Part of the Kigali seen from the roof of Rwanda’s Parliament building (which you can visit!). – Photo: Matthew Chasmar
This February, I had the incredible opportunity to spend about 10 days visiting the East African country of Rwanda. Indeed, you may have already seen my previous story for AirlineReporter about my flights to and from the country. But what I wasn’t able to do in that story was talk about my impressions of Rwanda itself. As someone who had never travelled to Africa before, I immensely enjoyed my trip to Rwanda and would highly recommend visiting to someone curious about the region.
I spent most of my time in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, and biggest city. Kigali left an interesting impression on me because it felt very much like a city of contrasts. Some neighborhoods (like those around government buildings and foreign embassies) have a lot of new development. I saw impressive glass office buildings, luxury hotels, new apartments, and shopping malls.
The dome on the left is the Kigali Convention Centre, a brand-new building that lights up at night. Next to it is a Radisson Blu Hotel. – Photo: Matthew Chasmar
The Alliance Tower, one of the most impressive buildings in Kigali’s Central Business District – Photo: Matthew Chasmar
That said, other parts of the city show that many Rwandans don’t enjoy these luxuries. On my first day there I had the chance to take a walking tour of Kigali’s Nyamirambo neighborhood, run by the Nyamirambo Women’s Center, a local charity. This was a great way to see what seemed to be a more typical Kigali neighborhood.
In Hamburg, you have to pay attention.
Things are moving here on the edge of time. A store doesn’t open at 9:59, it opens at 10:00 exactly. People still have wrist watches not as an accessory, not as a nod to the 90s, but actually use them for their intended purpose. The train / subway / HochBahn is rarely, if ever, late. Only once in six whole months did I see a train come startlingly late (I would consider “startling late” ten minutes), and it caused panic to ripple throughout the crowd. Where is the train? How could this happen? When the HochBahn comes, it opens and closes its mouth within ten seconds and you better already be there to jump in. One time I made it, but my bag got caught. The doors do not wait for anyone or anything. Every four minutes it arrives and leaves. Time is important here, efficiency is important. Hamburg people cannot live on borrowed time, and there is something to respect in this efficiency.
In Hamburg, people stare at you.
Truly, stoically, painfully, everlastingly look at you. Never have a cold sore in Hamburg. Make sure you brush your hair. The staring, the (perceived but often not real) judgement, and the curiosity only increases between the elderly and the children. You feel 15 and awkward again in Hamburg. Why is everyone looking at me? They are not, in fact; everyone is looking at everyone else. Over the months, the stares don’t feel so strange or threatening. You begin to realize that the staring, the looking-for-longer-than-necessary-look is how people interact with each other here. It is different, it is uncomfortable, it can be unbearable and then… it isn’t. Eventually you will stare back.
In Hamburg, fashion is function over form. There are not a lot of bright colors or varieties of clothing here. Sensible black shoes, a Fjällräven backpack, a jacket that hits your knees that is both waterproof and windproof for the unpredictable dark winter. In some cases, this is a relief. You don’t have to fuss much about your wardrobe in Hamburg. It is easy to wear greys and blacks and the occasional pop of color scarf. You bundle up here. The extreme humidity in the summer means you sweat, but in the winter it means there is a sharper cold. Looking put together, clean, sharp, business ready is very important, but fashion in itself is not. Maybe it is the climate or maybe it is the culture… I can’t tell the difference.
This is never a good thing to see on your computer screen
I realize this is not one of your usual #AvGeek stories on AirlineReporter, but if you’re a traveler, writer, planespotter, and/or photographer (and I happen to be all of the above to some degree), then you know that photos, whether they are taken to tell a story or record a memory, are your treasure, the fruits that result from your hard labor.
My photos may not be valuable to others, but certainly they are valuable to me… some might even be priceless and irreplaceable. Given that, you’d think I’d be more careful about protecting them. Heck, I tell others how to protect their data all the time (just ask my wife). Yet somehow, I never did… maybe it was procrastination, or naivete thinking a relatively new laptop wouldn’t fail, but in any case I had the majority of my photos in one place… on my laptop’s hard drive. I will be the first to admit that what I did was stupid.
So imagine that pit in my stomach that occurred when I hit the power button on my laptop and a simple text system notification appeared on my screen: “Bootable device not found…”
My trip to Iceland in 2012 – Photo: Katka Lapelosová
Three years ago, I traveled to Iceland for the first time. It was sort of a spontaneous trip that a friend and I had planned last minute, but it ended up being one of the best international experiences ever. And with flight time being less than five hours from NYC, the chilly country makes for the perfect “long weekend,” European getaway.
Most people travel to Iceland to explore glaciers (check), see the Northern Lights (check), play with Icelandic ponies (check), or hang out at the Blue Lagoon (major check). But one thing they underestimate is what they’ll have to eat while they’re there.
BONUS: Traveling to Keflavik on an Icelandair Boeing 757
Iceland is a foodie’s dream. It’s not really surprising, considering Icelandic dishes are typically locally sourced, and with such unique agricultural conditions, chefs and locals alike have gotten creative with their recipes. The food and drinks I had in Iceland were some of the highlights of my trip, from lobster stew and Skyr (Icelandic yogurt), to whale meat and puffin (ethically farmed, and better than it sounds, trust me).