Wednesday, April 2, 2008

First Opportunity To Start Settling In

Yesterday we had the privilege of showing off the Bank and a “trust group” of micro loan clients to the White House staffers, who were quite remarkable in their youthfulness, brilliance, depth of knowledge, and enthusiasm. To my young 20something friends (and a bit older), I encourage you to consider pursuing such a position in government. They all seemed to be having a blast as they accomplish great things. I now count some of them friends and hope to see them again in Rwanda (or D.C.).

The White House staffers left today, and I have had an opportunity to turn to some menial matters, which has been an adventure: Open a “dollar account” account in a major bank (that you have never heard of, because even here in the capital, there are no banks that you have ever heard of); open an RF (Rwandan Franc) account in our Bank, Urwego Opportunity Bank of Rwanda; open a cell phone account in one place and purchase a cell phone in a completely different place; exchange money (at neither of the two banks at which I have accounts, but rather with a money changer); and look at houses to lease (without success). This would all be almost impossible for me to do (or it certainly would have taken me 5 days, rather than one), but for my great friend, Matt Smith, who has lived here a year and knows everybody and all the secrets of getting around. He is a godsend. But even with Matt’s invaluable assistance, everything is an ordeal. Because labor is so cheap and technology is just being introduced, everything is quite “laborious”. I met and worked with 5 different people to complete the opening of my account at the major bank, and I still have to return to them and provide a photograph. (Yes, they require a photograph, but they don’t take it.) And EVERYBODY seems to require “a letter” before you can do anything,… even to open a cell phone account,… and it apparently does not matter what the letter says, just “bring me a letter”. But I mustn’t be misunderstood: I love this beautiful place and these beautiful people. They are very kind and gracious. They are working very hard to move from being an undeveloped to a developed country. I have great respect for them, and know that it is I who has the most to learn, starting with patience.