Rwanda Travel Stories

Lebanese Super Market Butare Rwanda

Lebanese Super Market in Butare Rwanda
There is a Lebanese man by the name of Tarik here in Butare, Rwanda who owns a super market. The name is the Matar Super Market, when I met him I said,
“I feel like I am in West Africa now.”

In the French countries, it appears the Lebanese own the large super markets, while in the English countries the Indian people own the large ones. The Africans seems to own the small ones, I am not saying this makes sense, this is just reality.

---------------------------------
Butare, Rwanda
East Africa
Thursday, May 28, 2009

---------------------------------



This is Tarik; maybe I spelled his name wrong, it was great to meet this guy, he speaks great English and French and understands the countries of Rwanda and Uganda. He is an expat source, a person who can help you when nobody else can. In addition, he has a great small restaurant inside his super market that allows you to eat “food.” He even has pepper and salt on the table and you do not have to fight to get it.



This is the Matar Super Market in Buture, Rwanda close to the border of Burundi.



To the right rear of this photo is another Lebanese man by the name of Hassan. I wanted to include him in this small article because he did something for me the other day that I truly appreciated. I was standing in line waiting to pay for a package of fried peanuts. A Rwanda girl tried to cut line in front of me; Hassan grabbed the girl and gently told her she needed to stand in line,
I said,
“Thank you,”
He said,
“We try,”
I said,
“This is my dream in the world.”

I walked out of the store, tore into the pack of peanuts and started walking back to the New Gratia Motel. I thought to myself, this is quite an outrageous comment I made, where did this come from?
“My dream in the world.”

There is something truthful about comments made spontaneously and without thinking.

I have had time to think about this for a couple of days, I truly gravitate towards wanting to talk with Tarik and Hassan. The reason is simple, my dream is to have people around me with good manners, and these two men have great manners.

Hassan taught me the word here for cutting line; they call it to “cross.” I guess the locals cross the line. I say cut line.

Thank you Tarik and Hassan, an oasis in the middle of Rwanda.

Lebanese Super Market in Butare Rwanda


Exchange Rwanda Francs for US Dollars

Exchange Rwanda Francs for US Dollars
I am in Butare, Rwanda, I want to go to Burundi, however my money situation baffled me until today. I had about 450,000 Rwanda Francs and wanted to buy 400,000 Francs of U.S. Dollars the other 50,000 in Burundi money.

I loaded up on Rwanda money in Kabale, Uganda with enough money to visit both Rwanda and Burundi. I would have bought Dollars in Uganda, however I would have left 200 dollars on the table because of bad exchange rates.

---------------------------------
Butare, Rwanda
East Africa
Wednesday, May 27, 2009

---------------------------------



I tried at the Bank of Kagila and Ecobank; I asked my Lebanese friend Tarik who runs the Matar Super Market how to exchange Rwanda for Dollars. Everyone says I must go to the border to buy Dollars; I can exchange Dollars for Rwanda money, but not the other way around.

This is day three of me trying to figure out how to cross the border and not exchange big money at the border crossing. I normally would do about 20 US, just enough to pay for transportation.

I do not want to stop at the border, buy 800 Dollars worth of money, then leave in the Public Transportation. If there are clever thieves or rebels, they can team up with the Forex Exchange worker, who can pick up a cell phone, call ahead and say,
“White guy coming with 700 US dollars.”
“Rob him.”

“This is telegraphing”

I normally go to the closest border city, exchange the day before and leave early the next morning before the thieves wake up. However, nobody in the city of Butare I cannot buy Burundi Money, I must do this at the border. There are no ATM machines in Burundi, the same as Rwanda, this is rare to find, a country with zero ATM machines.

I am fine, Martin the owner of the New Gratia Motel walked me to an Islamic lady by the name of Fatima and she sold me dollars.

400,000 equals 695 US Dollars.

Now, I will go to the border and buy 100,000 Burundi Francs, try to look like a Hobo and fly in under the radar.

I do not like money changers; they make Taxi drivers seem honest. When I enter Burundi, I will have about 900 US, and 100,000 in Burundi money.

Exchange Rwanda Francs for US Dollars


Butare Rwanda Hotel

Butare Rwanda Hotel
I am in one of the nicer Hotels of my East Africa trip, the name of the lodging is,
“New Gratia Motel.”

---------------------------------
Butare, Rwanda
East Africa
Wednesday, May 27, 2009

---------------------------------



Every room in the Hotel faces this garden in the courtyard; this area is truly beautiful and pleasant. The Motel / Hotel has parking and is on a quiet street just a block away from Internet and a great super market.

I was writing the other day that Hotels can be like putting together a puzzle with a few pieces missing here is a good example.



As best I can tell, this Motel does not have running water, I have slept here for two nights and it for sure is a question mark. Somehow the toilet is refilled during the night, however, during the day there I no water.

The Hotel supplies a large bucket of water and will fill it without an argument.



This standard plastic washbasin has been supplied in rooms of Kenya, Uganda and now Rwanda. As best I can figure the people in these countries often do not always take showers, they just use the washbasin to clean their faces. Therefore when seen this, I did not get my attention and not having water on a temporary basis is common. A good hotel in East Africa will have an extra bucket of water sitting around for when there is no water.

However, this is a Motel is mystery to me; there has never been running water in this Hotel to use. Butare is a modern city, it is not an African slacker city, it is one of the more modern cities I have encountered in East Africa. I ask the Managers of the Hotel and various workers here, they all agree to never answer my question. The staff is not friendly, they are not unfriendly, they are closed, however the owner Martin is very friendly and talkative, yet ignores the question,
“What is wrong with the water?”

There is no hot water, I heat my own, the altitude is 1750 meters above sea level, it is cold at night, and there is no reason for a fan at this altitude, however truly a need for hot water.

The majority of tourist travelers stay in the Ibis or the Faucon and pay about 30-50 US per night, I am paying 8, there has been no foreigners in my Hotel, however this city has more than any other location I have visited in East Africa. Only Fort Portal, Uganda had close to the same. I have avoided Kigali, Rwanda and Kampala, Uganda.

I have not met any long-term backpackers in East Africa, only Missionaries, NGO workers, Peace Corps and a few pay-through-the-nose Tourist on short trips of one to three weeks. Hmm, I did meet one overland 4-wheel drive couple in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia who was driving down to South Africa. Generally, the normally cross country backpacker are not here, even though East Africa is cheap and easy, the daily hotel is always under 10 dollars per night and I could live for 5 or less if I took rooms with shared showers and toilets.

Butare Rwanda Hotel


Burundi is it Safe Travel Tip

Burundi is it Safe Travel Tip
Is it safe to enter a country?

The question is always time sensitive. I have asked this question four times in my life, when I went to these three countries.

1. Iraq - 2003- Two months after heavy fighting ended, I sat at the border in the city of Silopi, Turkey trying to access whether to enter and go to Dohuk, Iraq.

2. Colombia 2001 - General problems with Narco Traffickers. I was in Quito, Ecuador, trying to learn whether to go into the country.

3. East Timor - I visited during an attempted military coup and riots. I sat in Bangkok, Thailand trying to learn if flights were going to Dili, East Timor and if they would allow me to board.

---------------------------------
Butare, Rwanda
East Africa
Wednesday, May 27, 2009

---------------------------------

Is it safe to enter a country?

I am sitting in Butare, Rwanda and again I am asking myself a general question,
“Is it safe to enter Burundi?”

Why, because my Lonely Planet Guidebook published in 2006 says to ask, and in reality the Guidebook for information Burundi, East Africa is of little value. I will need to find all my own Hotels; there will be no assistance from the guidebook.

IS IT SAFE?
Is it safe to enter a country?

SOLUTION
First, this is the wrong question, the question needs to be specific, is the road from Butare, Rwanda to Ngozi, Burundi safe?



When entering into what could be a dangerous place, a person needs to make decisions for each step of the journey.

Are there Bandits in Burundi, I am 100 percent sure there are, and I am 100 percent sure there are Bandits along the road in the USA. How many and what are my odds of being robbed going down the road is the assessments I need to make.

I am going to stop here, do not minimize this question and do not exaggerate the danger of countries, and do not trust a guidebook. The responsibility to make these decisions are 100 percent mine, I can ask questions, I can read a guidebook, however in the end I am 100 percent responsible for the decisions I make.

Example: I am reading a guidebook that is four years old.

The situation in Burundi could be great, the guidebook says Kenya is safe, and one year ago, it was not safe, there were widespread riots and killings in Kenya. My guidebook does not say anything about this because it is too old and before the problem.

No country on the planet is safe; some are safer than others are.

Burundi is it Safe Travel Tip


Rwanda Verizon Global Data Connection

Rwanda Verizon Global Data Connection
I am using a BlackBerry Storm here in Rwanda to publish articles to the Travel Journal. I am flabbergasted; this Verizon Global Data Connection has allowed me to seamless post articles now in three East African Countries.

Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda

I am able to travel from country to country without searching for an internet connection. I am able to completely bypass the large chaotic cities here in Africa and live anywhere in the country there is cell phone connection. What a relief to not have to search for an internet connection, the data connection is slow, strange, and tricky to use, but it gets the job done.

This is similar to old tricky to use dial up connection from 10 years ago.

---------------------------------
Butare, Rwanda
East Africa
Tuesday, May 26, 2009

---------------------------------



This is a photo of the Verizon BlackBerry Storm; I am trying to show you the Manage Connection Icon.



This Icon becomes of extreme importance the minute you leave the USA, I must sometimes adjust connection. Here in Rwanda I needed to choose R Cell even thought it said emergency calls only.

I have already made up my mind, I will only visit countries that have the Data Connection service activated, and fortunately, this is roughly 170 plus countries. I have visited 83, so there are many more to visit. According to my interpretation of country there are 252 countries, I think they will roll out the rest in the next five years.

I will enter the country of Burundi in the next couple of days; I am going to bypass the capital if possible. In the past I always visited the major cities of countries to guarantee I had a few days of the best connection possible in the country, now I am skipping them.

Rwanda Verizon Global Data Connection


Rwanda Genocide

Rwanda Genocide
I am a people person at the end of the day, I like people and cultures, generally Rwandans and Ugandans have not been happy and fun people. I truly do not want to focus on this; however readers need to get a grip on what happened here. This violence appears to be over, these countries are very safe and easy to travel, as best I can tell the atrocities that happened in Uganda and Rwanda are over.

---------------------------------
Butare, Rwanda
East Africa
Tuesday, May 26, 2009

---------------------------------



1994 there was Genocide in Rwanda between the Hutu and Tutsi where some 500,000 people were killed.

Idi Amin terrorized the Uganda population from 1970 to 1979 killing mass amounts of people.

I do not wish to focus on these issues; however it is simple to understand why these two countries are not happy.

Just a year ago there were riots in Kenya where many people were killed, however Kenya is generally happy in comparison to Uganda or Rwanda and Ethiopia is paradise.

… So much for my Mother and Father being blissfully ignorant about these two countries, however I am about to leave for Burundi where there are more fun and games.

There is a sign announcing the genocide at every small village I pass, this appears to be the main tourist attraction of Rwanda. This for sure is not my type of tourism. I learned that at a mass grave in Iraq, I do not enjoy mass murder.
Rwanda Genocide


View if Rwanda from Van Seat

View of Rwanda from Van Seat
I left Gitarama, Rwanda and traveled to Butare. Rwanda is a beautiful country; the rolling hills of hoe farmed terraces have never ended.



The view of the countryside has looked like this from the seat of my van the whole distance across the country. There are tall trees planted about 20 years ago on both sides of the road. I think maybe cypress giving a nice feeling like driving through shade tunnels. I am tempted to backtrack towards the Congo DRC border because the transportation is so good.

There are sidewalks along some parts of the road!

---------------------------------
Butare, Rwanda
East Africa
Tuesday, May 26, 2009

---------------------------------



Rwanda is a small country about 152 miles from farthest points and the roads and public transport is great in comparison to Ethiopia, Kenya or Rwanda, the best I have encountered in East Africa. 90 percent of tourist and travelers in Africa have 4 wheel drives and are not going to experience public transportation, please take this into consideration they get to avoid the people who do not bath well.

View of Rwanda from Van Seat


The Pain of Childbirth Travel Tip

The Pain of Childbirth Travel Tip
If women could remember the pain of childbirth they would never have another baby. Many readers have a vacation view of travel, 8 days, and 7 nights in a resort, if there is any problem it is time to go home.

---------------------------------
Gitarama, Rwanda
East Africa
Monday, May 25, 2009

---------------------------------



The squat toilet for my 2000 Franc room in Byumba, Rwanda, this is the pain of childbirth, and I hope to forget it.



I can slowly walk around behind the toilet.



This is the new child being born to me in Rwanda, hopefully I can remember this long after the pains of Africa are forgotten.

Readers say to go home, I would like to know where my home is, I am not on vacation, I have been living and traveling for over 11 years. Where am I supposed to go? Today, I live here, this is my home. I do not have a home to return to, I have moved away, I have moved on.

If you want to travel with no pain, then you are on vacation.

I enjoy traveling in Africa, however I do not pull the punches, and I feel it would be negligent if I painted a rosy picture of this place. One of you is planning a trip to Africa; I try to explain the situation so there are no surprises.

The Pain of Childbirth Travel Tip