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It was just another Sunday, my favorite day to drive my scooter through the clean and pothole-free streets of Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda. Everyone is usually at church on Sunday mornings and I have the streets all to myself. Rwanda is known as the land of a thousand hills – a huge understatement. I was on my way to the market, driving downhill next to my house, when a very small child came out from behind a parked car and ran directly towards my scooter. I hit my back breaks as hard as I could but could not completely stop my scooter. I pushed on my rarely used front breaks and my scooter came to a sudden halt. The child was inches away from me. I stopped, in the middle of the road and looked around me. First at the little girl who I was seconds away from running over and then at the other side of the road, searching for a parent or an older sibling to blame for her actions or get yelled at for mine. All I saw was an even smaller child waiting behind the same parked car. He immediately came running towards us. They were both very excited to see me, a Mzungu – the local term for foreigner, who stopped just for them. They were smiling, jumping up and down, and raising their palms in the air for some high fives. I was mortified. The children were no more than five and three years old and were completely alone, crossing the street without any supervision. I was in shock. My whole body shaking at the mere thought of what could have happened. I took off my helmet and yelled at them, despite the fact they did not understand English or possibly any language at that age. Their eyes widened in disbelief and their little foreheads wrinkled in confusion. I put my helmet back on and nervously went on my way. I kept shaking on my way to the market, and still feel shaken about it to this day.

I had bought my scooter six months after moving to Rwanda and despite such close calls, I still think it was the best decision I had made all year as the alternative public transportation options are far from ideal. Kigali is such a clean and beautiful city that sometimes it is easy to forget you are living in a developing country. But it is incidents like this that remind me that in many places around the world, children are allowed to roam the streets on their own, were never taught not to cross from in between parked cars or from behind a school bus, not to chase a ball into the road or to simply look left and right before crossing. Incidents like this remind me that I, as do all other Mzungus who choose to drive their own vehicles, whether car, motorcycle, or scooter, have a responsibility towards those around us to follow the most basic road safety rules as others may not.

About our guest blogger:
Hiba IqteitHiba Iqteit is an international development professional with experience implementing public health projects in East Africa and the Middle East. Originally from Palestine, Hiba grew up between Jordan, Syria and the West Bank. She has a Masters in public health from the George Washington University. In 2012, she joined the movement for global health equity as a Global Health Corps fellow with Population Services International in Rwanda. She has also visited Ethiopia, Burundi, Uganda, and Tanzania. In her free time, Hiba enjoys planning vacations, traveling and blogging about road safety.

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About the Authors

Bobby Gondola
Debra Bokur

Globe Tripper
At Grand Central Station when she was 9 years old, Debra Bokur decided that a different train from the one her parents were boarding looked as though it might be going someplace more interesting, so she took that one instead. She still loves trains, and has since traveled the world as an award-winning journalist, magazine editor and filmmaker. A member of the Society of American Travel Writers, Debra contributes regularly to Global Traveler Magazine, and serves as the magazine website’s daily feature writer.

Debra is a contributing author to Spreading the Word: Editors on Poetry (The Bench Press, 2001). She holds degrees in both Theater and English Literature, and has been the poetry editor of the nationally acclaimed literary journal Many Mountains Moving since 2002. She has also been the travel editor at national publications including Healing Lifestyles & Spas Magazine, American Cowboy Magazine, and Fit Yoga Magazine, and has been a frequent guest on Wine Country Network’s national radio program discussing the topic of international travel.

Debra once lived a double life training horses professionally in the disciplines of dressage and three-day eventing while serving as an editor and writer at several equestrian-themed publications. Her current favorite places to wander are Iceland, Switzerland, the U.K., Israel and Italy. In her new blog, Globe Tripper, Debra will bring us along on her adventures.

Bobby Gondola
Bobby Gondola

World Wanderings
Bobby Gondola serves as Director of Operations & Development at Year Up, a nationally recognized workforce development and higher education program for urban young adults. He leads both the internal operations and external relations. Previously, he was Director of External Relations at Opus 118 Harlem School of Music in New York City, the Harlem-based violin program made famous by Meryl Streep in Music of the Heart. He also worked as a community development consultant in the townships of Cape Town, South Africa.  

Bobby earned a B.A. in painting and politics from Salve Regina University and studied abroad in Rome, Italy. He also holds an M.P.P. in Political Advocacy and Leadership from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, where he was a Public Service Fellow. Bobby lives in Providence, Rhode Island and serves on theWaterFire Providence Board, College Leadership Rhode Island Program Committee, and the Providence Public School Board. He has traveled to all continents, except Antarctica and Australia, which he’ll get to. Eventually.

Aaron Shapiro
Aaron Shapiro

My Driver Project
Aaron Shapiro is a 2011 alumnus of University of Maryland, College Park, where he received a B.S. in Global Health and completed a minor in International Development and Conflict Management. After graduating, he joined the Global Health Corps as a program manager for Gardens for Health International in Kigali, Rwanda. Aaron has interned for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Bureau for Food Security, the Social Justice Coalition in Cape Town, South Africa, and volunteered at St. Lucia Hospice and Orphanage in Arusha, Tanzania. Aaron has also traveled in Congo, Burundi, Uganda, and Zambia. He is currently working in Washington, D.C. and applying to medical school.

Photo of Natalia Jaffee
Natalia Jaffee

Traffic Lights are Optional in Hanoi
Natalia Jaffee is a 10th grade student at the United Nations International School of Hanoi. She grew up in Potomac, MD and attended Cold Spring Elementary School and Cabin John Middle School. While visiting Maryland in the summer of 2011, she interned at ASIRT and published a personal account of the road situations in Vietnam. Natalia enjoys traveling and has traveled throughout East Asia. In her free time, she enjoys running, playing soccer, cooking, and reading.

Photo of Laura Blanar
Laura Blanar

From A to B Safely: A Transportation Travel Blog
Laura Blanar traveled through Asia, Africa and Oceania with her husband, Adam, for 14 months. Prior to her travels, she worked at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety as a research scientist, and in injury and violence at PAHO/WHO as a contractor. Laura holds a Masters of Health Science from the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health, with a specialization in health systems, and also obtained the B.A. in public health from the Johns Hopkins University. She has been published in several professional journals relating to injury and public health. In September 2011, Laura entered a PhD program at the University of Washington in public health, with a focus on injury. When not traveling, Laura enjoys running, wood carving and reading non-fiction and mystery books.