Tuesday, September 28, 2010

My Ignorant Thoughts on France

The French have such a reputation for being incredibly rude. And this isn’t a stigma, like my Canada thing. This is absolutely true. Now everyone has their reasons for thinking this, but my reason boils down to my experience in the airport. I can actually boil that down further to one second at the airport that cemented the French’s rudeness in my head forever. Now to preface, I’ve spent eight hours in France, specifically Paris – so don’t get all high and mighty (and French) about this post – I’m not claiming to be an authority.

Anyway, I was in Paris for an eight hour layover. My friend AJ and I decided to stop in Paris and see the sites on our way back from Cairo. We were absolutely exhausted at this point, seeing as we had a jam packed trip through Egypt – overnight trains, early mornings, really big pyramids, etc. We got to Paris at 6am, which meant I got to see the Eiffel Tower with no tourists, it was fantastic! I was starting to like this town. AJ lived in Paris before, so he shuttled me along, making sure I saw everything, until we got to the Notre Dame, where I practically collapsed from the smoke, lack of food and water and general exhaustion. After blaming my fatigue on AJ, chugging some water, using one of those clean outdoor bathrooms that I would love if DC had, we went back to the airport for our flight home. And THAT is when the trouble happened.

I went through security, hit customs, answered questions and got my passport stamped. My passport has 24 pages. Ok, mine is very crowded because I have some visas in there, among many stamps. But, was THIS necessary:

Right in the middle? This French customs officer completely defiled my passport. There are many blank pages in there. I mean Australia clearly understood, Thailand shared a spot, even my Acapulco stamp is neatly on the side. And then, right there in the middle of everything is where you decide to stamp?! There are blank pages! So many blank pages. But oh no, you stamped it directly in the center.

So after a very pleasant, albeit tiring eight hours, I liked France. And that all crumbled in a moment. I now do not like France and have no desire to return. And literally, I don’t know if I will. Now go think about what you’ve done, France.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Quick Trip to Montreal

So I went to Montreal on Monday-Tuesday for work. I’ve obviously been to Canada many times; growing up in Buffalo, Canada is like four cartwheels away. (Though, of course, growing up in Buffalo I was taught to not like Canada/Canadians). It was sort of strange handing over my passport, which is incredibly flimsy from sweating on it in the DRC, to go to Canada. I used to use my school ID to drive across the border, so apparently they run a tighter ship these days.

I ended up getting to the airport a full two hours early – a combination of overestimating the drive time to Dulles and nervousness traveling for work alone. So I was incredibly bored in the airport. I walked through the C gate where I waited and decided to pick the airplane that I’d rather get on. NOT that I wasn’t excited to go to Montreal, but I was just really really bored. I decided Kuwait was the best option, followed by Los Angeles, since I have never been there (only the airport for 2 hours waiting to board my flight to Sydney). Think that little story was boring? Good, now you fully understand my mental state during this wait. I also saw the biggest cowboy hat I’ve ever seen. You heard me: cowboy hat.

The second I got off the toy plane that took me over the border, I wished I spoke more French. Not that people don’t speak English here, but it’s not like in Africa where I scream “lost foreigner” when going about my day. I blend in more. I was actually once mistaken for a French girl by a German guy in Uganda. I say my French is “basic”. Well. That is perhaps a stretch. Actually, I think I speak more Kinyarwanda than French. I probably speak more Swahili than French too.

Anyway, Montreal was cool. I only had the night to walk around downtown, but I found a really good sushi place for a lonesome dinner. I like the fact that everyone speaks at least two languages, and it cements in my mind how I will force my children to be multi- (yes, I said multi-) lingual. I like walking through the streets hearing different languages, even though I can’t understand one of them. So, in sum, tip of the hat to you Montreal – you seem like a fun, smart city with a lot of young people and a potentially rowdy nightlife. Given the chance, I’d return, even though you are in…Canada.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Ndakunda urwanda

I don’t think I have an all encompassing post on this, but, as many of you know, I’d be perfectly happy packing up my life, moving back to Rwanda and growing old there. Why?...Is what most people say. And that is frustrating. I didn’t have any visitors in Rwanda (woe is me), and I know it’s a long trip, but I’ve teased out moving to South America, and I already have my friend’s cousin’s ex-boyfriend’s kinda friend’s twin willing to visit me there. No one came to Africa, so shame, shame on all of you. Here are the top 5 things you missed:

1. Tourist attractions. Gorillas, birds, monkeys, oh my! Really though, Gorillas in the Mist was in Rwanda. If you want to see them, go there – not to mention they have some intense birds and golden monkeys. Want to trek a volcano? Me neither, but you could in Rwanda!

2. Safety! Rwanda is regarded as the safest East and Central African country. Move over Uganda, Tanzania, DRC.…well, I’m assuming you’ve already moved to the corner of the room – Rwanda is like living in candyland compared to its western neighbor. I felt perfectly comfortable traveling alone in Rwanda – just as safe as I do in Washington, DC.

3. Fun. And everyone hates missing fun. Whatever you consider fun, Rwanda has it: clubs, bars, brochettes, adventure, hiking, trekking, motorcycles, children, a love of Obama, languages, difficult languages, easier languages, hills, motos to avoid walking the hills, and on and on.

4. A Lake. Oh you think you can find a lake just anywhere?! What about a lake with methane gas underneath it? Yeah, didn’t think so. Lake Kivu is beautiful! There are many places to go on the lake, with beaches and amazing views.

5. Amazing People. I met the most amazing people in the world in Rwanda. To go on from where they came from is incredible, the courage and strength that Rwandans have goes unmatched in any other country I’ve ever been to.

So while you think about traveling this fall, maybe consider a fun, yet safe, lake for tourists where amazing people linger.