Tuesday, October 8, 2013


From Wikipedia….
Dinah: In the Hebrew Bible, Dinah (Hebrew: דִּינָה, Modern Dina Tiberian Dînā ; "Judged; vindicated") was the daughter of Jacob, one of the patriarchs of the Israelites, and Leah, his first wife. The episode of her abduction and violation by a Canaanite prince, and the subsequent vengeance of her brothers Simeon and Levi, commonly referred to as "The Rape of Dinah", is told in Genesis 34.
The entire wikipedia article on Dinah is interesting and calls to mind issues with historical reinterpretation, even if that initial reinterpration was done in the early BC, that doesn’t make it less…interpreted:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dinah
Today, after finding that I could not get my money from Western Union again and that I am running out, Dinah came back and made me lunch without saying anything to me.  She made the same as she normally makes, vegetables (carrots, squash, onions, something green, bell peppers) in a light tomato based sauce (from whole fresh tomatoes) and she put in the sautéed cooking bananas which I love so much.  In addition, she also put in a bunch of those hot peppers since she found out that I like them.  This is such an amazing meal:

With the peppers it was really spicy, not too spicy, just right.  Just enough after half a bowl to make your upper lip sweat and your skin feel cooler in the wind and your nose begin to run.  Plus, the flavor of these peppers!  Magnificent!  Even if most Rwandan food is a total carb bomb.  It's mostly vegetables.
She says that all Rwandans love the peppers but they liked to sauté the peppers with onion and garlic in oil and then put the oil into a bottle and put it on everything that is cooked after its done as a hot sauce.

Also, I asked Dinah recently if she would be willing to do my laundry as she does some of the other guests.  Yes of course she says.  I told her I would be concerned that the load was too big.  She said, “For you, it can’t be too big.”  I said, as I touched her hand (and if you know me well then you know I do not seek touch with other human beings unless I am drunk or they are all Conor), “But, I don’t want to take advantage!”  She told me then something amazing, “You cannot take advantage.  First, your clothes are not that dirty.  I have been doing for 8 years.  Also, you are a friend of Hollie’s.  I will take care of you.”
I know Hollie lightly (haha!).  Hollie Go Lightly, nudge nudge, get it?  Anyway, I know her.  Dinah and Agnes have both told me that Hollie is their BEST friend.  I want to know more about this relationship that gets me, because I know Hollie, this kind of treatment.
After lunch, I picked up my room so that Dinah could mop in there.  I was sitting on the couch waiting for her to finish.  She came and sat near me and began to talk.  She said that she just found out that her younger sister was up for a good job someplace in order to make some money while she studies very hard.  She is at university with Glenn’s help, Dinah says.  There was only one opportunity and it was actually offered to Dinah but she gave it to her sister.  As she said it, “Studying is a very good thing to do.  My sister will be happy.”  I asked her if she would study.  She said no, there is maybe no more opportunity.  Dinah is 29 years old.
She says that she would like to meet a nice boy and marry him and have two children, one boy and one girl.  But, she says, the hard part is that she can’t find a nice boy and that she is a good Christian.  I asked her if she goes to church.  She does.  I asked can she find a nice boy at church.  She says that just going to church and appearing to be good does not make a nice boy.  She says, in her own words, that most people are hypocrites.  I agreed with her.  I will ask her some other time what a “nice boy” is but I think that I know.  And I will ask her later what constitutes a non-nice boy, but I also think that I know.
After this, I asked her if she planned to sell electricity because it was something she mentioned the other day.  She said she thought this was a good job.  But, she said no, she thought that she would like to own a salon.  And then she got excited and asked if she could show me something.  I was to follow her to her room which I consider kind of a big deal.  It's unspoken, but the sense is that we do not go down to their building and that it is their private space.  You call from above the stairs and then they come if they are there or they yell back or they might not be there.
She invites me in and tells me to sit on her bed (the only sitting surface available).  She takes out the cleanest and newest gym like bag I have seen in Rwanda (nothing here looks really clean and new but this looks pristine as if it too were kept in plastic).  Inside this bag there are a series of plastic bags which she pulls out.  Inside each plastic bags are other carefully tied bags.  Inside the first big plastic bag is a WHOLE bunch of totally random beauty products.  The plastic bag says on the outside Dollar Tree which I know that they do not have here.  The labels on all of the products confirm that this was the bag that they came in.  She tells me that Glenn brought this bag to her before.  There are cheap but pretty and dazzling nail polishes of different colors.  There are thousands of emery boards and other nail things.  Some hair things. 
She shows me these things and asks me to pick a color of nail polish.  I pick a glittery red.  She says that she will paint my toenails (which is good because they look sad and neglected right now with peeling and chipped silver/lavender (maybe that’s called puce?) color on them).  She agrees that red is the best of all possible colors with glitter or without.
She tells me that these are the things for the salon.  She tells me that she wants to have money to have a family but also that she hopes that later on her sister and her brother who she has helped get into education and good jobs (given away everything of hers, she says) that she will help her later when she needs it.  I ask her if she takes care of her siblings.  She says, oh yes, she loves them.  She tells me that her mother is a couple of years older than mine and in a village somewhere to the west.  That her mother is ill with TB and coughs a lot and that she sends her mother money.  Here, you can send money using cell phones which LITERALLY every single person in the country has.
She next opens the other bag.  Inside this are lot's and lot's of small boxes of all kinds and a larger kit looking bag roll up thing.  Inside of each of these is a cheap piece of jewelry, of the type of quality that I buy currently just to wear something shiny but that doesn’t last very long when the coatings come off.  Especially because I routinely fiddle with any jewelry I am wearing when I am bored or nervous which is often.
She takes and very carefully shows me from each zipper pocket and baggy and box each precious item of this jewelry.  I ask her if she wears them to church.  She says, “NO! These are to sell at the salon later!  This thing would go for THIRTY THOUSAND FRANCS HERE!”  I ask her which is her favorite one anyway.  She picks the one I would have picked.  A gold plated long necklace with white plastic “gems” or balls hanging around it.  It's very shiny and glittery.  My husband would like it too.
She asks me about each item, do you know if this is gold?  Is this “silv” (silver)?  Is this a gem?  What kind of thing is this?  I tell her, this is gold only on the top, underneath it is something harder.  She asks about my wedding ring.  I assure her it is not gold or silver but something cheaper and harder that still looks nice and can take a real beating.  I tell her that this is nice cut crystals made to look like sapphires and diamonds.  I tell her that this is definitely real silver but this is just made to look like silver.  She asks me how much things would be in the USA.  It is hard for me to answer.  I explain the cultural origins of the silver Celtic cross she has and that it is part of the culture of my people, the Irish.  She says that now this cross is her favorite.  She shows me one of the charms with that looks like a women symbol for a bathroom with a crystal made to look like someone’s birth stone that were so popular as charms and pendants about 15 years ago.  I explain about birth stones and say that these are for when you have babies.  You get the stone for the month that your baby was born and you pick the boy or girl one and then you put on a bracelet or a necklace.
Among her glittering, most secret, most private, and most valuable treasure trove, Dinah shows me a fraternity pin and asks me what it is.  I try to explain it to her and try to explain how it is worn (it has a chain between a bigger pin and a smaller).  The bigger pin has the Greek letters phi eta kappa and a skull with gems for eyes on it, I remembered it and looked it up later.  It is actually from a fraternity of the University of Maine and, as I understand it, Glenn is from Boston and went to Harvard.  Strange this gold flotsam of the west ending up in the humble room of this sweetest of Rwandan women (umugore means woman).
What do you do when a friend shows you their most precious dreams and all of these things are dollar store items from the USA?  I do not judge her, but I do judge the West all the more harshly.
Side note:  I am having some ethical discomfort with sharing this information on this blog.  I want to share this and would share it each individually with all of you.  However, this is posted on line, my personal thoughts and Dinah’s words and deeds.  I feel as though I am exploiting her whether or not I want to.  Any thoughts or advice on this?
To sum up my feelings:  look forward to making dinner for Dinah this week.
Also, when I come back next year, I want to bring an entire spa kit (massage oil and special towels and lot’s and lot's of beautiful high fashion nail polish colors and lotions, etc.).  Dinah has a side business doing this small spa services for neighbors and friends and friends of friends and their cousin’s mom’s brother’s sister’s friend.  She has offered to me the whole kit-and-kaboodle, including massage, for 6$.  I will be taking her up on this offer when I have money.  Also, I think I will try to find her size and get her some sneakers.  I think she was admiring mine.
Also, I think I will give her a pony, my first born child, and my heart.
P.S.  Complete non sequitur, Heike and Martin are always eating.  They eat all day long.  They eat normal meals but they eat all before that and all after that.  Avocado, nuts, yogurt, Martin may drink a Primus or Mutzig (his favorite), they both drink chocolate milk every day, then a really big meal which is generally a rice and vegetable dish or beans or pasta, and then after bread, cheese, jam, Nutella, more nuts and avocado, and it just goes on.


  1. I think I also want to give her a pony. Keeping my firstborn child though. Your words don't feel exploitative to me, I think you write about Dinah with a great deal of respect.

    1. Thank you for that. It means a lot. Interesting, Dinah was the daughter of Leah.

    2. I saw that but didn't twig till just now. :)

  2. I think it's totally fine to write about your feelings about interactions you have with others. The only way we can know Dinah is through your writing, and so you must twig us about her. I love your writing!