on the town

i don’t go out that often here, because, well, in musha there’s nowhere to go, and kigali can be a hassle.  there are a few good places to go dancing, with local music (congolese, rwandan, east african, etc.) and standard american rap and hip hop (and the odd celine dion song).  usually a trip out clubbing includes at least eight other volunteers, if not more, and marks some kind of occasion – a leaving party or a birthday.  i’ve recounted some of these antics before (see: i carried a watermelon).

last night, however, i went out not with other volunteers but with some rwandan guy friends.  the climate changed completely.  instead of being attacked by sleazy men, i could actually dance.  my friends kept the masses away from the white girl i suppose.  i had a blast, met some cool people, rwandan and kenyan and congolese, and even some women! (usually the clubs are packed with men and prostitutes, the ‘good girls’ stay home, but these gals were university students out with their boyfriends.)

when we’d all had enough, we piled into a friend of a friend’s car for a free ride home.  got stopped at a police checkpoint with one too many people stuffed in the back seat (‘we are so dead’ said the kenyan guy).  the driver talked to the policeman for a second, gave him his license, pulled over off the road and turned off the car.  then he took 3000 francs out of his wallet (about $6), put 2000 in one pocket and 1000 in the other, and walked away.  ‘what happened?’ i asked.  ‘he’s going to try to give the policeman some money,’ said a rwandan friend.  the penalty for being over occupancy limits here is 25,000 francs.  clearly, the driver was trying to iron things out mano-a-mano with the policeman and a little palm-greasing.  ‘do you think it will work?’ i asked.

‘sure it will,’ said the kenyan. ‘this is africa.’

and it did.  the driver hopped back in two minutes later, smiling because he’d only paid 2000.  and off we went.

morally i know this is wrong.  rwanda has been coming down pretty hard on corruption lately, as it should, and is a poster-boy against this kind of thing as far as east africa goes, with kenya being particularly notorious for government bribes.  in eight months, last night was my first experience of this and it was fairly minor in the grand scheme of things.  how many times have we sat on laps in cars back home? or put the seatbelt on only when we saw a policeman up ahead?  or slowed down because a car going the opposite direction flashed his lights in warning?  the only difference here is that the police seem to be out more often.  but if you got caught back home, you’d never think of offering the policeman a twenty.  would you?

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~ by aliciawolcott on September 1, 2007.

2 Responses to “on the town”

  1. have you seen the carpet?

  2. flashback to new years eve 2006. imagine: you, me, scott, a snowstorm, pinochle, champagne, a broken foot.

    jump for my love, jump in, feel my touch, jump, if you want to taste my kisses in the night then jump jump for my love. i’ll take you down i’ll take you down, where no one’s ever gone before and if you want more, more, more.

    right, can we move the japanese ambassador to 4 o’clock? thanks.

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