so while we have been blogging your faces off with silly descriptions of pointless misadventures and boring life garbage, we have been secret-ing away for other posts somewhat meaningful things we have taken part in while in kigali.
first of all, when i said that steph was helping fill an order for four bajillion sugar cookies, i wasn’t kidding. ok, bajillion is a made up number, but if by four bajillion we can mean 440+ sugar cookies, then four bajillion it is. in addition to the coffee shop/bagelry/cafe that j. lynn’s already was and is, jen has added her own little side business of baking cakes and various other pastries for weddings, birthdays, and the like. steph gets to help free jen up by offering her baking experience and her own awesomely frail hands. we envision more training in the future for the women of j. lynn’s. and brownies.
so this valentine’s day was a busy time for us. i say us, for as steph was actually the one to be tasked with the baking duties, i was hanging around j. lynn’s anyway (with market trip breaks; see previous post) and ended up helping where i could. for a couple of the busy days we were also working alongside paul and marlene, friends of the kamari’s visiting from canada. one order of sweets was for a whole heap of sugar cookies for and international christian school’s valentine’s festivities. more of these, along with several batches of brownies, were made for the kamari’s own valentine’s day shindig out at their place, put on by their little community house church, which we have attended a couple of the limited sundays we have been here. we played some music during the evening, but that’s another story and easily forgotten. on top of the cookies and brownies steph and jen baked and decorated twenty-eight cakes for a wedding that weekend. so the days leading up to and following valentine’s were fairly packed.
…and on sunday joel and i took a jolly bus ride out to kibuye to prepare for the grand opening of the library in kiziba refugee camp.
steph mentioned my hike down from the refugee camp the other week. i’d call it a hike, for a formidable trek it was, and is, winding through clear-cuts and farms, down rocky slopes into little hillside neighborhoods. for the many living in the camp that is the walk they might take often to get to town. going downhill wore my out-of-practice legs down. someday i’ll feel the destruction that is climbing back up. johnson, my journeying counterpart is a talkative fellow, wishing to practice his english and also probably just a guy who likes to talk. we passed many people on the trail, some just walked by – or ran by, in the case of one music-blasting lad in flip-flops – but many wondered at this mzungu walking the trails. johnson told me a number of times that people in the area only ever see white people in cars driving by, so to see one wandering down the mountainside ‘working the foot’ was ‘the big miracle,’ to use his words. right as johnson and i emerge from alley to street in kibuye, three motos roll by carrying joel, liz, and steph. maybe for exercise, maybe for adventure, maybe for solidarity did i take that walk. probably for all of them and more. will i do it again? why wouldn’t i? i told our friends in the camp it was because i wanted to understand. they seemed to think that that was a fair reason. thanking johnson profusely we lunched with him and then gave him some cash for a moto ride back up. but a couple hours later he called joel to let him know that he was safely back in the camp. the moto ride takes thirty minutes tops. we figure he hoofed it back up and kept the money. fair enough.
with that story told, we return to the story i was trying to tell before i interrupted myself. the bus ride out to kibuye was an experience in itself. i had to stuff the box of supplies for the library down at my feet so that my legs were scrunched up for the duration. they pack the bus full. before departure, while people are still climbing on board, dozens of vendors of knick-knacks and snacks hold their wares through the windows, searching for any hopeful buyer. the ride to kibuye with joel driving fast takes about three hours. the buses make it in two and a half. imagine a bus speeding down highway 1 on the california coast and you get the idea. only trade sea cliffs with topical mountains . i was tired enough to somehow nap a little, but read most of the way, finishing w.e.b. dubois’ the souls of black folk. a lot of connections can be made between the way america dealt with a mass of freed slaves and the way colonial powers dealt with the freedom of african nations. but that’s a bitter rant for another day.
monday morning joel and i rode up to the camp to start the decorating process. the questions from grodya, the head of the group we are working with up there, was when were our our wives coming to help and can men decorate? after a day of poorly hanging balloons and streamers, picture frames, maps, and educational posters bought in kigali, grodya gave a triumphant ‘men can decorate!’ a school teacher came in and rated us a five out of ten. i blame it on the limited decorative items available. we even constructed a little bridge over a ditch out of scrap wood. wielding a hammer again was a majestic feeling.
grodya took a moto to town for more supplies and joel and i asked our friend augustine to show us to a decent eatery. so we were led off and into a little room where we ordered fantas and ‘doughnuts,’ being yam-shaped lumps of fried bread. a filling lunch nonetheless. apparently the proprietors of the establishment declined from serving us white people and they made augustine do it. he asked what kind of fanta we wanted, we told him and he left, only to return asking if we wanted them cold, which is a common practice for drink orders in restaurants. but in a refugee camp devoid of electricity and thus refrigeration we gave him a quizzical look, joel asking if they could do…cold. augustine smote himself with a laugh upon the forehead and said no, don’t worry about it. he has been living in kigali recently. we all laughed, a bit of morose humor, really, in light of the overall situation.
that evening the rest of the team arrived in kibuye. steph, joel, and i rode up before the rest the next morning to put the finishing touches on the library, with a feminine touch this time. the ceremony itself was a pretty great event. we had representatives from all sorts of organizations like unhcr, midimar, adra, arc, and of course international teams. speeches were said, thanks were given and even a ribbon was cut. i was in the back in control of the video camera; joel moved around taking pictures. members of iteams each donated a book and then we all drank fanta and ate corn bread-ish muffins.
once the festivities were concluded we piled into the bus and crawled and lurched our bumpy way down the cliff road to kibuye, ate a quick lunch, and rolled back to kigali. the next morning started a day of steph being subjected to the forceful emptying of her intestines and stomach that sometimes comes with adjustments to new places. check ‘the first great sickness in rwanda’ off the list. yay.
another tournament is in the works in the camp, so we should be back out there soon. and we are pumped. our teammates have been pretty instrumental in making some big changes in general camp life, with helping get the sports tournaments going, keeping kids and adults involved and not idle during the holidays from school. and so it was great to see and hear the stories of how these different organizations worked together bit by bit to make this library dream a reality. it’s exciting to think, now that it has been established, that steph and i get to be around to see the library take off. we all have great dreams and hopes as to how the place will be used in the future to build relationships and generate learning and more. grodya was beyond excited the whole day, telling us that the new english club would be meeting there the very next day. pray for that building and the people there. good things are going to happen.