18 08 2008

It’s been about a week since I’ve posted, due to the fact that this last week has been a whirlwind blur.  As a result, I think I am going to put the blog on hold, for a couple reasons.

1) Everyday this past week was so eventful, that each day would become my longest post yet, and it will take me hours and hours to catch up at this point.  I feel overwhelmed thinking about trying to tackle this last week in type.

2) I am also into my final stretch of being in Rwanda.  I only have 4 weeks left and I have a lot to do.  I don’t think I have the time to spend writing out my days when I have so much work.

That being said, if I do have free time I will do my best to get caught up and keep posting, but I’m afraid the blog is no longer a high priority.  In the mean time, just assume that I am alive, happy, healthy, working hard, still inspired and having fun.  I’ll let you know otherwise.


The Kazo Kids

11 08 2008

This morning Lama and I got up at 7 am to go for a run.  Exercise felt so good the other day that we agreed to start running in Kibungo.  I didn’t bring a pair of shorts either, so I had to borrow Kara’s ridiculously short shorts to run in, thus displaying my glow in the dark legs for everyone to see.  And it really was everyone, because it was Sunday and everybody was on their way to church and the streets were packed.  To avoid the crowds, we eventually ducked into a basketball court and just ran suicides.  Our goal is to run to the court and then add one suicide every day.  We’ll see if we can keep that up.

Once we got home we showered and had breakfast.  I would describe what we did after that “putzing”.  It wasn’t quite working hard but it wasn’t doing nothing either.  It was just not as intense as the rest of the week.  It’s nice to take a break once in a while.

At around 11 am we were surprised by an early visit by the students from Kazo, including Agnes, the 5th student we hadn’t met yet.  We were expecting them in the afternoon sometime but it wasn’t really a big deal.  The five of them had walked all the way from Kazo, and even though it is only a 15-20 minute drive, it’s about an hour and a half walk!  So we bought them cokes and Fantas and we all sat out on the patio and talked.  Using Lama as a conduit, we took turns asking each other questions.  Soon it was time for lunch and Alice had prepared enough for everybody.  At the table, one of the questions we asked the kids is what is their favorite kinyarwandan word, since we know ours to be umudugutu.  They said there were too many to choose from, it was hard.  So we asked what is your favorite English word then?  They responded that Together, Everyone, and Love were their favorite words.  I think those are excellent words too.

After lunch we showed them lots of different things: photos on our computers, stuff we’d brought from Emily Carr, Kara’s designs, a video I have made, and then engaged them in discussion about it all after.  They’re sharp kids, they laugh a lot and it is obvious they are extremely close to each other.  None of them have parents due to the genocide, and Maurice, who is only 17 lives on his own.  Lama asked him what he cooked for himself and what he liked to eat and it cast a silence over the table.  Food isn’t polite to talk about really and they were embarrassed by the question.  Eventually Lama coaxed it out of him but it was really painful for them to talk about food and eating, because it’s quite a private, unpopular thing here, and there are many good reasons why.  It is just bizarre to me, coming from a culture that loves food and eating, and to me is more than just an element of survival.

Lama wanted to talk with the kids alone, and Kara and I were dozing and in need of a siesta anyway, so we retreated to our rooms.  Lama walked them to a means of transportation and payed for them to get back to Kazo so they wouldn’t have to walk.  I fell asleep immediately in my room and slept right until dinner time.  After dinner my parents called and I was lucky enough to talk to them for about an hour.  From there I just worked alone in my room and everyone eventually went to bed.  I wanted to take some kind of break, and in my serious lack of movie selection, watched The Jane Austin Book Club.  Meh.  Then I went to sleep.

Hungover in Akagera

10 08 2008

Man.  I woke up from my two hour nap feeling awful.  AWFUL.  What was I thinking last night?  I HATE drinking.  I don’t know what was making me feel worse, my ridiculous amount of alcohol mixing or my disappointment in myself.  We were supposed to go to Akagera today, see Freddy for the first time in weeks, and now I was feeling like total garbage, and it was totally self-induced.  I still managed to get up, get showered and get ready.  I dragged my poisoned body out to the car using as little energy as possible and then tried not to move.  We picked up snacks at a gas station but all I wanted was water.  We picked up Joseph too and it was another person I felt like I was letting down since I was feeling too sick to even talk or socialize.

The drive for me was sitting as still as I could, eyes closed, concentrating on not throwing up and trying to just deal with the sickness mentally.  It was working alright.  I didn’t watch the countryside that I so love because I just didn’t think I could handle it.  We arrived in Kibungo and Alice wasn’t at the house so we had to wait outside for her to come and unlock it.  I sat on a ledge quivering.  I took advantage of the waiting to go puke in a bush.  When Alice finally arrived, I started grabbing all my gear so that we could shoot video and photos.  Kara and Lama wanted to know if I just wanted to stay home.  I said I did, but I was going to feel like garbage no matter where I was, I wasn’t going to miss out on the park.  I did this to myself, so I would just have to deal with it.

We made it to Akagera around noon and pulled up to the lodge.  As soon as we stopped the car I went straight to the bathroom to throw up some more.  Since we hadn’t eaten, everyone wanted to grab lunch.  I absolutely did not want to eat, so I thought my time would be better spent sleeping in the car.  I mean I could have sat at the table, resting my head and being miserable, but I didn’t think that was as polite.  The car was sweltering hot in the sun but I fell right asleep regardless.

I woke up two hours later drenched in sweat.  I was soaked.  And parched.  And I was feeling surprisingly better.  I could walk without feeling like I was going to collapse, and although my head was still pounding, I had gone from feeling awful to just below tolerable.  I went inside to meet the others and they were just finishing their dessert.  I sat with them until they were done.  At this point though, we had to decide if it was still worth going into the park.  It was late in the afternoon since every step of the way took longer than we anticipated from getting ready, stopping in Kibungo, grabbing lunch etc.  We went to see if we could just do an hour tour of the park but we had no luck.  We’d have to pay full price and it was already getting dark.  There were no assurances we’d even see anything, and we didn’t have much time.   We all agreed it would be better off  to come back another day, very early in the morning and get a full experience out of it.  I felt bad that Freddy and Joseph had given their Saturday to do this and in the end we decided not to.  I felt worse that all we could offer them in return was our company, and mine had been worthless all day, if not a burden.

So Freddy and Joseph dropped us off in Kibungo and we said goodbye.  Alice had dinner ready and I did finally feel capable of eating and keeping something down, despite still feeling weak.  I did eat, I did keep it down, and I did go straight to bed at about 6 pm.  This was without question the worst day in Rwanda, and it was all my fault.


9 08 2008

What didn’t we do today!  Started with a morning work out at Serena.  Lama and I went to the weight room and Kara swam, and I ran for 30 minutes.  I took two short, fast-walking breathers in between, but ran for 25 minutes solid.  Not bad for no exercise in years, unless you count those 3 minutes I wheezed chasing little kids on a soccer field.  So that felt really good, and we worked up quite the appetite in the process.

We went to Bourbon for breakfast and we had a meeting there with James from Rwanda Relocation Services, and they help get ex-pats set up and accustomed to life in Rwanda.  When we were getting well past the start time of the meeting, Kara called to find out what had happened, and James was at Bourbon at MTN center, not UTC, on the other side of town.  At this point, neither he nor we had the time to still meet up, but we arranged for him to email us some information.

We left there to go to Sky Hotel, because we were taking Elizabeth and the others to Gashora to meet with the women and see COVAGA for themselves.  Lama called Jobb too since he was back from a trip to Uganda.  So after eating lunch at Sky and everyone getting together later than we planned, we were ready to go.  There was Gerald, the owner of Sky and relative of Elizabeth’s, who was driving us in his van. There was Gerald’s two daughters.  There was Louis, an old friend of Lama’s from Vancouver.  Elizabeth.  Paul.  Sylvie, Paul’s mother.  Lama.  Kara.  Jobb.  Myself.  The van was interesting.  There were three seats in the front.  Two seats behind it.  Then a pile of cushions everywhere else and a mattress for a back rest.  So 6 of us were just sitting on the floor for the ride to Gashora.  It was making me motion sick not to see the road, but it was certainly comfortable.

This time at Gashora must have been the biggest muzungu swarming ever, but it was also because it was the biggest muzungu show ever.  When we stopped the van and threw open the back door, 5 of us piled out.  A van full of muzungus has probably never driven up to Gashora like that.  I hadn’t brought my video camera this trip to Kigali, because we weren’t planning on going to Gashora at all and there was going to be nothing to film.  It worked out fine, because a) there wasn’t much to film this time anyway, and b) it was really nice to just be a photographer only, not videographer.  I haven’t had as much opportunity as I’d like to take photographs.  We weren’t there too long, but it was nice to see the women again and I had a good time.

On the drive back I was again getting car sick and wondering if I was going to throw up or not, and will I have to ask to pull over, and how will I get over all these bodies quickly and get out the door, essentially just my usual everyday vomit fears.  But my questions were answered when Liz beat me to the punch and got sick herself.  She did throw up, she did ask to pull over, but didn’t make it over bodies and out the door quick enough, and ended up throwing up all over Sylvie, one of the daughter’s s, and the van.  Everyone, Liz and Sylvie included, took it like a champ.  I took this opportunity to move into a position where I could see the road to help combat the motion sickness.  And really, if it hadn’t been Elizabeth, in five minutes it would have been me.  Thankfully I made it back to town feeling alright.

We pulled over and stopped on the outskirts of Kigali where Gerald wanted to show us land he’d bought to build another Sky hotel.  It was also right near another friend’s bar and restaurant, Buckingham Palace, so we went there to sit.  Nobody knew what the plan was, but we ordered sodas in the meantime.  Then sodas became beers, and beers became snacks and brochettes.  And it was dark now.  Our table kept growing too, and more and more friends of the people at the table we didn’t know kept showing up, so there were a lot of strangers.

At one point in the night, Kara and I were given Kinyarwandan names.  Kara’s name is Mutoni, meaning Cherished or Preferred.  Everyone agrees it is perfect for her.  I was sitting in silence, contemplating and reflecting for most of the time at the table, and it is something I do often here.  I’m not very solitary in Canada, but I get stuck in my head a lot here and lost in my thoughts.  So my name became Amahoro, meaning Peace.  I can certainly dig that.

We had been in touch with Taylor over the course of the day, and he invited us over for dinner at his place.  Lama had other plans and was going to go a different way, and Jobb agreed to come with us.  So the three of us left Buckingham Palace and Taylor said he was in a meeting and would call us when he was free, so we hung out in the bar at Dream Inn.  For no reason whatsoever, we thought it would be a good idea at 8:08:08 on 08/08/08 to do a shot of whiskey in celebration.  It sounded like fun, and even though I don’t like whiskey or shots, I agreed.  The three of us hung out and talked until we heard from Taylor and we moto’d to his place.

At Taylor’s, we met a new person who’s come to help work with him.  Her name is Chrissy, and she’s here for at least two months on sabbatical, and she is a fashion designer in New York.  Taylor had bought some wine/beer, but it was warm so while it was chilling we decided to go get a drink in the meantime.  And in this instance, a drink meant home made banana alcohol.  So we walked to the local brewery that Taylor knows in his neighborhood and sat in this dark room with one tiny candle and ordered some banana brew.  It took a while to come for some unknown reason, but we all had fun talking in the dark.  When the “beer” finally came, it was…. awful I guess.  We all got poured one cup and it tasted like hickory smoked pistachios in liquid form.  Or at least mine did.  I made a joke that we all got different flavors, despite all our drinks coming from the same bottle.  But we tried each others.  And they all did taste different.  Mine might have been the worst too.  It’s funny that there wasn’t even uniform flavor within the same bottle.  It was gross tasting, but I was loving the experience and had a really good time.

We went back to Taylor’s house, and the 5 of us ate the most delicious pizza I might have ever had that Taylor’s new cook had prepared.  We also drank the now chilled wine and beer.  After dinner we discussed the possibility of going out dancing, but in the mean time started a dance party of our own.  Chrissy had brought her iPhone and dock speakers, so she DJ’d us some good dance tunes.  Taylor brought out a light kit with gels and lit the room orange too.  We were also joined by the presence of Audra and Willy, making our crew bigger and more fun.

From Taylor’s house, we all walked up the street to catch motos or taxis.  Eventually we took two cabs to Planet Club, one of the popular clubs I’ve yet to see.  I’d say it is my favorite in town.  It was the best combination of size, amount of people, music and level of hotness to the dancing.  Plus there was room to sit and talk.  I mostly danced all night, although I did take a break to argue politics with some random young british guy who supports Bush and wants McCain to win, and he also bought me shots that I repeatedly refused to take that he would not let me get away with and eventually I took them.  People kind of left one by one throughout the night, and by the end it was just Jobb and I dancing.  When I looked at my watch and saw that it was 5 am, I could not believe how long ago I should have been in bed.  I had to get up and be ready by 8 to go to Akagera park.  And despite my best efforts, I was actually drunk.  So I took an overpriced moto back to the hotel and promptly went to sleep.


8 08 2008

Meetings.  All we did.  All day.  All night.

First it was breakfast at Bourbon before we met with Patricia, the former and first minister of Environment in Rwanda, who was responsible for Rwanda’s groundbreaking ban of plastic bags.  We talked with her for almost two hours and it was a really beneficial and productive meeting.  She would bring up ideas that were exactly what we’ve already been talking about, and we were clearly on the exact same page.  She gave us contacts of a lot of people who will be really valuable for us to connect with.  It feels like she just gave us several really valuable, important pieces in this puzzle we’re working on here.

We had a break of about an hour before Tom and Emily met with us at Bourbon too.  Again, it was really productive.  We went over all the details and next steps to make sure this show of ours works come September.  We got down to business and it was quick and to the point.  I was also happy to see them.  We all had lunch together too.

We stayed on at Bourbon after they took off for another hour or two.  We finally left before dinner time and went back to Dream Inn where we met with Andreas, a friend of Lama’s who works for an architecture school.  He was pretty sweet too.  Once we were done having a drink with him, Kara and I went back to our room to hang out, work and listen to CNN.  We had texted Taylor too and were waiting to see if he wanted to go out to eat.  It turned out he had fallen asleep, and so we planned to hang out tomorrow instead.  It was pretty late at this point and we were already very hungry.  Kara and I ordered food from the restaurant downstairs.  It took forever.  Kara was asleep by the time it arrived.  It was so expensive and so bad.   We went straight to sleep after eating just to satisfy the biological need.


7 08 2008

We’re getting  accustomed to these once a week minimum trips to Kigali.  And why not?  Everything is easier in Kigali.  The food is better, things work, the never ending hurdles just don’t seem to be there.  So today we were on our way back to the big city.  We just hung around the house and worked until we took the 12 o clock bus out of town.

We went to Dream Inn, our new hotel of choice, and they didn’t have two available rooms.  But they did have one person sleeping in a room with two beds, and the receptionist was confident that she could move them to the one available single room, and then we could share the two-bed room together.  Sounded good.  We left our stuff and went to get something to eat.  I left my money at the hotel, so since Kara was buying she also got to pick and Bourbon it was.  I protested, but since I wasn’t paying, I had no say.  I wanted to check out something new.  Next time.

While we were at Bourbon, we got a call from Liz inviting us over for drinks.  She is the Rwandan board member of BBR who married a Canadian guy two weeks ago (well at least it was the Rwandan ceremony) that we attended.  From Bourbon we called our man Cassim, he took us to the hotel to actually check in, and then drove us to where Paul and Elizabeth are staying.  They were staying at the beautiful house where the wedding took place.  At first it was just Paul, Liz, Paul’s mother, and the three of us.  But slowly throughout the night, more and more friends and relatives kept arriving.  There was a TON of alcohol, and quite a few people by the end of it.  Two of the guys who showed up were Rwandan musicians/singers who both performed at the wedding, and were really good.  It was sweet to chat with them.

My absolute favorite part of the night came in the form of a hilarious misunderstanding.  Paul’s mother, a sweet older lady, somehow mistakenly came to believe that Lama and Kara were married.  And she asked Kara a question and non-chalantly dropped the word husband in, in reference to Lama.  Kara wasn’t phased, and I think neither of us were not sure if that is what we just heard, but I almost burst out laughing.  I bit my knuckles instead.  The reason it was so funny was because it was out of nowhere.  She totally made that up for herself, no one was insinuating that they were a couple, so I was just surprised.  Kara answered the question diplomatically, not agreeing or disagreeing with the comment.  Later in the night though, Paul’s mom came over, kneeled down and placed her hand on Kara and said, “So tell me, how did you fall in love with Lama?”  This time we both laughed out loud, and Kara explained that she was not in love Lama.  Lama was her boss.  Man it was funny.

It was getting later in the evening and we needed to get going, because one of the reason’s we came Wednesday was so Lama could have an extra day to spend with his mother.  It was almost 9 o clock.  But Liz insisted we eat something before we leave, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.  She also insisted that my glass of Amarula stay full.  I tried to say no, and she just kept pouring it, and each glass got bigger.  I was getting pretty tipsy, or maybe by definition legaly drunk.  At least food was coming.  They brought out huge metal trays full of food, buffet style.  It was pretty impressive and pretty good too.  I was thankful to finally be eating something to go along with my belly full of booze.  We ate, and  then stayed probably the minimum polite amount of time after eating before leaving.  Lama went one way and Kara and I went the other.  The night time moto was improved my alcohol induced vertigo.

Back at the hotel, we turned on the news, did a bit of web surfing and I was just done for.  I feel asleep within probably 15 minutes.

Lesson #2

6 08 2008

This morning, breakfast at our Kibungo house was extraordinary.  Two Kigali trips ago, when we went to La Gallet, I had bought a box of cereal, but we never had milk to go with it.  Today, there was a cold bottle of milk and the box of cereal waiting on the table, and I felt like a kid again.  I was so excited to see that box of cereal!  And it was delicious!  Milk and cereal ohhhhh man.  It could quite possibly be the best meal I’ve had in Rwanda yet.

At 10 am, I had scheduled with the UNATEK students to teach the second film workshop, this time on capture, logging and organizing footage, and an introduction to editing.  I didn’t get there until around 11 am myself, and I was still the first one there.  We had bought a firewire PCI card to install on the computer, and I needed to get a screwdriver and do so before we could begin the lesson.  Clement didn’t have one, so we had to wait until Prosper tracked one down.  Once we had cracked open the tower, even though there are 4 open slots at the back, there is actually only one PCI card slot.  And it is being used by the wireless receiver card.  So in order to capture the footage, it would have to be removed.  The internet could always be fed to the computer through hard line, but installing this card was the only way to capture footage, so in my mind it was a no brainer.  Unfortunately, Clement had stepped out, and I wanted to make sure I had permission before I started rearranging their computer hardware.  It took almost an hour for Prosper to find Clement and get permission.  Needless to say, our lesson was way behind schedule.

I showed the students how to use the controls and the proper way to log and capture footage, and then I made them actually sit in the pilot seat while I watched to make sure they were doing it correctly.  Things were going well.  But we all know that never lasts.  The computer crashed right before we were done 45 minutes worth of capture, and we hadn’t been saving, so we lost all our progress.  It made for a really good teachable moment, to demonstrate first hand the advantages of frequently saving.  Sure, I could stress to save often, but now they knew why.  By this time, it was well past lunch, so we decided to take an hour break and then reconvene for the second half of the workshop, introduction to editing.

I ate my lunch quickly and returned alone to the computer lab, as Lama and Kara had work to do at home.  I was anticipating Regina being present, since she speaks English and could act as my translator, but she never ended up making it to the second half.  It was only Prosper, Kayumba and I.  1 English speaker among the 3 of us.  So I was teaching an editing workshop through charades.  It was kind of hilarious.  I had to use things in the room to demonstrate what was happening in the program.  I took two cell phones and butted them together, saying each was a clip.  An “insert” edit squeezed a new cell phone in between the two clips.  An “overwrite” edit replaced one of the cell phones with a new one.  They understood.  We had to do demonstrations like that to explain every little thing.  And editing is confusing when you have a foundation to work from, and these students have none.  The language barrier wasn’t helping much either.  But I showed them how to do something, then I undid it all and made them do it for themselves.  I think they understood for the most part, and I only wanted them to get used to seeing the software and feel comfortable messing around pressing buttons to find out what each did, and by the end they had come that far.  We spent a couple hours together, and I was pretty pleased with the results.

I made it home in time to do a bit of editing myself before dinner.  I am not really sure why, but there was significantly less chatter and conversation, and we just quietly ate our meals.  Kara broke the silence by saying, “Well, back to our respective corners!” and so respective corners is where we went.  I worked until about 9, then I watched the Science of Sleep, until I was asleep myself.