Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Most Exciting Bus Ride Yet

This last weekend started with me being pathetically helpless: not only could I not identify my bus to Kigali (a bus that I take twice a month), but I needed Elie’s help to get onto the bus. This is partially because Rwandans are vehemently opposed to lines and waiting in them, and I had not yet adapted to the culture of elbowing nuns and small children out of the way in order to get a seat on the bus…for which I have a ticket. Usually, I stand right at the bus doors as they open, and then timidly inch forward…at a rate that secures me the last, broken, legroom-less seat on the bus.

The added difficulty with Friday night was that it was the first day of school holidays. Classically, in Rwanda, this provided *opportunity for profit* without consideration of the added expenses. The bus company just kept on selling tickets, because so many people wanted them. Woo! More money! That they sold twice as many tickets as seats available on the buses was apparently a problem for the ticket holders. Without Elie, I certainly would have never gotten on the bus. With Elie’s help clearing a path to the front of the mob, I enjoyed the best seat on the bus (although I had a bit of a panic because Elie could not actually go onto the bus with me…he could only get me to the door) – right next to the door for easy exit, with the most leg room, and a window. (Rwandans are allergic to fresh air, especially on buses. I spend most bus rides drenched in my own sweat and alternatively pinching my nose from the smell and trying to take in as much air with oxygen as possible.)

I relished my good fortune (especially the open window), until the bus suddenly stopped, seemingly stuck in traffic…except that traffic does not exist in Rwanda. We were about 15 minutes from Kigali. The driver got off. My cell phone rang. It was Jared, who was on the bus 15 minutes after mine. He was now stuck in the same line of traffic. It was decision time…a few people were getting off the bus and walking towards Kigali. It would be a long walk, but it was all downhill. So we started walking. I frantically texted the birthday girl and told her what was happening and that we might be late to dinner.

Thank God we decided to walk…the holdup was caused by a 2-trailer Mutzig truck that had fallen off the side of the road. There was a crane out, trying to get it back on the road. I am unsure what happened to those who waited in line, but I do know that within half an hour we were well on our way into town, feeling like some of the smartest kids around. (Few others walked as far as we did; most people just got off their buses to observe the entertainment of the crane. Time is also insignificant to most Rwandans.)

At one point, Jared suggested that we get motos. In all the disgust that I could muster of somebody who’s lived here for 8 months I informed him that a moto from there would be unnecessarily expensive, and that it would just be best to get a local public bus. He had never taken one before and was worried. I acted like I knew what I was doing and used one of the twenty Kinyrwanda words I knew (plus a little bit of directional sense…there are only 2 roads in Rwanda) to find a bus that was headed into town (“mumugi”). It was only 100 francs…a moto would have probably been 1000. Success.

And finally, thanks to everybody except me embracing the tardiness inherent in Rwandan culture…I was actually the first to arrive at the birthday dinner. Complete success.

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