8. RECEPTION FOR H.E. KAGAME
We walked down the road from the Amahoro Stadium to the "roundabout" where we could find a taxi. Kigali, like England, has traffic "roundabouts" at major intersections, and all forms of taxis whirl around in all directions - bicycles with padded seats on the back fender; motorcycles with passengers sitting side-saddle and, of course, your average every day car in varying degrees of luxury.
The fact that I was wearing an elegant sari drew some attention from passers-by and it wasn't long before a taxi had screeched to a stop with its driver reaching over to fling open the back door. We got in and said, in English, "to Urugwiro Village please" at which point our driver turned around with a questioning look, obviously not understanding my pronunciation of "urugwiro", a Rwandan word which I think someone once told me meant "people".
I repeated "urugwiro" saying it was where President Kagame was and that we wanted to go there to see him. The driver was still somewhat uncomprehending and, after negotiating a honking-reaction merge into the roundabout, he pulled over at his earliest convenience.
At this point I opened my handbag and took out our invitation card with the seal of The Government of the Republic of Rwanda on the top under which were our names to attend a Reception for His Excellency the President at "Village Urugwiro" which is the name of the complex where the President and other members of his government have their offices.
I handed it to the taxi driver and after reading it, he nodded his head, made a U-turn back to the roundabout and, it being a cacophony of congestion, veered off down a back street which bumpily brought us close to the front gate of Village Urugwiro to which we could walk the rest of the way.
After passing through the wrought-iron gates of Urugwiro Village (without setting off any beeps at the screeners) our invitation was taken from us (which shattered my plan of cherishing it as a memento).
On the beautiful grounds of Village Urugwiro there were two tents opposite each other, one large one where all the guests were congregated and the other smaller one where His Excellency the President would soon be arriving and available for people to meet.
It was great to see some of the people I had met in London, Ontario when President Kagame had made his first visit to Canada in April, and they introduced me to other people who I was interested in talking to in my capacity as a journalist seeking stories about Rwanda.
Then, before too long, a buzz vibrated through the crowd that President Kagame had arrived and I started making my way over to the reception area.
The photos above show the beauty of the grounds of Village Urugwiro, with a view of some hills in the distance, of course.
As soon as there was even a hint of a break in the long-line of people wanting to talk to His Excellency I, with encouragement from some of his entourage, built up my courage to step forward and introduce myself. We talked for a few moments about Canada and my perceptions of Rwanda, and then we posed for a photo:
In front of our eyes the traditional dancers, known as the National Troupe, were once again performing and, after thanking the President for the pleasure of his company, I walked back to the big tent on Cloud Nine, having once again been in the presence of Rwanda's hero, and mine.
Amani's wife, who along with her husband, had given me the beautiful book "Rwanda Nzizi" ("Beautiful Rwanda" in Kinyarwanda) was there and together we watched President Kagame and his entourage leave the tent, after which time the reception shortly broke up. It had been a wonderful day and one I will fondly remember forever.
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