Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Just give me love

So…after successfully getting the permit and eating a nice lunch at Bourbon café with my new book, The Weight of Water, I headed to VSO to get some Benjamins and then caught a moto to the airport at exactly 1:19pm (Amy’s flight had arrived – I had hoped – four minutes before). From a distance I see the tail of the gigantic Ethiopian Airlines flight and hope I haven’t missed her. But I arrive (and see a fellow VSO who is heading to Canada for a week) and collect Amy, who has been travelling for no less than 48 hours. She’s a bit dazed but I decide that we might as well attempt the 2 hour journey to Kibungo before she knows what hit her.

To the bus park only to wait 30 minutes in a hot smell bus. She’s is managing quite well considering and I reassure her over and over again that it will only be 2 hours.

I was wrong.

Three hours and two police check points later (one of which we were all required to exit the bus and provide our ID cards), we arrived in Kibungo with new friends who helped us by … finding toilets en route, picking up Amy’s sweater that fell out of the bus and into the mud, explaining to us that “Yes, the police do want you out of the bus” and by getting the driver to stop at the round-about even though he had no intention of doing so. I made a dinner and when it was good and late (8:30 in Kibungo), I tucked Amy into her mosquito net and think how crazy it is that I haven’t seen Amy in over 15 years when we were cruising the halls of St. Joe’s!

Wednesday was a “Show Amy Kibungo” and, yes, that can take a whole day. Thursday we went to the library where she will help. We stopped by Patrick’s house to visit his family and say “hello.” Little Pamela brought out all of her new clothes and showed them off for us. Delphine and Patrick invited us for dinner to the following Tuesday. Friday we hopped on a bus and got off 6 hours (or so) later in Gisenyi.

Gisenyi is the northern city on Lake Kivu and border the Democratic Republic of Congo town called Goma. We checked into the Presbyterian Guest house for reasonable rates and clean beds. The walls are another story as I believe we left at least one spider carcass on it. We used our trusty Bradt guide to find out (from the good folks at the Serena and where we couldn’t afford to eat) that most of the hotels listed in the guide are shut down but that La Corniche would be a nice place for a brochette. Which is it was. Now, I am beginning to think of myself as a bit of a brochette aficionado and La Corniche had some of the best. Amy and I enjoyed the bit of goat with a bit of Primus and a bit of a wander down memory lane and who’s doing what and where and with whom!

The Saturday was umaganda so we were stuck and said guest house with said spiders and said stain on wall but somehow we passed the hours easily catching up as friends from years ago tend to do – over coffee, sunshine, dry bread, powered milk and omelette! We headed over the Serena where yesterday we knew we couldn’t afford to eat but today we knew we could afford to swim! We lounged poolside and swam in the blue water of the pool that looked out toward the lake and the mountains of the DRC. At dinner time we met Amy’s friend at the border of the DRC (she lives in Goma) and sped alone the road, through windy mountain villages to Paradise Malahide for sundowners and dinner. (Always wanted to say I was going for sundowners!) We did watch the sun set over the lake and later took in some traditional intore dancers before seeing Naomi off at the border at about 10pm. It was dark. She was going in to the Congo. She seemed to be very calm about it and maybe that was the armoured vehicle that would pick her up on the other side but Amy and I were a bit unnerved. At least we got a “home safe” text from her a half hour later.

Sunday was a long, long day back to Kibungo and Monday an uneventful day in Kibungo.

Today was busy. I think I tired Amy out and as she is laying exhausted on my couch I can only remember that I’ve been at it for 9 months. How on earth did I manage? I had a meeting this morning with F and F (Fabien and Francis…the big bosses) to settle some details about a workshop we’re doing. Then to Nyamugali to do some work at the library. Lunch was quick and at Moderne. Amy, Emmanual and I headed off to Bare to look at their library. It was Amy’s first “off road” experience and Patrick promised we’d go “gache gache” which we did until he sped off in front for a moment, causing Amy’s driver to try to catch up, giving Amy a small heart attached and she looked over and ask me to slow down. I just had to remember back to my first ride to Rukira when I arrived when I, as Jeremy puts it, “lost the will to live.” So, okay, we slowed down. I missed my race through the country but puttering along lets me look at the views a little longer.

Tonight we were invited to Patrick and Delphine’s for dinner. He drove us there with his friend, Jafette. We arrived and Pamela was wearing her new clothes that she showed us last week. Delphine had put on her nicest clothes and washed after a day of school and cooking. We were greeted with great smiles and “Karibu!” “Welcome!”. Patrick’s baby sister (she’s 2!) was playing quietly, Delphine was putting out plates and Patrick raced off to buy Fanta and we settled into dinner of rice, sweet potatoes, fries, meet and omelette. They played music and I gave Pamela a ball which she played with until her mom finally ordered her to eat some food! Patrick said in the English that has been improving all year “Anna. This is your home. You are my family.” Patrick’s mom, Leonie, who is a teacher at Nyamugali joined us after work. We took photos, played ball and danced with the little babies. Patrick and I tormented a giggling Pamela in a game of keep away and at one point I was about to throw the ball to Patrick when Pamela squared up, put her little hands on her knees, crouched slightly and sneered – with a giggle – “Muzuuuunguuuu!” She know just what to say!

After hugs and thank yous and murakoze cyanes, Patrick and Jafette got us on our way home. When we arrived I asked Patrick how much he waned for the drive. He looked at me and shook his head.

“No problem Anna. Just give me love. No problem. Have a good night!” And he was off.

Just like that. A family with nothing. No electricity. No doors on their house. Delphine is an orphan. A house with a bedroom and a sitting room. A sitting room with just a coffee table and four chairs. And yet, they gave it to us. Generous beyond anything I have every experienced. And so, when Patrick tells me to come back before I go to Canada to say good bye, I know I will. He has shown me the best side of Rwanda. He has made me feel like I’m part of something wonderful here. I guess that’s what he means by love.

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