The Wet & The Dry


It’s weird — even with the (smaller) wet season well underway here (viz. this sort of nonsense every afternoon), it’s still the fine red clay dust that dominates. It’s everywhere, in everything, on everything. Every self-respecting store in town starts the day by methodically wiping down the shelves, every can of beans, every bag of rice, to get rid of the haze that has accumulated overnight. It’s a loosing battle to keep it out of anything mechanical, of course, and it’s a miracle that cars aren’t breaking down more than is the case. Air filters rule. 

Then there’s water. No, not the rain — the potable water. We have a big reverse-osmosis filter thingie sitting in the kitchen: you pour the dodgy tap water into the top half by the bucket, and in a couple of hours it percolates down to the bottom half from whence it can be bottled and consumed as needed. So far we’ve been fine with filtering alone, but some people will take the extra step of boiling the water as well (highly recommended outside of Kigali; here, they chlorinate the hell out of the tap water). Others skip the whole production and simply buy bottled water. Quite apart from being pricey and somewhat extravagant, that approach also leaves them with a mountain of the not-so-eco friendly 300ml or 1 liter bottles which have a nasty habit of getting scattered along the roads and strewn across fields and valleys.

The Rwandans, themselves, meanwhile, still depend primarily on the countless community wells that are scattered across the country — even in Kigali, interspersed between the massive new villas sprouting up everywhere. From the crack of daw there’s an endless traffic of little kids, women, and guys on wobbly bikes lugging jerry cans with 10-15 gallons of water up and down the steep hills. It’s humbling to realize just how much of their day is spent on that exercise, and it makes you better appreciate the luxury of indoor plumbing and running (most of the time, at least) water.

It also makes you wonder: Kigali prides itself on the fact that there’s a few thousand miles of fiber optic cable laid throughout the city, supposedly as part of the push to become the technology center of Africa in the decade ahead. That’s very ambitious and certainly a refreshingly different approach to progress, but wouldn’t it perhaps have been more prudent to get water and power and basic stuff like that in the hands of the masses first? After all, they’re not going to have time to browse as long as they’re busy schlepping water all day…