And so the farewells begin….
Aimey and I arrived back in Kibungo last Wednesday and isn’t it funny how a place that was once so foreign, so new and so scary, can feel at home so quickly. Even Aimey felt that as we were admiring the new Banque Populaire sign, or the Tigo building painted purple or…holy smack!...is that a brand new petrol station that looks like it belongs in Canada? But Kibungo has been my home for the last year and I love this little town.
We arrived and noticed that every tree along the road in Ngoma District had been painted white and, as we later found out, this was to honour President Kagame when he came for a visit last week. As you know there was a General Election last week and Mr. Kagame secured 93% of the vote. (The election, by the way, gave us mzungus a constant source of amusement given that in Rwanda the sound “l” and “r” are often interchangeable and so the “big election” of 2010 usually left us roaring with laughter…..) Of course, because this blog continues to be non-partisan, I won’t comment on the election itself and suggest you go BBC, the Globe and Mail, or the like for more in-depth analysis of Kagames successful bid at the presidency. Patrick was at the bus park when we arrived and greeted us with a huge smile, as always. When we arrived at my house were greeted by one of the best parts about living here – no electricity. Argh! But we went to the market and a few hours later it came back on. (Since then the power has been dodgy and the water has been on and off – mostly off – every day. Oh the joys!)
Friday I turned around and had an exit interview with VSO and luck would have it, met Jeremy who was returning from the UK and had a taxi ready to take us back to the big K. It was good to see him, all refreshed and ready for another few months. Of course, a welcome to Kibungo would not have been complete without Beer and Brochette at Moderne that night and Jason, who returned from his holidays also, joined us too. So, there we were. The Eastern Peeps enjoying the last meal at one of my favourite watering holes.
Saturday I spent packing and organizing. What to bring? What to give? What to leave for the new volunteers who will occupy the house in September. I’ve taken art off my walls, and the wall of family and friend pictures is also down. Slowly, the house that has felt like home, is becoming just another house. I’m seeing it, again, through the eyes that I did when I arrived. As someone who moved around A LOT as a kid, it’s a family feeling. One that bring trepidation and excitement. Saturday night I had a bit of a farewell at, you guessed it, St. Joseph’s. The standbys were there: Jeremy and Jason, as well as Suzanne (the very first Kibungoan I met and the person who has helped me survive living here), Anna and Rebecca (two other mzungus who live down the road), Fabien (my big boss), Geoffry (an old friend of Epi and Tina’s who is maybe the nicest and least pushy 24 year old in this town), some guy who came with Fabien but I don’t know his name, Rehma (who I met through Christine) and, of course Consollee (who came with a gift of banana leave flip flops which I’d been thinking about buying myself since arriving). We had drinks of Fanta and beer, bananas, potatoes, chips and brochette and sat around dicephering Kinyarwanda (Why do “old” and “crazy” sound so similar?) and walked home dropping people off at their homes along the way. I may say that I could live the rest of my life without seeing another banana or brochette but in truth, I’ll miss those nights and these people.
So, now I pack up and we head to Kigali tomorrow. As things hit me, I’m sure I’ll write a last entry sort of think about what it’s like to be VSO volunteer, what Rwanda has been like as a home and how I’ve felt about the whole process. As Aimey said, on our last evening walk through Kibungo, I spent so long thinking about coming and there was such a build up about coming to Africa. And now it’s over. For now, at least. And I will write a debrief about everything but until then, I think I’ll just enjoy another cup of Rwandan coffee as I listen to the sounds of a Sunday morning in Kibungo.