurs as he has a similar rating system that provides three stars for brochettes and an additional two for goat; hence the 5-star rating.

On our first visit to Kigali the traffic initially had seemed chaotic. The disorder provided by the hundreds of motorcycles zipping in and out of their lanes and the thousands of pedestrians running back and forth across the road overwhelmed my senses.  In a short time I overcame the trepidation of driving over here and was able to cope adequately with the task. On this visit the traffic seemed tame. This time I could understand and make sense of what was happening, or at least, what was supposed to be happening.

Kigali seemed cleaner, more orderly, and more beautiful. There obviously had been an intense effort with urban renewal as many of the older clay houses had been torn down and the people resettled outside the capital. Flowers had been planted, boulevards landscaped and trees trimmed. The number of soldiers in the capital had also greatly increased and there was a soldier on duty about every 15 or 20 meters in the city centre.

The first thing I noticed on the drive from the airport to Kivumu was all the new construction that had taken place in the last two years. Many of the grey mortar coloured buildings have been painted bright colours. Covered verandas had been added to the road-side buildings (by government decree according to Ivica). Impressively too, the main road to Kivumu had been repaired and the car devouring potholes filled in and tamed along the section just outside of Kigali and also just west of Kivumu towards Gitarama.

After unloading the luggage and gathering a few items Jean Paul, Tim and I thought we would drop by to say hello to Egide and congratulate him on his marriage earlier that morning. Jean Paul would leave his bags at the friary, visit, and then pick up his bags before heading home.  Egide is one of Jean Paul’s fellow instructors and had also studied carpentry at Olds College two years ago. His bride was very beautiful and Egide was dressed to the hilt. It was good to see  Joseph and all the other instructors from the school again.

A lot of the instructors asked if Miss Jayne and Miss Cherie had come with us. They were all disappointed that they were not here. Everyone was desperate to learn more English. Everyone was heartened to hear that Dianne and her company, ACE, were once again planning to fund these two ESL instructors to come over in November.

Returning from Egide’s Tim, Jean Paul and I walked up to the gate of the friary. Tim and I were going to walk up the drive to the car. Jean Paul froze. “Please, I beg of you not to go that way. It is far too dangerous.“

The Rwandans have a great fear of dogs, partially, but not totally, because the dogs scavenged on the bodies during The Genocide. Even the smallest dog will strike fear in the heart of the stoutest Rwandan. Ivica’s dog is medium sized, good natured, starved for attention and a bit hyperactive. Nobody from Kivumu will walk past the dog and far too respectful of the guard dog’s role, Jean Paul went around to the door while Tim and I walked down the drive towards Ivica’s guard dog. The dog hid in fear.

Many people could not believe Tim had changed so much and no longer appeared to be a child but a young man. Blandine could not even recognize Tim and would not at first believe he was the same person who was here two years ago.

Our first “day” had lasted over 48 hours and Tim and I are exhausted. We settle in early to our old rooms; our home for the next two months.

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