Monday, August 31, 2009

Rwanda....Happy & Sad All in One Amazing Adventure

Rwandan Things That Make Me Laugh, Smile or Just Shake My Head

Bad service
Can you really substitute “goat womb” for a standard “goat meat brochette” and really not tell the difference?
Did you not think I’d notice that the vegetarian pasta you gave me does not resemble in the slightest the cheese pizza I actually ordered?

Crazy t-shirts donated to Rwanda by well meaning Americans
A woman wearing “Frank the Tank”…do you think she’s seen “Old School”?
Which leads to BAD saying t-shirts….do we really need to donate the “Johnson” shirts and shirts saying other obscenity?
Does the guy I see every morning understand the meaning of
“Machine Fuckin’ Head”?
Be careful what you donate!

College Shirts….Cornell, Yale, Harvard very wealthy do gooders (or significantly in debt) giving to the less fortunate and uneducated. One year’s tuition would equal a lifetime of income for the average Rwandan….Does anyone else find this ODD?

Using three languages in most conversations just to communicate basic information…broken English to Max, Max French to the coop leader, Kinyarwanda from the coop leader to the farmers….amazing we can actually sell or fix ANY bikes!

Rwandans are nose pickers….must be the dirt and dust
...I pick my nose
…need to stop THAT habit!

Everything is 200 RWF in the market unless you’re a “Muzungu” then it’s 300 RWF, unless you have a Rwandan with you…then it’s negotiable.

The Ishema Hotel where I get “brown bread” never has brown bread until I ask for it, then they bake it, sell it and when I go back to get it, they don’t have “brown bread”.

Not every Muzungu wants a Rwandan boyfriend but every Rwandan wants a Muzungu girlfriend.

Rwandans listen to really bad music! This is not African music….it’s Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton circa 1980ish.

When I ask Rwandan’s what time we’ll be meeting, I always clarify if we’re talking “Rwandan Time or American Time”.

You can always cut in line at the bank if you bring the girls really good chocolate! And yes, I abuse this! If you had to bank in Rwanda you would too!
Speaking of banking….it is not unusual to not have an internet connection at the bank to get money, or to actually not have money at the bank. Can you imagine that one in the US? AND….no ATM cards!

Rwandan’s have no concept of multitasking. There is no list of 37 things to do and one trip to do them in. There’s 1 thing to do in 1 trip and you do that 37 times.

Trucks all have sayings across the windshield. Some of my favorites….
Go With God
Life is Short
Life is Life
God is Good
God is God
Nigga (I kid you not!)
Jesus is God
No Time to Lose
Thank You…(insert various names here…including God)
Various Kinyarwanda sayings that I have no idea what they mean!

Then, the big trucks are highly decorated with the following options:
Picture of Jesus with His crown of thorns in the front windshield
Stuffed cat, big and white
Carpeting, generally 1970’s circa shag across the dash
Various plastic people, animals and chatkes
Dangly thingys hanging from the headliner

Drivers…the worst I’ve ever seen!
Don’t look when pulling out, drive too slow, drive in both lanes, if they are talking on the cell phone see above comment about multi tasking!

The reaction of people on the street when I was carrying a frantic King Kongo of Rwanda (our cat) to the vet to be neutered. As he’s clawing scratching and wiggling away from me so were all the people who wanted nothing to do with a domesticated animal attacking the freaky Blonde Muzungu.

Not showering for days on end because no water, or no electricity or both and feeling like it’s not that big a deal anymore.

Rwandan women who spit gigantic “lugies”. They can hack with the best Red Neck American man!

Kids on Jock’s street that call every blonde girl Rebecca regardless of who we really are. Thanks Rebecca for teaching them your name….we’re all Rebecca’s!

Things in Rwanda That Make Me Sad, Cry, Emotional or Just Make Me Wonder Why?

Poverty….how can it be so intense?

Electricity….why is it such a luxury to 90% of the population of Rwanda?

Water….can you imagine spending every day gathering water? And it’s not drinkable?

Children….tiny children…tiny due to malnutrition, due to poverty, due to other forces beyond their control

Intensity of days….how can I possibly pack as much as I do into a day and still feel like I haven’t done enough….It’s Africa….I will never be able to do enough!

Begging children….they were taught this by the prevalence of too much aid and not enough REAL help! Teach these people to fish!

Friends always leave….some come back, most don’t….you attach and then they’re gone.
Leaving my friends today….
….this is a difficult day

The sheer beauty of this country….
…the smiles on the children
….their curiosity
….the faces and inquisitive looks from women watching another woman ride a bike
….a bike….can you imagine?
….the kindness and smiles of Rwandan’s….they will keep me coming back, they will keep me fighting to help them have a better life.

Team Rwanda…
….their stories
….watching Alex look at his passport
….listening to Sibo tell me he can’t train because his wheel is broken and I can’t fix it and we have no more wheels because we have run out and it will be four weeks before I can return with wheels….He is emotional, his voice cracking as he tells me this.
….watching Jock with his Team ALWAYS makes me cry….
…hugging Kiki
…watching Adrien’s success at Tour of Ireland
…knowing what I know about how much Jock has sacrificed to make this happen for these boys…..THIS makes me emotional
…this makes me cry
…this makes me stay

Project Rwanda
…the stories of farmers
…Leonard riding his Project Rwanda bike with his Project Rwanda jersey and his million dollar smile
…the story of the 62 year old farmer in Bukonya that has a dream for his family that life will be better because they have a bike and may have more bikes
…watching 12 farmers ride off with their bikes
…watching 50 health care workers checking out their new bikes
…watching a woman, Penina, want a bike so badly it brings her to tears
….having Luna Chicks and Marika sponsor Penina to get that bike
…YOU women make me emotional!
….not having the NGO yet to bring in more bikes….
….this makes me cry in frustration…will I EVER make it happen? These people need more bikes and I can’t ship them from China until the NGO is renewed
….I cry in fear…
….I cry in frustration…
….I cry because I feel helpless….
….THIS is why I stay….

1 comment:

  1. Wherever you have stayed for a period of time you remember these cultural-isms. Then you and your friends who have been there will talk about these things again and again. Then you will meet the random person and find that you have been to the same place. He or she will remember these same cultural-isms. And you connect on this level. It's pretty cool...

    From the Japanese with their American music blaring in restaurants that is full of cus the Iraqi kids who will clamor on top of you to get whatever you are giving away...even if its the North Carolinians with southern accents, southern hospitality, and southern porch parties. I love remembering the unique things of each place I have lived but always find we are more alike then different.

    Which I also find is pretty cool...

    By the way, the nose picking is endemic too many countries. Good luck ridding yourself of that habit...just try not to do it in public!!