10 July, 2009

Motos and Muzungos

Day 6 in Kigali. It's hard for me to imagine that I have been here a week. It doesn't seem possible. The city really is amazing, especially when you get to see it from the back of a moto - the fun, cheap and quick way to get around Rwanda.

A moto is essentially a motorbike taxi. Regular taxis costs 5 times as much and take twice as long. Instead I flag a moto, negotiate a price (always inflated because I am white = a muzungo), hike up my skirt, climb up and hold on. It is not kosher to hold onto the man so instead I hold onto the back of the seat. Some people can ride without holding on, I am not there yet. I was thinking on the ride into town today that in Cambodia the women ride motos sidesaddle. That might be a bit of a stretch for this daring muzongo.

Kigali is an interesting city. The core of the city is in a valley (this is the land of 1,000 hills) with the bigger (nicer, newer, etc.) buildings up sides, creating almost a bowl like effect. The airport is on one of the highest points in the city, the soccer stadium another. The only major road in Kigali goes around the perimeter of this "bowl" and there are no streets that cut across. I have affectionately started referring to this one road as the Beltway, or that interstate around Indy.

Most of the roads are dirt, minus a few thorough fares. Other people have said the driving is crazy - but it is rather mild compared to Quito and a snails base compared to Phnom Penh (seriously!). There is also something else very vital to remember: these drivers grew up here. They know how things work, the unspoken rules. They use their horns to indicate passing, they know where they can fit. They know how far their bus goes before it will careen off the cliff. As a foreigner I have no business telling them how to drive. My rules don't apply here, my logic will not work, so I sit back, release control and enjoy the ride.

That is one of the few things I must relinquish control of. Others are that my food will come in a timely manner, that the internet will be decent (if it works at all), that dinner will sit well, that I know where I am.

Honestly, I don't want to import my culture here. I don't want to be one of those Americans who never adjusts because I refuse to acknowledge things are different here and then submit to the differences.