I made another trip to Kigali this weekend to discuss the possibility of transfer to another town. My options were Cyangugu (the southern border town with Congo), Butare (the university town), and Byumba (where there are two refugee camps). Personally, I’m not interested in moving just yet; I’ve only just settled in and I’ve started to make friends. “But there are no expatriates there! Aren’t you lonely?” was all I heard all weekend. Apparently, it’s unusual to have many Rwandan friends. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Kigali was largely uneventful this time around. I went to a house party thrown by some French aid workers, where there was a surprising amount of wine (it’s a rare luxury around here. The cheapest is $16 for a bottle that would pass in the U.S. for 2-buck chuck) and pot. It reminded me of similar parties in Afghanistan—everyone is Bohemian, wearing their Diesel trainers and tiered skirts and dancing in a trance to Counting Crows. I drank enough wine to last me for the month. It was a long night.
On Sunday, my friends and I spent the afternoon by the pool of the Hotel des Mille Collines. It’s the oldest luxury hotel in Kigali, having been there for 30 years, and it certainly looks like it. It’s about six stories tall, and it has a commanding view over several of Kigali’s hills. It’s surreal to imagine what this place must have been like in April 1994; the front entrance is buffeted by a parking lot and a guard hut, but the rear of the hotel is protected only by a chain link fence. I couldn’t believe how poor the security was there, and what a miracle it was that drunken roving militias seemed to come through the front instead of through the back. Even in the couple of hours I was there, some guy tried to hop the fence, but was chased away by a security guard wielding a nightstick.
I’m sure the place has benefited from tourist attention, as is evidenced by the $8 ham sandwich and the $6 coffee (among other outrageous prices). But the pool was dominated, as it has since before the genocide, by expatriates and rich Rwandans who can afford to pay the 2,000 Frw ($3.50) charge, which is more than many Rwandans’ weekly income. (For a perspective on life by the Mille Collines pool in the months before the genocide, you should read Dimanche à la piscine à Kigali. It’s also translated into English: Sunday at the Pool in Kigali. Warning, though: it’s graphic.)