Thursday, July 10, 2008

Lost and found

One of the first aspects of Rwandan culture that I quickly became familiar with (thankfully) is trust and honesty.

The first thing I did when I got here was get a cell phone number. All I had to do was buy a SIM card for 1000 RWF ($2), pop it in my phone and I would be set up with a Rwandan phone number (I’ve been travelling with my cell phone from home).

After Gilbert, our fixer, got everyone set up with their phones, we got in cabs to go back home. Upon our arrival at the house, Kate told the taxi drivers to come back later to pick us up to take us to a restaurant for dinner.

Thank goodness she did that.

When we got into the house, I emptied my pockets and quickly realized that my cell phone that travelled halfway around the world with me was gone. Not even three hours in the country, and of course, I lose my cell phone. I blame jet lag. I knew it I left it in the cab.

But I was hopeful because I remembered that Kate seconded the same taxi drivers to come back in a couple of hours to pick us up. Not to worry, he would have to have it.

The taxi drivers showed up at 7:30 pm to pick us up, but the one whose cab I was in had sent someone else to pick us up. I thought all hope was lost.

However, one of the taxi drivers that brought us had Mohamed’s, my original taxi driver, number. So I called him and he said, yes, he had my phone and that tomorrow we could meet up and he would give it to me. Whew.

When I saw him the next day I was so thankful. But he said that of course I would have gotten it back and that if I hadn’t called him, he would have come back to the house.

When I told my friend Jessie about this, she told me about a similar situation. She had left her Lululemon sweatshirt in the back of a cab and a week later, the taxi driver came back to drop it off.

This kind of honesty and trust doesn’t occur all the time though. Valentin, my colleague at Internews, says that, yes, Rwanda’s are generally honest. “It’s in the culture, most Rwandans are good people, but you can still meet bad people.”

Jean-Louis, a reporter from Izuba Rirashe (Rising Sun), says that honesty amongst Rwandans is multi-layered.

“Rwandans learn honesty from an early age, in school and at home,” he says.

Taxi drivers, in particular, organize themselves in “camps de solidarit√©,” or solidarity groups. This type of competition drives them to offer the best and most dependable service. Jean Louis says this would also explain why Jessie and I were able to recover our belongings.

But was it just because we are muzungu (white)? Jean-Louis says no. “If a taxi driver dropped me off at home, he would have done the same for me too.”

Do you think either of these scenarios would happen in a major city in Canada? Post your response below.


BigKing said...

Hi ryan,
I am a friend of jana Jedlic. I was looking at your blog & hope to become a regular reader! I have some friends and family mostly in Kigali so if you ever need any help, feel free to let me know! My email is I will be in Uganda in August in case you happen to travel there.
Have a good stay in Rwanda.


Anonymous said...

Hey Ryan!!

That would definately not happen here in Canada!! Consider it gone...

Hope your having a great time in Rwanda!

Miss ya...Katie

Anonymous said...

Hey Ry!

Just stumbled upon your blog, glad your first days in Rwanda have been good!

How was London?

Miss you!