Day 6

We got up early-ish, ate breakfast and set out for Kigali (hoping for a less-than-10-hour drive on the return trip... but not expecting much success.)

The trip was uneventful. I again rode with Shami, and played the role of the awkward family member asking the annoying questions about him and the girl he is interested in (who happens to be my sister...) Anyway, he (thankfully) passed all my "tests" with flying colors and we had an enjoyable ride to Mbarara. This was where, of course, we planned to stop for lunch (samosas)... and Emily and Shami (the locals) wanted essentials like peanut butter and cereal. (Due to the exchange rate, stuff like this is much cheaper to buy in Uganda than Rwanda.)

Ok wait... I need to back up. At breakfast, Alezah had showed up looking like her usual perky self. Five minutes later she was bee-lining it back to her bedroom where she lay with the fan blasting her in the face (I'd been in charge of fan placement, and thought somehow this would help her feel better faster.) She looked awful -- pale and sweaty -- and I knew she was going down for the count. However, I'd totally randomly been at the home of a veterinarian friend just the night before we left on the trip, and his wife had given me some amoxicillin and Cipro to take with us "just in case". She'd even written "idiot's guide" directions on the bottles: "If you have XXX take XXX. If you have ZZZ take XYZ." Very helpful, as it turns out, for Alezah, who looked to be on death's doorstep, although she valiantly tried to convince us she would be fine... She started on a double dose of Cipro, and we all hoped for the best. Driving was fine as long as the wind was blowing and we were moving... when we stopped in town for gas, she tanked quickly again and I thought for sure she was going to pass out. I told Shami, " Alezah's going to be sick, we need to go NOW!" Thankfully Shami realized the gravity of the situation because we took off out of that gas station like a shot... leaving the woman who had been about to wash our back windshield dazed and confused I am sure!

By the time we got to lunch, Alezah had rallied quite nicely, and she wandered the aisles of Nakumatt with us looking for snacks to buy for the ride and (most importantly) additional bars of Cadbury chocolate. (Which is where we found Kathy... talking to herself about which bars she should get... hazelnut? mint crisp? Yes!!!) Emily went to change money for our purchases.... and Alezah started going downhill again. No one had a coin for her to use the bathrooms, so after trying to hold up as long as possible, she went upstairs anyway, hoping the bathroom attendant would have pity on her and let her in, while the rest of us waited downstairs with our stuff for Emily. Em showed up with the money, and then she went to look for Alezah. To hear Emily tell it, she says, "I rounded the corner to the bathroom, and... there was Alezah, stretched out on the bathroom floor." Apparently Alezah knew she wouldn't make it standing up any longer (and she couldn't leave the bathroom without paying) so she did what any sane (*cough* marble-floor-loving *cough*) person would do: she totally owned it, and made herself at home lying on the cool Nakumatt bathroom floor in the middle of Mbarara, Uganda. Awesome.

Eventually we got back on the road, and as we reached Kabale, Shami got flagged over to the side of the road by a police patrol. (Emily pulled over too, but decided in the interest of time she should keep going, so I handed over all the passports for her passengers to Kathy.) Shami was accused by a short and stocky, white-uniformed Ugandan police officer of speeding. Shami got out of the car and started (conversationally) arguing with the guy that there was no way he could have been going as fast as the cop's (ancient, broken) radar gun said he was going. The guy argued back: "How do you know! Do you watch your speedometer the whole time you're driving? That's impossible!" Then he told Shami he just wanted a 20,000 shilling bribe. Shami refused, and the cop kept telling him, "You are making this so difficult! You are costing me lost revenue!" (As buses full of happy passengers go flying by)... and this kicker, "You are with white people! They will give you money!" Then he tries to show Shami that his gun was working by pointing it at another car and it comes on, reading 72, the same speed we had been pulled over for. Uh-huh. Sure.

Shami continued to hold his ground, so the guy, very annoyed, wrote him a ticket for 200,000 shillings.  (Shami told us later that he doesn't believe in bribery -- if he had given him the bribe, he would be perpetuating their habits of taking money illegally and he would rather pay the ticket and have it be out in the open. If enough people stand up against bribery, they will learn that it isn't a sustainable or just means of income.)

We turn around (it is me, Alezah, Shami and Will in our car) and go back to the police station in Kabale to pay the ticket. However, the police station is out of power, so the ticket can't be paid. Shami tries the internet cafe up the street with no luck. So we go (with an officer) a few miles away to a bank where there is power, pay the ticket, go back to the station, drop off the officer, then finally head back to the police checkpoint with our receipt. When Shami gives it to the cop, he gives him back his license, and says (by way of justification) while waving a stack of licenses as us, "See! I pulled over a lot more people than just you! Even a guy from Burundi!" "Let me see that," says Shami, and the guy hands over the Burundian man's license. Shami looks at it and announces, "This is fake. He won't be coming back for it." and gives it back to the cop. We drive off laughing, leaving the irritated cop examining the license and trying his best to look official. (Fake licenses are super common among the middle/upper classes; that way when you get pulled over, you can hand over your fake license and drive off scot-free.)

We call Emily, who has made a smooth border crossing with Kathy and the younger three kids, and is already back at our guest house in Kigali. We are at least 2 hours behind them. We make it to the border crossing just ahead of a giant busload of people. I take the 3 americano passports up to get stamped while Will chills and Alezah tries not to be sick. We drive off, weaving our way between huge trucks and lines of people, but at the final police/passport checkpoint, the guy notices that Will's passport has not been stamped for entrance to Rwanda. Shami runs it back to customs, darts to the front of the gigantic line, gets the stamp and dashes back to our car and the waiting officer. A fairly hilarious conversation ensues:

Guy: "Where is your passport?"
Shami: "I don't need a passport. You are holding my national ID. I'm Rwandese."
Guy: "Oh." Then, "Can you have everyone get out of the car?"
Shami: "They don't need to get out. They're Americans."
Guy: "They need to get out."
Shami: "They don't need to get out. They have entry visas."
Guy: "Europeans have to get out! What, do you think Americans are more powerful than Europeans?!"
Shami: (confused) "Uhh, no. It's not about who is more powerful. It's about the law." ???

Guy hands back the passports and waves us off.

What in the world.... can you even imagine if I had tried driving this trip on my own!? Good night.

We finally made in back to Kigali around nighfall and after a quick dinner, put the kids (and Alezah) to bed and had another lovely evening of sitting out on the balcony overlooking Kigali, drinking wine and eating chocolate, and talking. (I really think I need to start this evening tradition in my life here in the US.)


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