Errands around Kigali
Trip Start Sep 27, 2008
13Trip End Oct 22, 2008
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We drove to the Serena, the best hotel in Kigali, where they have an outstanding barber. For 5000 Francs (9 dollars) a guy can get a great haircut, better than I usually get at home. I picked up some postcards in the gift shop. Surprisingly in some off-the-beaten-tracks places it can be a challenge to get nice postcards. Often the ones to be found are ancient and mangled. I found some I liked and told the drive to take me to the post office. At the Western Union counter in the entryway to the post office I changed some money. The dollar is rising against the Franc. I chose this counter because it's fairly private and no one looks over your shoulder while you change your money. It's best not to have people walking around knowing how much cash you have on you, just for safety's sake.
Then we drove back to the hotel. Everything had gone as I told the driver it would, but when I handed him a 5000 franc note, he said "no, no, no, this no good." I reminded him that we had agreed on 5000 francs. He said "5000 go only. Wait one hour: 5000. Back: 5000." I objected that he had told me no such thing. 5000 was the only figure he had mentioned. And 30 dollars for an hour and two short drives is very steep for Rwanda. I figured it was a scam but I offered him 2000 more to end the matter, He persisted and followed me into the lobby.
The driver complained at the reception desk. The manager heard him out, I explained what had happened. The manager adjudicated: "it is a communication problem." I finally gave a total of 10000 francs, to keep the peace and my kindly reputation. People with money, as all westerners are viewed here, are expected to be flexible and not quibble too much, to the advantage of those who don't have money.
The rest of the day was anticlimactic.