03.07.2009 - 04.07.2009
It was like I was in another country. Ok, so i was in another country, but in this part of Africa, you kind of expect certain things which are pretty much constant regardless of where you actually are. Wandering around Kigali that first afternoon (admittedly after I had slogged up a huge hill in obscene heat in search of a hotel that wasn't there) was a huge revelation.
Such curiosities as well tended green verges, freshly painted road markings, an absence of car horns, traffic lights that people actually pay attention to (!!), buses with timetables which are actually adhered to and are not a complete pack of lies and, perhaps most astonishingly, helmets. Boda-Bodas (yes, the thing that i came flying off in Kampala) are a part of life in most towns and cities in Africa, and Kigali is no different. Except that, amazingly, every rider was wearing a helmet. Even more amazingly, they all carried extra helmets for passengers they pick up. Thus it was routine to see more people on a single motorcycle (two) wearing helmets than the total number of helmets that I had seen being worn in Kampala, a city with ten times the number motorcycles. True, i am sure that it is a legal requirement to wear a helmet in Rwanda, but in much of Africa such things mean absolutely nothing at all.
Take, for example, plastic bags. They are banned in Rwanda, and consequently any shopping is presented to you in brown paper bags or, if you have them, reusable shopping bags. The only polythene bags I have seen in the entire country are ones that I brought in with me. In Uganda, they are also banned. But every store - without exception - still uses them freely. The law is there and people are happy about it, but nobody would actually consider obeying it. That would just be silly.