Wednesday, June 18. Kigali, Rwanda.


Chantal Rwakazina

A late-afternoon interview with Chantal Rwakazina goes well. Charming and enthusiastic, if overly verbose. Thirty five years, married, big smile and immaculately groomed in a peach business suit and gold-plated jewelry. Chantal is late but alerts me with a text message. Having a Rwandan cell phone has been a life saver.

While speaking with Chantal I get a call from Shirley’s friend John McCally, the physician I met at the U.S. Embassy earlier. He’s at Hotel Serena for a business meeting and asks me to meet him there for dinner instead of Republika as we’d planned. “They have a big buffet Wednesdays and they’ve got prawns!”

We eat outside on the terrace, a brilliant harvest moon — full, orange-hued — resting above and a large team of subdued African staff attending us. In Rwanda, such places have twice the staff they need. This is the ultimate in expat indulgence: men in oversized baker’s hats stir-fry prawns and squid at outdoor tables. Panoplies of cheeses, desserts. Cocktails. Should I be so decadent in a country this poor, particularly when I came her to give something of myself — and not scale new heights of self-indulgence?

John, dressed in suit and tie as always, is in Kigali to establish a health clinic and orphanage, so I encourage him to get in touch with Henry Epino and see the Partners in Health facilities at Rwinkawavu and Kirehe. The best part of our conversation centers on Africa and the way its sexual customs – specifically, sex outside of marriage, and resistance to safe sex and condoms – have aggravated and made constant the spread of AIDS.

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