The Real World: Rwanda

A film by Aaron Soffin

A painting by Natalie Frank
All is well at the house in Kimihurura.  We made it through some hectic remodeling demolition work a week ago...and are now walking on brand-new, smooth tile floors.  There is a welcoming porch and lush garden, where we drink Primus and watch the sun set over the hills of Kigali. Little tin-roof shacks are slotted in between the sprawling NGO compounds surrounding our street. Neighborhood kids wave and greet me with the customary, "Muzungu, Muzungu!" ...and I am settling into expat life nicely.
After riding motorcycle taxis down our rocky, red, dirt road and around the curvaceous streets in town, I'm really happy that I brought my own helmet with me, instead of wearing the ill-fitting, funky-smelling helmets the moto-drivers offer me.   However, there was this one embarressing incident when I first arrived, where I could not get my helmet off my head, and these local women watching from the side of the street were laughing uncontrollably at me as I struggled to pull it off.
I get the impression that Taylor knows everyone in Kigali.  As a transient place, people here are always coming and going.  We have spent many conversation-fueled evenings with other ex-pats and locals working on interesting projects.  Several journalists have used our house as a base as they head on their way in or out of DR Congo. Hearing numerous people say they are, "Going to the DRC" with same type of casual nonchalance as some people say, "Going to Montauk" makes me forget for a moment that the DRC is one of the most dangerous places to be right now.
Electricity and internet is inconsistent here...but not to worry....  We head into town to use Bourbon Coffee's wi-fi (The "Starbucks" of Rwanda) and mingle with all the other ex-pats there. We are living on "Africa-time" and I've learned that getting things done here is no walk in the park.  That is the most frustrating part...conflicting with my New York "I needed it yesterday" mentality.

Film editor, Aaron Soffin just arrived to Taylor's last week to help film testimonies here for the next 6 months.  He was supposed to arrive last month, but was delayed because he had to help get his friend/documentary filmmaker, Andrew Berends, out of a Nigerian prison. (See story in New York Times.)

To date, I have finished an English transcription of  a 7 1/2 hour testimony, sat in on a filming, created an initial VOR newsletter layout, coordinated various office logistics and operations, as well as networked to arrange future speaking engagements and fundraising events for Taylor and Voices of Rwanda.
Next week, highly-acclaimed, New York-based artist, Natalie Frank, arrives at "Camp Taylor" for a month to work on painting a series of genocide survivor portraits.  Her work is incredible!