First day in Rwanda
Trip Start Feb 13, 2011
30Trip End Mar 14, 2011
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Where I stayed
I knew I was down to one blank page in my passport, which makes me a little nervous. Some countries won’t let you in unless you have a full blank page for them to use for a visa and stamps. My wife was almost prevented from boarding a plane in Nairobi bound for Johannesburg a few years back because she didn’t have a fully blank page. More African countries now have left off a simple visa stamp in the passport and instead put in a sticker that takes up a whole page. To enter Kenya for a few hours, as I had done for dinner last night, took a whole page in my passport. So pages are used up quickly on a trip like this one.
I decided to go to the American embassy and ask them to sew some more pages in. I’ve done this several times before in US embassies, though never here in Rwanda. The new American embassy, about 5 minutes by car from my hotel, looks like a fortress, and is some ways it is. The sturdy security fences are well back from the building itself, and there are obstacles and other measures in place to prevent vehicles (like car bombs) from crashing their way in. The old embassy was in the middle of Kigali, and when I went to register in 1996 for the first time, surrounding streets had been closed off for security reasons. After the US embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in August of 1998, new plans were made for more secure embassy buildings everywhere, especially in this region no doubt.
I walked in the door to the entrance building which is just off the street and quite a ways from the main building. As I entered, I prepared to go through the metal detector so I could continue on in. The guards on duty told me I couldn’t go in yet and asked my business. I told them I needed passport pages. They called someone and handed me the phone. I explained my situation and she said they only handled such requests by appointment, and only on Tuesdays and Fridays. I asked if I could make an appointment for Friday, and she told me I could not; I had to go somewhere where I could get online and make an appointment through the Internet. That seemed a bit strange, but there was nothing else to do. I had the taxi driver let me out at a shop on the way back to buy some water for the next few days, and I then walked the rest of the way back to the hotel.
Back in my room, I went on the Internet to make an embassy appointment for Friday, but there were no time slots left; the day was already fully booked. So much for having more pages in my passport! I may be able to have it done in Mauritius; they have done it on a same-day basis with no appointment for me before. I thumbed through the pages of my passport and found one transit visa from Kenya that was ready to fall out anyway because the glue had dried out, so I gained at least one page. Hopefully that should be enough.
I spent the rest of the morning and the afternoon catching up on office work: writing a blog submission for our Church website, answering e-mails, making arrangements to send some more assistance to church members in Côte d’Ivoire, things of that nature. I took a break at lunch and had two goat brochettes; Chez Lando has been famous for its goat brochettes for quite a while. Beef brochettes are much more tender and they only cost about a dollar more, but I had the goat for old time’s sake. I’ve been using this hotel for over ten years, and have seen it change and improve quite a bit over the years.
I was finally reached Mr. Mundeli on the phone about mid-afternoon. He was in his village in the zone of Remera about 90 minutes from Kigali. He suggested we meet tomorrow morning at 09:00 to schedule events for my stay here. That should work well.
After my short night last night, I won’t be up late tonight.