Now that I’m in my own apartment and can’t get lifts from my parents and none of my roomies have cars and Jingles is still out of commission and motos are expensive and the buses aren’t regular and I’ve been sort of broke… I’ve been walking a lot.
Apart from just walking to and from work, I’ve also been doing morning walks with my mum. She thought it was because I wanted to get fit, but really, it was to give us a chance to catch up since we no longer have our regular evening tea together (sniff). She’s been introducing me to the many hidden walkways of our neighbourhood (we live about 15 minutes apart). There’s an extraordinary overgrown path along Lake Nyarutarama (I’m not sure if that’s its real name) which is like some kind of a mash up of The Secret Garden and Disneyland’s Haunted mansion. There are all these abandoned amusement park statues and rides lurking from behind flowering bushes and wild fruit trees – so far I’ve spotted a few rusting peddle boats, a mermaid, and a frog prince (or possibly a frog king, can’t be too sure). I wonder what the story is behind it… I’ve heard lots of rumours, but as I can’t verify any of them, I won’t post them here.
So those are my morning walks – usually spent trying not to show my mom how exhausted I am, seeing as I am 25 years her junior. There are also the occasional evening walks home from work, when I’ve made the inevitable decision to spend my transport money on yet another Coco Pops Cereal & Milk bar (I’m telling you – they call out to me from the shop downstairs!). Sometimes, I have company – that is, my cousin who has an office a few doors down from me. We spend the entire walk chatting away and I usually barely notice my surroundings.
Other times, she’s left early, or more likely, I’ve left late, so I walk back on my own. On these walks, I really get to take in the city: Kigali is completely different on foot than by car/scooter/bus – and by night, the transformation is even more remarkable.
By most capital city standards, it is very quiet – after 7:00 p.m there is hardly any traffic on the streets, especially if it’s a weekday. This makes it easy to drift into a daydream or wonder whimsically about your future. The main roads are well lit and I often make a game of watching my lonely shadow stretch in and out of the patchwork of streetlights. I also like to come up with stories for the few pedestrians that do cross my path – the short man singing to himself as he walks is a construction worker is hurrying home to see his 2 month old baby; the young lady that almost bumped into me is thinking about finally quitting her job as a technician and opening up that jewellery store; the young couple arguing are trying to decide what colour to paint the sitting room – the husband is starting to agree that green might not be so bad after all.
So many amazing stories that I used to zoom right by on the road, too consumed in my own busy life.
Akaliza Keza Gara is the founder of Shaking Sun Ltd, a multimedia company.