Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Rwandan Dinner Party

Yesterday Max, our French mechanic, and I headed back to Kigali in our still uninspected, illegal ghetto rental pick up to support Team Rwanda in the three stage, two day Tour of the Volcanoes race. I remember last summer watching the Tour de France and thinking, “How cool would it be to be in a support car at a major cycling race?” And, here I am!

We spent most of Friday running around Kigali getting all our last minute things done for the race. Max’s English is improving by the day and my French continues to be nonexistent, however, we have a way of communicating and for some bizarre reason we can actually understand one another. We were running from 6:00am on, well, Max slept until 10:00am, and by 6:30pm I was done. I had a scheduled SKYPE call with a guy in California interested in bringing 1,000 bikes into DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) and it was 6:00pm when we finally got back to Roger’s. Roger is Mr. Land o’ Lakes here in Rwanda and our ALWAYS gracious host and crash pad in Kigali. When I left Musanze that morning I tried to take a shower….need I say more…so I drove my stinky ass to Kigali and was REALLY in need when I got to Roger’s. Well, being Rwanda, I had water but the pressure was too low to push the water through the hot water tank. Did you know you can wash your hair, body and shave your legs in 2 ½ minutes flat? Now that I was awake….on to a dinner party at Festus’s. Festus works for the Rwanda Cycling Federation and was having guests and race members at his home for a get together. I was more in the mood to go to bed then to a dinner party but I went anyway more out of obligation than actual want. I am SO GLAD I did!!! Rwanda NEVER ceases to surprise and amaze me.

My first Rwandan dinner party. There were eight Rwandans, two Americans from the US Embassy where Festus works, and Max and I. The other American girl, Jenny is from Sparta, Wisconsin, the same town my mom was born and raised in. How’s that for small world? We all sat outside on his patio drinking wine and cocktails and talking about cycling and the U.S. and Rwanda and listening to two men sing Rwandan songs to an acoustic guitar. Festus’s wife was an amazing cook! It was so nice to have something other than French fries or Pringles knock offs with my wine! The company was truly diverse. These are the times in Rwanda where I pinch myself to see if this really is my life. Near the end of dinner, Festus made a speech to his guests. He talked about his time with Richard and Jenny at the Embassy and the impact they had on him. They are heading back to the US in the next couple of weeks for reassignment. He took time to go around the table and say something about every guest. This was the first time Max or I had met Festus and he thanked us for working with Team Rwanda and for the work I do with Project Rwanda. I was thinking that in the US we tend to have a get together around a sporting event or other outside stimuli. Why can’t we just have 8 or 10 friends for dinner and actually talk to one another around a table? Why can’t we take the time to sit down over a home cooked meal and just get to know each other better? Why don’t we tell the people we care about how much they mean to us and they imprint they put on our lives? It was such an interesting and entertaining evening.

I truly believe that Americans can learn an important lesson that would go a long way to rebuilding the family. Turn off the television, the Nintendo, the computer, the other outside stimuli and just TALK. Take the time to know more about your kids, your friends, your family. I have not watched TV in eight weeks. It is NOT missed!

Here’s a fact…your kids will not die without the Nintendo, cell phone or television. It’s proven, they won’t and neither will you. I’ve written about it in prior blogs but I really firmly believe the television needs to just be removed. Nothing I do in Rwanda revolves around the latest TV show. Perhaps that’s why we get so much done in a day. Perhaps that’s why I feel I know people better. I love that we cook dinner together, pray together, eat together and talk about our day. It is one of my favorite unexpected treats living in Rwanda. It is something I will continue to embrace the rest of my life. Stop the “racket”, stop the “noise” and just LISTEN…you might find out something about the ones you love!

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