I was not able to get to sleep until about 6am but ended up getting about four and a half hours of sleep, more than I was expecting to get. I took my first African shower and it was very cold. There was not any hot water at the hotel we stayed at during our orientation week. However, the cold shower did not turn out as bad as it could have been. There also isn’t any air-conditioning so unless the water is running over you (and not all showers have a shower head that is attached to the wall so the water usually isn’t doing this). Anyways, the shower was cold but not terrible. Definitely something that I can adjust to! I have successfully used my plug adapter without blowing up my computer which is also nice. I made the mistake of taking my doxycycline (anti-malarial pills) without eating breakfast this morning and thought something was horribly wrong with me until I realized what I had done.
This afternoon we went to mu mujyi (town) to get our US dollars converted into Rwandan Francs. The exchange rate when we went was 1 USD for 603 Francs. Things are pretty cheap here – most of the time – compared to in the US too. A typical Rwandan diner that consists of a buffet with rice, beans, cooked bananas, collared greens, soup of some sort, meat (usually beef cooked very well), different types of sauces, chips (thick french fries, with mayo of course), pasta salad and cucumbers runs around 1500 – 2000 Francs. This converts to about 2.50 – 3.30 USD, which is very cheap by American standards. Some things are about the same price as they would be in America though, especially if you go to somewhere like a modern coffee shop. Buying things in the grocery store varies from being very cheap to sometimes being more expensive than they would be back home.
We all went and bought cell phones and minutes to use while we are here. The minutes are bought in bundles of Francs and you are given a card with a scratch off area that reveals a number that you just type into your phone and are credited automatically. I got the cheapest phone and it was 10,000 Francs or about 17 USD. The rates to call vary whether you are calling someone on your network, a different network or internationally. Calling and texting internationally is not as expensive as I anticipated – 250/minute and 80/text. It is relatively cheap but also something that can add up if you don’t keep track of it! We walked around the town and checked things out. Everyone was pretty friendly and we got a good feeling for the downtown area of Kigali.
Wednesday night we went to our first Rwandan bar, Shooters. It was a 10-15 minute walk from our hotel and was really neat. We got there around 10:30 and there was a spoken word performance going on. People performed improv poetry and some songs. Everything was beautiful and very entertaining. Afterwards we danced and hung out, met a handful of people and really enjoyed ourselves until about 1am. Then we walked home together. A woman yelled at us for about 3-5 minutes of the walk home but we just kept walking and disregarded her so she eventually left us alone. Rwanda has guards stationed everywhere which makes us all feel very safe. The city is such a peaceful place, busy and hectic, but still peaceful. I am not sure how the locals feel about the guards, whether or not they get the same feeling of comfort that we do from them being around. I will be sure to ask our director, Apollon, of this in the morning. The peace in Rwanda is what is known as negative peace because of the strict police and military presence but nevertheless I would say it is better than no peace at all.