Days when I wish I had a car… or at least Coaster service here.

•March 11, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I headed to the bus stop this morning not quite “bright and early” at my normal time of 6:30, but I figured 7:30 was still plenty early enough to catch something quickly.  So I waited… and waited.  Until 3:30 I waited.  That’s 8 hours of standing on the side of the road.  Okay, so I did sit some of the time on the ledge outside of the little bread shop.  I was headed to Kamonyi to stay with Kim tonight before continuing on to Kigali early tomorrow morning for an appointment with the eye doctor.  If I had a destination of Kigali today, I could have made it; I could have taken a bus north.  But to go to Kamonyi I was waiting for a south-bound vehicle.  So the first mutatu that came by heading the direction I wanted to go was already full and the guy was demanding I pay nearly double the normal price to squeeze in and sit on someone’s lap – no thank you.  I figured another one would be coming where I could find a seat or at the very least the bus would come by eventually and I’d stand.  At least the bus has fixed prices and after an hour or so someone always gives me a seat (even if it is only two inches to perch on next to several large men).  The next mutatu that came through barely even slowed down.  It was full and the driver was refusing to take any more passengers.  Alright, the bus it is.  But even when the bus came by it was more packed than usual.  It had just begun to rain but I ran out to the bus and tried to claw my way on.  The woman with the baby who had been waiting with me climbed on as I held her umbrella.  Then before I knew it the bus was pulling away, the lady only half on the bus, not able to squeeze all the way in and shut the door.  I still had her umbrella so I had to run after the bus and pass it off like a baton.  By then it was really pouring and I got drenched as I sprinted for cover.  So now not only am I tired, frustrated, and hungry (the only thing I ate all day while waiting was half of a tiny loaf of zucchini bread I had baked last night and was planning to take to Kim’s) but now I was also soaked, freezing, and quite miserable.   A secondary student took pity on me and let me wear her sweatshirt, but I soon gave it back to her and just gave up.  I called Dr. Elite and told him I wouldn’t make it and that he should reschedule the appointment.  The new appointment is for next Tuesday.  I shivered my way back home, went inside, and had igikoma and the rest of the zucchini bread bundled in a sweatshirt and coat.  Then I decided to change into my PJs (but keeping the sweatshirt as well) and climbed into bed to try to get warm.  I read a few pages of Emma before deciding a nap sounded better.  It was 5 P.M.  My “nap” lasted until nearly 7 A.M. the next morning with only the slight interruptions of a few text messages sometime between 6 and 8 P.M.

My first umushanana

•March 11, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Woke up early but after sleeping nearly all day yesterday, it wasn’t so bad.  Mama Ben and I made our way down to the bus stop, but unfortunately there was no 6:30 A.M. mutatu today like we had hoped.  The ONATRACOM came close to 8 A.M. and by that time there were a lot of people waiting to go to Gisenyi, quite a few of us going on to Musanze for the wedding.  Of course I didn’t get a seat, but the money-taker did refuse to allow me to climb in the back “baggage” section like others were doing.  I probably stood for over an hour and was worried I’d be sick (especially since I wasn’t sure if I was fully recovered from yesterday), but it wasn’t so bad and I did eventually get a little piece of seat to perch on.

We made it to Musanze but I don’t think anyone knew where the church was, and a van/taxi came to transport our group of about 10 wedding-goers from Kayove.  The young driver knew everyone in my group so I assume he grew up in Bugabo.  We drove around in circles for a bit before finally finding the church.  By that time it was after 12:30 and I thought we were late since Mama Ben told me it was to begin at noon.  Turns out we were early – some of the first to arrive.

So we waited a bit until other choir members showed up with the umushananas.  We then went behind the church to change and Mama Belise “helped” me with mine – she didn’t do a very good job.  As tight as she tied the skirt piece, I would have had a nice bruise before the bride and groom had even arrived.  She loosened it but just barely.  And then one of the Gisenyi girls (maybe Mama Belise’s younger sister) criticized the poor tying/hanging of the upper piece.  So she fixed that and I got Mama Ben to loosen the skirt.  Unfortunately, I don’t think Mungeri is getting that photo he wanted.  I’m sure the whole town would have loved to see me in the traditional Rwandan dress.

The wedding went just like the other two ADEPR Rwandan weddings I had attended, but the reception was slightly different as it was in another building, the youth center about a 10-15 minute walk away.  Other than that, nothing I observed was new.  But I did do something new: I helped serve the food to all of the guests.  My fellow choir members were the servers and I joined it with the rest of them.  They told me I could simply sit and be served like the other guests, but I refused to be the only choir member not helping.  There was one other member not serving food, but she was attending to her baby.  It was dark by the time we finished, and I waited for my turn to take the taxi into town and crash at Amy’s for the night.

Impiskwi with a latrine

•March 11, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Friday, December 10, 2010

Well it had to happen sometime: my first time being sick at site.  I mean, I had a cold a while back but I’m talking about the kind of sick where you need a toilet… or in my case, latrine.  I woke up in the middle of the night around 3 A.M. feeling nauseous.  I didn’t sleep very well from then out and decided I definitely wasn’t going to try to take a bus to Musanze feeling like this.  And then there was the diarrhea.  I never threw up but I wanted to.  So instead of heading to Amy’s like I had originally planned, I stayed in bed all day.  Mama Ben’s “Ben” fetched water for me in the morning (since I couldn’t call Odette and didn’t have the strength to go down the hill to her house) and then Mama Ben herself showed up shortly after 1 P.M.  She was so sweet and asked if there was anything she could do.  I finally agreed to let her buy me some bread later in the evening since I hadn’t eaten all day.  Though I wasn’t yet hungry, I figured it would be good to eat something today.  She came back with the bread and in the time she was out I bathed and made myself igikoma (porridge of mixed sorghum, soy, and corn flours).  I was feeling better and told Mama Ben I could go to the wedding tomorrow.  That’s onl7y because I found out this afternoon that we have a CHF training from Sunday evening until Friday in Musanze.  I feel a little guilty for agreeing to go to this training since I do nothing for CHF anymore, but I just couldn’t resist a hot shower, good food, and some extra cash.

Birthdays in Rwanda

•March 11, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Sunday, December 5, 2010

My 24th birthday definitely could have been worse.  All-in-all it was a decent day.  I bathed before church since 1) I wanted to be fresh and clean on my birthday and 2) I hadn’t bathed since Tuesday.  By the time I got myself around I realized I was going to be late, so I finished up without rushing too much since if I was going to be at least 5 minutes late, why not make it 15?  Finally up to the church I went with still a few chores yet to be done at home before guests arrived.  I was prepared to pay the 50 franc late fee, but I think someone told the money-taker not to charge me on my birthday because she didn’t press the matter.  We had special guests at church: a children’s choir (from Kigali I think) and some pastor-type people.  The kids (though I should mention some of them were probably close to my age) were great and had really lively, energetic songs – I just wish the songs were shorter (they could stand to take out some of the repeats) or the sermon had been shortened – something, just so we could have finished closer to noon.  I guess that’s my American church thinking.  As it was (since no one was willing to sacrifice their own hour of fame) we were still going at 2 P.M. when I left.  Other choir members had already left before me and I was worried they might show up at my house at 2:30 like I originally stated.  So I dashed home to finish cleaning up and make a quick lunch of risotto.  Turns out I didn’t need to rush and had time to sit and wonder if anyone would show up at all.  I was quite surprised when who should arrive first a bit after 4 P.M. but Seth.  He had told me he was going to Gakeri today for a celebration they were having there.  I wasn’t sure if I wanted to know the reason for him changing his plans so I didn’t ask.  He also seemed to be surprised that he was the first to arrive, but a whole gaggle of others was less than a minute behind him with Raymond leading the flock.

The party started with a prayer then singing and dancing in my living room.  Everyone seemed to be extra spirited, displaying an abundance of enthusiasm.  After the song and dance session I taught them some American games like Simon Says and Mount, Carry, Knight.  They all seemed to have a lot of fun acting like kids.  Next came some “follow the leader” with dance moves.  They made me the demonstrator for a good chunk of the time but others including Raymond and Papa Ben also took their turns.  Finally I brought out the punch, cipati, and cookies.  All seemed to be a big hit with everyone.  At some point there were pictures outside with John and his camera then we came back to say a closing prayer before the party was officially over.  So not quite the strictly American party that I had envisioned, but it was a nice mixture of cultures and I enjoyed myself which is the important part.  For example, I don’t associate prayer and church songs with birthdays, but that was the choir’s idea of a celebration.  And I think a strictly Rwandan birthday party would have been everyone sitting scattered around my house where they would be given a heaping plate of hot food I had prepared and a Fanta/beer.  I did force everyone to greet the American way with a real hug not followed by a handshake.  Even I had difficulty not putting my right hand out to end the greeting.  They all finally left and I cleaned up before my parents called to wish me a happy birthday.  Not surprisingly they were the only ones to call.  Sigh.  Oh well.  At least I knew in advance it was very unlikely for anyone else to put forth the effort.  I got in bed and called Grammie then journaled before calling the day officially over.

Someone stole my umugozi

•March 11, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

(I just realized that “rope” is only one letter off from “house worker,” so if you read it fast someone might think my umukozi was stolen.)

Last night when I returned to my house I knew someone had been there while I was out since the latch was different (locked on the inside actually), but I assumed it was just someone like Mama Ange come to visit and not figuring out the latch locked on the outside meant I wasn’t home – it’s happened before.  My basin which I left outside to collect rain water was exactly where I left it so I didn’t think much more about the subject.  I remembered I had left clothes outside to dry so I went to collect them.  They were in a heap on the ground but I figured that’s what I get for leaving them outside in a thunderstorm. 

It wasn’t until this morning that I realized something was off.  First I noticed the door between my front and back yards was slightly ajar.  Funny, since I keep it locked on the inside and very rarely use it.  Then I noticed my trash had been dug through.  I had a paper bag next to my burn pit with non-burnable items that I had tried to burn anyway.  So there was a pile of trash and ashes dumped out on the ground.  I turned to see that my hoe and my sprouts in plastic containers were still there, just as I had left them.  Then I noticed the main objective: my clothesline had disappeared.  So that’s why I found all my clothes on the ground last night.  I didn’t notice the absence of the rope (or “umugozi” as I found out it’s called) in the dark.  But why did the thief only take the clothesline and not the clothes or the hoe or the basin?  Beats me, but I was a little nervous now.  How did they get into my backyard in the first place??

The last thing I noticed amiss was that the thief had removed a wooden post that was sealing the gap between the old latrine and my outbuilding/the new latrine.  I could see the hole in the earth where it had been but didn’t see the post anywhere.  So that’s probably how they got in; it just means they’re skinny since the gap isn’t very wide.  I did have several people tell me they thought the thief was a child based on what they stole and what they left which also could have been stolen.  I think I agree with this theory – except for the large footprint I found outside my latrine.  Then again, it could have been a kid with large feet – or large shoes at least.  I called my landlord and told him the story who then told the local officials.  Mama Ben also gave me Papa Ben’s phone number in case I had any other problems, especially if I was home alone at night sometime.

All-in-all, no big deal.  No one tried to break into my house, nothing major was taken, and I can always go buy another piece of rope.  This little incident has not persuaded me to hire an umukozi to live with me as has been suggested.  It’s just baffling to Rwandans who have such large families for someone, especially an unmarried female, to live alone.  Besides being fearful someone will try to break into their house and they wouldn’t be able to defend themselves, they can’t imagine how someone would spend his or her time alone with no one else to talk to every night after dark.  I’ve surprised myself by not being much affected by that second concern.  Being a very outgoing and active person, I’m not sure how I’ve adapted to so many hours of solitary confinement without going stir crazy, but I seem to be surviving quite well here.

Take a Trainee to Bugabo Day

•December 28, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Thursday, November 18, 2010

“Tiffa…! Tiffa!”  That’s how I was woken this morning at 6 A.M. by Odette.  Really?  You couldn’t wait until at least 6:30, maybe 7?!  I don’t know how long she called my name before I didn’t hear her anymore but got up and went outside to check.  Sure enough, she hadn’t left.  She was just outside my gate picking some of the weeds.  Ugh, what do you want at this hour?  I don’t have time this morning to weed my entire property with you like I did last time you interrupted my sleep.  Turns out she just wanted my hoe.  Fine, whatever.  Take it and lave me alone.  I went back inside and crawled back into bed to read a bit then just lay there briefly before getting up for good and bathing.

My original goal was to leave my house at 8:30 so I thought I was doing pretty good when I left at 8:40.  That still gave me plenty of time to eat breakfast at Forodo’s before walking to Nkomero to meet Steve.  Good timing: when I arrived at Nkomero, Steve was just getting off a moto and I almost walked right past him since his helmet was covering his easily identifiable white head.  I quickly tried to call Jean Paul since rumor has it he works at a restaurant in Nkomero, but his phone was tuned off or dead.  So we meandered then ducked into shady-looking spot.  There are probably other places I’m supposed to go to based on common acquaintances, but I just don’t know them.  Oh well.  We got decent, cheap tea and amandazi in our own private back room.  We chatted for quite some time, mostly about his site and his frustrations from the past few days.  If where he stayed during site visit is going to be his permanent home for the next two years, it sounds like it’s going to be rough.  They had him stay with the priests in a tiny little room with barely enough space for the bed.  The priests are frequent drinkers (as seems to be the case in all of Rwanda), the prices they made him pay for lodging and food were pretty steep, they’re isolated on their own little hill with no real community, and there didn’t seem to be any place within walking distance where he could buy anything but rice and beans to eat.  Reminds me of my own site visit, but luckily my housing situation changed by the time I moved to site.

I helped him fill out his site locator form (sounds like they’re trying to be more on the ball and get the forms back from everyone before IST this time) then we headed to my neck of the woods to talk to the police chief.  Turns out the chief is the big guy I’ve seen riding around on a moto with red plastic sunglasses that were either meant for a child or at least an adult wit a thinner head.  Steve then needed to head back to Boneza to continue on with his day and I accompanied him back to Nkomero to catch a moto.  I then turned around again and walked back to Bugabo.  I briefly stopped to apologize to Albert for not being back by noon to have him over to my house for coffee like we had talked about this morning and continued home.  I was tired and hungry and just wanted to sit and eat frites.  But when I approached my path, I could see that my gate was open.  As I drew nearer, I could also see there was one, at least two people inside my yard.  I approached cautiously then realized it was Odette and a small boy.  They had come to weed my yard for me.  I knew my path needed sweeping, but I thought my front yard was OK; I had just weeded it last week.  But no, as Odette informed me with all the rain the green things grow really fast and my yard was in fact unacceptable.  So much for my own feeble attempts I guess.  So that means I had to help them and thus could not cook my potatoes and eat frites as planned.  It was already after 3 P.M. and the debate about whether or not there was prayer today was confirmed by Odette.  I was hungry and knew I’d be grumpy at prayer due to my empty stomach so I took two imineke (a gift from Josephine which Odette had brought) into the backyard and scared them down standing by the compost pile.  At 4 P.M. we went to pray and it went extra long again so that it was decently dark by the time we left.  I went home and finally made my frites then read before bed.

Site visit for the new trainees!

•December 28, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Monday, November 15, 2010

Jerome called me yesterday and said he’d be in Rutsiro today – in Nkomero even!  (As I found out the town is spelled, not “Romero.”)  The trainees all went to site today, and if Jerome was accompanying all the volunteers in Rutsiro then I will not have someone living in my umudugudu and teaching at Kavumu and no one is going to be north of me as I originally thought there was going to be a site in Kivumu sector.  (Unless there is a Kivumu person and they came south down the dirt road from Gisenyi.  [I later found this out to be the case.])  Anyway, I was excited to meet Jerome and the trainee in Nkomero at 1:30.  How they were traveling that Jerome gave me such a specific time, I don’t know.

I ventured out to the office to check my flight status – confirmed!  So I’ll be headed to London on June 29th, 2011!  I then chatted with Pasi and Albert (and William and the student who stutters and some other boys) before going home to cook lunch around 2 P.M. since I still hadn’t heard from Jerome.  Turns out they were in Congo-Nil waiting for a mutatu or bus, motos if nothing else came.  I had just started cutting intorgi when I got the text: “On our way now to Nkomero.”  Alright.  So I ate a pack of peanuts and then headed for Nkomero.  I was nearing Kucapa (or however it’s spelled, the place where the Presbyterian church is) when a mutatu came by – was this the one they took?  No way did they arrive this quickly.  I pressed on, made it to Nkomero, and didn’t see any signs of another muzungu in the area.  Good, I wanted to be there before them.  I waited about 20 minutes before the big blue mutatu rolled into the village center.  I had been chatting with Raymond when we saw it approach, so both of us went to greet it and see if “my guests” were aboard.  Sure enough, even from a distance we could see the white guy climb out of the mutatu.  And as we got closer, I saw Jerome standing there as well.  Right away I had some woman who knew me ask if this was my brother.  No, we’re not related even though our skin colors match.

The three of us were joined by the headmaster of the school and we went to a little room to take Fantas.  Steve (the trainee) and I talked to each other in English and I wondered if we should be talking to the headmaster in Kinyarwanda at this point.  He and Jerome occasionally exchanged a few words in Kinyarwanda, and it was finally time for Steve and the headmaster to leave on motos to travel to their school.  Jerome and I walked out to the road to wait for the bus, but when it was about 5:30 I left to return home.  Jerome didn’t realize it would take me half-an-hour to get home and so he promptly urged me to go before it got dark.  Raymond accompanied me nearly to Gucaca before turning to return home.  I went home, cooked the intorgi and some amajeri in a soy-peanut sauce, and then read before bed.