Cars in Rwanda

Last year we didn’t have a car. Cars are very expensive here, and there aren’t exactly car loans. A combination of too many Starbucks, law school and friends who won’t stop running races for clean water, means we don’t have an extra $10K sitting around to buy a beat up 1995 automatic Toyota Corolla. Last year we stretched ourselves with relying on public transportation, friends and taxis. It was freeing in some ways but also quite burdensome.

This year, we decided we needed a car to use more often so we’ve been renting one from a friend here. It’s been wonderful and, dare I say, life-changing. The freedom to move about without relying on others has lifted my spirits.

Of course, with cars come car trouble. To some, car trouble feels stressful and overwhelming, but I actually kind of enjoy car trouble in Rwanda. Rwanda is the very best place to have car trouble – everyone is an amateur mechanic, and everyone is eager to make a few bucks to help you out. It’s one of my favorite cultural experiences.

Today was no different. I drove BB to work, and he noticed the steering wheel shaking a bit. He mentioned that we should check the air pressure in the tires, and I promptly ignored him because I’m an egalitarian feminist in every way except that men are 100% in charge of car issues, killing insects and rodents, and taking out the trash. In all those areas, I submit.

Of course, an hour later, I could tell that my tire was flat. I was almost downtown so I pressed to a quieter street to pull over. The crowds coming by to tell me “sorry sorry,” and “you have a problem,” notwithstanding, I had quick help. Our guard (houseworker who watches the property, does yard work and opens the gate) came to rescue me after about 30 minutes. Once he arrived, and I was out of my car, we had a crowd of moto drivers and passers-by excited to help (and make a few bucks in doing so).

They all spoke for a while about the best course of action (repair or replace), and within a few minutes, they had a plan of action. My new friend John took off on a moto to investigate the cost of a new (used) tire. Another guy whose name I didn’t catch, was off on another moto to get the tools needed. The whole operation took about an hour, and I was on my way.

My one regret is that I don’t have many photos. My phone battery was dying, and I made the prudent choice to save battery in case I needed to call BB instead of videotaping the whole experience for social media.


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