Friday, February 09, 2007

My African Adventure

...is already beginning. A week ago we found out that our hotel had just cancelled our booking. Great. We asked someone for help who did not really respond...until after several proddings today when they booked us into a hotel which another person described as not far off appalling. Found that out at around 4 pm this afternoon Georgian time, 12 hours before my departure.....

A lot of frantic phoning around has got us a hotel for the first night, the famous Milles Collines of 'Hotel Rwanda' fame (though the film was not shot there), and we'll see after that. The problem is that on Monday and Tuesday the Global Fund has a big AIDS conference which takes up all the nice hotel rooms in Kigali. It will be interesting to see if the prostitutes will be busy - they should not really be, given the topic of the conference...

Yesterday I thought I should check the situation re ATMs, or bankomats, since I usually travel without cash but with a card. Wasn't it lucky that I checked? Found out that there are no ATMs accepting international cards. So rushed round Tbilisi yesterday milking cash machines for those expensive hotels....then this evening looked at the dollars I got and found that quite a few of them are pre-2000, which are not popular in Rwanda....It's a pain travelling with lots of cash!

Some statistics .... population is 8.1 million in a country half the size of Lithuania. GDP per person is 230 USD per year; half the children under 5 are malnourished, 20% of them don't even reach their fifth birthday...90% of the population lives off agriculture, often at subsistence level.... and so on and so on. So they are looking for a social protection policy, we are told, which will address the poorest 2.5%, about 1 or 2 families in a village of 100 families. Mostly donor-funded, that is.