Friday, January 7, 2011

Arrived in Rwanda (and Friends Without Border)

Thanks to everyone who replied to my medium-inclusive mass email! 
If you are getting this as an email, I have started the practice of including some friends on an email list when I post blog entries.  So as I post, you will receive an email from me at the same time.
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I am now staying comfortably at the home of David Bucura in Kigali, Rwanda.  I will stay here until Sunday Jan 9, and soon after the service, he will drive us to Gisenyi.
The plane arrived last night right-on-time at 8pm.  It took an hour to get through the customs, but that went very smoothly.  Dave lives nearby the airport - so we returned home to a delicious dinner of peas, potato, greens, beef stew, and tea.  There were not many mosquitoes, so the family does not use the nets this time of year, but we set one up for me just to dot-the-eye and cross-the-tee.  Breakfast was similarly wonderful, and I will add a picture of us at dinner shortly.
The next morning, Dave's son Yves showed me around town.  I changed some money, got my phone working, and visited the US embassy library.  The bus system is amazing - medium-size vans that stop at designated stops, with standard prices.  People stick to their seats, I saw no floor-sitting or livestock.  But, they were not shy about getting cozy in the name of efficiency.
From a woman I talked to in line at the airport, to the customer service rep at the bank, everyone wanted to know "what sector I was in," and "will you start a business?"  Maybe it's my white button-down collared shirt, but I think that everyone is excited about western business coming to town, in a overwhelmingly positive way.
There may be some construction improvements to be done at the Quaker offices - this could be a side project after my work in Gisenyi and Goma.
My Rwanda cellphone number is +250 784114209.  My skypein number, (917) 725-5122, does not point to it yet, but it will soon.  Hopefully I will get it set up after I post this entry.
The following is a post I wrote a week ago but never put up:
Friends Without Borders is an interesting effort.  The organization has been facilitating pen-pal letters between children in India and Pakistan.  Achingly beautiful. 

Letters from children are great - I think there are also plenty of adults with humanitarian ideals that might also want to make similar connections.  The example of Zainab Salbi, Lisa Shannon, and other members of Women for Women International seems like a great way forward.  Humanitarian work as peer-to-peer solidarity.  Idealism without erring on the side of paternalism.

-Steven Bhardwaj

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