Across the road, I could see several people, queuing up. Couldn’t tell exactly what they were there for but I decided to go find out anyway. I met two ladies who seemed to be on their way back and stopped them.
“How are you? My name is Sophie. I’m new here but can’t find my friend with whom I’m supposed to stay, so can you please help me any way you can?” I repeated myself for the umpteenth time. “I’m sorry, I wish I could help you but I stay very far away from here and right now, I only have transport for myself and my sister here. But you go up there and see if they can help you. Sometimes they take in people,” the older of the sisters replied in broken English. Best news I’d heard so far.
I was to later learn that it wasn’t a shelter at all. It was only a place where people went to take ID pictures. The best they could do for me was to take me to Police or the embassy where they figured I would get more help.
Once again, I walked away, disappointed. I met another girl, who also only spoke French and Kinyarwanda. But she was kind enough to take me to a shop where she thought people might understand English.
I was beginning to feel the weight of my bags. One of the attendants there advised me to take a taxi to the opposite side of town and that there; I should try to look for cheap accommodation.
Hadn’t he listened when I told him I had no money? But like a fool, I took a taxi. Four people per seat, that was new. I was used to three passengers a row.
The seats were uncomfortable, too closely lined too but at least I wasn’t walking now. I tried to ask my neighbour on the right what the fare was.
She responded in Kinyarwanda even when I kept shaking my head and saying again and again that I didn’t understand what she was saying.
I then tried to call to the “conductor” only to learn they’re called conveyer here. He wasn’t much help either. So I just sat back in my seat and said to myself I would only get out when the taxi stopped.
Just then, a boy, aged about 16, boarded. “Hi, you speak any English?” I asked. “I try,” he offered in Kinyarwanda accent. “Good, I said. I want to go to the nearest church.
You know where it is?” “Church? I will show you.” 10 minutes later (maybe it was less but because of my unfamiliar circumstances, I was impatient,) I nudged him. “Not yet?” I asked. “No,” he said.
Three taxi stops later, he signalled that I should get off the taxi. Walking down, about 600 metres, I wandered into the church quarters. It was after six and the place looked deserted.
I told myself I would sleep right there in the compound if I had to. Walking into the corridor, I called out. “Hullo, anyone here?” “Oui.” Don’t know or speak French for that matter but I knew that meant yes. So I walked to the direction of the voice.
There, I found a middle-aged lady. “Maam, I know this sounds strange but I don’t have a place to stay and I’m so tired and hungry.” A barrage of questions started. “Who are you? Where are you from?
How can you not have a place or contact person…” Fortunately, at the end of it all, she offered some help, well sort of. She directed me to the pastor’s assistant.
Moving out of the building, I went searching, with renewed hope now. Surely, no one would turn me away from the house of God this time.
I didn’t find the said secretary but I did find a white lady. “Hi…” you know what I said next. “Talk to that lady over there,” she told me. And guess what, it was someone who could speak my language. What a sense of relief I felt.
Quickly, I narrated my predicament and immediately, I could sense a kind heart. “I will cook, clean, do anything for you. Please just take me in until I find a job…” I told her.
“You come and we go home. You look so tired,” she said. At the mention of the magical word “home”, nothing else mattered, as I now knew I would have a place to rest my very tired body.
To be continued…