Last Monday was International Women’s Day, a holiday that goes largely unnoticed in the States, but that Rwandans apparently celebrate. In the morning we were invited to the soccer stadium for a women’s day presentation. We got there sometime around 9, which of course was hours too early. There was a (high school?) group there that sang and danced the entire time while we waited to start. Eventually they pulled all of us down onto the field to dance with them- it was a riot! None of us knew the songs or the dances, but we danced along just the same. One of the things they do is sing a song and form a chain bridge where you clap hands with the person across from you while other people run under. Between their group and ours it took a while to run through the whole thing. I’m sure we looked hilarious, but everyone had a good time with it.
When the presentations finally started there were a number of Rwandan dance groups. No one has actually explained the dance to me here, but before I left one of the fellows told me that in Rwanda they do cow dances where you are supposed to dance like a cow. Having never seen that before, I imagined sometime like lumbering around like a slow cow, which turns out to not be even remotely correct. Your arms are supposed to be the horns but they move them more like a slow hula dance. I have no idea what’s going on with the feet, but both the men and women wear bells around their ankles that jingle while they dance. The men jump around much more while they dance, but it looks much more graceful than how I’m describing it. I’m not sure yet, but it seems like the men and women always dance separately, and least while doing traditional dance.
There were also a number of presenters that talked about women in Rwanda, but it was all in Kinyarwanda so none of us had any idea what was going on. It was later explained that one of the women who was presenting was an elected leader of her umudugudu (neighborhood) explaining her experiences as one of the first women in politics. She told us that when she was first elected, her husband didn’t want her to have that position of power, so he would beat her and her children, especially on International Women’s Day, so she couldn’t participate in community activities. Eventually she took the children and left him, which is very uncommon in Rwanda, but she struggled to support her children. Later she got help so she could divorce her husband so she could get assistance from the government in raising her children. She talked to the girls watching about how women can work hard and be equal with men, and how they have the same power that men do. Even hearing the story secondhand was inspiring, and I was glad to have been there.
That night Amy, Arielle, Trude and I did another International Women’s Day presentation/celebration for our group, which was nearly a disaster to put together. Arielle and I went at lunch to get some statistics of women around the world, but the internet was barely functional and it took our whole lunch period to find something passable. I ended up finding an editorial on International Women’s Day in Rwanda and pulled statistics from DHS. I was still nervous that the event would be a flop, but it turned out to be great. I read the editorial, Trude and Amy read stats and Arielle facilitated a short discussion of women around the world. Then we got the LCFs (language and cultural facilitators- kind of our counselors at camp peace corps) to do some Rwandan dancing with us. Mup, the trainee coordinator, had arranged for there to be beer and drinks for everyone, which was a good thing. We danced together until curfew (yes I have a curfew, and it’s 10 pm). The dancing was hilarious, especially Felicien who can dance like I’ve never seen anyone dance. He moves his legs slowly with no discernable rhythm, and definitely not with the music, but then his whole top half does a completely different dance, kind of like a slow matrix looking thing but one that’s in no way coordinated with the legs. Amy seems to have mastered the Felicien dance, which was great.
I woke up early Tuesday morning with some wicked bowel action and made no less than 8 trips back to the squatty potty throughout the morning. I meant skip breakfast and be just a bit late to class (hoping that I would be able to control myself by then), but then when I was leaving found out that my gate key doesn’t work and I was locked in our house. I tried to decide if I should jump the fence to the side (the front wall is much too high) but was worried I would end up being locked into the neighbor’s yard, which would be even worse. I ended up deciding to text Amy and Sally, hoping that one of them could come get me during their break. This of course, took up the rest of my phone minutes, so if they didn’t get the message I would have no way to get a hold of anyone and would need to sit there until someone came home. Fortunately Sally answered the phone and said she would come get me. While I was hanging out, Mup came over to check on me and bring me some hot water for tea and bread, honey and peanut butter (oh Mupy Mup is so good to us!). He told me that I should just stay at home and drink tea and had me call Andrea (our medical officer) who told me I would be fine and just stay hydrated.
I had mostly recovered by that afternoon and went back to class- although apparently I missed the attractive CDC doctor explaining HIV in the Rwandan context, which probably would have been useful. I also missed session one of family relationships explanation. Talk about complicated. Your aunts and uncles are called different things on each side but the sister of your mother is your mother and the brother of your father is your father. So their kids are not your cousins, but your siblings. Your older sister is your mukuru, your younger sister is your marumuna and your brother is your masaza, but only if you’re a girl. If you’re a boy, then your sister is your mushiki and your older brother is your mukuru and your younger brother is your masaza. The children of one of your siblings of the same gender (brother if you’re a boy or sister if you’re a girl) are your children and the words for “niece” and “nephew” only refer to whether the children belong to your sister or your brother, not their gender. And just to make things a little more complicated, most of these name change if you’re not talking about your own family, but someone else’s family. It took me most of the rest of the week to figure that one out.
Saturday morning we had our first language “test”. We went around to three stations where we 1) bargained for objects found in the market 2) identified common objects and 3) introduced ourselves and our family. It went pretty well and I think everyone generally did fine. But you don’t get a grade here, so it was more of a chance for you and your teachers to see how you’re doing. Later that morning we went to Butare to one of the historical museums, which was interesting, and then into town for lunch. We asked our LCF Gilbert where we should go eat that would have good food and be cheap; he suggested a place that had a Rwandan buffet, but it’s the same food that we eat every day, so we opted for Chinese food. It was mostly a disaster. It usually takes a long time for us to get food, but there weren’t many people in the restaurant and the LCFs explained that we only had an hour. So we waited, and waited, and waited. We had to meet back up with the group at 1, so at 12:30 we started asking where our food was. At 12:45 they brought out the bill for the food we hadn’t received yet, but it was much higher and for different food that we had ordered. We brought this up to the waitress who said oh, I’ll go get your food started then. Well crap. We had no time, so we said no, don’t bring any food, we’ll pay for the one plate that was brought out (which was the wrong thing) and the plate of french fries we got. Me, Sonya and Amy all shared the plate of fried noodles with veggies and beef and Gilbert gave us some of his french fries. When we were finally leaving, they brought out all the food for the other table, which had been there even longer than us. We ended up leaving, and they mowed down whatever food they could eat in 10 minutes and caught up later. What a mess.
That afternoon we went to the genocide memorial, which was extremely difficult to see and will need to be saved for another post.
Saturday night we went to one of the local restaurants for dinner where I ordered umureti and chapatti, which is kind of like French toast made with chapatti. Only by the time they got to my order, they had run out of chapatti, so I just got eggs. Basically, my eating yesterday was a huge fail, but at least I didn’t spend very much money.
This morning I went for another run with Amy and this time instead of going around the lake we kept going up the huge hill. The hill was crazy steep and it was hard to even walk up, but the scenery was gorgeous. There was one point where you can see the whole valley below you, and can see all the way back into town. It’s hard to judge distances, especially when you’re just walking up, but we had gone out at least a few miles so you could see really far. It was glorious! I’ll need to go back sometime and take pictures so you can see.
I suppose that’s it for now, I hope everyone is doing well and I love you all!!