Monday, April 11, 2011

Part 1: Its okay to pick up hitchhikers in Africa…right?

Allow me to set the scene for you:

2 whiteys in a big safari-esque SUV heading down the road with our useless foreign maps to an area of Rwanda we had never been to.  The car tires are squeaking, the back door is rattling, there’s some strange sound coming from underneath the car, there’s a giant *clunk* when you change gears, the entire car shakes when you go over 70 kilometers per hour, and it’s a gamble on whether or not we have enough gas to get us where we are going.

Okay so basically it’s just another day driving through the hills of Rwanda and Ryan gets pulled over by the police.  The police are all on foot so when you see someone on the side of the road in a neon yellow jacket raise their arm you pull over.  Its pretty rudimentary but it works.  In a country where everybody knows everybody and they all live on top of each other, you can’t afford to not be a rule-follower.  So, the rule-following temporary residents that we are  pulled over. 

[Sidenote: Ryan gets pulled over a LOT.  Rwanda is making a big push to make sure all drivers have permits and insurance so there are a lot of traffic stops, but they always peer inside our car, see white people, and wave us on through.  I’d like to take the time to point out that I had not yet been pulled over by Rwandan police.]

So Ryan pulls off and the policeman asked if we could help him by giving someone a ride.  
Here’s the thing:
1.  Rwandan policemen aren’t exactly the warm-fuzzy type.  They are serious and they mean business.
2.  We really don’t want to get arrested for something stupid (or at all for that matter).

“Um I guess.  I mean, sure.  I mean, yessir Officer.  Uhh?”
So this woman gets in the backseat of our car and off we go down the road to our destination of Butare. Is she even going to Butare?  Where do we drop her off?  Regardless of our confusions with the whole matter, I said to Ryan , “I bet I know who is the most uncomfortable person in the car and its not me or you!”  I imagine she'll be telling her neighbors for years to come about the time these Mzungus gave her a ride because they didn’t know that they could say no to the police.

I had a short conversation with her in Kinyarwanda and found out her name is Diana and that she's married, has a daughter and a baby on the way.  Don’t be too impressed with my foreign language skills – it was like playing charades.  About 20 minutes into the ride she handed me a piece of paper that had her name and her address.  On the bottom of the paper she wrote “I love you” in English.

We pulled into a bus stop in Butare with the rain falling on our windshield.  Diana thanked us and we went our separate ways. 

In our 24 hours in the Southern Province we saw the National University of Rwanda, the National Museum of Rwanda, the King’s Palaces, and the National Art Museum.  They were all fantastic.  Can you believe that the Rwandan King lived in a grass thatch hut well into the 20th century?!  Crazy.

And afterward, on our drive home….

Read “Part 2: Transporting armed (police) men in Africa” at to find out what happened.

The King's Palace in the 1930's

1 comment:

  1. Kim....I love the dual writing style on your and Ryan's blog entries...I laughed and teared up! I think you should write a book about your experiences using this format!...Hope you are having fun at the safari park and reconnecting with some friends from there...can't wait to have my arms around you both!....lots of