Gloomy Friday


It should be hard to be blue with a sunrise like this, but today was a bit of a challenge. I’m still trying — and failing — to “get” the charm of Kigali. In my (probably unreasonable and, thus, unwanted) opinion, there’s precious little of it around. By the international “big smelly African citiy” standard, Kigali is an oasis, but I’m having a hard time appreciating that. I just don’t do cities, African or otherwise (hence, I choose to live in small-town Vermont, not in New York City or Boston). I don’t get a rush out of the hustle and bustle, and the ridiculous amounts of opulent-yet-inferior new construction going up everywhere in this wanna-be town doesn’t impress me in the least.

It’s as if a thin veneer of affluence (supposedly fueled largely by an influx of money of dubious origin) is being smeared over the city with a broad brush wielded by a hyperactive urban planner with the restraint, common sense, and skills of a six-year-old boy in a sandbox. Mud huts are being replaced with ostentatious villas and manicured gardens at a furious pace; entire suburbs of the gated community variety are being erected almost overnight, with all the charm and appeal of a leftover set from a slasher movie. The houses look nice enough, but there’s little or none of the infrastructure required to support it all (gleaming million dollar villas sit side-by-side on kidney-shattering potholed dirt tracks), and the resulting flagrant wealth disparity is almost physical painful to behold. I can’t help but wonder when this overdressed house of cards will come tumbling down. Yes, Rwanda has the go-getter attitude that is often found sorely missing in much of Africa, but it comes mixed with a bitter tinge of crass me-first-ism that marks the Wild West frontiers of rampant and unrestrained capitalism.

I guess I should have known this was what we were getting ourselves into, but it’s taking its toll. Visually, there’s not a whole lot that’s clicking for me — I’ll give it time, and continue looking, but for now I’ll just go sit in a corner and feel sorry for myself for a bit.