Gasore Hategeka bought his first bicycle in 2008. It was a heavily used, Chinese-made single-speed, and it cost thirty-five thousand Rwandan francs—roughly sixty dollars.
Gasore, who was about twenty years old, had worked for nearly half his life before he could afford it.
His father had once owned a bicycle, and although Gasore told me that he could not remember much from when he was young, he said, “I liked how the bike worked, the device. I remember him carrying me on the bike to work the fields far from our village, and when my father died I thought of the bike.”
So he felt a calling, or that is how he liked to explain himself. He said, “It was my dream always—it was always in my head, the bike.” When Gasore spoke of the bike, he meant something almost mystical: the embodiment of an ideal of self-propulsion…
In northwest Rwanda, in the wet, chilly foothills of the Virunga volcanoes, the soil is black from lava, and ideal for growing potatoes. As a small child, armed with a sack, Gasore began making the rounds of village trading centers to scavenge fallen bits of potato. On good days, he might find a banana or an onion, too. When he was orphaned, he became a maibobo, a street kid—one of hundreds of thousands of children in Rwanda without adults to shelter them.
Amid the country’s general poverty and hardship, theirs was a particularly mean existence, but for Gasore it was not such a big change. As he grew, the potato dealers put him to work, filling the hundred-kilo sacks that they trucked out to the rest of Rwanda. He was paid a coin here, a coin there, and, because he knew how to live without money, whenever he saved five hundred francs (nearly a dollar) he hid it away…
Read the in-depth article by Philip Gourevitch in the New Yorker
See also Steve Bloomfield’s article in The Observer