“Wherever you stop in this country,” said Alex Kagaba, “the ground will always produce people.” We’d parked on a dusty escarpment along the shore of Lake Kivu to take in the view.
This time, I thought he might be wrong. A couple of breeze-block homesteads, tin roofs gleaming, stood out on a hillside swathed in deep green, but for once we weren’t passing through the settlements that lined our route, weren’t being waved at by neatly clad schoolchildren shouting “Mzungu!” (their go-to greeting for white visitors).
Then, sure enough, an unheard signal: first one, then another, then half a dozen boys appeared, jogging down the asphalt.
Grinning, the first tried his luck: “Hello mzungu! Give me money!” before the second tried a different tack: “Give me a pen!” It seemed a reasonable request, and I turned to dig one out of my bag, before Alex intervened.
“No! This is not the way children are taught to behave in Rwanda.” A rapid lecture ensued, carried out in the local Bantu language, Kinyarwanda. “I’m asking them why you should give them anything when they haven’t worked for it,” said Alex, as the boys listened respectfully, while looking increasingly sombre.