Gone fishing

 

wanda_blog Wanda O’Brien

From the idea to the final story. Read about my adventure navigating Kigali with a link to the final article below.

It started, as all articles do, with a story idea and it ended with me not only learning more about a subject, but getting more geographically acquainted with Kigali as well.

Thursday morning – exactly one week into my internship. I have a few stories on the go, am waiting for contacts to call me back, and am setting up interviews for the following day and next week. But what about today? No one seems able to meet with me today thus far and I’m itching to get out and talk to people. One of the challenges of working in a new environment is being able to identify what is newsworthy in a place you’re just getting to know. Hence I’m sitting at my computer fishing for ideas. I have two press releases for different conferences open. I’ve called both and have yet to hear back. One meeting is taking place outside of Kigali, but the second one is at some hotel called the Sportsview…

One of the die-hard rules of j-school is that conference journalism is a huge negative. The event isn`t news, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find a good story. I call again. The Great Lakes Initiative on AIDS (GLIA) has organized the conference and representatives from six countries are meeting during the week in the last of a series of workshops spanning two years. During each conference one of the six countries hosts the delegates. Rwanda was the final stop.

Someone picks up. “Hi there, my name is Wanda and I’m working for the Rwanda News Agency.” The group is going on a field visit this afternoon to a truck stop. Sorry, a truck stop?

“Could I join?” No problem.

The field trip is in the afternoon and is leaving from a hotel in eastern Kigali. Around midday I get directions on which bus to take to the Remera area and then to tell a moto driver the hotel’s name, since I don’t know where it is.

I’m standing at the edge of a bus shelter. A woman who speaks limited English points at my face and the sun and gestures for me to come into the shade. “UV rays,” she tells me. I sit down beside her.

Shortly thereafter a bus pulls up and determining it’s going to Remera I clamber in, sans nice lady I was sitting beside.

I arrived in Remera without incident. There were several motos waiting at the bus stop. I walked straight past them. I can find this place myself, I reasoned, I’m tired of depending on moto drivers. I walk. I cross a street. I ask someone.

“Do you know where the Sportsview is? A hotel? Sportsview?”

I ask multiple someones. I cross another street. I cross back. “Sportsview?” I walk down a different street. “Hotel?”

A man hears my enquiry.

“Where are you going?”

“I want to go to the Sportview Hotel. Do you know which way?”

“I’ll get you a moto,” he says. At least I tried?

He kindly tells me to wait so he can fix the price with the moto driver as my presence entails an automatic barter session.

Price settled, the moto driver hands me my helmet and just before I put it on a group of giggling school girls pass behind me and one gently squeezes the bun at the back of my head. They giggle walking away. I laugh at their giggling and the fact that someone just honked my hair like a clown’s nose.

Seven moto minutes later I’m dropped off at the Sportsview. Thank my driver kindly. Made it. I walk in and go to the reception desk.

“Hi, I’m here for the GLIA conference, Great Lakes Initiative on Aids. Do you know where that is?”

A blank stare. Not the best sign. I explain who I’m looking to speak with and drop the name I was told.

“I’ll show you,” the receptionist tells me. We walk through a dining room, down stairs, past a pool. He points inside a room and leaves me. I enter.

Two men are sitting at a table. This does not look like a conference. I inquire if one of them is who I’m looking for. Both have no idea. But there’s some type of conference happening in the room on the other side of the pool. Did I try there?

Again, thank kindly, this time with apologizes for disturbing. Cross the courtyard. Enter said room. Many people. I see recorders. I see notepads. There are interviews going on all around me. Sigh of relief.

A man approaches me. “Can I help you?”

I tell the man who I’m looking for. Don’t I mean someone with the same last name, different first name? No, unless I’m mistaken. This is the Great Lakes Initiative conference, right?

No, no it’s not. Back to the drawing board, or rather diving board, as I pass the pool again, retracing my steps by the room with the two men. I peer in, now there are three. So sorry, I say, but that wasn’t the conference I was looking for. No idea where the GLIA one is?

No idea.

Right, thanks.

I hang around. Rock on my toes. Decide to explore the hotel. Up stairs. Down a hallway. A meeting room with voices. The door is open. I peer through the doorway. Is that creepy?

There are hand-written posters on the wall. A few dozen people are standing in a crowded circle and seem to be sorting out ideas. I hear what I think is Swahili, and Kinyirwanda, and English and French. I walk in. I stand, hands behind my back, backpack on, smiling awkwardly, looking for a person not involved in the circle. Ah, someone sees me.

“Is this the GLIA conference?”

“Yes.”

I’m told what the discussion is about. I learn about what is happening that day, what’s been happening all week, and what’s been going on for the past two years.

And it’s “no problem” for me to join the field trip to the truck centre. Off to another sector of Kigali.

Countering HIV/Aids using those most at risk

Safe Stops are places where truck drivers can park their trucks and find some R & R, along with a testing facility for HIV

Safe Stops are places where truck drivers can park their trucks and find some R & R, along with a testing facility for HIV

By Wanda O’Brien
Friday, 17 July 2009
Kigali: A truck stop in Gikondo-MAGERWA, suburb of Kigali, was transformed into a discussion forum on HIV/AIDS this week. Truck drivers, sex workers, and members from the community exchanged ideas with HIV/AIDS representatives from across the great lakes region.

 

To read the rest of the story click on the headline above.

Representatives from the HIV community in six East African countries visited the Safe Stop to exchage ideas with people at the centre.

Representatives from the HIV community in six East African countries visited the Safe Stop to exchage ideas with people at the centre.

The centre oversees a truck yard where drivers can park. But not only drivers use the centre. Out of roughly 100 people filtering through daily, 40 are drivers.

The centre oversees a truck yard where drivers can park. But not only drivers use the centre. Out of roughly 100 people filtering through daily, 40 are drivers.

The truck stop is a centre that provides testing for sexual transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS, education on the subject, condoms, and shower facilities. It also provides recreational activities, such as a pool table and movies.

The truck stop is a centre that provides testing for sexual transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS, education on the subject, condoms, and shower facilities. It also provides recreational activities, such as a pool table and movies.

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