By Grace Nakato
I was in Rwanda recently and I can, indeed, confirm that it is land of order and neatness, the men are tall and the women light-skinned and hot.
Do not be fooled by our nice manner of speech. We give new meaning to the word aggressive. People were milling around at the bus stage sitting on their luggage and telling stories, until the bus doors were opened and there was fighting and pushing and shoving amongst the supposed friends and relatives.
I was not in any hurry to get my hair messed up or my shoes scuffed, so I waited out the melee at the bus entrance, and then got my luggage stored in the undercarriage. It seems these guys do know that ticket numbers denote the seat one has booked, so picture my shock when I got onto the bus to find my seat empty. Well, after a short wait, a prayer and the usual admonitions not to accept food from strangers, we were off.
As if on cue, my neighbour unpacked boiled maize, offered me some and started munching. It was 10pm, and I have read numerous tales of kidnap and robbery after breaking bread with strangers, so I declined the offer. But that didn’t stop the chatter and rending of paper all over the bus as other passengers also fueled up for the journey with mangoes, roasted bananas, eggs. Somewhere along the way, roasted chicken, roasted maize and chapatti was also purchased and consumed. I was later thankful for the window seat as each pothole we hit seemed to jostle the skunk or two who had sneaked aboard the bus.
Upon reaching the border post, there were those who needed to get a temporary pass. We do not have identity cards so the immigration officials are tasked with the job of proving the person is actually a citizen of our fair land and had not just acquired a letter from the local chief after exchanging a few shillings. I thought we would be treated to a few stanzas from the national anthem and was glad I was not under scrutiny as my repertoire of local songs only includes those by recognised artistes like GNL, Navio and Juliana.
Culture or the knowledge of tradition seems to be the litmus test and you must have attended a few traditional marriage ceremonies or kwanjulas because the questions were akin to those the elders ask the boy on such occasions: The name of your clan, your taboo animal and your tribe’s totem.
We love our plastic bags or kaveera, but in the environmentally friendly land of our neighbour this is their taboo animal. Our bags had all been removed from the bus and we had to accompany them as the customs officials checked them thoroughly and all offending plastic bags were confiscated.
Lessons learnt? The 2hour wait as the bus is unpacked and packed at the Gatuna border post may not be romantic, but these guys are so thorough that chances of crooks smuggling fertiliser bombs into Kigali are slim.
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