Day 1

First, a note. This blog was begun to document the travels of Hamline folks to Rwanda, and that it has. The emphasis was on what we were experiencing, learning, etc. This trip, I'm on my own. Rather then try to post in two places, one in a personal blog and about my days, generally, and another here and more limited to my experiences as a faculty member, I'm going to post only in one place, here. So, pardon the comments that may be a bit more in the realm of "what I had for breakfast..."

This morning was a beautiful day in Kigali. I began by reading some news regarding Rwanda and the commemorative events while waiting for brunch. And, speaking of 'breakfast,' I had a nice Heaven omelette with Gouda, avocado, and tomatoes along with home fries, hold the toast. I then headed over to the Union Trade Center where I was able to exchange some cash - and at a slightly better rate than in November and get a cell phone so that I could more readily be in touch with my contacts here.

Then, I visited with a young Rwandan woman, M, who recently completed her undergraduate degree and is working for a bank. We had 'met' via an online language learning site. It looked like the skies were going to open up - it's the rainy season here - so I encouraged her to grab the bus while she could still do so without becoming soaked. I stayed at picked up a few things at the Nakumatt. While doing so, it poured. By the time I was done, it had stopped and all that was left were gutters running like rivers. I walked back to the inn and soon the phone rang. It was another person, D, I had 'met' via the language site wanting to meet at the UTC. So, back I went. We, too, had a great visit, though I have to say that Rwandan tendency to be soft-spoken, an accent, and my bad hearing made both conversations quite a lot of 'work,' though absolutely worth it. I had brought US-Rwanda crossed flag pins with me to give folks as a little token. D was quite tickled with it but, unfortunately, I forgot to give M hers. Insert sad face here.

I had dinner with Tony, a guy I 'met' - yes, all this 'meeting' - through a facebook page about the 20th anniversary of the genocide. He's a British fellow who was so taken with his reading of Romeo Dallaire's 'Shake Hands with the Devil' that he decided he had to come to Rwanda. We had a terrific conversation about his experiences thus far, President Kagame, books, traveling, family, and so on. Tomorrow at 7 am we're going to head over to the commemorative event at the stadium, followed by the Walk to Remember.

I really should have posted about my journey to Rwanda first, but it already seems in the distant past. A recap? Left New Brunswick for Boston - in the snow - at 9 am Thursday - that's 2 pm Kigali time; Bangor Savings wouldn't change my $20s into $100s because I wasn't a customer, but Bangor Federal Credit Union came to my rescue; almost had a fender bender in a parking lot; first flight was delayed... but my layover was long enough that it didn't matter. Ended up with an open seat next to me on the first flight. Yay. Walking through the Detroit airport the sole of one of my Tevas peeled off in one piece. not kidding. Had an interesting elderly woman as a seat companion on the flight to Amsterdam. Three cheers for Yotel Amsterdam where I was able to shower. Saw a Kigali-bound Oklahoma woman with big hair that turned out to not be hers get seriously body searched - I'm talking real breast pinching - until she demanded the search be completed elsewhere. She was so not happy. Watched 'Out of the Furnace' and 'Gravity' on the flight to Kigali. We landed at 7:15 pm. When, at landing, they switched on the Muzak it was Pharrell's 'Happy.' Perfect! Being just south of the equator, it's dark at that hour. While waiting - and waiting and waiting - for my bag, the power went out. Just briefly, but enough to be freaky. Got the hotel and collapsed. So, including the travels to Boston, I'd call it about 54 hours door-to-door. But, I'm here and I had a good day. Tomorrow will, I'm sure, have a very different feel, but I'm sure it will be no less interesting. G' night!

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