Posted by: DHE Rwanda | July 19, 2011

“We Do Not Need Any Fancy Mattresses”

Hello hello, Wiley here again. It’s been a whirlwind few days! The team is fully assembled: Mikolaj and Richard, the gents from e.quinox arrived mid-morning of the 15th, with Yi and Joey following that night. Collin flew in the next morning, and his luggage, after an inexplicably prolonged stay in Johannesburg, came the day after that. But aside from that things have been progressing more or less smoothly, as we’ve gotten a better feel for the layout and temper of Rwanda’s big city.

We’ve been working mostly on securing housing for the last few days; so far this has involved a fair bit of driving around the city, looking at apartments and dickering with local landlords to keep expenses down (hence the title of this post). Our adventures in search of apartments led us to some interesting places, notably the Hotel des Mille Collines, immortalized as the eponymous auberge of the movie Hotel Rwanda, where we (mistakenly, as it turned out) believed we were to meet one of the landlords. It looks like we’ve got a nice place just north of downtown Kigali that’s reasonably close to the Nyabugogo market and to our contacts.

Two days ago, we split up into several groups: Ted, Wouter, and team e.quinox worked on the housing search; Yi, Joey and Collin scouted around town for mattresses and stoves, amenities that we may have to purchase to supplement our lodging; Mike, Emily and I walked from downtown Kigali-ville towards the Nyabugogo market. As it turns out, Nyabugogo Avenue is lined with car parts dealers, and we were able to turn up several sources for alternators and bearings. The bearings were reasonably priced, compared to their counterparts available in America, though of indeterminate quality; the alternators weren’t, about six to ten times more expensive than what we could find at home. We passed several more hardware stores on the way down the hill towards the market, one of which advertised itself as a source of PVC pipe and accessories.

The Nyabugogo market itself is a sprawling, bustling bazaar, busy even on a Sunday morning. It looks like it will be a reliable source of fresh veggies (I’m starting to get used to the idea of guacamole), shoes (lots of them), and pretty much anything you can think of (like a towel, if you happen to forget yours in the U.S.). There’s also a bus station there that sells the cheapest rides to Butare and Cyangugu, on the route to Banda, where we’ll be working on refurbishing the site this summer.

Yesterday we had our first meeting with potential local partners. Ted, Mike, Mikolaj, Richard, and I met with Dr. Said Kafumbe, the head of the Electrical Engineering and Electronics (EEE) Department at Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) with the aim of beginning a partnership between KIST, e.quinox, and DHE. Dr. Kafumbe and his colleagues seemed very receptive to the idea, and several electrical engineering students expressed interest in working on the project; also Dr. Kafumbe introduced us to Prof. Minani Longin, the head of the Mechanical Engineering Department, and he too seemed to think the partnership would be beneficial. The heads of departments were also helpful in pointing out potential sources of materials (one of whom we expect to meet tomorrow) and gracious in offering us the use of their workshop facilities, so it looks like we’ll have a solid partnership to work from, if negotiations continue in this vein.

Today, Ted, Mike, Joey and team e.quinox are speaking with Mr. Leo Kassana, of the Ministry of Infrastructure (MININFRA – Africans seem to love acronyms, and are way better at turning them into pronounceable words than we Americans are) regarding the permitting process, both for the site in Banda that we hope to refurbish, and for potential sites that we hope to build in the future, and tomorrow we’ll be meeting with Michel Masozera, local head of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS – last acronym for this post, I swear), the group that the old crew had worked with when installing the site in Banda, so we can get information on the current status of the site. So far things look promising, so keep your fingers crossed for us!

Wiley

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