“This is it. I am going to die. I wish I had eaten lunch.”
Okay, it’s not a direct quote, more like stream of consciousness paraphrasing, but as I felt my grip slipping and my helmet slowly coming loose, going 70 km/h on the back of a taxi-motorcycle in Kigali, I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to make it.
Okay, let’s backtrack a bit here.
The idea of blogging never really appealed to me much; it’s not like I have a philosophical problem with new media or anything, I’m just still wrapping my head around the idea that people would actually be interested in my deepest, innermost thoughts neatly laid out on a computer screen. Better yet, it always seemed to me as if these were things I shouldn’t be sharing so promptly with the world wide web; the ticking gears in my mind should be my soundtrack alone, right?
Then again, I guess in a way there has to be something said about where I’ve been and where I am these days. I’ve been travelling for months to places that most people put on ambition-soaked drunken bucket lists and forget about in the morning; moments relaxing at a Turkish bath in Budapest or beating down a mug of beer bigger than my head in Bavaria.
So, as my furiously sweating palms started to slip and the motorcycle driver took a mildly sharp downhill turn, I pretty much thought, “well, this has been nice, I’ve had a pretty good run, and if I’m going to go, this is as good a way as any really… Also, I still wish I had eaten lunch.”
Being here for so short a time, I’m not entirely sure what I’m feeling.
Sometimes I feel totally confident, almost laughing as I brush away culture shocks like Mike Tyson sparring with Betty White to settle a bar tab. Some moments I feel so sickeningly collected in this chaos that I worried I’m secretly being robbed in an alleyway and this illusion of security is just my mind’s way of coping and telling me it’s going to be okay.
Other times I’m Alice tumbling down a rabbit hole, like at any moment a doorknob might start talking to me and I’m worried I’ll get nervous, start stuttering and not know what to answer.
But realistically, if I have the option, I just can’t pass up the opportunity to ride a motorbike down Kigali’s rock and rolling hills. Regular cabs are for squares in this city; motorcycle taxis are half the price, twice as fast and also serve to double your heart rate, if you’re into that sort of thing. These things are everywhere in the city, zooming along dirt roads and leaving trails of red dust and coughing engine spatter behind them.
To be entirely honest, I’m flat-out lying when I say they’re motorcycles, because they’re not… not exactly. They look more like a Vespa and Harley had a few too many one night, lit some candles, threw on some Barry White and then got stuck with an unwanted motorized love child however many months later it takes vehicles to procreate. Then, just to be ironic, they gave it up for adoption in Africa.
But these little beasts pack a hell of a punch, and for just 1000 Rwandan Francs (give or take $1.70 CAD or 1.34 Euros) you get to zoom and swerve through traffic as if the bike would rot if we stood still for more than 20 seconds.
When I got off, I was sweating, my hands were shaking and I swear I could see halfway down the road because my eyes were sticking out of my head like a Looney Tunes character. I might as well have just left a Tiesto concert as far as anyone on the street could tell.
As the bike pulled away, puffing a cloud of diesel in my face like a Wall Street fatcat at a dinner party, it finally hit me.
Toto, screw Kansas, I think we’re in Africa.