A Day In The Life at Radio Flash
Every morning I take a moto to work. It’s probably the best part of my day. I get a tour of Kigali every morning and it only costs me a dollar a trip.
The story meetings start at 8:30am. We bring ideas and talk about what we will cover for the day.
Radio Flash’s driver, Cabera, takes all the journalists out into the field every morning. We are usually covering press conferences at hotels because this city has a ton of workshops on health, agriculture, taxes etc. But sometimes we go to the hospital or police station. And almost every week so far I have been to the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre, because there is always someone famous who is visiting there.
The press conferences/events of the day usually take around 3 hours to cover (2 hours of waiting around and 1 hour of useful information.) It’s pretty cool though, I get to talk to Ministers almost every day. And the media relations people have gotten used to finding someone who speaks English to talk to me. Also, journalists here all seem to work together. If there’s a breaking story another radio station will usually let us know. And they are very good about translating stuff to me.
For lunch I have become friends with Devota, who works at the Supermarket down the street. She sells me simosas for about 20 cents and helps me practice my Kinyarwandan.
After lunch I edit my quotes and write my script. Sometimes I will write up other local stories from press releases or cut other people’s English quotes too. Also once in a while there will be another story to cover in the afternoon.
Around Five, I start working on my international stories. I look at the biggest headlines of the day in the rest of the world and write up little scripts for them.
At 6:30 I’m usually asking anyone in the office how to pronounce the Rwandan names. I’ve gotten better but they’re still tough.
And then right at 7:00 I go into the studio and give my speech. I’m usually home by 7:30.
A day that starts at 8:30 and goes to 7:30 gets exhausting. But I definitely feel like I’m a real live journalist now and I appreciate the friends I’ve made from spending so much time in the media world here.
When people ask me what I did in Rwanda, my answer is going to be that I did a lot of waiting around. That is pretty much what my day entails. African Standard Time dictates that nothing starts on time, no one gets there when they say they will, and the concept of being “early” for something is out of the question.
As a result I spend probably two thirds of my day waiting for something or someone.
If a press conference says it starts at 10, the minister will show up at 10:45.And My colleagues and I will wait because even though we didn’t get there till 10:10, we’re still waiting for half an hour. If a friend says they will pick you up at 3, you are going to get picked up at 3:30. And you’re left to wait on the street until he gets there.
Last week one of the movie stars from Blood Diamond was coming to the genocide memorial in Kigali. Myself and two other journalists from Radio Flash went to cover it. He was supposed to get there at 10:00. We got there at 11 and waited around till about 12:30. When he finally arrived he went into the memorial where they have set up a whole exhibit on the genocide. Obviously they didn’t want journalists following him all around so they said we could talk to him after. The exhibit takes about two hours. So we waited until about 2:00 before he came out. We sat there for three hours!
That being said I’ve started to get used to it. And I’m starting to like it. The first two weeks were very frustrating. I’m not exactly one to always be on time either. I’m usually 5 minutes late for everything (I’m pretty sure I get that from my mom.) But I also feel like there’s a lot more that I could be doing with my time instead of waiting around. So the first two weeks were difficult.
But I have started to get into it. Waiting can actually be very relaxing. You get to talk to people and observe things that you usually don’t have time for. When I was sitting at the genocide memorial I was with a bunch of other journalists and I got to talk to them and get to know them. And as we talked we learned about each other, and they told me some of their stories about the genocide. It was very calm and relaxing. Also, I didn’t feel pressured to make small talk, it’s like you talked when you wanted to, or you didn’t and just hung out in silence.
When I first got here, I would be rushing to get to places on time and stress out about it. But then when I realized I was the first one there I started to chill out a bit. And now I get places when I get places and I’m usually still one of the first to arrive.
Even on friday night it was 7:00 and time for the newscast. The music for the news was playing but my technical guy was still trying to sort out my quotes. I said to him, should I just start?.. and he says just give me 2 minutes, it’s ok. Just relax. And I did and the world didn’t fall apart.
It’s not always the best time ever. In the journalism world there’s always deadlines so sometimes it can be stressful. I don’t think I could do this forever. But for now I have learned just to let go a little bit.
Well Done Africa.
Last wednesday marked the 30th anniversary of Bob Marley’s death. So for the radio, I pitched that we cover a story about the influence he had on the people of Rwanda. It turned out to be one of my favourite stories I’ve ever covered.
The driver for the radio took Theos and I to a little Rastafarian village area called ‘One Love.’ As soon as we drove into the complex it was like entering a different world. It was very green, there were trees everywhere, it was very quiet and peaceful ( even though we were in the middle of the city) and the place was huge. There was a little river running around it and thatched huts all around.
When we got into the complex it was obvious that we had entered into the world of Rastafarians. There were a couple of people wandering around and everyone had dread locks and a bob marley t-shirt.
We talked to a couple of the guys and they even sang us a little bit of ‘One Love.’ They were very cool and very welcoming.
After we spoke with them, we went to meet the leader of the pack - Ras Gatera Rudasingwa. He was sitting at one of the tables in their restaurant area. This man is the epitomy of cool! He is probably in his mid 50s, he has long dreads, and he was very relaxed when we met him.
He invited us to sit down with him and he apologized for his poor english, though it was actually pretty strong.
This man has started the rastafarian community here in Kigali and he has also started an NGO that’s run by the community. It’s called the Multilindi Japan One Love Project. He explains that after the genocide there was so many people who were left severely handicapped. This NGO works to help these people. They make and provide artificial limbs and wheelchairs, train orthopedic technicians, and provide rehabilitation to those who are handicapped. And everything is free of charge.
I enjoyed my time with Gatera so much! And because it was Bob Marley’s birthday they were having a concert and a party that night so he invited me to come. It would cost 3000francs to get in and he told me that all proceeds were going to the victims of the Tsunami in Japan.
Later that night, a whole group of us went back to the village area for the party. And it was such a cool party!!! Everyone who I met during the day came up and said hello to me. And Gatera got me a drink and invited me to sit with him. The area was full of rastafarians, they had a huge bonfire in the middle, everyone was dancing, and there was a big concert inside one of the huts. It was such a nice feeling being there.
Everyone was really cool. And this NGO is such an amazing organization. I’m definitely going to try to go back and visit before I leave Rwanda!
Last sunday my friend Julia went to cover a story here in Kigali about a family of orphans who all connected after the genocide in 1994. She said I could tag along with her and help her translate because most of them only spoke french. I am really glad I got the chance to go with her because it sort of opened my eyes to the concept of family.
Julia’s friend Eric had explained to her that after the genocide so many kids had lost their parents. So they started to create families within their circle of friends. Julia asked to do a profile on Eric’s family.
So Eric met us at one of the local stadiums in town and neither Julia nor I had any idea about how this story was going to take shape. But he led us through the streets, up the hill and through paths around houses until we came to one little house where his friend/brother lived. At first there was only about two or three people hanging around the house. But people kept showing up. Julia and I got a chance to talk to a number of this people and we got a sense of what this was all about.
Basically, after the genocide many orphans were sent to live with uncles, friend’s parents, grandparents, anyone who could take them in. But for many of them this wasn’t really a sense of family. So in high school about seven of them, including Eric, decided to form their own support system, or their own family. They didn’t live together but they talked together, worked together, and helped each other out. And then the family began to grow. These kids would bring more people into the group as they found more people who needed support. And they even nominated a mother and father to hold them all together. Eric was the father of his group, although he was the same age as most of them.
Now Eric’s family includes about 35 people, all around the age of 20 to 30. And anyone who is in the area gets together once every two weeks. They go to each others houses, have sodas and talk about anything and everything. It was really amazing talking to the people because it gave me a whole new sense of family. Family isn’t necessarily someone who shares the same blood as you. Family also listens to you, gives you advice, helps you when you’re down, and cares for you.
It was incredible to see how all this people have shaped a new family and found that support, when most of us automatically come with it!
This past week I started working at Radio Flash Fm.
The first day was really good but also really difficult. The woman who was put in charge of my internship is out of the country for at least two weeks so I was concerned that noone would know what to do with me. But when I arrived on wednesday morning everyone was very welcoming.
Story meetings start at 8:30 every morning, where the journalists bring some ideas to the table. Everyone was really nice and was able to translate everything to me in broken English. Than I was assigned to work with one of the reporters, Vincent, who was covering a workshop event for local governance. We covered the event in the morning, went back and wrote about it, and than went to another event for a separate story in the afternoon. This is the first difference I noticed about Journalism here, most of the stories we cover are events that come from press releases.
That first day was a really big learning curve for me. I found that trying to learn the format for the different stories was difficult, especially when people were struggling to find the words in english. Also, I was told that I would be reading the 7pm english news bulletin on air, which was very exciting but very scary and I was confused by what my role intended. I didn’t know that that I was also supposed to find international stories online and write scripts about them for the air. My friend Theos, the sports reporter, was very helpful though.
The last couple of minutes were very stressful, trying to get everything done in time, but it all came through and by 7pm I could hear my voice on the radio, broadcasting news for everyone in Rwanda to hear!!!
The next day was much much easier. Once I had figured out the format things were much smoother. And Vincent and I got the chance to go to a local hospital and interview a number of midwives about the challenge they face on a day to day basis. I felt very cool getting to interview all these amazing women.
Another thing I have also noticed after spending a couple of days at Flash is how hard everyone works and how long their days are. I thought my day was long when I started at 8:30 and went until 7:30. But Theos and Elias get to the studio at 5:30 in the morning and often don’t leave until 7:30 or 8 at night! Also, Vincent gets there at 8am, and works till 5:30 but goes to school immediately after. And usually noone takes lunch either. They laughed when I told them that people at home often work 9-5 jobs with an hour for lunch.
This is my colleague, Eric. He and I were waiting for a press conference to start.
I am really excited to keep working with the radio station. They have given me lots to do, which I’m glad, and I’m looking forward to finding lots of stories to write about!
I have just completed my first successful weekend in Rwanda and so far I have to say this place is amazing!!! Like really, actually so far I love it.
I’m sure eventually it will kick in that I cant drink the tap water, the power keeps going out, and I can’t walk two feet without being stared at…but, at least for now, it feels like a pretty sweet vacation.
I arrived thursday night and was greeted at the airport by two Rwandans from the Rwanda Initiative, Julius and Bosco, and Julia, another j school graduate. Everyone was very friendly, though they did warn me the power was out at the house- hello Africa, happy to be here.
That night I learned three things. 1) There are a lot of people living in this city. The streets were packed. 2)Rwanda is very very green, not at all what you would expect an African country to look like and 3) My guesthouse is awesome! It’s huge. We have two really great guards, one day time guard name Stephane who smiles alot, and a nightime guard named Peter who is also a student. Our garden is fantastic, and our porch looks out over Kigali. Also, we have a cook who makes us awesome meals and cleans our dishes, and someone comes to do our laundry… I may never leave this place.
This is the view from my porch.
Friday night I had my first Rwandan clubbing experience. Julia took me to Papriyas, a bar/club that is full of both Rwandans and Ex-pats. That’s the next thing I learned, there are a lot of white people in Rwanda. I met people from America, Switzerland, South Africa, and Germany. Also, the music included ‘Who let the dogs out” so I foresee spending many nights there. Oh yes, and the beer tastes great and only costs 1.50 per bottle.
Saturday I spent the day literally drinking tea, sitting on the porch reading my book, and taking walks around the neighborhood. The power was out all day but I didn’t ever really notice!
Today, Sunday, was a big day for me. I took my first motorcycle ride,which was scary at first because there’s not much to hold onto but I still felt super cool. Julia and I bought some groceries at the market, where we did some excellent bargaining. And I took my first Rwandan “city bus” which is an oversized van that costs about 45 cents to get across the city.
Now it’s sunday night and I can’t believe how quickly the weekend went by… My first impression of Rwanda is that I love it and I’m looking forward to spending the next 7 weeks here.