In defense of expats playing polo while riding on Rwandans’ motos
The New York Times ran a piece the other day about moto polo, a polo-like game expats play in Kigali in which they substitute horses with motos driven by locals:
Instead of horses, of which there are few in Rwanda, players drive and ride motorcycles, of which there are many. Along the slick roads here, in Rwanda’s capital, they are commonly used as taxis, and a growing number of young Rwandan motorcyclists turn up at competitions to show off and practice their skills.
Apparently the game has taken off in Kigali and has even been exported to Kampala by peripatetic expats. According to the piece, most people in Rwanda make only about $3 per day, but moto drivers can make about $20 for an hour-long game of polo.
Chris Blattman blogged the article as “Your neocolonial moment for the day,” adding, “I am pretty sure the expats do not wear spurs, but perhaps it is only a matter of time.” Bill Easterly tweeted along with the link, “Expats play polo substituting Rwandans on motorbikes for the horses — what?!”
I’ve never been to Rwanda, and while the images of white dudes wielding mallets while clinging to the backs of Rwandans’ motos are a bit jarring, the game strikes me as something that young male moto drivers anywhere where you could make in one hour more than six times the average daily wage, all while playing what looks like an insane and awesome extreme sport that probably boosts testosterone like Jose Canseco let loose in the A’s clubhouse, would go apeshit over.
Sure, a lot of expats living in Rwanda are probably stereotypical expat dooshes who don’t really get out of the capital-city foreigner bubble, but if the Rwandan drivers are down with it and doing it voluntarily, then I don’t think it should strike anyone’s anti-neocolonial nerve too much. And for what it’s worth, one guy who used to play the game and knows some of the people from the Times article says that everyone, drivers included, has a good time.
Naturally, the American expats divide into North and South teams. (They’re not talking about regions of Rwanda.)
Josh Kron, who wrote the Times moto-polo piece, also wrote a good recent Times article on Mormon missionaries in Uganda.
Photo via Flickr user Rachel Strohm