Comedy of Errors
I met Damien today – the head of the Teacher Training College (TTC) where we will do workshops on Monday. He arranged to come pick up supplies in the TTC truck from my house this evening. He was heading to Keirhe District in the afternoon to tell a family that their son (one of his students) had died in the hospital that day. But still he was Damien. A man who is always smiling and proud to pat his belly and when he sees a muzungu with a beer cut say, “You’re fat! Like me!” When I asked him what time he’s be coming around, he just replied “Oh. Later.”
“But Damien, what if I’m sleeping?” (Fully aware that it would not be unusual for him to get there at 11pm or something ungodly in land where the sun sets at 6:15pm)
“Then wake up!” He smiled.
So at 8pm Damien called. He was at the Fina Bank and would I come meet him because he doesn’t know where my house is. No problem as the bank is only about 200m from my house. But it’s through 200m of pitch black, no light, valley to then north, hill to the south. No problem. It’s not even full moon but I’ve become so accustom to it that I don’t even need the light on my cell phone. Not yet. But there is a bit of a ditch that I know is coming up so I’m navigating my way over the ditch, pulling out my light when I hear a familiar voice.
“Anna. Hi.” It’s Patrick! And he’s got a passenger but of course he stops to say hello. “Where are you going?”
“I’m going to the Round Point to me the director the TTC.”
“No Anna. Director of TTC is there.” He points in the oppostive direction. The direction from which I just came. “There is his truck.” (I wonder for a minute if everyone in Rwanda knows everyone and then remember that that truck has TTC Zaza printed in clear blue letters. But still it’s pitch black and I sure as hell didn’t see a truck drive by)
“I’ll call him,” I say pulling out my phone-come-flashlight.
Sure enough, when Damien answers he’s driving passed me and I tell him that my moto friend saw him and to wait there I’ll come. Patrick pulls away – toward Damien also – and I head back to meet him. But as I’m coming I see Damien’s tail lights pull away. He’s driving away. My phone comes out again.
“Damien! Where are you going?”
“I see your moto! I’m coming!” Damien, having mistaken Patrick’s passenger for me, is now following him half way to Uganda.
“No!! That’s not me. Come back!!”
So he turns around on the high way and I stand in the direct head light so he can see the muzungu (as if it’s hard) and he’ll know where my house is. But as he’s driving and pulling off toward me I see that he’s headed toward a large drainage hold near my gate. I’m waving “Stop! Stop! Go around! Go around!” But he’s on the phone and plop! Right into the whole goes the front wheel. After he gets of the phone he bellows a “No problem!!!” And even though it looks like he won’t get out…he does. Still smiling. We get into my house and he is bursting with smiles as if he hadn’t driven to the neighbouring district to tell a family that their son had died.
“Go home,” I tell him “It’s been a long day.”
As he walked out of my house he passed Johnny Boy, my guard and in Kinyarwanda told him “Take care of our child.” And he patted me on the arm.
Today I felt a little hand in mine and thought I would write something about Rwanda’s children. It is, after all, why I’m here.
It’s dry season again. Despite the rain in Gitarama I think they have finished in the East. It’s hot here. So hot. I left work early to come home and work on rice sacks. I turned on to the dirt road that leads from the district to my house. It was dusty and hot and my eyes squinted as I made my way down the hill. I passed Les Hirondelles school and heard, from somewhere far behind me “Umuzungu!” I turned and looked trhough a cloud of dust left by a passing motorcycle and there was a little girl. I’ve seen her before. I didn’t know where but she ran toward me. And ran. And ran. And as she plopped her little hand in mine and hung on. We spoke a little Kinyarwanda to each other but she wasn’t all that interested in having a conversation. Instead we walked, side by side, down the dusty path. Some women were working on our way and we stopped to say “hello.” The women roared with gales of laughter when I said “Nfite inshuti” (I have a friend) and then proceeded to notice my hair, hot with sweat, curly with humidity all over my face. One of the woman reached up to get the wisps of hair in my eyes. (The ones my mom will see and yank off me as if she were pulling off a band-aid only to realize that ‘Oowww. It was attached!) After my hair was acceptable, my little friend and I carried on down the hill. Me taking slower smaller steps to accommodate the little legs and her little feet shuffling along in pink flip flops that are two sizes too big. She’s got my hand gripped firmly in her left hand and in her right she is carrying a grape flavoured hard candy and trying to keep a heave sweater in the crook of her arm. She’s got on a pack. She’s coming from school. We cross the road – the highway to Tanzania where large freighter trucks rumble through at all hours of the day and where it is no place for a three year old. At the moto garage I give a proud “Nfite inshuti!” again and ask Papa Zero where the little girls home is. (Papa Zero is a mechanic there – although he never seems to work and has the softest hands in the southern hemisphere – and how aquired the name “Papa Zero” when I asked him how many children he had and his response was just that. “Me. Papa. Zero.”) He directed me to a house just past my own and I walked her there. She’s not really ready to let go. When we arrived however, some boys came out to play and the three of them continued to walk together after I left her along the hot highway. I turned back to see where she had gone only to see a truck rumble past and one of the boys grab her by her arm to pull her to the shoulder. So, here’s this little girl with too-big-flip-flops walking along a busy side walk. She has a mother but she is probably working. So the community cares for her. Papa Zero, some boys that might be five and me. I guess I’m part of that community now.