Thursday, September 10, 2009

The life of a princess

The life of a princess

Muraho! I am writing under the canopy of a lovely mosquito net and I feel like a princess! Needless to say, I am in Kigali, having arrived safely with little trouble. All my bags arrived with everything intact! It was a long trip with several adventures, but it all ended well and so much has happened since that all that seems rather trivial.

I am staying at Tubahumurize centre with Simone, my niece. We are enjoying each other’s company a lot and she is helping me figure things out, since she has six weeks on my four days. So she is who I turn to. Jeanne, my host and the director of the centre, is here every day and she treats me well. She seems to like me quite a bit. Her son Valentin is the sweetest man, and he is who I turn to for help most often after Simone that is.

The language here of course is Kinyarwanda but many, if not most, people speak French as well. English is now the official language too so it is being taught in schools as a second language. Older people are taking every opportunity to learn. Simone has three English classes every week, and they are very popular and the women are learning like sponges. I have now attended two and enjoyed myself immensely as a sort of teacher’s aide.

I bought myself the obligatory cell phone. I say this because pretty well everyone has one. They are cheap and they are the way that people stay in touch, which is to say all the time! Also, the cell phone serves as a modem, to which you add points which represent money. It is not cheap to be online.

Speaking of money, most things are actually rather expensive here. The economic downturn has taken its toll on the economy here, especially the cost of food. As with all foreign currencies, there is quite a bit of calculating that has to happen whenever you encounter prices. And for the record, if you exchange $100 US (which is the exchange currency) you will not get the full exchange if your bills are older than 2006 I think. Does that sound like a scam or what?! Take note anyone who plans to travel here!

The climate is lovely. Somewhat hot in the sun, but I think it is hotter at home. Even though it is barely south of the equator, I doubt that it ever reaches ninety degrees, likely because of the altitude, which is one or two thousand feet. Interestingly, when filling a water bottle using a funnel yesterday, Simone noted that the eddy turns in the opposite direction to north of the equator! Very cool. Also way cool is how night falls – it takes about a minute, from daylight to night. That again is the equator. I had never thought of that.

Water is my life, at some level. In the morning, we boil our water in a large pot for ten minutes. After it cools, we pour it into containers. One of my water bottles is never far away. So far I have remained healthy and I hope to continue with that pattern. Food is another large part of my life, deciding what to eat and preparing it. The fruits are amazing and this evening I ate the most delicious avocado I have ever tasted. I am mostly eating vegetarian with Simone, plus fish. It is not the most tempting cuisine here, as many people use a lot of heavy oil.

I have met several groups of women, both older and young. Women and one man form the sewing class, which arrives around 8 in the morning, eager to get going. They seem to be very happy in their training and are learning quickly, perhaps eager to put their skills to work! The machines are gorgeous and I love hearing the clack, clack of the pedal as they sew.

I gave my first workshop today. Talk about baptism by fire! I was so not ready and the women had not been warned either. But I was prepared enough to teach a workshop – well, more like 2/3 of a workshop – we did not finish – on hygiene and first aid. The women were very interested and asked many questions. I was glad that I had brought posters of four systems of the human body. I think they really started to understand about the heart and circulatory system. They had difficulty finding their carotid pulse, but we all agreed in the end that we all had one and were alive!

Simone and I spend a little time in the evening decompressing from the day by playing cribbage. (Thanks John for suggesting that I bring cards and a portable crib board.) And here I am now, under my princess canopy, writing my blog, which I will post tomorrow. Good old thumb drives and copy and paste. We are working on making It possible for me to access the internet from my computer, but so far no luck. It is peck and search on the centre’s computer as it is a French keyboard I think. Different enough to make tons of mistakes, and for my editor’s eye, that is a no-go. I have to fix it all before sending.

Tomorrow brings a shopping expedition. Extension cord. Tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, butter. Something for dinner. A corkscrew. And perhaps finalize a plan to travel this weekend to see herds of elephants in the northeast corner of Rwanda. The discussions are raging but I think we are close to a decision.

With love to one and all. TTFN. Murabeho!

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