Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Dysentery Be Gone

OMG I am so excited.  After four weeks of waiting today was my first real day of work.  I found a buffet to eat at nearby, for 2,500 francs you get the whole buffet, but it is only one plate.  A fact I have been warned about repeatedly here.  So, it was a bit more expensive.  Tomorrow I will bring my lunch and hope the lousy Tupperware I found wont spill all over my backpack.  Also, I have a sunburn because I got off at the wrong stop and it was all very difficult.  I am now having beers about it.

I am going to have to buy more equipment in order to make this work in the time allotted.  It has really hurt me to be waiting for over four weeks, but, I suppose I know a GREAT deal more about Rwandan culture as a result.

Additionally, I no longer have dysentery.  Also, I am sure, because I took the medicine to deal with it and it worked, that I actually had dysentery.

Other stuff:  a friend of mine, a Rwandan, recently told me a story explain why she loves muzungu.  She calls it the tea bag analogy.  First, she recounted the story of how her mother was very sick for a long time.  Everyone thought she had HIV and this made my friend really, really sad.  She saved money and then took her mother to a doctor in her province.  This Rwandan doctors, she says, did a few tests and couldn’t figure it out and then said that her mother must have HIV and she should try to get the medicines for it if she could ever afford it.  This sent my friend into a depression.  After a while, as she was so sad and pondering the state of things, she decided that because her mother showed none of the signs of the other people she knew with HIV that she must seek another answer.  She remembered this analogy…wait for the rest of the personal story before I tell you the punch line…jeez.

So, she decided to borrow, beg, and, no not steal, she is a good person, for the money and took her mother on a bus to the big hospital in another region where all of the muzungu doctors are.  Once there, she told the doctors that she didn’t have much money but she would be willing to pay anything for the answer.  So, the muzungu doctors began testing.  Then my friend ran out of money.

Seriously.  Don’t we know how that feels.

The muzungu doctors decided to keep testing anyway because the problem had become a personal challenge.  After a few days, they found that her mother had some atypical symptoms for the relatively common and dreaded but totally treatable TB.  6 years later, my friend’s mom is doing very well and grows her own beans, etc. (but see below for more on beans).

Ok, now for the punchline:  the tea bag analogy for muzungu.  My friend told me why she knew that muzungu would help her.  She said it was because of tea bags.  The tea bags in Rwanda are stronger than the ones I have used in the USA.  If you pour boiling water on it, you should really have a large cup.  But even if you don’t, you can just keep using the bag.  You can get one REALLY strong cup, one relatively weak cup, and one pretty weak cup from the same tea bag.  My friend says that she knows this too because the only people in Rwanda that do this with tea bags are muzungu.  Rwandese (I recently found that the people (abantu is the word, remind you of Ubuntu?  It should) themselves prefer this term over Rwandan and I will now make an effort to use it).  Anyway, Rwandese throw the bag away after the first use.  My friend says this is because of the peculiar character of those from the West.  Though there are some real disadvantages in our attitudes, she remarks, she tells me that it is only muzungu who keep trying on principle, regardless of money.  My friend tells me that she respects this quality above all, even though it's weird and muzungu seem to drink more and have more problems, she says, than Rwandese, but for this reason, she has for 6 years and will now always love muzungu, because these tea bag milking freaks saved her mother.

I love this so much.  I have already remarked upon the common belief that Rwandese are “naturally” obedient people.  And, believe me, I will have more to say about it in the future.  But, this begs many important sociological questions as the peacecorp worker I live with recently pointed out:

Peacecorp friend’s point of view – the buses in Kigali are REALLY irrational.  They have X amount of seats.  Nonetheless, they will seat ZZZZZZZ amount of people.  This is irrational because the buses are really cheap.  If they didn’t all crowd onto the bus, unsafely I might add, because I would add that, then there would be more demand for buses and more people would be employed, less people would get hurt, etc.

But, the truth is, that Rwandese have been “making do” for the unforeseeable future since the unforeseeable past.  I sympathize with them.  But as a person who was already using my tea bags at least twice before I was told either of these stories, culture shock is a bitch.

Other updates:  Nicole left yesterday.  I miss her already.  She was a kindred spirit both academically and in our hearts, I believe.  I really hope that she enjoys her Halloween (which Rwandese have never heard of and think is crazy except when I told them the origin that it was to get evil spirits away, and then it made sense to them but they would still never do it).

On beans, as I mentioned before.  This is the hottest and nonrainiest rainy season anyone here can remember.  Apart from the drought, yesterday there was a storm that was strong enough that it reminded me, and prompted me to tell nostalgically, of many Texas hitting hurricanes.  Hey BNL, remember those exploding transforming and that awning that seemed to want to fly away?  Remember what got us the vantage point?  What a weird thing to do.  I would do it again.

Anyway, almost everyone is talking here about global warming.  It really seems that more Rwandese believe in it than Americans.  This is funny.  When people say that everything in Africa is different, that everything is backwards, it's in ways that you don’t think of.  Like believing in science, for heaven’s sake.  I have much more to say about believing in science, but I think that is for another post.

On this point of believing things and backwardness though, I was recently told that Rwandese, especially educated Rwandese, believe that the Illuminati are controlling the world.  When I asked the peacecorp worker about this, because she has been here for three years, she starting laughing hysterically and told me that there are a few people I should, first, buy a beer for and, second, should ask about the illuminati to.  I intend to do so.  Anyway, the Rwandese believe in the illuminati.  If I manage to take her advice I promise not to forget to tell you.

Another random tidbit:  when a Rwandese friend of mine and I went to the local store recently, I got a bottle of water.  She carried it for me.  I took it from here and said, it's ok I think I can handle this water.  I’m not so weak.  The local women hanging out in the store said a bunch of things to my friend on the way out.    After we were out of the store, my friend told me that they were telling her she was crazy for not carrying the big bottle for me.  Here it is REALLY taboo not to carry things for people older than you.  Get that?  OLDER.  I am exactly 3 years older than my friend and feel, based on our life circumstance, both 10 years younger and 20 years older than her.  But seriously, do I really look that much older?

My friend told me that Rwandese can't tell how older muzungu are.  It's because we are white.  I laughed and told her many important scientists have argued this problem in the USA, that, first, we cannot tell other races apart and second, that we cannot tell how old they are.  She assured me that in a line up a Rwandese would know it was me and not someone else (I think that is because I am the ONLY muzungu that lives in this area apart from my constantly moving housemates) except that they just cannot tell how old I am.  This raises an interesting point:

People in the USA think I am blond now.  I feel defensive about this.  My hair is grey (my husband would chime in here and say SILVER!) but it was different shades of auburn beforehand and I was teased as a child for being a ginger.  Thus, I am defensive about being blond.  But, here in Rwanda, everyone KNOWS that I am silver haired.  Some think it is really, really “smart”, as in cool or pretty.  But others think it must mean that I am a good deal older than I am.

This mixes together with the competing views of my weight, though that will have to wait for another post.  I think I am going to wrap up here now.  If most of my days go like today, I will be tired and not working in the evenings which should give me more time to blog if I feel like it.  Additionally, if after I grade this evening, I feel like it then I may blog more.

Hey you guys, remember that time I was stuck in Rwanda for four weeks with dysentery?  Yeah.  That happened.  I think I am cooler now, in a world citizen sort of way.


  1. Dysentery definitely makes you cooler :)

  2. I would take the compliment so much better if I knew who you are...tell me?

  3. Hey Lacy, Sorry so long in getting to your blog and saying Hi. Sorry you suffered so long with dys, but seems to come with the territory. No hurricane in Texas right now, but it is going to pour today with heavy winds - and spoil trick or treating tonight. XX Anne

  4. That was maybe one of the dumber things (not the dumbest though) we've done, laying in the back of a truck watching the hurricane blow. But I would also totally do it again.