Jack in the Box

Over the last four years, we’ve spent about eight months living in Rwanda—time to pretty much know what to expect, right? No. There always seems to be those “I didn’t see that coming” moments, those jack-in-the-box surprises when you get gobsmacked with the reality of living in Africa.

Commercial rental cars in Rwanda are ridiculously expensive, so we rent from a local. We’ve come to expect balding tires, misaligned headlights, sporadically functioning windows, and tortoise-like acceleration. JitB–you have a flat tire and there is no jack.

Taxis are generally reliable, although the drivers often seem to have a death wish.  JitB– you are on your way to the airport and the taxi runs out of gas.

Squat toilets are the de rigeur in most schools. Odiferous and unpleasant to say the least, but functional when you must.  Oops, JitB, sunglasses just went down the hole.

The training venue and time are set until, JitB, the Israeli and Rwanda military decide to use the venue for training (like they didn’t know this way in advance?).  Change venue and, JitB, find there is no electricity at the new venue.  Get electricity wired by head teacher’s cousin and, JitB, it fries all of the computers.

We pay instructors and teachers a very modest amount every other Monday for the extra hours they spend at school to learn English.  Normally they would use that time to farm, run a store, or to some way earn a bit of extra income.  Rwandan francs come in denominations of 5000, 1000, and 500 bills, and 100 coins (5000 RWF is about US$5.50.) So before payday, we have to collect, literally, a bag of money. JitB—banks do not have any of the 100 franc coins we need.

Every JitB moment reveals just how lucky we are to live where we do.  And each new JitB episode gets relegated to the ‘ding’ category—just another to-be-expected experience.  Yet despite the JitBs and dings, we truly love working with the incredible and irrepressible Rwandans.

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