This blog is not for the sensitive reader.
The past two phone calls home to David and to Shannon have made me realize that there are alot of unpleasant things I'm seeing/experiencing here that are going unprocessed. I'm going to (with hesitation) share some of them with you. I'll use point form, easier for me, easier for you.
*Street kid projectile vomiting on the street. Nobody stops to help. He looks scared and unsure of what's happening to him but just continues walking when he's through.
*That's not jam down the front of the baby's shirt on the bus. Her mom is patting her mouth with a napkin but it's not much use. The baby is vomiting blood, clearly quite ill.
*Same man every day, missing a leg (and wearing a Backstreet Boys t-shirt) asks me for money. It's been 6 weeks and I always give him the same response. Tomorrow he'll ask again.
*At the Kigali bus stop, there is a man missing the entire lower half of his body. He is maybe in his 30s. He comes on the bus to panhandle. Like the old lady with a stump for a hand or the orange hat guy with no leg or the peanut salesman in a wheelchair or the lady by the telephone pole on the way to Bruce's with contorted ankles or the scruffy, hungry street kids, he is greeted by me with the same few Kinyarwanda expressions I know and a wish for better fortune to come his way.
*An hour ago, I watched my little soccer buddy Peter getting beat up by two older men on our street. I wasn't sure if they were just roughhousing but it became clear soon they weren't. Three neighbourhood ladies intervened verbally but that didn't stop it. I walked home, hoping maybe I could bring Erick (the shopowner) out to help the situation. Five minutes later, Peter passed by, in tears but trying to be stoic. As my blog title says, this country will break your heart.
*Saturday was Umuganda, the mandatory volunteering day. I helped pave the road in front of the house. A town hall style meeting followed, which I attended-assisted by translation by Destin. Problems ranged from prostitution issues in the area to a borrowed cell phone that had been dropped down a latrine. The government has started a vulnerable children's screening so the neighbourhood is asked to identify neglected or malnourished kids in the area. I watched "Fils", Peter's friend, stand by himself in front of 60 men and women and tell them he needed help. I thought Fils was a neighbour's child. He always plays soccer with us, and although he is dressed in the same t-shirt everyday, that didn't strike me as unusual. He has what I call a "creased forehead" meaning he wears an expression of worry that causes a wrinkle in between his eyebrows. He is very sweet to speak to though. I was devastated at him having to identify himself- he can't be more than 10 years old !
*A lady stood up and said she was taking care of her friend's son, as her friend had recently passed away from AIDS. She also has it and is worried that if she gets sick, the child won't be looked after. Another lady stood and said she had taken in a street child but had no means to support him.
I was struck by the community's approach to caring for each other. Other grievances were aired, mostly security, littering and border/property line issues. Each month they meet on the grass of the hill by my house and speak to each other about their needs and how they can be there for each other. I knew there was poverty and there's quite obviously challenging situations here but I don't think I realized how deep they ran. It's hard to think of JeanBaptiste, Peter and Fils as anything more than my soccer buddies with big smiles. How many other people that I see everyday are going home to a lack of food and basic necessities? And how, tell me how, do they continue to smile, laugh and pray each day?
Okay, so I won't leave you with this. I have a few other frustrations that are quite comical. Might lighten the mood a little. By comical I don't mean "funny haha".. I mean "funny-laugh-a-couple-of-days-later".
I bought a bottle of Head and Shoulders Shampoo at twice the price, just as a treat for myself. Brought it home to find out it is a watered down version of the local shampoo- not H and S at all!
My soccer ball lasted two weeks, it is now deflated :( I think it's the rocky ground, need to start collecting plastic bags so I can fashion an african-style soccer ball.
Our water has been off for 3 days ! I am desperate for a shower that is not out of a bucket !
Power went out last week while I was sitting in the cold bath. Pitch black, sitting in an ice cold tub. You have to laugh at yourself, don't you?
My electric stove died last week. The kerosene stove that VSO gave me has no wick in it. Charming, eh? Have half a charcoal stove but left it outside in a (very surprising and out of season) thunderstorm so the charcoal got soaked. The water filter nozzle is broken too.
None of these things are a big deal. Things break. Things stop working. You plan meetings with people and they don't show up or show up at 2pm instead of 9am. I know I need to increase my patience and exercise my flexibility. I know that, but...
There are other things that fall under the "cultural sensitivity" framework that I find myself questioning whether or not I should have to compromise on. Due to the massive amount of unemployment in the country, there are many groups of men just "hanging around". Often you see women working in the field with babies on their backs or carrying jerrycans full of water on their heads and groups of men lounging under a tree. Not a blanket generalisation, although it sounds that way. I've met and worked with some amazing men, teachers, headmasters and see men doing road construction (with a pickaxe, I realize how hard that is, reminds me of my Habitat for Humanity build). The headteacher of Rubona is quite a keen, enthusiastic and intelligent colleague. The Unicef head is very articulate and well educated and determined to make a difference. I guess where I'm going with this is, I don't like being hassled by these bored randoms. There is a bar I must pass on my way to and from my house and at 7am, there are a dozen or so men getting started on their "day". Enough said. Not to worry- (mom and dad) this is a safe and wonderful country. I have lots of great friends and my neighbours are kind and loving.
Last anecdote: yesterday (Sunday) at 6:30am I got a phone call from the headteacher of my model school. He just wanted to see how my day was. I told him that at 6:30 AM ON A SUNDAY, my day had not yet started !!
Miss everyone and am wishing you well. Thank you for sharing this adventure with me, the good and the not so good. Just remember that after the negative incident this morning with Peter and the two men, something wonderful will happen this afternoon. That's how things work here.