I'm back in peaceful Kigali after a whirlwind weekend away - my first girls weekend and doing what most girls go best - shopping!!
My time away started on Thursday morning by getting on the 'executive' bus with my dear friend Dora for the journey to Kampala. 8+hours driving at breakneck speeds around mountains and some rough dirt road. God was gracious... NO Nigerian movies (I so can't take them!) and we arrived safe and sound.
If you have never been to Kampala... think crazy traffic, people, noise, dirt, goats, movement - EVERYWHERE!
Many times during the weekend I thanked God that I live in Kigali - my city of order, peace and cleanliness.
Dora and I covered Kampala on Friday and Saturday and we got what we came for. I am thinking that God missed a gift in the Bible... shopping! I have definitely not lost my touch for seeking out the bargains or finding what is needed. Was a good feeling for me. We went, we searched - shopping malls, stores, kiosks and the market, and we conquered! I was blown away with what is available in Kampala and had a few culture shock moments. Bit crazy when I was just in the country next door. My big purchase - a crock pot. SO excited as I have always wanted one but have never found one here in Kigali.
Besides the shopping, I think our conversations with Dora's sister stand out in my mind. She's a lawyer in the prosecutor general's office. We had many discussions around Uganda and Rwanda - the similarities and the differences.
So many Rwandans fled to Uganda back in the 50's and many were educated and served Uganda in the government in various capacities. Our own president was 3 years old when his parents fled Rwanda to Uganda and was born and raised in a refugee camp there. Later in his time there, he was the head of security in Uganda. Our countries have many close ties and but the history has been rocky. Currently, we're in a good relationship.
Much of our conversation circled around corruption. How can two countries who have so many similarities be so different when it comes to this issue? Rwanda has zero tolerance for corruption and Uganda may say the same but it's a far cry from that.
Now I'm not saying that there is absolutely no corruption in Rwanda but I do know that when it surfaces, it's dealt with - no matter how 'big' the person is. Dora and I argued that it starts from the top down...
We talked about poverty. That people are so poor and that is why there is corruption. Dora's sister cited the police. They get paid so little that they are only trying to survive. I asked her how much and found out that Rwandan police get paid half of what the Ugandan police get. So... it's not because of poverty, it's a mindset, it's people living in self respect and patriotism, desiring to see others succeed and not just themselves.
As our conversation progressed, Grace's sister mentioned that it might take a genocide or something like it to bring the Ugandans together - God forbid!! Rwanda did hit rock bottom but there must be other ways. Rwanda does have the advantage that we are one people with one language and one culture. Uganda has like 57 or 58 distinct tribes, if I am remembering right.
We talked about the pastors and the churches - are they any different than the government - everyone looking out for themselves and using people to get wherever they think they need to get to? For the most part, no.
We bordered the 'excutive' bus home yesterday morning... no Nigerian movies (Thank you Jesus!) and arrived safe and sound with little to no hassle at the border. Always a good thing when cross border shopping no matter where you go! Serge and the kids were as excited to see me as I was of them.
I am thankful to be living in Rwanda. I don't have all the conveniences (ATMs everywhere, stores that take VISA) and I don't have the shopping selection that I wish I had but I do live in a country where life moves a little slower, the government works hard for the people of the country, we are at peace and where all activities which develop the country are encouraged.
Yes, most of the churches here need to change - they need to serve their communities and develop them and not just expect people to come in the doors to serve the pastor's every wish and desire. Yes, people steal and cheat each other as most are just trying to feed their family for the day. Yes, there is lots to change in Rwanda... but I'm glad to call this country my home.
I'll just visit Kampala to go shopping :-)