September 7, 2016
This blog is a lighter one. If you are looking for depth today, this is not for you. This is the second blog of the day. I usually only do one, but I wanted to balance the more serious blog about genocide.
In America, roads are for cars, trucks, SUVs and other machines that use engines to move wheels. The occasional motorcycle will appear and (in cities) the odd bicycle. Our roads and highways are critical arteries, connecting us to each other and the items we need or want.
In Rwanda, roads are similarly important, but their denizens are so different from the US. The motorcycle (or “boda boda” in Swahili) is no longer the weakling, but the powerhouse of this road. Cars and trucks are quite rare. In fact, once we left the capital city of Kigali, cars and trucks are either used for large deliveries, mass transit (20+ people in a minivan) or transporting visitors like us.
Here is an odd exception that shows a family going to church in a small truck. While this looks rough to you and me, this is the Rwandan equivalent to showing up in a limo.
But do not confuse lack of cars with a lack of activity. The Rwandan roads bustle with activity, with the vast majority being human powered.
Walking is the most common way to get around. Here, for example, we came across a group of 7th Day Adventists after a church service. This photo is showing roughly 10% of the worshippers that we saw.
One of the impressive skills we have come to admire in Rwanda is the ability to balance items on heads. While some men have developed some skill in this area, most of the balancers we saw were women. Please keep in mind that they are not walking under perfect conditions. The roads are often unpaved and they are ascending or descending meaningful grades. The wind can create a challenge, as can rain. While I am sure that some conditions could deter these individuals from using the cranial carry, we did not actually witness any such conditions. I failed to get a photo of perhaps the most impressive example – a bare-footed woman walking on a rocky road with a 5-foot hoe and a 5-foot shovel balanced on her head.
We also love the way they swaddle and carry babies here, which is different from what we saw in Tanzania. Here, the infants are carried low on the back in a large sling with their feet peeking out the front of their mother.
Here are both skills coming together.
Bicycles are huge here, though not always in pristine condition. Check out the wheel alignment on this gem.
Bicycles replace the taxi and the 18-wheeler. In this picture (admittedly blurry as we took it form a moving truck), we see two people earning their keep. One has 15 feet of bamboo strapped to the back of his bike while the other is transporting a fare. Both are going uphill.
Here are some other marvels of bike transporting various items.
But we see evidence of modernization. I am imagining that our fashionable Rwandan is carrying a traditional wicker pot containing food to be shared with the friends she is currently calling.
PS Here are a few bonus photos. For any of you who are feeling stressed or out-of-shape, I think we found two good solutions for you!
[Note: I know I promised not to get deep, but please allow this indulgence. It saddens me that the people pictured working out here have white skin. Manikins are also often white. We saw the same phenomenon in Asia. It seems wrong to put forth an ideal of beauty that is unattainable. I mentioned this to Susie and we realized that our culture is not that different, showing fashion models who are so skinny that they exist in only two dimensions.]
Also, we saw Snow White and Dora the Explorer. It was a full day.