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.

Bunnies, and Pizza, and Peppers Oh My!

Bunny update:  So, yesterday we couldn’t find the last bunny to put them away.  Then, suddenly, someone found them behind the house.  This is a place I didn’t take pictures of because I hadn’t been back there.  It’s not that interesting but its way back behind the angles of the house where the little ditches flow between the walls of the house and the wall of the compound.  We all ran behind the house to see the babies.  They are so small and grody (sort of gross and crawly – out of curiosity, would any of you spell grody differently?).  There are four for sure but maybe five.  This creates a significantly more urgent issue with Keksy who would not have to run to catch them.

Today, the night watchman and a friend of his or something built from scratch a new bunny cage to put the mother and babies in so that the other two males aren’t with the babies.  There are big arguments about whether to leave the mother in with the babies and then feed her a lot or to let her out and then stuff her back in at night.  Any advice from anyone who knows about rabbits?

Yesterday, for lunch, I ate this:


Half a pineapple which I shared with Nicole and a sambusa.  A sambusa is sort of like a samosa except that the outside is more crunchy and delicious and the inside is filled with meat!  Really good salty spicy meat!  They are even good cold, which is how they are normally served.  The pineapple cost 600 francs (divided by two because we shared it), so really 300 francs for half a pineapple and 200 francs for two sambusa.  Total 500 francs or less than one dollar for a very filling and very delicious and hydrating lunch.

Last night, I went OUT!  I was going completely stir crazy.  Maybe I will be able to start work this week.  A few more conversations and permissions to get until the answer is a definite yes.  Still waiting around.  So, I asked around and I was told by everyone who has been here for a while that the very first place I should go out to is a restaurant called Sol e Luna.  If you have forgotten you can, remember to check out the Rwanda map I shared in an earlier post as I am adding things all the time. 

Sol e Luna is an Italian restaurant where the only food you should order is pizza.  First, you go through the gate at the top of the hill.  Then you walk down a million stone steps in the dark.  Then you walk into the open air restaurant.  I know, I know, I forgot to bring a camera.  It’s because I am using the local phone and not my iphone.  I promise to always bring both phones from now on.  But, you should know, I cannot just be taking photos on the street for two important reasons:  first, there are always so many people on the street.  Taking a picture of a street market means taking 20 people’s photo as well.  They wouldn’t like it.  Second, if you hold an iphone up to take a photo out and away from your body the temptation, I have heard, is often enough to make someone just snatch it and run.  It's too much risk.

Anyway, Sol e Luna is absolutely beautiful.  It sits on the side of the hill with a view of the other side of Kigali, not the downtown area but the more residential area, and at night you can see a million energy saving lightbulbs twinkling.  They are a true white and not a yellow like American lights.  They are beautiful.  The country is lit up like Christmas every night.  The air was cool.

I sat down and ordered a large Primus.  I was sweating a lot from the walk and the stairs and general nerves of being alone and out at night (7pm) in Kigali.  The walk is about thirty minutes at a Rwandan, not a muzungu, pace and it’s all uphill so it makes you sweat (err, makes me sweat anyway, I have yet to see a Rwandan sweat.

The music playing in the background was light jazz guitar and the entire place was made of really high quality dark mahogany wood.  Very beautiful.  It looks very, very upscale.  The sort of place that I cannot afford in the USA right now.  They have a full bar with every alcohol you could want.  I enjoyed my beer and the ambience as I looked over the menu.  There are actually 89 different kinds of pizza.  I ordered number 055: Salami.  It had very thin slices of salami, goat cheese that wasn’t creamy but melty like mozzarella but with a stronger flavor, tomato sauce, but a paste like thin layer like in Rome, and fresh garlic and oil topped with black olives on top of a chargrilled thin crust.  It was heavenly!  It was about as good as the pizzas I had in Rome.  The Primus was 1,100 francs and the pizza was 4,900 francs.  So, running total was 6,000 francs which is about 9 dollars or so.  Across the way I saw three muzungu all speaking Italian.  I introduced myself.  The two men were from Italy and don’t speak English terribly well but do speak English.  One of them asked me if I was ok because I seemed red or nervous.  I said it was nerves because I am still so new.  He said, “No no, no nerves.  Rwandan customs takes them when you arrive!”  LOL.

The woman spoke English very well and it turns out that she was half Italian and half Australian.  She is older.  They have all been here for a long time.  They were welcoming.  The woman’s name was Alexandra.  They all agreed that this pizza was the best in the world outside of Italy.

So, why do all muzungu go to Sol e Luna apart from the ambience?  Because every Monday night is expat quiz night!  Arrive early, 7pm, to find a table and order early because the service will get really slow later.  Then, find your team and eat and drink.  Then answer a whole bunch of questions presented by some team while getting really tipsy.  Then, win or lose, meet new people and hear all the gossip in the expat scene which is small and gossipy.  Then go home early-ish (9-10pm).

Alexandra asked me if, if it turns out there was room on her team, if I would like to play with her?  Yes, I say.  The limit for team size is seven players.  If you want to read another hilarious description of this event, please go to the Living in Kigali blog here:

Before the quiz and after I had eaten my fill of delicious pizza, Alexandra advised me that I should have espresso if I was feeling sleepy because of jet lag still as happens to everyone here.  I was and so I ordered an espresso.  It was 1,500 francs.  So, running total now is 7,500 francs or 11-12 dollars.  The espresso was OUT OF THIS WORLD GREAT!  They agreed also, this is perhaps the best espresso in the world, including Italy!  I slurped it down with glee.

Feeling more awake and giddy, we removed to the bigger dining hall with the great overlook and found her friends at the table.  There were three Americans, one half Italian half Australian and two I have no idea.  I mean it, both in terms of ethnicity and language I have no idea what they said their names were and where they were from.  It was pretty cool actually.  They all felt really cool actually.  Cooler than me anyway.  They had traveled to so many places and had all been living in Rwanda for years.

So we played the game.  Questions consisted of the following as examples:

What is the capital of Togo?  Didn’t know this one and can’t remember the answer.

What kind of animal is a horny toad?  Lizard

What is a titmouse?  Bird

How many gold medals did Great Britain get in the last Olympics?  Didn’t know but the answer was 29

In what country were two teenagers recently sent to jail for kissing in a photo on facebook?  Didn’t know but the answer was Morocco.

Who published the new album “Letters from Exile” after being jailed for three months recently?  Didn’t know but the answer was Lauren Hill

What is the best country for old people?  Argentina

On the map of the London underground, which line is pink?  No idea at all.  Don’t remember the answer either.

How long was the hundred years war?  116 years

What creature is responsible for 41 deaths this years and thousands of others in the past in northern china?  Didn’t know but the answer was hornets.

Who was the author of the sci fi novel Life of Pi?  Some other teammate knew.

And lot's and lot's more like this.

Even though it seems like we didn’t know much, actually I just can’t remember most of the questions that we knew the answers to.  So, who won?  We were tied for first place!  Us, our team name was “Big Primus not Small” and some other team, I think it was called Muzungu Power and had the most Rwandans on it, ironically, had to get up for a tie breaker question.  Now here is the really funny part.  The thing is, you don’t actually want to win first place.  First place gets anything they ordered up to the end of the game for free.  But they have to run the quiz the next week and don’t get to participate.  Second place, on the other hand, gets any drink they ordered up to the end of the game for free.  The food isn’t free, but they don’t have to work for the next week and get to play again.

So, now you will understand that when our team was asked who accompanied Madonna to the 1991 Oscars that one of us shouted as quickly as possible, “Albert Einstein” and the other team ended up winning.  Thus, we very happy won second place.  So, by this time I have had one more large Primus and another small one.  But it doesn’t matter, because all I had to pay for was the pizza.  Large night out where I made 8 friends and a very swanky restaurant with the best libations and alimentations ever – 4,900 plus a ten percent tip which is customary only at nice places with good service.

At the end, Alexandra asked me for my phone number.  As it happens, this was the last quiz night for her.  She is leaving on Sunday for a holiday all over, safari here, spa time there.  She will be back at the beginning of December.  Why did we exchange numbers?  She would like, if I can, for me to join her at her house on Friday for her going away party and she would like to contact me again when she returns at the beginning of December.  Friend!  Also, another American, Nathan, exchanged numbers with me and said that he would maybe like to be on my team again.

After my description of this time, Heike and Martin and Archie and Nicole all say that they would like to join me next week.  But, that is already 5 people on the team.  I don’t know if we will be able to join forces with the other people I met.

The best part is that I was feeling so absolutely stir crazy from being in the house and waiting for permission to have a schedule that keeps me busy all day.  And this night made things much better, at least for a few days.

I walked home, which was downhill all the way in the cool night air.  I was feeling very satisfied.  I ate the rest of my pizza when I got back and talked to my husband.  All in all, it was a good day.

Today, we went to the market to try to find mangos and papayas which sounded good to Heike and Nicole and me.  Dinah escorted us.  It is near the place where I got my phone.  It turned out that the market didn’t have any papaya and the mangos were under ripe and everything else was more expensive than another market the Dinah knows and will bring us to tomorrow or something.  Nicole and I went in on a kilo of mangos anyway, it's three large mangos, which was, I think 1,500 francs or 2.25 dollars.  So, kind of pricey but they smell delicious already.  I bought one and she bought the other two. 

I also bought five small scary looking hot peppers.  This week I would like to make Spanish rice and beans to share with Dinah.  I think she has had all of the spices before but not in this specific combination and it is easy to do with what is available here.  The peppers are scary and look like slightly washed out habaneros but she says that they are no very, very hot.  She says they are medium hot.  We will see!  Below you can see what is in my personal cupboard in my room so far:

The five peppers, two unripe avocados, one unripe mango, a large thing of salt, some bananas, and grand nuts and my extra water bottle.  It isn’t full and in a refrigerator right now because the water is off.


In other news, my money was supposed to come in today and so I went to a Western Union outlet.  They said they had no connection.  I went to another, they went through an entire process and then told me that there was no progress.  I have no idea what this meant.  The language barrier was really hard and the man spoke so softly I was almost leaning over the counter into his face to ask him.  And this seemed especially rude because it is REALLY hot today.  When you are walking it's no problem because the wind is blowing on you.  But the second you walk out of the wind, the sweat just POURS off.  So I am pouring sweat almost on this quiet man.  Anyway, he said to try again tomorrow.  Another day without much money left.  Still should be OK for another two to three days.

Last thing, a random thought:  most of the advertisements here do not have people in them, just words.  But the ones that have people in them are all tan colored, very light even if not muzungu.  But the very vast majority of the people I see on the street are very dark skinned.  History of colonialism and the end result of putting the West up on a pedestal make me ill.  What makes me more ill is the logical deduction of this.  If they think more highly of people who do not look like them, then they think less highly of themselves.  Don’t think so?  Don’t know much about Brown vs. Board of Education? Then please, by all means, watch this and watch the WHOLE THING: