It was 2pm when the rain started on Monday and I wondered if I’d be able to get to the bus stop at 4:30 without getting soaked. It petered off at about 4pm so I packed my bag and went on a hunt for a bottle of wine to take to my hosts for my first ever Rwandan Thanksgiving Dinner. There are two other Canadians in this neck of the woods – both in Nyakarambi – and Andy had spoken to the local pub about getting us a quasi-Thanksgiving Dinner. I found a bottle of wine for just over one days salary for me (and a weeks salary for many) and went catch a bus. A nice big and clean Sotra bus pulled up and I handed Gosbert (my Sotra man) a 1000. I needed some change (they call it balance) but didn’t want to miss a seat. He promised me he’d bring me the change on the bus. So there I am and all of a sudden the bus lurches out of the spot and I start yelling out the window to “Stop! Gosbert! My balance!!!” He looked like he’d just remembered and ran around to get the driver to stop. There was some waiting and eventually another guy came back and handed me 300 through the window. I looked around and everyone is staring at the muzungu and spoke a quiet “Murakoze” (Thank you) an unsure “Tu gende?” (Let’s go?). That got a good laugh and I settled into my seat for the 40 minute journey.
The bus was full but as people got off along the way, a nice young police officer sat down next to me. There were some men up front that I could tell where talking about me – “muzungu” came up. Then finally, one man turned around to ask “Amakuru?” (How are you?) to which I responsed “Ni meza” (Fine). Big smiles on the bus because the muzungu can speak some Kinyarwanda! Then asked my name and thrilled that I understood that question as well. Of course he went on to keep speaking in Kinyarwanda and my blank face gave it away but the nice police officer next to me filled me in. “He says ‘are you still a girl?’” The look of horror on my face because I thought he was asking if I’d hit puberty led him to clarify – “Are you married?” “No,” I replied. “He wants to know if he can be your husband.” Me: “No! I will not get married.” More Kinyarwanda “He says ‘ he has cows, he has money. He has anything you want.” I laughed wondering if he had electricity (which I am in dire need of now). I was consistently polite in my refusal and finally the police officer said “He is just being friendly. He said you looked lost and as though you knew noone so he wanted to talk to you.” Basically, I inferred, he is a harmless and friendly Rwandan.
I arrived at Nyakarami lauging at the experience and happy to visit with a few Canadians to celebrate Thanksgiving. We went to a sparkling new restaurant in the town and settled into our chairs and were served salad, fries and the most chicken I have seen in a while. We dug in and then realized that this chicken must have been a marathon runner – it was so tough it took minutes to chew and swallow. All the longer to savour the taste, I suppose. Christine said that in Quebec it is called “poulet bicyclette” because it is as though the chicken is always pedaling a bicycle. Either way, we were happy to have something resembling Thanksgiving dinner. Dorothy (from the UK) asked us why we celebrated Thanksgiving and we all sort of looked at each other hoping someone else knew the answer. “Because the Americans do?” “To celebrate the harvest?” We were pretty sure it had nothing to do with pilgrims coming to the New World….(Maybe this happened on the Plains of Abraham?) So, we made something up…and were quite embarrassed that we celebrate with no knowledge as to why. But whatever! Essentially to us Thanksgiving in Canada meant great weather, great food and great company. Oh, sounds like Rwanda too!
I arrived back in Kibungo the following morning, walked passed the bus ticket sellers and heard a few say "Balance? Balance?" I guess they remembered me from yesterday.