Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The bus ride

I’ve taken the bus between Butare and Kigali a few times now. It’s a pleasant two hour ride along a curvy road. Aside from the occasional whimper from an impossibly well-behaved baby, it’s usually a quiet ride: passengers lean their heads on the seats next to theirs and sleep, they read day old newspapers or listen to talk radio played by the driver at a reasonable volume.

I spend a lot of time looking out the window: at the mud brick homes with terracotta roofs and wooden doors, all blending so easily into the hillside that they look like nature somehow built the homes itself; at the people walking purposefully along the sides of the road, many with whom I’m able to exchange a fleeting glance as we pass by; at the fields, the crops and the women who bend over at stab at the clumps of earth with their hoes. There’s a lot to look at. Unlike home, every stretch of this road is plodded by women wrapped in bright, colourful fabrics, by children with yellow plastic containers balanced on their heads and by men pushing bicycles loaded with stuffed burlap sacks. And unlike home, nearly every stitch of land along the way is cultivated.

I like the ride.

The other day I took a different bus, a big 70-seater, blue and white bus with the words the National University of Rwanda painted on the side. I rode the bus to and from Kigali with about 40 journalism students and a handful of lecturers. In this bus, the aisle becomes a spontaneous dance floor for the male students whose voices grow hoarse belting out well-known songs in Kinyarwanda, and whose hands must sting from clapping them together so hard to the beat in unison.

The born-again Christian girls sit in the seats and sing gospel songs in sweet voices. A male student joins the choir, perched on an armrest of a nearby seat and adds a rough harmony. Sometimes the bus suddenly veers off onto the side of the road to appease a student who has a hankering for a snack: cobs of corn roasted over a road-side charcoal grill.

The ride took a bit longer than usual, my ears were ringing and I had to pick the kernels of corn out of my teeth, but as always, the bus ride between Kigali and Butare was a pleasant one.


Andrea Ward said...

I love your story Bec... I can almost feel the bus ride myself. Your descriptions are perfect and I felt like I was riding right alongside you. Keep up the good work!

Words Words said...

Fire-roasted corn is worth any amount of teeth picking, especially in February.

Martini said...

You can turn a seemingly boring, monotonous bus ride into an adventure.

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