Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Those funny rich Muzungus

A conversation with our (Rwandan) housekeeper:
- How much do soup plates cost here?
- 1000FRW per plate
- 1000FRW?? surely there must be some cheaper ones.
- No. 1000FRW for some plates which look nice and are also presentable for guests.
- But we really just need something simple and cheap.
- Well, ok, there are some that are cheaper, but they are not so nice. And not... (she giggles shyly) ... not good enough for white people.

I didn't know what to say after that.

This story is representative of the relationship between normal Rwandans and Muzungus in Rwanda. (Although I suppose having a housekeeper also contributes to this attitude.) We're rich, we eat better food, we wear new clothes (instead of second hand clothes), we drive everywhere (never walk), we shop in La Galette (the expensive German supermaket inRwanda) and even if we walk into a "normal" Rwandan shop we still pay Muzungu prices (10-20% more).

Going against the expected norms of behaviour generally creates confusion, alienation ("What are these funny Muzungus doing now?") and sometimes embarassement ("Why is this rich Muzungu in our dirty little bar?"). Luckily, attitudes are softening a little in Kigali (people don't even turn their heads anymore when I walk into my local cafe) although in parts of the countryside, one could get the impression that little has changed since the first white explorers wandered through. You can get out of your car in an apparently abandoned part of the countryside, and within 3 minutes you have a group of 5-10 Rwandan children asking you for empty water bottles (useful for transporting water in the countryside) and money.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Les motos

As of today, all moto-taxis (motorcycle taxis) are banned from Kigali city. Presumably this is because they are considered dangerous and apparently were used by criminals.

With a limited bus system and few people who can afford a car, motos (with fares starting from 200Francs/30 Euro cents) were the main source of transport for many people in Kigali. Until today.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Development Aid Controversy

It is worth remembering that while some people may think that development aid workers are out there to save the world, the real picture is never as clear cut. Development aid is becoming increasingly controversial, and many (or even most) projects have done more harm than good. On balance however, I am still of the opinion that the development community is learning (and the project that I am working on is an example of that: a public-private partnership programme for the development of the private sector). Development assistance is simply too important in a world of rising inequalities and social problems for us to cut back on aid. But, the mentality of "all aid is always good" is one that the developed world needs to give up for good.
(for those of you interested enough, you can read a comment of mine on another blog)

Monday, August 07, 2006

Road to Murunda

These pictures were take during a visit to Murunda (in the West of the country).