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Getting Reaquainted

Amy&Ibrihim in Butare.jpg
With Ibrihim our taxi driver in Butare

It's hard to believe that I've only been here for 48 hours. I guess jetlag continues to disorient me, but I've also managed to pack in a lot. On Saturday morning my cameraman and I got up at 5 am and took the Volcano bus down to Butare -- a college town about two hours south of Kigali. The town is the largest in Rwanda after Kigali. The ride there was utterly breathtaking and the early morning light, incredible. Like most drives in Rwanda, the road south winds up and down through the lush green hills and despite my fatigue I couldn't help but keep my eyes open taking in the beauty.

Evidence that this is the most densely populated country in Africa is not seen in high rises or traffic congestion. Rather, it becomes clear looking out the window and seeing the people themselves; for the entire duration of the trip through the rural countryside not a minute goes by when we weren't passing people walking along the road -- some carrying bananas and pineapples in baskets on their heads, other just socializing with friends. At first glance it's easy to miss all the housing necessary to accommodate Rwanda's large population. Looking out my window into the valleys and up the hills it seems there are merely leafy banana trees and green. But looking harder the camouflaged tile-roofed homes emerge. Once I spot them I realize they're ubiquitous -- dotting the valleys, lining the road, stacked up terraced hillsides.

The main street of Butare is dusty and lined with storefronts -- there are a few restaurants, an internet cafe, gas station. The town is much smaller than bustling Kigali and feels a little like the set of an old western. We arrived by 8:30 am and had time for a leisurely breakfast at Hotel Ibis before meeting with the head of the journalism school. I ate the omelet special -- tomatoes, cheese, meat and rice suspended in egg. I think next time I'll ask for sans riz.

We had a good meeting with the journalism school director and then walked to the house where the Rwanda Initiative teachers live while teaching at the journalism school. We had lunch with them, explaining a bit about our project. Together we headed to Radio Salus -- the university radio station, now ranked 3rd in the entire country, thanks in large part to Aldo Havugimana.

During our last trip to Rwanda in 2004, we had met and interviewed Aldo who was then a journalism student at the University. He hoped to become a radio journalist. Four years later he is the director of Radio Salus and has successfully boosted the station's ratings by creating a range of diverse programming which includes news, short radio documentaries, talk shows, music shows, often featuring question and answers. The station has come a long way since we were last here when it was just starting up.

It started to rain lightly as we made our way to catch the last bus back to Kigali.


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