Kigali, Rwanda Report of what it's like to live there - 10/20/10

Personal Experiences from Kigali, Rwanda

Kigali, Rwanda 10/20/10

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

My fourth.
Asuncion, Paraguay; Nicosia, Cyprus; Antananarivo, Madagascar

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

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3. How long have you lived here?

9 months April 09-Jan10

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

government

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Most of the housing is five to ten minutes away in the morning, and if you're lucky, you'll get the one of the houses less than a mile from the embassy.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Get your consumable goods into the country asap. There is a small commissary at post, but that is only supported by using other peoples' consumables rate. If you don't bring it, it won't exist in your house.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Toilet paper, paper towels, chocolate syrup, more cereal, all babyfood items and diaper-relatd items.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Zero. This country is austere. Don't let the green canopy fool you. The restaurants pride themselves in taking forever to bring your food out. They think that it's a sign of good quality if it takes them an hour and a half to bring you some meat on a stick.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

The fruits and vegetables in the markets are as fresh as it gets. You just need to wash them in a mild bleach solution.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Locusts attack the embassy twice a year. Don't worry, though, the guards and local children come and conduct a counter-offensive, collecting the insects in plastic bottles to take home to cook. Malaria meds are needed in country

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Diplomatic pouch only.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Eight dollars a day per helper. You could have a full-time maid, a cook, and a part-time gardner and live without lifting a finger while at home.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

The U.S. Embassy has a gym. Novotel and Serena have workout facilities.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

No ATMs in country. Don't do it. Use the embassy cashier.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There are a couple of english christian services that you have to dig around to find. Haven't seen any other religious sects having services in english.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

None. Find an AFN dish.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Just like in the rest of Africa, the more local language you know, the cooler you are to the locals. But, english is an official language, and a decent amount of people speak it, as well as french.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Shopping for fruits and vegetables in the open market will be difficult. Also, unless you are in a vehicle, getting up and down all the hills will be difficult. Rwanda is the land of a thousand hills.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

All buses and moto-taxis are off-limits, but there are some other sedan type taxis that cost a decent amount but are safe.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

SUV all the way. You should get no smaller than a RAV4, but make sure to bring parts. Don't bring your brand new Humvee with titanium rims, you'll just get your feelings hurt. Saftey concern - Never stop for anyone at night.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Internet is a pain. You'll pay at least $100 a month for internet that you can at least skype or vonage back to the states on.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Hopefully you get issued one. BlackBerry's aren't a top of the line item in country yet.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

You can bring your pets. There are no kennels here.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Polo slacks, ties/slacks

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

None that I am aware of.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Malaria and yellow fever shots are needed. Watch out for the schistosomaisis, it will kill you dead.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Air quality is pretty poor during the day in the capital, but at night and outside of town there are zero problems.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

There are two seasons, a hot summer where it rains in the afternoon only, and then the dry hotter months, where it gets a bit cool at night.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There are (2) shcools I can remember. They have programs for all ages, but cater mainly to mid-school and younger. Teens will have adequate schooling here.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Just use a maid/nanny to take care of this need. Eight USD a day

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

There are minimal organized sports available for students.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

There are a lot of NGOs but they are all about their own business, so you have to dig around to find them and make friends outside of the embassy. They're all over the place, though.

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2. Morale among expats:

Very good. Rwanda is probably the best-kept secret of East Africa in regards to good security and is a safe haven of peace.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

This is a good city for adventurous people, whether with or without children. You should definitely get out of the city every weekend to see something exotic.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Last I heard the government was trying to join Uganda in banning homosexual activity, but I haven't seen any anti-homosexual sentiment coming from the local populace

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

There are still underlying racial divisions with the Hutus and Tutsis from the 1994 genocide, but for the most part, you could spend your whole tour here and not even notice. It is a mainly Christian country with a surprising number of muslims on the fringe of the city and in some of the rural areas. You'll see a mosque or two. Women are slowly getting more rights here, but prostitution does still exist in some parts of town.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

I have enjoyed visiting the wildlife at the Gensenyi and National Parks. Also: rafting down the large lazy river just outside of the capital city, and visiting Lake Kivu for a weekend.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

A few food spots. There are some nightclubs that are filled with a lot of stinky locals that love to dance and sweat. Most fun is had outside of the capital, checking out the jungle to the south west or the parks in the North and East.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Wood carvings, or go down to Burundi and get a custom-carved drum for little money.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Tourism, terrain appreciation, safety, saving money.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely, if I had to get posted in Africa.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Xbox Live membership. I heard WoWC is playable though.

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3. But don't forget your:

Hiking shoes, bug spray, outdoor equipment, and a nice inflatable boat - if you have one. People will kill you for it. Those are hard to find and very coveted.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Gorillas in the Mist

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Appreciate this place. Other African posts suck in comparison.

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