The Week Of The Abashytsi

20 Aug

It has been quite an eventful week chockfull of abazungu, and some Rwandan abashytsi. Tuesday, brought a parent and daughter trio from Manchester who did vision screenings on just under 300 people. They brought a substantial number of glasses but as this was their second week, there weren’t many to hand out so they recorded the prescriptions and will be sending the glasses with the woman who runs the district hospital but lives in England near them.

That afternoon after finishing a snack to begin the business of studying the second in command at my health center knocks on my door and I find a moto driver and a disheveled and lost looking young woman. She explained to me, that she was trying to go to Kibuye but missed the morning bus and thought surely there must be another (but of course there isn’t). Somehow she ended up at my site and people’s natural course of action was to unite the abazungu. I didn’t hesitate to give her a place to stay for the night since I could easily see myself in her situation during my stay in Rwanda.

Turns out she was an Israeli near the end of her six month backpacking trip through East Africa. When I asked why she was backpacking and how her parents felt about her going solo she informed me that Israel is a country of travelers and it is quite common for people to backpack. My roommate and the girl who cooks for us were quite enchanted by our visitor. It was funny to see a bit of ‘culture clash’ happening. I was prompted numerous times to ask the guest what she would like to eat and informed that ‘the visitor is queen.’ They were a bit incredulous when it was decided our guest would cook a tomato sauce for dinner not having knowledge of the backpacking culture of reciprocity. So the guest and I headed off to the market to buy some spaghetti and tomatoes for dinner.

The sky told of coming rain but we say many people who wanted to greet and know about the visitor. Drops started to fall as we made our last transaction and rather than take shelter as everyone else was doing I figured we could make it home before the rain started in earnest. I’ve never been more wrong in my life. It promptly started pouring like someone had turned on the garden hose full blast. We sought refuge where meat is sold until someone brought us an umbrella and we made it up the hill to the health center, the water running like a small, but swift river down the road the entire time. Thunder and lightning not far off. We were quickly soaked which made me feel terrible since the guest had remarked on her lack of clean clothes. We waited out the worst of it for 15 minutes or so and saw lightning strike the telephone tower in front of us. Seriously, if lightning had a face, I could have given a damn good description to a sketch artist.

We had a cheerful evening of American-ish food and conversation then awoke bright and early to escort the guest to the bus. Once she was situated I decided to go for a run since I already had drug myself out of bed at five am. It was my first run at site, and it was short but good and holds promise.

Midmorning on Wednesday, my program manager from Peace Corps and his assistant arrived to meet with some staff at my health center to collect information for our upcoming training. They had informed me the day before of their visit. Afterward we had a chat about how things were going and I received some very helpful advice. Despite it being almost noon they declined an invitation to lunch, saying they had to be in Kibuye for a meeting that afternoon, much to the chagrin of my Rwandan counterparts. You are ALWAYS supposed to offer your guest something to eat.

Thursday there was a break from the steady stream of visitors which was good because I confirmed something that I had hoped was not true. Someone has been taking money out of my wallet in my room. There have been a couple times in the past where I had less money than I thought, but chalked it up to my own forgetfulness. This time I made a mental note of how much money was in my wallet after we returned from the market Tuesday night and found all of it gone when I thought to check Thursday morning. Since there isn’t anywhere to buy an Americano and it isn’t proper for women to patronize small town bars it’s not uncommon for me to go several days without needing my wallet.

Initially I was really angry, and by the time I went to work I was just downright sad. Part of the responsibility rests on me for granting such ready access to my wallet. However, the only time my door is unlocked is when I’m home and the only time my door is not in my line of site is when I’m cooking, in the shower or latrine. Deductive reasoning shows that there are only two people who could possibly have access to my room during those windows of time, both who I considered to be my friends. That is the most disappointing thing, I feel I’ve been courteous and generous yet a person finds it appropriate to take advantage of my trust. In the grand scheme of the things the amount of money stolen was quite small. However, I have to live for the next 26 months with a growing distrust of people. I’ve been assured by my coworkers that not all Rwandans are like that, and I trust them.

I found myself wondering repeatedly over the last couple of days if it was all a bad dream. Thursday evening I confronted both my roommate and umukozi, hoping for a confession but got none. Friday I called Peace Corps to tell them what happened and informed my tutillaire as well. Since it was a Friday and I haven’t seen my tutillaire in days what’s going to happen is still up in the air. In the meantime, I am annoyingly locking my door anytime I am not in my room.

Friday evening, I got just the distraction I needed. Two volunteers from my region came to visit and we made some Zataran’s Jambalaya that my mom had sent me in a care package. In lieu of Andouille sausage and shrimp we used shredded cabbage and beans. Despite it being rice, beans and cabbage all of which I eat many times in a week it was deliciously different. I look forward to figuring out how to back cornbread to enjoy with the other Zataran’s she sent me. We spent the evening talking and playing with the wax from the tea lights.

In the morning we enjoyed some chai and more good conversation before we cooked a breakfast of pancakes and eggs. We also made a delicious fruity topping of pineapple, bananas, and honey. I kept forgetting about the pancakes so they got a little dark, but the eggs were perfectly seasoned. After the chai was finished we made a thermos full of coffee and it was delightful.

We cleaned up and I gave them a tour of my health center and we had a bit of a walk about town. They planned to visit another new volunteer for the evening South of me. They wanted to take the Onatracom bus that runs from Kibuye to Kamembe since it would be 1,000 francs instead of the 3,000 to take a moto. We asked a number of people who said the bus came between one and two pm which I thought was crazy because I’ve never seen it roll past and earlier than 4:30 pm. Nonetheless we arrived by the road to wait at one. Around two, a squeezie bus came by heading to a destination a little ways North of where they wanted to go. However they decided it was better than chancing to wait for 2+ more hours. So they squeeeeeezed themselves in and were off with a wave.

I am so fortunate to be in the Southwest region and in the company of awesome volunteers. The two visits I’ve had with them have been energizing and I gain such insight, spoken and unspoken. One of the volunteers who visited me makes it a habit to visit people so I think she has the authority to say that I live the farthest from, anything really. Most places have buses within a reasonable distance that leave multiple times in a day. There’s only one that originates here at 6 am going North. The other two busses that pass through here have no real schedule and it’s possible to spend hours waiting for a bus that never comes. The other, albeit very expensive option is to take a moto. The good news is that everything crucial to daily life is available within walking distance and the beauty of my surroundings makes up for any challenges in leaving.

I feel surprisingly detached from the whole theft episode for now. Perhaps my visitors provided a distraction, perhaps because I can’t be certain what the outcome of everything will just yet. For the time being, it’s Saturday night and because of all the rain, it’s the first night this week that we’ve had electricity. I’m going to enjoy it by watching a movie or tv episodes!


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