No need to bore you with stories of my malaria, amoebas and typhoid. Here are some entertaining stories:
Last visit to Rubona Primary School, I witnessed children of all sizes dragging large branches and tree limbs along the road. Evidently, the school needs a new fence and each child was instructed to bring a tree with them as contribution- one of which came in handy when Pascal and I roofed my Frisbee. We used a tree branch as a reaching device to retrieve it.
Funniest moment in recent weeks had to be standing outside our neighbourhood shop and seeing a young boy running by at full speed, screaming as if all hell was breaking loose- followed momentarily by a few weeks old baby goat who was chasing him playfully!
There is a little boy in Primary 2 who squishes up his face each time he tries to catch the ball. Don't know if you can picture it, but try.
Last week's English Club had us reading letters aloud (we are hoping to find future penpals at Princess Anne French Immersion School in London, Ontario) and identifying adjectives, nouns, adverbs, etc in teams. Winning team got to do the Hokey Pokey with the teacher- major motivator!
Umuganda in September involved digging drainage ditches and moving piles of debris from one spot to the other. The obligatory volunteering on the last Saturday of each month continues to be something I really want to participate in and paid off ten-fold last week when we asked our Umudugudu leader Alphonse (the person responsible for our neighbourhood community) to assist us with an aggressive, unruly man. Alphonse came to our house, heard our story and said quite simply: "Give me two days". Problem solved. On a lighter note, one of the issues on the table at the monthly meeting was advising everyone NOT TO KEEP YOUR COW IN YOUR HOUSE. It is advisable to build a pen outside of the house to keep your cow and not to keep him in the house with you. I'm guessing theft plays a big role here, either that or a lack of hamsters available to keep as pets?!
Forgot to share this one awhile ago.. Karen and I were walking home one night from a friend's house in a thunderstorm (lightning and downpour included) and decided to pass by the empty market only to be met by two growling, fierce dogs feeding on something. Luckily we didn't run and they seemed to be more interested in protecting their feast than us. Still- quite frightening!
Dr. Suess where are you? Never have I wanted storybooks or novels more than here. The children at the primary schools and in particular my little friends in the neighbourhood seemingly have never had stories read to them. Wish I had packed less clothes and more children's storybooks!
Waterbottle bowling, Stella-ela-ola, rocket balloons, thumb wars, badminton, pingpong at the cultural centre... fun is mandatory! We affectionately refer to these impromptu games with the children as "Les Jeux Obligatoires". I make Emmanuel, my guard, participate. I don't think he minds. Last week, Emmanuel and his brother Silas played a quite competitive badminton match in our front yard. I found myself acknowledging that most likely they didn't play like this as children for at the age of 7 Emmanuel was seeing his parents killed in the genocide. I had the reluctant role of referee/scorekeeper. Even though it was in kinyarwanda, I could understand the nature of trashtalking and egging each other on. Emmanuel (also known as "Stretch") is about 3 feet taller than his older brother Silas. FYI: Silas is our new nightguard, Emmanuel has been promoted to dayguard/house manager.
Pingpong Moment: I bought a set of paddles and balls in Kigali once I learned that our neighbourhood Cultural Centre had a table. Took Jean-Pierre and the boys to play and after a few instructions and each boy taking a turn, we were surprised to have visitors. On a Wednesday afternoon, two middle-aged men pulled up on one moto, wearing Adidas tracksuits and carrying what looked like small tennis racket bags. In the miniature tennis racket bags were pingpong paddles and a proper net. They shared with me that they play competitive pingpong...EVERYDAY!! Too funny.
Found chocolate ice cream in Kigali. One scoop= one dollar. Awesome!
Rough days for sports equipment; the soccer ball, basketball and small purple ball I bought have all succumb to the rocky terrain and have burst. Thinking about replacing them soon though- "Ndashaka gukina football namwe!!" I hear every afternoon from the kids. Translated: "I want to play football with you!"
On the bus is where the majority of my greatest stories come from. For instance, returning from Kamonyi at 3pm, having not eaten since 6am, on a really hot day, dying of thirst- I asked one of the Rugubagoba boys if he had any water for sale. This particular boy greets me every time the bus stops there. He has one normal arm and one chicken wing and I spoke of him before as I was wishing he had another purpose besides begging at the bus. In any case, he always greets me and on this particularly sweltering day, I decided to take advantage. "Ufite amazzi?" (Do you have water?) He says: "300 francs" and I hand the coins out the window. He proceeds to run off and there is a mild chatter amongst my passengers who are amused that the foreigner is being ripped off by the street kid. "Wait. Just you wait" I say to the smirkers. The bus is being loaded, I look down the lane and don't see the boy. Then...just as we're about to pull away there he is, running as fast as his little feet can carry him, arm flailing in the wind. He rushes up to my window, big bright smile and hands me a waterbottle. I thank him, give him a small tip and look a little indignantly at my non-believing fellow passengers. I just knew he'd come back and he did.
Marie, the lady whose roof was caving in and who couldn't afford rent on her new residence and had asked us for money- has landed on her feet. She and her 10 month old son Jean-Paul have new dwellings and she has new employment. She looks really well. Something makes me wonder if we had given her the 7,000 francs, would she have solved the problem as well as she has? In any case, we have decided to have her over each Sunday afternoon. Last week, at our request, she brought Clementina with her. Clementina was sent to live with her grandparents awhile ago because her father was abusive to the family. We had a delightful visit- Clementina on her very best behaviour (nothing like a well-behaved 3 year old!) and Jean-Paul livening things up by touching/pulling/knocking over everything in sight- as only a ten month old can!
We are learning a lot more about our neighbours. Some of it good, some of it not. For instance, Fils (frowning boy) is an orphan. He lives in a small hut a few doors down from us, and he is 11 years old. It seems as though there isn't any family at all and the storeowner told us he has no parents. Surely SOMEONE is looking out for him?! Jean-Pierre (green sweater/basketball buddy) has no mother. He is often kept home from school to look after his father. Not sure if that's due to illness or drinking. And Serge (also known as Trouble #1 or Bandito) has no parents, just four older siblings, the eldest 14.
I think I knew there were hardships, I wasn't ignoring that. I just thought that these children, who play, laugh, offer hugs and are so charitable towards me, weren't suffering in that way. The most remarkable part of the story is that their neighbours and people completely unrelated to them, are looking out. While they may have very little food, one set of clothing and next to no material possessions- there is no shortage of love.
I think I'll end on that note.