Wednesday, January 6, 2010


How do I anticipate things turning out?

The Trip
It is about eight hours overnight from Toronto to Brussels on Jet, a three hour lay-over, then another eight hours directly to Kigali on Brussels Airline. Should be met at the airport and driven to an apartment.
If that all works out, things runs reasonably on time, and my luggage arrives, it will be a good start.

The Accommodation
There is an apartment for CASIEF volunteers in a suburb of Kigali about 30 mins walk from the city centre and the hospitals. At first I was not pleased to find I would be so far away from downtown. However, they will provide a car and driver to pick me up and drop me off, which is an unaccustomed luxury. Also the neighbourhood has a character of its own, with shops, cafes, a mosque and night-life. It’s written up in some guides as a suitable place for backpackers to stay.

The Country
It seems to be pretty. I’ve seen pictures of hillsides terraced to allow for farming which look a bit like the foothills of the Himalayas in Nepal. The roads were built by the Chinese and are good. The country is small enough that most things are within a 2 – 3 hour drive from Kigali. The climate sounds pleasant, and it never gets too hot, which suits me. Gorillas, an African lake which is safe to swim in, and a game park all sound enticing.

Money is a significant concern for me. Most places do not take credit cards. If they do, Mastercard is preferred, while I carry Visa and American Express. Sorry, but if you want to attract tourists, you just have to take the major credit cards. Better still, you need bank machines where I can put in my Canadian debit card and get local currency out. It can be done in almost every small town in Europe; it should be available in the two main cities of Rwanda.
Travellers cheques are rarely accepted, so visitors have to bring their money in as cash, preferably in $100 US bills printed after 2006.

I will be at two hospitals in Kigali and one in Butare. I have talked to an anesthesiologist who has been there and it sounds rather worrying. They do quite big cases, often on children. Many of the patients are sick. Postoperative care is not up to international standards, so patients really have to leave the operating room in good condition. There is a hodge-podge of equipment, not all of which works.
The overall attitude is very relaxed. Apparently I will have to get used to finding that equipment has not been maintained, and that basic preparations have not been done in a timely fashion. As I am used to working quickly in a fast-paced operating room, this will be a major challenge for me.

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