(I've changed the name from "Rants" given that I can't really rant about many things that frustrate me here, at least not without getting into some sort of trouble. As such, you'll have to wait for the book.)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Stranger in the Night

Flash forward to the present. I’m in Rwanda for the week. The dust has settled on our return and we’re back into our routines. Things have been generally good and I think Kiran is happy to be back in the crèche. After some respite from travel, it’s now catching up to me. Kigali this week. Possibly a trip or two to the field next week. NY next Friday. Sigh. 

A weird thing happened last night. I went for my run in the area where our house is in Kigali as I normally do (except this time I’m staying in a hotel since our house is under construction). As I was coming back it was getting dark. In Kigali it’s generally not a problem to run after sunset these days. There is crime and it may be getting slightly worse but overall it’s not too dangerous so long as you stay in the right neighborhoods. As I was in my last kilometer I passed a woman in the dark who, by what I could see of her running gear, was probably American. She obviously figured it was safe too.

Around that time the power went out. On the main roads, Kigali is blessed with street lights that actually work – but only when there is electricity.My experience is that Kigali has relatively few power outages, certainly compared to Bujumbura, but this one didn't really come at an opportune time. 

As I turned down the road to the hotel, the dark became darker. I slowed to a fast walk. The dirt road is a precarious place to run when you can’t see where you are stepping. I’ve had a few twisted ankles, even during the daylight, so I wasn’t going to take chances here. However I soon began to hear some steps behind me. Given that I was already walking at a brisk pace, I found it odd since Rwandans (and I think Africans in general) tend to walk more slowly and with far more grace than Westerners. 

I turned to see if I could catch a glimpse of my follower but it was impossible. This particular stretch of the road, with high walls on both sides, I couldn’t even see my feet. I had passed a couple of guys when I was still on the main road and I was wondering if one of them had followed me. I’m generally not paranoid but I do try to maintain a healthy vigilance when I do things like this.

I decided it would be best if I started jogging again and take my chances with the uneven road. Within seconds, as I heard my follower break into a jog as well, it was clear to me that, for whatever reason, he was trying to catch up to me. With the power outage, the thick darkness in this particular stretch of the road and the fact that no one was around, I knew that I was particularly vulnerable.

I looked ahead to see if I could make out where the hotel was and I could finally see the faint, generator-powered light near the gate. I picked up my pace further and I heard my follower do the same. It was now a race to the gate. About thirty meters before I arrived at the parking area in front of the gate, the power miraculously came on. I could now see where I was stepping and I guessed that my follower would fade back. I reached the gate and looked back. I could now see him and, strangely, he was still running towards me. I slipped inside the gate and down the steps towards the outdoor reception desk. I retrieved my key from the receptionist and made one last look up at the gate before proceeding down the hallway towards my room. He was still there, standing at the gate staring down at me, possibly wanting to see if I was really staying there or if I had just ducked off into the first place I came to (which I would have). 

Empowered by the security of my surroundings, I decided to go back and confront the guy. Was he just entertaining himself (sometimes people here do weird stalking things but don’t really mean any harm) or was he after my phone and ipod? Either way, I wanted to know. Also, I knew I was going to need to go out the gate to get food a bit later anyway. I set my things down on the bed and went back out. I didn’t see him at the gate so I trotted up the steps to see if he was around. I could see a few figures in the semi-darkness but none of them appeared to be my guy.

As I left the hotel a half-hour later, I opted to accompany myself with a magazine rather than my computer just to be safe. Never saw the guy after that so who knows. In any case, no big shift in how I view security in Kigali. I still think it’s safe-ish. In a little over a week I’ll be jogging in the even safer Central Park. Crazy.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

More Catching Up - Indiana

By mid-August, we were in Indiana. Internal US flights seem so easy when you’re used to long international ones. Upon arrival in Louisville, we were well received by the whole clan and off we went to settle in for a couple weeks.
presenting your newest relative

Summer in southern Indiana is generally quite sultry. Compared to the intense heat that we faced in Idaho, it turned out to be milder – at least for the first week or so. It was still very warm but not the punishing warm that can be the case during the summer.
the return of Thelma and Louise

In addition to hanging out with family and allowing everyone to get to know their new relative, we had a chance to do some things that I hadn’t done before. One stop was the Falls of the Ohio which, among other things, you can view fossil beds that date back to 387 million years ago, or so they say. It’s a pretty precise number for something so far back in the past if you ask me. Anyway, old fossils at a picturesque spot on the Ohio River.

Kiran is not yet a history buff so, for accommodating her parents’ interests, she was rewarded with a big messy ice cream cone afterwards. 
cooling off in a fountain

On another day we took a riverboat cruise on the Ohio River. It’s also something we hadn’t done before and it was quite nice. I’m sort of a history buff and given the rich history of the area, it suited me. I might have done things a bit differently if I’d been running the tour but generally it was good.

We were also blessed to be at Priya's parents place during the time that they received a visit by a friend of theirs from India. I had met Stefan during a previous visit to India in 2009. It was very nice to see him and hear about his work.
Stefan and the family

Not long before we had to leave, on Labor Day weekend, we were able to fit in an afternoon at an international festival called Worldfest. By this time the heat that we’d been more or less avoiding was very present. We had a good time anyway, visiting booths, chatting with people that had some connections with Africa, eating some interesting food, etc. but eventually it was time to go find some air conditioning.

 We also attended a very large church festival, by far the largest I'd ever seen. Thousands of people. Impressive to say the least. Unfortunately there was a bit of confusion - I suppose comical in retrospect. When we tried to meet up with the other half of the family at the festival, cell phone frustrations mounted. Couldn't seem to find each other. Confusion over points of reference.  I had assumed it was due to the massiveness of the grounds and the hordes of people. In fact we would later find out that we were at two different (but related) large events at different churches. What are the chances.
taking the train with Kiran - a bit different from my train travel years ago in Europe
As we rolled into September, Kinaya's passport finally in hand, we were ready to board the plane and head back to Africa. My longest "break" ever drawing to a close. So much had happened. Overall we were pleased with how everything went. But it was time to get back and continue our lives, now as a family of four. Crazy.