Rwanda is known at the ‘Land of 1000 Hills’. It is a lush green country, with many mountains, almost all of which are cultivated by hand in a beautiful patchwork.
It is expensive. Prices in the capital, Kigale, are about the same as Vancouver. Imported goods are a lot more expensive. e.g. small jar of peanut butter $10 Canadian, chocolate bar $2.50 Canadian.
Plastic bags are illegal. Stores give out paper bags. This is a great improvement over Kenya and Uganda, where cheap plastic bags litter the streets. Wire fences are clogged with bags blown there by the wind.
Things are very orderly and lawful. This is in strong contrast, and is perhaps and attempt to compensate for a violent past. There is little corruption, and it is strongly resisted. Police that pull you over actually hand out tickets, rather than collecting bribes. Motorcycle taxis are licensed and marked as such; both drive and passenger must wear a helmet. Drivers generally follow the rules of the road, including stop signs, street lights, and cross walks. All these things are very different that Uganda and Kenya, where corruption is rampant.
Other than Kinyarwanda (the local language), the primary language spoken here is French. Patrick’s Grade 11 French has been put to good use. English is also an official language, but is used less. All the signs and menus are in French.
Rwanda decided to stop teaching French in schools last year. English is the common language of the other member countries of the East African Community, and the primary language of international trade and tourism, and it was decided that teaching three primary languages was too much. Rwanda is cutting its Francophone connections.
The ‘Hotel Rwanda’ from the movie of the same name is located in Kigale, the capital city, and is actually called ‘Hotel des Milles Collines’, which means ‘Hotel of 1000 Hills’.
The roofs in the country are tiled rather than having corrugated metal or thatch.
Diane Fossey, the heroine of ‘Gorillas in the Mist’ researched the Mountain Gorillas in the Virunga Mountains of northern Rwanda. She is buried there.
Rwanda is very safe. Like in Cairo, we can walk at night in the dark city streets without apprehension.
Rwanda has come a very long way from its civil war and genocide in the early 1990’s, farther than Uganda has developed in a longer time period.