Yesterday, I spent the morning in Kigali as a not-quite-tourist psuedo-lost in Kigali. For reference, Kiyovu and Ramera are areas of Kigali that are roughly 20 minutes apart by moto.
Monday morning I had to go to a doctor’s office to get a blood test. I was feeling fairly confident at navigating my way around, as I knew where the office was, and am beginning to feel like a seasoned moto rider (no longer feeling the need to grip on for dear life and being able to negotiate the moto prices when I am initially given the Muzungu price).
I woke up early and grabbed a moto from outside our house in Kiyovu. I headed to Ramera to the doctors office. Despite calling ahead, it turned out that the doctor was not in, and they were not able to do the test I needed anyway. The nurse told me where I needed to go, and insisted that any moto driver would know it. I asked for more specifics of where to tell the moto driver (like the area of town, other nearby landmarks, etc.) but after a 15 minute conversation, I felt confident that I would easily find a moto driver that would take me there with ease.
I stepped outside of the building, and after warding off a few men trying to sell me maps of Rwanda, English-Kinyarwanda dictionaries, and other tourist chachkis as per ushe, I asked a moto driver to take me to the biomedical center laboratories in town. He stared at me with a blank expression. Several other moto drivers crowded around to help, but none had any clue where I was requesting to be taken. A man who was trying to also travel somewhere by moto came over to help. He took out his smartphone, called a friend to ask, but after no conclusion, googled the place. After ten minutes or so, he found the address of a place in Kiyovu. He felt confident that this was where I was headed, so I thanked him and the moto driver took me to the address, located approximately one block from my house in Kiyovu.
This was not the place we were looking for, but instead the Deloitte building (shout out to all my friends working for Deloitte in the States, I stay literally a block from the offices in Kigali). A man selling food at a stand outside the building explained that six months prior, the offices moved to Ramera. He told the moto driver where it was located, and he took me there. 20 minutes later, I ended up a block from the original doctors office, at the Rwanda Biomedical Center offices, where a very helpful security guard lead me to reception.
Turns out that I was standing in the head administrative offices of the large national organization, which is definitely not where I was intending to go. The woman at reception wrote down on a post-it note where I should go, and after hailing my 5th moto of the morning (it was only 10am), I found myself passing all of the exact same landmarks on the ride between Ramera and Kiyovu for the 5th time that morning – the same hotels, parliament building, non-profits, restaurants. I found myself in a fit of laughter at my predicament as I noted the 10th time I was passing the sign for the Ethiopian restaurant we had been dying to try (each ride I passed the front entrance and the back entrance of it).
Finally, after making my way through Kiyovu, past my house again, I made my way to the laboratory that I was initially intended to go to. As I waited for a while, I found out that first I need to see a Rwandan doctor, and a script from an American doctor would not suffice.
The other cousins were at Bourbon Coffee (the hardcore Muzungo coffee shop, that has free wifi and delicious veggie burgers and iced espresso drinks) a few blocks away, so I abandoned my mission for the day, and instead enjoyed a delicious iced café mocha and veggie burger with fries.
At noon I had an appointment to return to the tailor to pick up my outfit that I had made for me (a few weeks ago Mable helped us go to the fabric shops and then the tailor for those of us who wanted to have custom outfits made for us like many Rwandans have), I had gone for a fitting the day before with Max (who also had an outfit made), and went to pick up my outfit. It turned out incredibly!!! I am so impressed and overjoyed. I tried it on, and everyone in the shop wanted a picture of me in it (with the woman who made the outfit).
The zipper was broken, so I waited for a bit while it was being fixed, so I was chatting with the staff of the tiny office (it’s very clear that it’s not often/ever that Muzungus come in there), but it’s this really impressive little office where several people make incredible clothing (everything from dress shirts, to suits, to dresses, etc.) from scratch. While I was chatting with them, one of the guys who works there had the other (who spoke English) translate a message for me. It was roughly along the lines of “he wants you to know that he loves you and wants to know if you want to marry him because he loves you”. Absolutely hilarious, the whole shop was laughing hysterically. Obviously I turned down the proposal (though we’ve had fascinating conversations with the kids at Agahozo who tell us that we should be no older than 25 when we get married – the thought of them that people get married at 30 is unheard of… maybe more on that in another blog post later – super interesting views and conversations/debates!).
I needed to head back on the bus to Rwamagana with the rest of the cousins at 1pm. After watching the tailor fully replace the zipper on my shirt, I thanked them all and said my goodbyes. They told me I must come back (and honestly my skirt/top turned out so well I think I might get more clothes made! The fabrics are incredible and the tailoring is such high quality… and the leftover fabric I can bring home to use for a quilt!). I stepped outside and caught my 6th moto ride of the morning, negotiating the price to approximately 25 cents as it was to cover the roughly 15 minute walk back to the house that I did not have the time to walk in order to leave on time.
I made it back to the house just in time to grab my backpack and take my 7th moto of the morning with the rest of the cousins to the bus station to make our way back to the village. So while I did not get my blood test done (still need to figure that out), I did manage to get my beautiful outfit, a marriage proposal, and a pretty good sense of the route and great view of all of the landmarks between Kiyovu and Ramera! I realized how little I know about Kigali and how thankful I am that English is an official language (and how much I want to learn Kinyarwanda), but more than anything, I gained a sense of gratefulness for the willingness of strangers to go out of their way to be helpful to a lost not-quite-tourist.