Sunday, October 4, 2009

What a weekend!

Friday started out to be a bust. As you know, I fell on my way home (I’m still bruised….) but got a great package from home. Julie was coming in from Kigali to spend some time “in the country.” So I was getting ready to pick her up. The sky was getting darker and darker, both from the setting sun (officially before 6pm) and the black clouds looming somewhere off in the distance. There was a crack of thunder far off and I hoped the storm would stay there until Julie and I were in my house. I left to meet her at the “rompway” (round-about in English, traffic circle in Canadian). While waiting it was dark and the sky was spitting. Lightening lit up the sky every once in a while. While waiting I ran into people that I knew! It felt like home. Patrick (the moto driver) came up and we talked about Tina and Danny and he showed me a text that Danny had sent from London. He was so proud. Then I saw Moses. He works at Moderne and is so friendly. He’s been collecting Fanta tops for me. We chatted. He used to be a teacher but, get this, makes more sitting collecting money at a restaurant than he did as a teacher. He loved the job but it wasn’t worth it. Also, he’s a little slow. But he’s wonderful.

Julie arrived and we bolted to my house arriving just as the rains started. The electricity was on just long enough for me to give her a tour and then it proceeded to go on and off for the next hour or so while we cooked and ate. There was a break in the rain and we headed to the rompway and then to the Umbrella Pine to meet Jason and Epi for drinks. We were there until about 11pm which is the latest I’ve ever been out. Kibungo sort of gets really quiet that late. Satruday morning Julie and I drag ourselves out of bed to head south to Nyakarambi. We were meeting up with Dorothy and Christine to head to the border and to see Rusumo Falls. We hop off to dump our stuff and then head back out to catch a bus continuing onto the falls. Whoops – it’s election day in the country (for sector and district leaders) and as a result EVERYTHING is shut down. We didn’t realize how lucky we were to get out of a Kibungo. There aren’t any express busses and no one seems sure whether busses will run today because of the election. Eventually a local taxi bus pulls up and, even though they are slower and have more fleas…., they are cheaper and will get us there. We pass many communities with hoards of people out for elections. For umadugadu (smallest unit) elections, candidates stand and anyone who wants to support him (or her?) lines up behind them in the field. Who ever has the largest line of support behind them, wins. I don’t know a tonne about it but what I do know, is that people walked miles just to get there. I also know that Canadians don’t appear to be that committed to the democratic process.

We arrive in the town and skip across the bridge to see the falls. On the bridge a line is drawn about part way down, marked with holes that indicate the border to Tanzania. We jumped over and voila! We were in another country. On both sides truck after truck were lined up to cross the border – which amounts to a single lane bridge over a narrow river and some neat falls. This bridge was the site of a hundreds of thousands of refugees escaping during the genocide. Over 500,000 fled into Tanzania this way – 250,000 of them in a 24 hour period.  We decided to hike up to the top of a hill for a better view of the falls. On our way, we noticed baboons climbing away from the immigration office to the top of the hill. Further down, a family of baboons were hanging out by the trucks waiting to cross.

Our hike took us behind a few buildings of Rusumo and then along banana trees and the odd goat. A little boy began to walk with us – as usually happens with mzungus travelling together. He looked about 8, but when I asked him his age he answers “Icumi na biri” which is 12. His name was Theogene. We continued to wander and began to ask him how to say various things in Kinyarwanda. He asked to have his photo taken, which I obliged. Many little kids will do this because they love to see themselves on your screen after. We told him we wanted to get a look of the Akagera River and so, he marched on, leading the way. He would point to a goat, a rooster, a child, a tree and tell us all the Kinyarwanda name for them. His smile lit up his face. We asked him again “Akagera?” and he nodded, a bit impatient, and showed us we’d walk straight and turn to the right. This little guy was our own tour guide. He showed me how to get an avocado (avoka) down from the tree – the local boys throw rocks to hit them down. As we walked, another little fellow began to come with us. Now we were six. We arrived at the top and when we all got a glimpse of Akagera River, Rusumo Falls and Tanzania spread out before us, we gasped in wonderment and Theogene rocked back on his heals as proud as punch that he got us there. He tried to get us to pronouce his friends name – which started with an S – and would tell us slowly until we could get it. A great teacher! We shared our snack with them and we’d take pictures of the falls and they just had to see it. He pointed to the boat and told us its Kinyarwandan name. We saw people running on the Tanzania side and I ask him what “running” was in his language. We both acted it out and he translated. In all of this, these boys didn’t once ask for money. When we shared cookies with them, they didn’t once ask for more. We decided to give them each 100 Francs anyway – which I am usually dead set against. This case, though, the children didn’t ask, they were alone, and they were helpful. They even walked us down and Theogene gave us a recap of the Kinya words we learned: chicken, goat, banana, rooster, and boat. I rattled them off. He came up to me, tapped me on the arm and started running on the spot to remind me that he also taught me that. Theogene’s friend bid us farewell when a dirt path emerged to his house and then Theogene said goodbye but not before pulling my hand through the brush to get a view us his village down below. He was a sweet boy and meeting him we the highlight of my trip to the falls.  

After the hike we had a hot (for the first time) mélange and then took another local bus back to Nyakarambi. We put chairs in the garden and  enjoyed the sun and fresh air. Christine made this amazing chili with host of different vegetables. We cooked and ate outside under the full moon. Andy (Canadian with World Teach) came by and we all just enjoyed each other’s company. I think it’s much harder to live there – squatting toilet, no indoor water, solar power that doesn’t last very long…. – but I really felt like I was camping and the company was fantastic. My sleep was amazingly sound considered Christine had just killed a cockroach in the other room and I was sleeping on the floor. In the morning we enjoyed coffee and fruit breakfast (and helping fill water when it finally came on!) before Julie and I headed back to Kibungo. All in all – a fantastic weekend in Rwanda!

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