Thursday, October 3, 2013

Good Morning Starshine, Rwanda Says Muraho

Hello everyone.  I would like to formally introduce you to chapatti, further proof that the rest of the world eats more reasonable things for breakfast than those in the US.  It is a thick tortilla-like thing, often eaten alongside fruit, for breakfast.  It has onions in it and is just delicious and pretty filling.  This is the chapatti I ate for breakfast this morning accompanied by a cup of Rwandan tea and a small banana.  The bananas here are fresh and delicious and very small.  They are sweet even when yellow and unfreckled.  This is different from the so-called “cooking banana” which is not so sweet but not as thick and starchy as a plantain and are also delicious when sautéed.

I’ll post more soon on the compound and some photos.

Muraho Means Hello

Some updates…

Jet lag in the heat of a late morning sleep is hard.  But, every day I sleep more and more reasonably.  My friend Damas picked me up from the airport on the night that I arrived.  It was very, very good to see him after so long and so personal a correspondence over skype for the past year and a half.  It was very good to hug this person that matters to me both personally and professionally.

Upon arrival, Dinah, a lady who works at the guest house, had made a delicious dinner of stewed vegetables (peas, squash of some variety, potoatoes, and green beans or something else that was squishy) in a spiced sauce served over rice.  This alongside Rwandan tea.  It was just what I needed to kickstart my poor digestive system.  After this I was introduced to the others that work here, Elie and Evode, the men of the house, though Agnes, the other woman who works here had already gone to sleep.  We spoke for a while in the living room and then went outside to the patio where all of the other guests were sitting.  There is Sofia from Russia, Heike and Martin from Germany/Austria, Katie from California, Archie from New York, and Kixsy the German Shepard.

Now, Kixsy is an older Shepard that was found the day before by Heike and Martin on the street after almost being hit by a car.  She is dirty and starving, anemic and anxious, and covered with ticks and fleas.  She also recently had puppies.  This kind couple have been bringing her back to health.  While I didn’t take a photo of her at the time, a day and a half later here is a photo of her.  She is gaining weight and looks a great deal better.  As it turns out, the person with the most experience with dogs is me and so I have quickly become caretaker number 3 after the other two because they go to work early in the morning.  This is especially important because Dinah and Agnes are afraid of dogs and during the last deluge common in the rainy seasons, Kixsy broke her collar and is now roaming free on the compound.

This is also especially important because the last three guests of the compound are three white rabbits.  They are let out of their cage in the morning and forage over the compound all day long.  So far, Kixsy has shown exactly zero interest in these rabbits, but as she comes back to health she may show more interest when someone turns their head, as she did with Sofia cheese sandwich last night…that was sad but it’s hard to be mad at a starving dog.

Heike and Martin are hoping to give Kixsy to a Rwandan family to be their guard dog but so far haven’t had much long and are increasingly attached to Kixsy anyway.  They are starting to consider what it would take to ship her back to Austria when they leave in a few months.

Anyway, do not be concerned for me everyone, I have instant friends of scholarly and Rwandan origins, I live on a compound with a nightwatchman, a big locking gate, even my room locks, and a vicious guard dog (yeah, right…maybe in two months she could be).  But, if you are still concerned, remember that you have a higher chance walking out of your door in Boston, Houston, New York City, Albany, and any other city and being murdered than I have of being murdered here.  Crime is very low.  This may have something to do with the fact that everywhere there aren’t RDF (Rwandan Defense Force or Rwandan army) members standing around with assault rifles there are police standing around with assault rifles.  The country is secure and safe!

My Big Fat Jewish Plane Ride

As the title should no doubt suggest, the plane ride(s) was an adventure.  I am writing this section from the Brussels airport where I am drinking a LARGE beer.  Si vous plait.  Qui!  I am drinking a large beer because, although it is 8:45 in the morning here, it is 2:45 in the morning for me. 
I didn’t get much sleep last night, I wanted to spend every second with Conor and I was nervous of course.  And so I got on the trains yesterday, and then got onto the first flight. 

Newark, as always, is an utter disaster to have anything to do with.  I had a glass of wine before the plane ride and another on the plane ride, both passing as some sort of chardonnay.  That got me over the almost constant turbulence on the flight here.  Which is strange because we were very high, above 35k feet, and the temperature outside was very cold, -60 degrees F.  I am told that these are both a recipe for a smooth cross Atlantic flight by my pilot husband.  But, at one point we actually had to go higher.  Nice pilots.

There was a moment of real fear at the beginning of the flight when the English speaking pilot said that we should enjoy our trip to Oslo, Norway.  Did I say fear?  I should have said elation (as many of you know, Oslo was a stop on our honeymoon).  Anyway, the other pilot who repeated the message kindly in French and, I believe, Dutch, definitely said Brussels.  Or, more accurately, Bruxelles. 

Anyway, on to the title.  I didn’t sleep on this trip but for about 10 minutes of bad dozing that could have slipped into a deeper sleep.  Instead, there was a VERY large group of orthodox Jews from, by language, everywhere in the world, on the flight.  They were all carrying kosher looking bags of food that had addresses locating their proprietors in the heart of Brooklyn.  Anyway, there is nothing about side-head curls that keeps me awake.  But, this large group would not watch movies or play games.  I suppose they are meant to avoid all this American nonsense.  Anyway, they went through their snacks and their newspapers quickly and passed them around and switched back and forth and…then…they got really bored.  They were not sleeping.  So they began to congregate in the aisles.  This was fine, I understand, truly, and have had the wiggly-worm feelings in my legs more often than I would like to remember, but, as they are standing in the aisles, this gives no room for all the other traffic in the aisles but to stick their bums in my face or push my pillow or dislodge the precariously placed elbow or knee or toe that keeps you from rolling about the place when you are trying to go to sleep sitting so close to a million other people.

About four hours into the flight the attendants started to get really angry.  They were still polite in their demeanor because, I think, they thought that the announcement that the captain then made that went something like, “I know there are many of you traveling together.  As there will be more than enough time for visiting in Brussels, I kindly ask you to get out of the aisles and return to your seats so that the flight attendants can move about easily and those attempting to sleep may do so….” would actually have an effect. 

And it did, the entire compartment began to clap!  In a way, I thought, just how rude.  On the other hand, I was happy to know that I was not the only person not sleeping because the place had turned into a very small but very crowded and uncomfortable meeting place for this extended family or group of friends.

Suffice it to say, I didn’t get any sleep.  I am VERY tired and feeling pretty haggard and weird.  I want a shower and a bed and I only have another two hours to wait until my next 8 hour flight to Kigali where I don’t know much of what to expect, except that somewhere near the end of the journey after I will have spent more than 24 hours traveling there will be a rather small bed with no woobie in it.

On the other hand, I hate my bed at home.  A couple of years ago I thought that the mattress was going because my back started to hurt.  The truth is, as I have since found out as the result of a new and very nice mattress, I am just getting older and I sleep much better on a harder surface.  I am hoping that the guest house I am staying at will not have splurged on a nice mattress and that I will sleep well in this bed.  I am looking forward to an open window and a mosquito net.  But these are just my imaginings.

I am not sure yet what time the sun sets in Rwanda because I do not have the internet to look these things up, but I hope that it will be setting or will have set by the time I get there so that my totally dry, sad, rough, sandpapery, (ok that’s enough descriptors) eyes won’t have to look into the hot sun when I arrive.  I think that will make me feel ill.

I have heard that people sometimes feel ill with jetlag or in different latitudes as a result of sun-encounters.  Anyway…I cannot believe I am about to be on a plane to Africa.  I just wish the trip was over.  I am too old for this kind of travel.

Note to self – always get a window seat.  The passenger next to me slept like a baby without having been so disrupted.

A couple of other notes… if I ever travel for more than 24 hours again I should bring a change of clothes.  And a shower for that matter, I stink.

Met a guy from Liberia who asked me business advice in the middle of Brussels Airport over my beer.

And for a good time, call security at Brussels Airport, because I really enjoyed the full body massage I was given.


P.S., just because I am in Rwanda doesn’t mean that I want my interface to be in French!