Tuesday, February 28, 2006
I'm expensive, and high maintenance, too
I was recently informed that I am very expensive. I was told by a group of Rwandans (after a lovely serenade) that I am worth 8 cows and 1 bull. When I repeated this to my Rwandan friends, they laughed in disbelief. Apparently, when a man wants to marry a woman, he gives her family a cow. If he wants 2 wives, he brings a bull. Therefore, I cost the same as 10 women! I bet my parents would agree.
Sunday, February 26, 2006
Rwandan Dictionary (Kinyarwanda-English)
In the weeks before I left Washington, I desperately searched, online and in bookstores, for a book with Rwandan vocabulary. I found nothing. So--in an effort to help those who may be coming here, I'm going to try to keep up this dictionary with the new words I learn! They're written phonetically. I will try to write the correct spellings as well, if I know them.
Everything is in Kinyarwanda unless otherwise noted. My one disclaimer is that this list could never hope to be fully comprehensive. This list can be used elsewhere so long as it is made available for free and is properly attributed!
General Greetings, Etc.
Good morning: MwahRahMootZAY (Mwaramutse)
Good afternoon: MweeReeWay (Mwiriwe)
Hello (if haven't seen in a while): MooRahHoh (Muraho)
Hello (pidgin Swahili): JahmBoh (Jambo)
Sir: BgahNah (Bwana)
Madam: MahDahm (Madame)
How are you?: AhMahKooRoo (Amakuru)
How are you? (reciprocated): AhMahKooRoo Yah Way (Amakuru yawe)
How are you doing?: OoMAYzay GOOtay? (Umeze gute)
What's up?: BEEtess? (Bitese?)
What's up? (Very familiar, with close friends): BEEtess shah? (Bite se sha?)
I'm fine: Nee MAYza (Ni meza)
I'm not good: MayZay NahBee (Meze nabi)
I'm fine: MAYzay NAYzah (Meze neza)
Thank you: MooRahKohZay (Murakoze)
Thank you very much(Swahili): AhSANtee SAHna (Ahsante Sana)
You, too: NahWay (Nawe)
Goodbye (afternoon): MeeReeGway (Mwirirwe)
Goodbye (evening): MooRahMooKeyAy (Muramuke)
Goodbye (if not going to see for a while): MooRahBAYho (Murabeho)
See you tomorrow: Nah HAYJoh (Ni ahejo)
See you next time/soon: TooRohnGayRah (Turongera)
Yes: YAYgo (Yego)
No: Oya (Oya)
Not at all!: AHSHWeeDAH (Ashwida)
Okay: SahWah (Sawa) (Swahili)
What's your name?: WitWAHNday? (Witwa nde)
My name is _____.: NEETwah _____. (Nitwa)
Nice to meet you (one person): NdahBeeSheemYay (Ndabishimiye)
Nice to meet you (plural, polite form): NeeSheemYay KooBah MenYah (Nishimiye kuba menya)
Good: MAYza (Meza)
Bad: BeeBee (Bibi)
Welcome: MooRahKahZah NayZa (Murakaza neza)
Welcome (Swahili): KahReeBoo (Karibu)
Feel at home: MooReeSahnGah (Murisanga)
Excuse me (also means "have compassion"): ImBahBahZee (Imbabazi)
Have a good day: OoMoonSee MweeZah (Umunsi Mwiza)
Have a good evening: OoMooGohRohBah MWEEZah (Umugoroba mwiza)
Have a good night: EeJoro GweeZah (Ijoro Rwiza)
Have a good trip: OoRooGenDoh GweeZah (Urugendo Rwiza)
Excuse me (e.g. if trying to get through a crowd) : NDahSahBah EenZeeRah (Ndasaba inzira)
What is your profession?: OoKohrEekEe? (Ukora iki?)
How is your family?: AhMahKooRoo YohMooRooGoh? (Amakuru yo murugo?)
Do you have time? Are you free?: OoFeetOomWahNyah? (Ufite umwanya)
I don't have time: Nhah MwahNeeAh MFeeTay (Nta mwanya mfite)
No problem: NAHkeyBAzoh (Ntakibazo)
No problem (Swahili): Hakuna Matata (or) Hamna Shida
I work for ________. : NhoRerAh ________ (Nkorera _____. )
I am an employee of ___.: NDooMooKohZee Wah ___. (Ndi umukozi wa ___.)
We work for _________. : DooKohRerAh _______ (Dukorera _____.)
I speak a little Kinyarwanda: KeenYahGwanda CheeAnJeeay NeeGeeKeeay (Kinyarwanda cyanje n'igikye)
I'm trying: NdaGayraGayZah (Ndagerageza)
I don't understand that: SeemByoomVah (Simbyumva)
I don't know: SeemBeeZee (Simbizi)
I know: NDahBeeZee (Ndabizi)
Repeat: SooBeeRahMoh (Subiramo)
Sorry (also, "Pity"): BahBahReeRah (Babarira)
Sorry (expression of sympathy): WeeHahnGahnAy (Wihangane)
Me, too: NahJeeYay (Najye)
You, too: NahWay (Nawe)
Are you married?: OoRooBahtSay? (Urubatse?)
Are you single?: OoReenGahRahGoo? (Uri ingaragu?)
I am married: NDooBAhtSay (Ndubatse)
I am single: NDeenGahRahGoo (Ndi ingaragu)
Do you have children?: OoFeeTahBahNah? (Ufite abana?)
I don't have: SeemFeeTay (Simfite)
Drinks: EeBeenYobGah (Ibinyobwa)
Milk (general): AhMahTah (Amata)
Drinking milk: EenChiuChiu (inshyushyu)
Yogurt milk, like an Indian lassi: EeKeyVooGooToe (Ikivuguto)
Powdered milk: AhMahTah YeeFoo (Amata Y'ifu)
Water: AhMahZee (Amazi)
Cold water: AhMahZee AhConeJay (Amazi akonje)
Beer: EeBeeYehRee (Ibyeri)
Local brew: EeRahGwa or EeGwaGwa (Iragwa)
Tea: EeKEYAhYee (Icyayi)
Coffee: EeKAHwah (Ikawa)
Fruit juice: OoMooToeBay WeemBooToe (Umutobe w'imbuto)
Coke: CoCah (Coca)
Food: EeBEERyoh (Ibiryo)
Fruit: EemBooToh (Imbuto)
Vegetables: EemBOHgah (Imboga)
Avocadoes: AhVohKah (Avoka)
Bananas: EemeeNAYkay (Imineke)
Banana mash: MahToeKay (Matoke)
Beans: EeBeeHEEMboh (Ibihyimbo)
Bread: OomooKAHtee (Umukati)
Butter: AhMahVooTah (Amavuta) (Though you might get margarine instead)
Cabbage: EeShoo (Ishu)
Carrots: AhMahKahRowTee (Amakaroti)
Cassava (Manioc): EemYoomBahTee (Inyumbati)
Chicken: EenKohKoh (Inkoko)
Corn: EeKeyGorEe (Ikigori)
Corn cake: Kayk (Keke)
Corn or Cassava starchy accompaniment to many meals: OoGahLee (Ugali)
Donuts: AHmahndAHzi (Amandazi)
Eggs: Ahmahgee (Amagi)
Fish: EeFee (Ifi)
Little fish (lake smelts, often fried): EeSahmBahZah (Isambaza)
Goat: EeHenAy (Ihene)
Hot Chili: PeeLee PeeLee (Pili pili) (Swahili)
Hot Chili: OoRooSenDah (Urusenda)
Meat: EenYahMah (Inyama)
Onions: OoBooToonGooRoo (Ubuntunguru)
Passionfruit: MaraKOOja (Marakuja)
Peas: AhMahShahZah (Amashaza)
Pineapple: EeNahNahSee (Inanasi)
Plantains: IGeeToeGee (Igitoke)
Potatoes: EeBeeRAIYee (Ibirayi)
Sweet potatoes: EeBeeJoomBah (Ibijumba)
Pumpkin: EeGeeHahZah (Igihaza)
Rice: OoMooCHELLee (Umuceli)
Salt: OoMoonYoo (Umunyu)
Sheep: EenTahMah (Intama)
Sorghum: AhMahSahKah (Amasaka)
Soup: EeSooPoo (Isupu)
Sugar: EeSooKAHree (Isukari)
Tomatoes: EenYAHNyah (Inyanya)
Tree tomatoes (also called "prunes de Japon"): EeKeenYohMorOh (Ikinyomoro)
Other Food/Drink-Related Terms
What are you looking for?: OoRahShahKeeKee? (Ura shakiki?)
I am looking for/I want: NDahShahKah (Nda shaka)
Do you have: OoFeeTay (Ufite)
I don't have: SeemFeeTay (Simfite)
Here is sold _____.: HAHno Hahree _____: (Hano Hari)
We sell _____: DooKooRooZah (Ducuruza)
Plastic bottle (such as one that holds water) : AhgahCHOOPa (Agacupa)
I don't have a plastic bottle: AhGahCHOOPa PfEEtay (Agacupa Pfite)
There's still water in this bottle: HahRee MooAhMahZee (Hari Mu Amazi)
The last glass (such as "one for the road"): AhGahShinGooRahChooMoo (Agashyinguracumu)
When is the food going to be ready? (Very important here!): BeeGayZay Hay? (Bigeze he?)
It's going to take a while: BeeRahTeenDah (Biratinda)
I'm hungry: NDah ShownJay (Nda Shonge)
I'm thirsty: MFeeTay EenYowTah (Mfite Inyota)
Have you eaten? (singular): WahReeAy? (Wariye?)
Have you eaten? (plural): MwahReeAy? (Mwariye?)
Are you hungry?: OoRah ShownJay? (Ura shonge?)
I'm not hungry: NHahbGoh ShownJay (Ntabwo shonge)
Quench your thirst: SheeReenYohTah (Shirinyota)
I'm full: Ndah Hahzee (Nda Haze)
Bon Appetit: MoorYeohHairGway (Muryohe Rwe)
Cheers (when toasting a drink) : DooSahnGeeRay CarGeeOhHay (Dusangire Karyohe)
The food is good: EeBeeBeerGyo Nee ByeeZah (Ibibiryo ni byiza)
A little, Slowly: BooHorOh (Buhoro)
A lot, much, many: ByeenShay (Byinshe)
Cold: BeeCONEjay (Bikonje)
Room temperature/Tepid: EensheeooShay (Inshyushye)
Hot: EensheeooShay Cheeanee (Inshyushye cyane)
Money: AhMaFahRanGah (Amafaranga)
I don't have money: NHaMaFahRanGah (Nta amafaranga)
There is no money: NHahMaFahRanGah FeeTay (Nta amafaranga mfite)
How much does this cost? :NahnGahHay? (Nangahe)
Where is the bank: EeBONGki Ni Hay Hay? (Ibanki ni he he?)
Where is the currency exchange?: Forex Ni Hay Hay? (Forex ni he he?)
Lower the price! (Good for bargaining): GahBahnYah! (Gabanya!)
That's too much money: Nee MenShee (Ni menshi)
That's too expensive (referring to a thing): BeeRahHenDah (Birahenda)
That's too expensive (referring to a service, like a moto taxi): OoRahHenDah (Urahenda)
White person: OoMooZoonGoo (Umuzungu)
White people: AhBahZoonGoo (Abazungu)
Small white person: KAHzoongoo (can be derogatory, when used between Rwandans) (Kazungu) Black person (opposite of muzungu): OomWeerAhBooRah (Umwirabura)
Man: OoMooGahBoh (Umugabo)
Woman: OoMooGohRay (Umugore)
Girl: OoMooKohbGah (Umukoobwa)
Boy: OoMooHoonGoo (Umuhuungu)
Adolescent boy: OoMooSohRay (Umsore)
Adolescent girl: EenHooMee (Inkumi)
Baby, Toddler: OomWahNah (Umwana)
Friends/Lovers: MooKoonZee (Mukunzi)
Friend: EenShooTee (Inshuti)
My friend: EenShooTee WahnJeeYay (Inshuti wanjye)
Children: AhBahNah (Abana)
Men: AhBahGahBoh (Abagabo)
Women: AhBahGohRay (Abagore)
Girls: AhBahKohbGah (Abakobgwa)
Person: OoMoonToo (Umuntu)
People: AhBahnToo (Abantu)
Common Phrases and Expressions
After: NyooMah (Nyuma)
After the: NyooMah Yah (Nyuma ya)
Also: KahnDee (Kandi)
Always: EeTayKah (Iteka)
And: Nah (Na)
Because: KooKoh (Kuko)
Bless You (after a sneeze): KeeRah (Kira) or, more formally, MooRahKeeRay (Murakire)
Both: YohmBee (Yombi)
But: AhREECoh (Ariko)
Do you need to go to the bathroom? (singular): OoRah ShahKah Kwee TooMah? (Ura shaka kwi tuma?)
Do you need to go to the bathroom? (plural): MooRah ShahKah Kwee TooMah? (Mura shaka kwi tuma?)
Go ahead: KohMayZah (Komeza)
How?: BeeTay (Bite)
I don't like: SeenHoonDah (Sinkunda)
I don't want: SeenShahKah (Sinshaka)
I like: nHoonDah (Nkunda)
I love you: NDah GooKoonDah (Nda gukunda)
I never want: DTABgoneSHAHkah (Ntabwonshaka)
Is: Nee (Ni)
Isn't that so? (If you say it): See Byoh? (Si byo?)
Isn't that so? (In response to something someone else has said): Nee Byoh? (Ni byo?)
It's good: Nee Byeeza (Ni byiza)
I want: NDah SHAHkah (Ndashaka)
Listen: OomVah! (Umva!)
Never: NhabGwo (Ntabwo)
No one: NhaWay (Ntawe)
Or: ChahnGwa (Cyangwa)
That's right/Isn't that right?: Nee Beeyo (Ni byo)
This: OoYoo (Uyu)
That: OoWoh (Uwo)
That (over there): OoReeYah (Uriya)
Truly: KahBeeSah (Kabisa)
You know: OoRahKeeZee (Urakizi)
Very: CHAHNay (Cyane)
What?: EeKey (Iki)
What are you doing?: OoRahKohReeKee? (Urakora iki?)
What are you saying?: OoTeeKee? (Uti iki?)
What is this?: EeKeeNeeKee? (Iki n'iki?)
What is this?: NeeGeeKee? (N'igiki?)
When?: ReeAhDee? (Ryali)
Who? (singular): Nday (Nde)
Who? (plural): BahnDay (Bande)
Who are you looking for: OoRahShahKahnDay? (Urashaka nde?)
Why?: KooKee? (Kuki)
Where is the bathroom?: AhHo KweetOoMah Nee Hay? (Aho kwituma ni he?)
You're welcome (after the "Bless You"): TooAySay
Directions and Transportation
Where are you going?:OogeeayHAYhay? (Ugiye hehe?)
I am going to _____.: NGEEay ________.(Ngiye ___.)
Where are you coming from?: Oovooyay hay? (Uvuye he?)
I am coming from ____.: Nvooy____.
Where are you?: Ooreehay? (Uri he?)
Where do you live?: OoTooYayHay? (Utuye he?)
I live ____. : NhooYay ____. (Ntuye ___.)
Where is ____?: Nee Hay Haree ___? (Ni he hari__?)
To the city: MooMooJee (mumugi)
To the [x] hotel: KooRee Hotelee [name of hotel]: (Kuri hoteli [name])
To the house: MooRooGoh (murugo)
To go: GooTahHah (Gutaha)
Go!: GenDah! (genda)
Let's go: TooGenDay (tugende)
You guys go: MooGenDay (mugende)
I want to go: NDahShahKah GooTahHah (Ndashaka gutaha)
I don't want to go: SeenShahKah GooTahHah (Sinshaka gutaha)
Where is it?: NeeHayHay? (Ni he he?)
It's close? : Nee HahFee? (Ni hafi?)
It's far?: Nee KooRay? (Ni kure?)
It is near ____.: EeRooHahnDee Gwah ___. (Iruhandi rwa ___.)
Go Straight: KoMayZay EemBayRay (Komeze Imbere)
Left: EeBooMoSo (Ibumoso)
Right: EeBurgyo (Iburyo)
Backward, behind: EenYooMah (Inyuma)
Between: HahGahTeeYah (Hagatiya)
Over there: HarEeYah (Hariya)
Inside: AhReeMoh (Arimo)
Inside: MoonZoo (Munzu)
Outside: HahnZay (Hanze)
It's here: Nee HAHnoh (Ni hano)
It's there: Nee HahREEYah (Ni hariya)
Stop!: HahGahRahRah (Hagarara!)
Run!: EeRooKah! (Iruka!)
Wait!: BooRaytSay (Buretse!)
Don't wait: WeeTayGayRayZah (Witegereza)
In the room: MooChoomBah (Mu cyumba)
Outside the room: HahnZay YeeChoomBah (Hanze y'icyumba)
To leave the house: GooSohHohKah (Gusohoka)
Airport: EeKeeBooGah CheenDayGay (Ikibuga cy'indege)
Bicycle: EeGahRay (Igare)
Bus: BeeSee (Bisi)
Bus (Swahili): MahTahToo (Matatu)
Car (Motorcar): EeMohDohKah (Imodoka)
Motorcycle Taxi: EePeekeePeekee (Ipikipiki)
Road: OoMooHAHNdah (Umuhanda)
Plane: EenDayGay (Indege)
Taxi: TahGeeSee (Tagisi)
I'm going to the airport: NGeeYay KooKeeBooGah CheenDayGay (Ngiye kukibuga cy'indege)
I'm going to work: NGeeYay GooKohRah (Ngiye gukora)
I'm going to Gisenyi: NGeeYay EeGeeSenYee (Ngiye igisenyi)
Family: MeerYahnGo (Miryango)
Papa: DahTah (Data)
My wife: OoMooGorAy WahnJeeYay (Umugore wanjye)
My husband: OoMooGahBow WahnJeeYay (Umugabo wanjye)
My child: OomWahNah WahnJeeYay (Umwana wanjye)
My children: AhBahNah BanJeeYay (Abana banjye)
Miscellaneous Nouns, Verbs, and Adjectives
And then...: HahnYooMah (Hanyuma)
Ball: OoMooPeeRah (Umupira)
Baskets: AhGahSayKay (Agaseke)
Boss: OoMooYohBohSee (Umuyobozi)
Candle: BooJee (Buji)
Card: Eecartee (Ikati)
Cat: EePooSee (Ipusi)
Chauffeur/Driver: OoMooShowFayRee (Umushoferi)
Clothing (pl): EemYenDah (Imyenda)
Clothing (s): OomYenDah (Umyenda)
Community work: OOmooGahnDah (Umuganda)
Compassion/mercy: EemBahBahzi (Imbabazi)
Confidence, Trust: KweeZerAh (Kwizera)
Cooperation: OoMooBahNo (Umubano)
Cow: EenHah (Inka)
Dog: UmBwah (Mbwa)
Drums: EenGohMah (Ingoma)
Employee: OoMooKohZee (Umukozi)
Gas station: AhHo KoonyeeWeshErAyZah AySahnSs (Aho kunyweshereza essence)
God: EeMahNah (Imana)
Gorillas: EenGahGee (Ingagi)
Guest: OoMooSheeYeetSee (Umushyitsi)
Guests: AhBahSheeYeetSee (Abashyitsi)
Hug: HoBee (Hobe)
Intern/Apprentice: OoWeeMenYayRayZah OomWooGah (uwimenyereza umwuga)
Lake: EeKeeYahGah (Ikiyaga)
Lodging: AhmahCHOOmbee (Amacumbi)
Matches: EeKeeBreeTee (Ikibriti)
Mosquito: OoMooBoo (umubu)
Mosquitoes: EeMeeBoo (imibu)
Mountain: OoMooSohZee (Umusozi)
Office: EeBeeRo (Ibiro)
Organization (like a humanitarian organization): OoMoorYahnGoh (Umuryango)
Peace: AhMahHorOh (Amahoro)
Prison: GayRayZah (Gereza)
Rain: EemVOODah (Imvura)
Rainy season: EegEEHay CheemVOODah (Igihe cy'imvura)
Sign: EeCheeYahPah (Icyapa)
Subsidized housing: OOmooDOOgoodoo (Umudugudu)
Tee-shirt: OoMooPeeRah (Umupira)
Telephone: TooVooGahNee (Tuvugane) (Literally, "Let's Talk")
Thief: OoMooJooRah (Umujura)
Thief (Swahili): MweeZee (Mwizi)
To Answer: GooSooBeeZah (Gusubiza)
To Delay: GooTeenDah (Gutinda)
To Give: GooTahnGah (Gutanga)
To Get Up: KooByeeooKah (Kubyuka)
Toilet Paper: EemPahPooRoh Zoh Moo MooSahRahNay (Impapuro zo mu musarane)
To Visit: GooSooRah (Gusura)
Tree: OoBahHoh (Ubaho)
Trees: EemBahHoh (Imbaho)
Village: AhKahDooGooDoo (Akadugudu)
Volcanoes: EeBeeRoonGah (Ibirunga)
Volunteer: OoMooKohRayrRahBooShahKay (umukorerabushake)
Work: AhKAHzi (Akazi)
Are you happy?: OoReeSheemYay? (Urishimiye?)
Are you unhappy? NHahbGoh OoReeSheemYay? (Ntabwo urishimiye?)
God Bless You: EeMahNah AhGooHay OoMooGeeSha (Imana aguhe umugisha)
Happy Birthday: EeSahBooKooRoo NZeeZah YahMahVooKoh (Isabukuru nziza y'amavuko) Happy Wedding Anniversary: EeSahBooKooRoo Yoh GooSheenGeerGwa (Isabukuru yo gushyingirwa)
Happy Wedding Day: OoMoonSee MweeZah Yoh GooSheenGeerGwa (Umunsi mwiza yo gushyingirwa)
How much time will you spend in Rwanda?: OoZahMahRah EeKeeHeeGeeHay MoorGwanDah? (Uzamara ikihe igihe murwanda?)
How was your weekend?: WeeKENDee YahGENZay NAYzah? (Wikendi yagenze neza?)
I am an American (woman): NDOOmnyaMayreekah KahZEE (Ndu mnyamerikakazi)
I am an American (man): NDOOmnyaMayreekah (Ndu mnyamerika)
I am happy: NdeeSheemYay (Ndishimiye)
I am tired: EndAHNahnEEway (Ndananiwe)
I am unhappy: NHahbGoh NeeSheemYay (Ntabwo nishimiye)
I live in America: NHOOYay MooRee AhMayReeKAH (Ntuye muri Amerika)
I love Rwanda: NdahKoonDah OorGwahnDah (Ndakunda urwanda)
I love Rwanda: NhoonDah OorGwanDah (Nkunda urwanda)
I spent the night: NahRahYay (Naraye)
It is cold? EeRah CohnJay? (Ira conge?)
It is hot? EeRah ShooShay? (Ira shyushye?)
It is pretty: Nee HayZah (Ni Heza)
I will spend the night: NZahRahRah (Nzarara)
My name is not "Muzungu": NHahbGoh NeetGwah MooZoonGoo (Ntabwo nitwa "Muzungu") Rest well: OoRooHooKay NayZah (Urukuke neza)
Thank God: EeMahNeeSheemWay (Imana ishyimwe)
There is no power in the area: OoMooReeRoh WahGeeAy (Umuriro wagiye)
This is difficult: BeeRahKohMayYee (Birakomeye)
This is easy: BeeRohRohSheeYay (Biroroshye)
What's next?: EeKeenDee? (Ikindi?)
You are crazy (this should be reserved for good friends only, otherwise, an insult!): OoMooSahZee (Umu saze)
You are crazy (Swahili): WayWay Cheesy
You are cute/pretty: OoRee MweeZah (Uri mwiza)
Answer/Test Result: EeGeeSooBeeZoh (Igisubizo)
Bandage: EeGeepFooKoh (Igipfuko)
Be strong/Get better: KohMehRah! (Komera!)
Blood: AhMahRahSoh (Amaraso)
Doctor: MooGahnGah (Muganga)
Ear: OoGootWee (Ugutwi)
Ears: AhMahtWee (Amatwi)
Health Center: EeVooREERoh (Ivuriro)
Hospital: EeBeeTAHRoh (Ibitaro)
Hospital: EeVooReeRo (Ivuriro)
I feel sick: NdoomVah NdWahYay (Ndumva ndwaye)
I have a cold: NDwahYay EeBeeChooRahNay (Ndwaye ibicurane)
I have a backache: NDwahYay OoMooGonGoh (Ndwaye umugongo)
I have a headache: NDwahYay OoMootWay (Ndwaye umutwe)
I have amoebas: NDwahYay EenZohKah (Ndwaye inzoka)
I have a stomachache: NDwahYay MoonDah (Ndwaye munda)
I have a toothache: NDwahYay EeRyeenYoh (Ndwaye iryinyo)
I have malaria: NDwahYay MahLahReeYah (Ndwaye malariya)
I must take (as in medicine): NGohmBah GooFahTah (Ngomba gufata)
I want to go to the doctor: NDahShahKah KooJeeYah Kwah MooGahnGah (Nda shaka kujya kwa muganga)
Medicine: OoMooTee (Umuti)
Medicines: EeMeeTee (Imiti)
Nose: EeZooRoo (Izuru)
Pharmacy: FarMahSee (Farmasi)
Symptom: EeKeeMenYetSoh (Ikimenyetso)
Symptoms: EeBeeMenYetSoh (Ibimenyetso)
Tablet: EeKeeNeeNee (Ikinini)
Tablets: EeBeeNeeNee (Ibinini)
To Be Sick: KoorWahRah (Kurwara)
To Feel Dizzy: KooZoonGayRah (Kuzungera)
To Recover: GooKeeRah (Gukira)
To Suffer: KooBahBahRah (Kubabara)
To Take (medicine, an object): GooFahTah (Gufata)
What are you suffering from?: OorWahYay EeKee? (Urwaye iki?)
Where are you hurting?: OorahBahBahRah He? (Urababara he?)
You must take (as in medicine): OoGohmBah GooFahTah (Ugomba gufata)
Languages, Continents, Nationalities
What languages do you speak?: OoVooGeeZeeHay EnDeeMee? (Uvuga izihe ndimi?)
What language do you speak?: OoVooGooRooHay RooReeMee? (Uvuga uruhe rurimi?)
I speak: NVooGah (Nvuga)
You speak: OoVooGah (Uvuga)
S/He speaks: AhVooGah (Avuga)
We speak: TooVooGah (Tuvuga)
You guys speak: MooVooGah (Muvuga)
They speak: BahVooGah (Bavuga)
French: EeGeeFahRanSah (Igifaransa)
English: EeChonGayRayZah (Icyongereza)
Swahili: EeGeeSwaYeeLee (Igiswayili)
Chinese: EeGeeSheenWah (Igishinwa)
Spanish: EeCheeEsPahnYohlAy (Icyespanyole)
German: EeKeeDahGay (Ikidage)
Dutch: EeKeeHohLahnDee (Ikiholande)
Lingala: EeLeenGahLah (Ilingala)
Japanese: EeKeeYahPahnEe (Ikiyapani)
Arabic: EeCheeAhRahBoo (Icyarabu)
Foreigner: OoMoonYahMahHanGah (Umunyamahanga)
Foreign: AhMahHahnGah (Amahanga)
America: AhMayReeKah (Amerika)
Europe: OoBooRahEe (Uburayi)
Africa: AhFooReeKah (Afurika)
Asia: AhZeeYah (Aziya)
Australia: OhStrahLeeYah (Ostraliya)
American: OoMoonYahMayReeKah (Umunyamerika)
Arab: OomWahRahBoo (Umwarabu)
Belgian: OoMooBeeReeGee (Umubirigi)
Burundian: OoMooRoonDee (Umurundi)
Canadian: OoMoonYahKahNahDah (Umunyakanada)
Chinese: OoMooSHEENWah (Umushinwa)
Congolese: OoMoonYayKohnGoh (Umunyekongo)
Dutch: OoMooHohLahnDee (Umuholandi)
English: OomWohnGayRayZah (Umwongereza)
French: OoMooFahRahSah (Umufaransa)
German: OoMooDahGay (Umudage)
Indian: OoMooHeenDee (Umuhindi)
Italian: OoMooTahLeeAhNee (Umutalyiani)
Kenyan: OoMoonYahKenYah (Umunyakenya)
Tanzanian: OoMoonYahTahnZahNeeYah (Umunyatanzaniya)
Ugandan: OoMooGahnDay (Umugande)
To make any of these feminine, add “-kazi” to the end. For example:
I am an American (girl): NDooMoonYahMayReeKahKahZee. (Ndi umunyamerika kazi.)
0 ZayRoo (Zeru)
1 ReemWay (Rimwe)
2 KahBeeRee (Kabiri)
3 GahTahToo (Gatatu)
4 KahNay (Kane)
5 Gahtahno (Gatanu)
6 GahTahnDahToo (Gatandatu)
7 KahReenDwee (Karindwi)
8 OoMooNahNay (Umunane)
9 EeCheeEnDah (Icyenda)
10 EeChooMee (Icumi)
11- ChooMee Nah ReemWay (cumi na rimwe)
12- ChooMee Nah KahBeeRee (cumi na kabiri)
13- ChooMee Nah GahTahToo (cumi na gatatu)
14- ChooMee Nah KahNay (cumi na kane)
15- ChooMee Nah GahTahNoo (cumi na gatanu)
16- ChooMee Nah GahTahnDahToo (cumi na gatandatu)
17- ChooMee Nah KahLeenDwee (cumi na kalindwi)
18- ChooMee NooMooNahNay (cumi n'umunane)
19- ChooMee NeeChenDah (cumi n'icyenda)
20- MahKoomYahBeeRee (makumyabiri)
21- MahKoomYahBeeRee Nah ReemWay (makumyabiri na rimwe)
30- MeeRohnGoh EeTahToo (mirongo itatu)
31- MeeRohnGoh EeTahToo Nah ReemWay (mirongo itatu na rimwe)
40- MeeRohnGoh EeNay (mirongo ine)
50- MeeRohnGoh EeTahNoo (mirongo itanu)
60- MeeRohnGoh EeTahnDahToo (mirongo itandatu)
70- MeeRohnGoh EeReendWee (mirongo irindwi)
80- MeeRohnGoh EeNahNee (mirongo inani)
90- MeeRohnGoh EeChenDah (mirongo icyenda)
100 EeJahNah (Ijana)
200 MahGahNahBeeLee (Magana Abili)
300 MahGahNahTahToo (Magana Atatu)
400 MahGahNahAhNay (Magana Ane)
500 MahGahNahTahNoo (Magana Atanu)
600 MahGahNahTahnDahToo (Magana Atandatu)
700 MahGahNahLeendWee (Magana Alindwi)
800 MahGahNeeNanEe (Magana Inani)
900 MahGahNah OorGwenDah (Magana Urwenda)
1000 EeGeeHoomBee (Igihumbi)
1500 EeGeeHoomBee Nah MahGahNahTahNoo (Igihumbi na magana atanu)
2000 EeBeeHoomBee BeeBeeRee (Ibihumbi Bibiri)
2500 EeBeeHoomBee BeeBeeRee Nah MahGahNahTahNoo (Ibihumbi bibiri na magana atanu)
5000 EeBeeHoomBee BeeTahNoo (Ibihumbi Bitanu)
Now: NoNay (None)
Today: OoYooMoonSee (Uyu munsi)
Tomorrow: AyJoh HahZahZah (Ejo hazaza)
Yesterday: AyJoh HahSheeZay (Ejo hashize)
Soon: VooBah (Vuba)
Now: OoBoo (Ubu)
The past: CheeAhSheeZay (Cyashize)
Morning: EeGeeToneDoh (Igitondo)
Afternoon: NeeMoonSee (Ni munsi)
Evening: OoMooGohRohBa (Umugoroba)
Night: EeJohRoh (Ijoro)
Weekend: EeWeeKenDee (Iwikendi)
In the morning: Moo GeeToneDoh (Mu gitondo)
Last week: EeChoomWayroo GeeSheeZay (Icyumweru gishize)
This week: EeKee ChoomWayroo (Iki cyumweru)
Next week: EeChoomWayroo GeeTahHah (Icyumweru gitaha)
Last year: OomWahKah OoSheeZay (Umwaka ushize)
This year: OoYoo MwahKah (Uyu mwaka)
Next year: OomWahKah NhaHah (Umwaka ntaha)
On Monday: KooWah MbayRay (Ku wa mbere)
On Tuesday: KooWah KahBeeLee (Ku wa kabili)
On Wednesday: KooWah GahTahToo (Ku wa gatatu)
On Thursday: KooWah KahNay (Ku wa kane)
On Friday: KooWah GahTahNoo (Ku wa gatanu)
On Saturday: KooWah GahTahnDahToo (Ku wa gatandatu)
On Sunday: KooWah ChoomWayRoo (Ku wa cyumweru)
January: MooTahRahMah (Mutarama)
February: GahShyanTahRay (Gashyantare)
March: WerOorGway (Werurwe)
April: MahTah (Mata)
May: GeeChooRahZee (Gicurazi)
June: KahMayNah (Kamena)
July: NeeYahKahnGah (Nyakanga)
August: KahNahMah (Kanama)
September: NzayLee (Nzeli)
October: OoKwahKeeRah (Ukwakira)
November: OoGooSheenGoh (Ugushyingo)
December: OoKooBohZah (Ukuboza)
One week: EeChoomWayRoo (Icumweru)
Two weeks: EeBeeOomWayRoo BeeBeeRee (Ibyumweru bibiri)
One month: OokWayZee (Ukwezi)
Two months: AhMayZee AhBeeRee (Amezi abiri)
Three months: AhMayZee AhTahToo (Amezi atatu)
Four months: AhMayZee AhNay (Amezi ane)
Five months: AhMayZee AhTahNoo (Amezi atanu)
Six months: AhMayZee AhTahnDahToo (Amezi atandatu)
Black: OoMooKahRah (Umukara)
Brown: EeBeeHohGoh (Ibihogo)
Green: EeCheeYahtSee (Icyatse)
Light tan: EenZohBay (Inzobe)
Red: OoMooTooKoo (Umutuku)
White: EeGeeTahRay (Igitare)
White: OomWayRoo (Umweru)
To Be- Kuba (pronounced “KooBah”)
I am- NDee (Ndi)
You are-OoRee (Uri)
S/he is- AhRee (Ari)
We are- TooRee (Turi)
You guys are- MooRee (Muri)
They are- BahRee (Bari)
...and because I think it’s important to know how to say “I am not,” here are two ways to say the negative form of this:
I am not- SeenDee (Sindi)
You are not- NHeenDee (Ntindi)
S/he is not- NHahRee (Ntari)
We are not- NHeeTooRee (Ntituri)
You guys are not- NHeeMooRee (Ntimuri)
They are not- NHeeBahRee (Ntibari)
I am not- NHAHbGoh NDee (Ntabwo ndi)
You are not- NHAHbGoh OoRee (Ntabwo uri)
S/he is not- NHAHbGoh AhRee (Ntabwo ari)
We are not- NHAHbGoh TooRee (Ntabwo turi)
You guys are not- NHAHbGoh MooRee (Ntabwo muri)
They are not- NHAHbGoh BahRee (Ntabwo bari)
To Be Late- Gukerererwa (pronounced “GooKayRayRayrGwah”)
I am late- NDahKayRayRayrGwah (Ndakerererwa)
You are late- OoRahKayRayRayrGwah (Urakerererwa)
S/he is late- AhRahKayRayRayrGwah (Arakerererwa)
We are late- TooRahKayRayRayrGwah (Turakerererwa)
You guys are late- MooRahKayRayRayrGwah (Murakerererwa)
They are late- BahRahKayRayRayrGwah (Barakerererwa)
To Be Sick- Kurwara (pronounced “KoorWahRah”)
I am sick- NarWahYay (Narwaye)
You are sick- WarWahYay (Warwaye)
S/he is sick- YarWahYay (Yarwaye)
We are sick- TWarWahYay (Twarwaye)
You guys are sick- MWarWahYay (Mwarwaye)
They are sick- BarWahYay (Barwaye)
To Build- Kubaka (pronounced “KooBahKah”)
I build- NDooBahKah (Ndubaka)
You build- OoRooBahKah (Urubaka)
S/he builds- AhRooBahKah (Arubaka)
We build- TooRooBahKah (Turubaka)
You build- MooRooBahKah (Murubaka)
They build- BahRooBahKah (Barubaka)
To Come- Kuza (pronounced “KooZah”)
I am coming- NDahJeeYay (Ndajye)
You are coming- OoRahJeeYay (Urajye)
S/he is coming- AhRahJeeYay (Arajye)
We are coming- TooRahJeeYay (Turajye)
You guys are coming- MooRahJeeYay (Murajye)
They are coming- BahRahJeeYay (Barajye)
To Eat- Kurya (pronounced “KoorGeeYah”)
I am eating- NDarGeeYah (Ndarya)
You are eating- OoRahrGeeYah (Urarya)
S/he is eating- AhRahrGeeYah (Ararya)
We are eating- TooRarhGeeYah (Turarya)
You guys are eating- MooRahrGeeYah (Murarya)
They are eating- BahRahrGeeYah (Bararya)
To feel (taste, smell, hear, touch)- Kumva (pronounced “KoomVah”)
I feel- NDoomVah (Ndumva)
You feel- OoRoomVah (Urumva)
S/he feels- AhRoomVah (Arumva)
We feel- TooRoomVah (Turumva)
You guys feel- MooRoomVah (Murumva)
They feel- BahRoomVah (Barumva)
Example: I feel sick. NDoomVah NDWAHyay. (Ndumva ndwaye.)
To Go Somewhere (not to be confused with the general “to go”)- Kugira (pronounced “KooGeeRah”)
I am going- NGeeAy (Ngiye)
You are going- OoGeeAy (Ugiye)
S/he is going- AhGeeAy (Agiye)
We are going- TooGeeAy (Tugiye)
You guys are going- MooGeeAy (Mugiye)
They are going- BahGeeAy (Bagiye)
For this verb, you need to say where you are going. Examples:
I am going to Kigali: NGeeAy KooKeeGahLee. (Ngiye ku Kigali.)
We are going to work: TooGeeAy KooKahZee. (Tugiye ku kazi.)
To Go/Leave (generally—don’t say where you are going)- Kugenda (pronounced “KooGenDah”)
I am going- NDahGenDah (Ndagenda)
You are going- OoRahGenDah (Uragenda)
S/he is going- AhRahGenDah (Aragenda)
We are going- TooRahGenDah (Turagenda)
You guys are going- MooRahGenDah (Muragenda)
They are going- BahRahGenDah (Baragenda)
If you want to say, “Let’s go!” you can say, “TooGenDay!” (Tugende!) For grammar nerds, it’s just a command form of this verb.
To Have- Kugira (pronounced “KooGeeRah”)
I have- MFeeTay (Mfite)
You have- OoFeeTay (Ufite)
S/he has- AhFeeTay (Afite)
We have- TooFeeTay (Tufite)
You guys have- MooFeeTay (Mufite)
They have- BahFeeTay (Bafite)
To Know- Kumenya (pronounced “KooMenYah”)
I know- NZee (Nzi)
You know- OoZee (Uzi)
S/he knows- AhZee (Azi)
We know- TooZee (Tuzi)
You guys know- MooZee (Muzi)
They know- BahZee (Bazi)
To Live, To Stay- Gutura (pronounced “GooTooRah”)
I live- NHooYay (Ntuye)
You live- OoTooYay (Utuye)
S/he lives- AhTooYay (Atuye)
We live- DooTooYay (Dutuye)
You guys live- MooTooYay (Mutuye)
They live- BahTooYay (Batuye)
Where do you live? OoTooYay Hay? (Utuye he?)
I live in Kiyovu. NHooYay Moo KeeYohVoo. (Ntuye mu Kiyovu.)
To recover (from an illness)- Gukira (pronounced “GooKeeRah”)
I am recovered- NahKeeZay (Nakize)
You are recovered- WahKeeZay (Wakize)
S/he is recovered- YahKeeZay (Yakize)
We are recovered- TWahKeeZay (Twakize)
You guys are recovered- MWahKeeZay (Mwakize)
They are recovered- BahKeeZay (Bakize)
To See- Kubona (pronounced “KooBohNah”)
I see- NDahBohNah (Ndabona)
You see- OoRahBohNah (Urabona)
S/he sees- AhRahBohNah (Arabona)
We see- TooRahBohNah (Turabona)
You guys see- MooRahBohNah (Murabona)
They see- BahRahBohNah (Barabona)
To Think- Gutekereza (pronounced “GooTayKayRayZah”)
I think- NDahTayKayRayZah (Ndatekereza)
You think- OoRahTayKayRayZah (Uratekereza)
S/he thinks- AhRahTayKayRayZah (Aratekereza)
We think- TooRahTayKayRayZah (Turatekereza)
You guys think- MooRahTayKayRayZah (Muratekereza)
They think- BahTayKayRayZah (Batekereza)
To say “I think that,” you can say: NDahTayKayRayZah Koh ______. (Ndatekereza ko ___)
To Visit- Gusura (pronounced “GooSooRah”)
I am visiting- NDahSooRah (Ndasura)
You are visiting- OoRahSooRah (Urasura)
S/he is visiting- AhRahSooRah (Arasura)
We are visiting- TooRahSooRah (Turasura)
You guys are visiting- MooRahSooRah (Murasura)
They are visiting- BahRahSooRah (Barasura)
To Want- Gushaka (pronounced “GooShahKah”)
I want- NDahShahKah (Ndashaka)
You want- OoRahShahKah (Urashaka)
S/he wants- AhRahShahKah (Arashaka)
We want- TooRahShahKah (Turashaka)
You guys want- MooRahShahKah (Murashaka)
They want- BahRahShahKah (Barashaka)
A few words on pronunciation:
Some Rwandans pronounce "k" as "ch." Many pronounce "l" like "r" and vice versa, which means that some Rwandans pronounce "Kigali" as "Chigari." Similarly, some pronounce "g" as hard and others pronounce it softer, so "Ruhengeri" can sound like "Ruhenjeli."
If you are a stickler for pronunciation, try to imitate the way they pronounce their "l," which, if said correctly, should also sound vaguely like an "r" or a "d." After much practice, I've discovered that all it takes is a simple tap of the tongue on the hard palate behind your top teeth. It sounds harder than it is....in fact, Kinyarwanda is very easy to pronounce once you get the hang of it!
One month down...
February 20 was my one month mark!
I started a soccer league at the transit center on Friday. The kids are so excited. Even the older men and women want to play, so we're setting up different age divisions and then setting up teams within them. It will hopefully get off the ground on Tuesday!
The youth also want to start an anti-AIDS theatre group, so I'm going to work with them on that.
AND--the best news from the transit center is that we not only got approval from HCR Kigali to put all the primary school refugee children into the local schools, but we also have enough money to buy all of them uniforms and books! (School is free, but if you can't afford a uniform, you automatically stand out as one of the poor kids....so we're very happy about this development!)
We're also going to provide kindergarten education at the transit center.
Unfortunately, the secondary school kids still can't go to the school...So we'll have to work on that. But good news so far!
Friday, February 24, 2006
Yep, I'm in Africa
I woke up two days ago and went to fill up my cafétière (hot water boiler, for drinks…I don’t know what this is in English) with water. I do this as a ritual because sometimes I have a hot drink in the morning, and I pour the rest of the water into old water bottles after it cools. This way, I don’t have to use pricey water to brush my teeth.
This time, I opened the tap, and it coughed loudly. An empty, cavernous burp. There was no water. I checked the bathroom sink to be sure, and a baby burp emerged.
Taking a quick look in the mirror, I told myself that I was, indeed, gross enough that I needed to take a shower. Now that I finally have a hot water heater, I figured I could use the water in its reservoir. I got in the shower, lathered up with soap, and turned on the water. The water pressure was fine—freezing, but fine—and as I started to rinse off, the pressure decreased until it ended in a slow drip and a long, painful belch.
I was still covered with soap.
With no other options, I grabbed the bottle of water I use to brush my teeth and rinsed off the rest of the soap. I didn’t have enough water to wash my hair, so I still felt pretty disgusting.
Later in the day, my fridge arrived from Kigali. UNHCR took a truck to drop off some Rwandan returnees in Kigali, and picked up my fridge on the way back. When I heard that a truck was bringing my fridge, I assumed it was a pickup truck.
Imagine my surprise, then, to find an enormous refugee transport truck, covered with a tarp and with a big UNHCR written across the side, pulling into the tiny Catholic parish—completely empty, except for a refrigerator in the back. I think I scared the hell out of the priest who lives there. People crept into my little courtyard, peering to see if we were dropping off refugees at the church or something.
So now I have a fridge. It even has a freezer. My friends told me that they’re going to come over on hot days to stick their heads inside.
When I dropped off my fridge, I found that I still didn’t have any water…and now, no electricity, either! I couldn’t have been happier. I mean, really—who needs power or water?
So I ate at my friend’s grandmother’s house last night, an upper-class Rwandan meal of chicken stewed in tomato sauce (they love their tomato sauce), red beans, and rice. It’s upper-class because she can afford to have meat every day.
By the evening, the power was back on, but the drought continued. So yesterday morning, I packed up my shower items and I came to the office (all NGO offices in the field are actually converted houses. My desk is in the dining room.) where the office cleaner made me a bucket of hot water. Back to splashing myself the African way. :) I was so desperate to wash my hair that I didn’t mind that the water I was using was brown.
Happily, this morning I had water again. The only problem was that it was only running in the kitchen and bathroom sinks-- not, of course, in the shower.
Life here is full of such ironies.
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Beer is a hobby here.
I can’t drink any more beer. I don’t even LIKE beer. I’m becoming fully convinced that people here need other things to do. The favored pastime is drinking Primus, or Mutzig, or Amstel, or Guinness (there are only 4 beers here) in a little tiki bar. They’re all tiki bars, complete with huts covered with straw. It’s pretty cheap, too: a 40 of Primus is one dollar. (It tastes like soap, if you ask me. To each their own.) Also, when you order one beer, they automatically bring two. Why? Because they believe that one is too little. I’m not kidding.
The thing is, people here don’t know when to put down their glass. What should be a regular happy hour becomes, for them, a drunken evening. Every night. And it’s never the women. The women are home cooking and tending to the kids while the men spend all the family earnings on liquor. Alcoholism is one of the biggest problems in this country…I’ve heard stories of families starving while the husband/father drinks the family salary…I’ve heard stories of women being beaten by their drunken husbands. It happens pretty often here, I’m told.
Of course, don’t think that they are going to walk home, if they can help it. I have been asked several times to get into a car with a drunk driver. Recalling my episode with drunk drivers before I left the country, I have not hesitated to be the uptight American girl. I’m okay with that. It’s probably a good thing that the roads are pretty terrible--everyone drives slow so their cars don’t get torn up.
I’ve taken to drinking red wine if I can. Wine is almost impossible to find here, and when you do find it, don’t expect it to be a Cheval Blanc. It’s boxed wine from South Africa, and it costs $3 a glass, which is very expensive when you compare it to a $1 mega-beer.
Sunday, February 19, 2006
I hate Chinese electronics.
When I bought my single cooker stove (I will be the master of one-pot meals!), the plug was German or British or something. The guy at the store gave me an adapter that looked like a power strip, but each plug was for a different country. It looked fine to me, but a friend who was with me said, prophetically, “It may not be able to support the current, so be careful.”
The Chinese-made power strip worked fine enough for a while, except that it sometimes smelled like it was burning, and the on-off button melted. Then, two days ago, I was cooking when there was a pop and a flash of light from the strip. My stove kept working, so I just figured I’d go out that afternoon and try to find another adapter.
I forgot to do so, but I did invite two Rwandan friends over for an American dinner of mac and cheese. When I tried to cook, the power strip wasn’t functioning, and something was rattling around inside. Desperate, I played electrician, opening it up and screwing everything back in. Then I plugged everything together, and I must be quite a talented electrician, because it started working…and then POP! there was an even bigger flash of light (I assure you, I was scared out of my wits) and the fuse blew.
I was so pissed that I didn’t know whether to curse in English or French.
My friends still came over. We ate bread by flashlight.
Recalling the night when I had no electricity, so I was forced to eat dry pasta for dinner, I spent the next morning trying to find the fuse box. I spoke with the cook/repair guy who is often loitering on the grounds outside my apartment, but he unfortunately didn’t understand a word of English or French, despite his constant nodding and smiling. For an hour, I tried to re-enact the events through an elaborate charade accompanied by slowly-spoken French (not that it mattered). Needless to say, he didn’t understand anything. He just looked at the power strip and shook it a little.
I sought other help, and (as I live in the Catholic parish), 4 hours, 2 priests, 1 nun, 1 secretary, 3 laborers, 1 guard and 2, yes, 2 electricians later, we found the fuse box, which was where I had thought it would be, but no one believed me. My electricity is up and running, and I got a better adapter. This one’s made in Japan.
I thought I would share this gem I found in Rwanda’s national newspaper, The New Times. The paper’s printed in English because the government is led by Paul Kagame, an Anglophone from his refugee days in Uganda.
By Nelson Gatsimbazi
Umutara- An old man set his grass thatched hut ablaze as he tried to smoke out wasps that had been in the hut for quite a long time.
John Nduwayo, 74, a resident of Nyarupfubire region, stood in disbelief as his hut went ablaze, destroying some of his property.
“I tried to fight the wasps to get out of my house with fire, unfortunately, I lost my house,” the old man told residents.
However, good Samaritans intervened in time after being alerted by his young son and saved the old man’s property. Part of the hut was completely destroyed, but neighbours and local officials have pledged to build a new hut for the old man.
Friday, February 17, 2006
Adventures in Kigali
My weekend was spent in Kigali, taking care of a few items of business. I took a matatu there, a van called Okapi Car. For little more than $2, they’ll take you straight into the center of Kigali. The catch is, they want to make sure that their little white vans are full, so they oversell their seats. This usually works, because people come early, and as soon as the van is full, it leaves, even if it’s supposed to leave a half-hour later. So it’s in your interest to get there early. However, my matatu arrived a half-hour late, so every person who had booked a seat was packed in. This meant four or five people crammed onto seats that were meant for three. Worse, the woman next to me was not particularly….thin, so I had no place to put my arms, and I had to rest one foot on the other because there was no room for my feet.
They say that Rwanda is the land of a thousand hills, which is true around Kigali, which has a relatively flat geography compared to the northwest. Up around Gisenyi, their “hills” are actually mountains, and our matatu whipped around the curves and bends, honking its horn and nearly taking out numerous bicyclists. Jamaican music was blaring from the stereo, and as people finished their bottles of water or juice, they threw them out the window. (Here, it’s a crime to do so, not because it’s littering, but because kids are so desperate for this trash, particularly water bottles, that they will go so far as to kill each other for them. They also run out into the road to beg for them from passing cars, which is very dangerous.) We stopped on the way so that our driver could pick up two yellow jerrycans filled with what we suspected was banana beer. I thought for sure I was going to die that day.
We are required to display our blood type on our badges, in case of emergency. I didn’t know my blood type, and my HMO didn’t either, so I had to have it tested. I didn’t want to get anywhere near a needle here—I don’t mean to offend, but it’s a very different environment when a third of the population has HIV/AIDS (and 50% of the population in Kigali has HIV/AIDS as well). I decided that the one place I could count on in all of Rwanda to be very excessively safe was the UN clinic. The doctors are all national staff, and they were very competent—with the small exception that they couldn’t find my vein, so the woman kept stabbing the needle deeper into my arm, as if mining for blood. I cringe to think about it. (Mom, dad, I’m AB+.)
I also went shopping for items for my apartment. I’m only here for six months, so I don’t want to buy expensive things. My friends took me to their Mecca in Kigali, called T2000. Don’t ask me what it stands for. It’s a store run by Chinese people who have imported everything you could ever imagine from China. Everything from towels that leave fuzz all over you, to glittery vases, to those little porcelain cats with one paw raised. Of course, they also have cheap plates, glasses, pots, and pans. I stocked up, and even bought myself a bottle of soy sauce (I can’t believe I lasted this long without it). When you check out, they give you a Chinese chocolate bar called “Chum,” which approximates what it tastes like.
A big group of internationals (mostly Canadian) went to the Cactus Club, which is a restaurant serving French and Italian food, despite its name. They had some rare items on their menu—frogs’ legs, escargot, and chocolate mousse! I can report that the chocolate mouse was no more than Jell-o chocolate pudding. Since it was before Valentine’s Day, there was a sign up advertising the V-Day menu—3 courses with drinks for $15/person. I laugh to think about the prices we pay in the U.S. Doesn’t a salad and a drink cost $15 at Cosi?
The next day, Thierry, one of my Rwandan friends, took me and my Canadian friend to Nyabugogo, the Mother Of All Markets. It’s not open-air—you descend into a cavern whose roof is made of sloppily-piled corrugated metal, much of which is rusting. It is a veritable maze. Each vendor has a cubicle about 4 feet wide, and clothes are hung for your shopping convenience. Don’t count on finding the same item in another size, though—these are secondhand or factory rejects that inexplicably made it to Rwanda. We passed the towel section of vendors, through the shoe section, past the bag section, to the women’s section. My friend wanted linen pants, and boy, did she find them. All the (50? 100?) vendors crowded around us holding every linen item in their collection. It was overwhelming. Thierry, small as he is, played bodyguard, and I made sure my bag was zipped up tight. We were whisked away to a changing room of sorts, where my friend tried on pants by Ann Taylor Loft and J.Crew. The vendors wanted to charge her $56 for each pair. We loudly scoffed (this is the technique to use if you are bargaining—you have to laugh loudly at the absurdity of their proposed price). My friend had wanted to buy 2 pairs of pants and one shirt, but as a price-lowering tactic, we left. Thierry went back and managed to wrangle a price of $50 for everything, which is still too much. Muzungus have to pay a 10% tax for their skin color, I guess.
I am happy to report that I did go out to one of Kigali’s nightclubs. It’s called Planète Club, and it exceeded my expectations, which admittedly were not very high. There were several pool tables, a mingling bar area, and a dance floor surrounded by mirrors. I believe that Rwandans are obsessed with Beyoncé and Sean Paul (this was evident not only from the music at the club, but EVERYWHERE). They had blacklights, sketchy people (many salty old white men staring at the Rwandan women), girls wearing skirts that barely covered their asses, and bathrooms without toilet paper. Just like a club in the U.S.
I discovered La Galette, a European supermarket. I was overjoyed to see it, for many reasons. First, when Rwandans talk about their local supermarket, they mean the alimentation générale, which is a store with a counter behind which are shelves of dry grocery items. It’s full service—point, and the guy behind the counter will climb a ladder to get it for you. Now, in Gisenyi, there is one alimentation générale—and to give you an idea of what it carries, I asked for black pepper, and they didn’t know what that was. Okay, so back to La Galette. Now this is a supermarket. There was a great butchery with fresh sausages (nevermind the cockroach crawling around. Funny how I’ve gotten used to such things) and a cheese counter. Imagine—a whole counter with cheese! Nothing like Whole Foods, I’m afraid—but I was ecstatic.
Prices aren’t cheap—they sell everything you could want from Europe and the U.S., but import fees and Rwanda’s taxes have made some of these products unreasonably expensive. Nutella is $10. Corn Flakes are $14. Want chocolate cereal? Cocoa Puffs are an unpalatable $16 a box. That’s the price of comfort food.
A couple staff from my office in Gisenyi came down on Tuesday, so I left with them that evening. On the way, we had some brochettes (kebabs) at a tiny kiosk outside the city. Their specialty was goat kebabs. Of course, if you really want their best kebabs, you can order the goat intestine kebabs. As an added bonus, they’re stuffed with stomach! Yum.
While we waited, everyone had beer. One guy ordered a Guinness and an orange Fanta, which he mixed together. I was appalled. As a Guinness lover and purist, how could any respectable person drink that? It’s like using a bottle of Chateauneuf-du-Pape to make mulled wine. Of course, I had to try it. It’s actually quite tasty (if you can get over the sacrilege!)
I am pleased to report that I have found a fridge. It's in Kigali, so I'll have to get a truck to carry it up here. I am also acquiring free, custom-made furniture...the Catholic parish is home to a carpentry shop (go fig--Christian carpenters!) and they are going to build me everything I need! I've requested some shelves for the kitchen, a couch, a little table, and a bedframe. (I believe that my mattress has been infested with bed bugs since it's on the floor.) Since I'm going to leave everything here, they're not going to charge me (but I'm going to give them a small donation anyway).
I haven't paid my first month's rent because the finance guy for the parish told me not to pay until he had written the contract. At the time, he asked me if I wanted to write it. I was a bit surprised, and told him to write it. But...several weeks in, and he told me he hasn't gotten around to it. (This is very Rwandan, by the way.) So I sat down and wrote the best housing contract ever, in French, yesterday. Good practice if I'm going to be a lawyer someday, I guess. :)
Monday, February 13, 2006
Bring a strong stomach.
**WARNING--IMAGES AND DESCRIPTIONS IN THIS POST COULD BE CONSIDERED GRAPHIC.**
I traveled to Kigali this weekend to get some things for my apartment and for the kids at the transit center. I stayed in the Hotel Okapi ($70/night, hot water not guaranteed, I would recommend against staying there at that price), splitting a room with my Canadian friend. Her Canadian friends had organized a car to take us to the genocide memorial in Kigali. I had wanted to visit, so I joined up. The thought of what I was going to see was enough to petrify me, but I found it more important to overcome my fears and confront the horror that enveloped the country for several months, and which has lasting repercussions.
It turned out that we weren't going to the memorial in Kigali, but rather, the two memorials outside of Kigali. (There are about 50, if not more, genocide memorials here.) They're about 30 km away from the city, set in a rural landscape that closely resembles the plains of the Serengeti. We took a roundabout way, so we ended up traveling about 70 km on roads that cannot properly be called roads--more walking paths than anything else. Thank goodness we were in a Land Rover! But I was sitting on a bench in the back, and every time we hit a bump, my head would bang against the ceiling. It felt like a bad action ride. Looking out the back window didn't help the dizziness, and after getting completely lost in the bush for 3 hours, passing through tens of ghost villages, we arrived at a larger town, called Nyamata.
Nyamata is the site of one of the most powerful genocide memorials. The difference between memorials here and in DC is that those in DC have inscribed names, or a commemorative statue. Here, memorials aren't cleansed. They're not for the weak of constitution. They are designed to tell the whole truth, and to remind people about the full extent of the horror.
The memorial was a church. A church on whose grounds 10,000 people were slaughtered. Not just a shot to the head, or a beheading. The government forces and the interahamwe wanted to torture the Tutsis. A quick death was too easy.
The church sits on an acre of land. Tutsis from the area flocked there, believing that no one would kill in God's house. The women and children took shelter inside the church, while the men feebly tried to protect the grounds. Those in the church were luckier. The interahamwe threw grenades through the windows, killing many. They later broke in and chopped the survivors with machetes, hoes, and any other tools they could find.
The men had it worse. The interahamwe chopped off one limb per day, forcing extreme suffering. If someone was killed on the spot, it took several men--one slash of a machete was not enough to kill.
An entire class of first-graders was slaughtered, as was their teacher. They are buried together. A pregnant woman was impaled, through the birth canal, up through her skull. To kill babies, they would hold them by the feet and swing them against a wall until their skulls shattered.
Before coming here, I had never seen a skull before, let alone a full skeleton. I guess in some ways, I've lived a sheltered life. So to see the piles and rows of skulls, the other bones piled on tarps, the bloodstained clothes piled in another room, was so difficult that my heart jumped into my throat.
In the back of the church are two long, underground tombs. Every April, to commemorate the genocide, they bury some of the bones in this final resting place. I descended into one. The smell was musty, earthy, dusty, like human remains. It was dark and claustrophobic. Inside they had begun to pile the remains of women and children from a nearby maternity ward. A shiver went up and down my skin, and I began to hyperventilate. It was too much for me. I jumped out of there as fast as I could.
The enormity of the massacre is almost too much for the brain to process. It was too much for me. Only now am I really beginning to think about what I saw. I have studied the genocide for years--I've read widely, have attended lectures and conferences. But to be confronted by thousands of skulls is entirely different from reading about it in a book.
Among the piles of bones, you can see the rosaries of people who believed that God would save them. No one came.
We went on to another genocide memorial (I will confirm the name) about 2 km away from Nyamata. It was the site of 5,000 deaths. Among the pews, the debris, bones, and clothes are still strewn. Some of the skulls are lined up on shelves; most of the bones have been tossed into oversized plastic rice bags. In the back is a house where many took refuge--the militiamen doused the house with kerosene and lit it on fire. I will post a picture when I get a chance.
The banners in front of the genocide memorials across the country read (in Kinyarwanda): "If you knew me, and if you knew yourself, then you wouldn't have killed me."
Thursday, February 09, 2006
Sights, Sounds, and Smells
The air here often smells like warm dirt and moist soil. It also often smells of marijuana, which I have not seen while I have been here (and no, I haven't looked!). The water is full of iron, and, appropriately or inappropriately, smells like blood. Everyone here, it seems, is a gardener; the government, which controls everything, has an extensive social welfare program by which it employs Rwandans in urban and rural areas to care for public spaces (tend to flowers, pull out weeds, build secondary roads, etc.). Of course, there are no lawnmowers here--they cut the grass and trim plants by swinging machetes. I'm not kidding. There are machetes everywhere, and it creeps me out. But as a result of all the TLC, there are aromatic flowers everywhere, and the grass is surprisingly short, even in some rural areas. Everywhere, the air is tinged with the stench of body odor. I haven't seen any deodorant while I've been here, and I'm so happy that I brought some of my own.
There is forever a chorus of birds, some cawing, some singing, some screeching (the latter being quite unpleasant at 5 am). The crunch of rocks under tires is constant, as is the honking of horns, which cars do regularly to warn people to get out of the road. Radios, often broadcasting in French, blare at full volume, and are often carrying the news or a play-by-play account of a soccer match. Right before lunch, the high school students next to my office sing. Today, they were singing a spiritual which sounded remarkably like a song from Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?, which made me stop and consider the roots of American folk and bluegrass music.
At lunch and in the afternoon, children return home from school. Depending on the school, the kids are dressed differently; boys wear safari shirts and shorts, girls wear white shirts and long blue skirts, and Muslim students wear white shirts and green pants or skirts. The girls wear white lacy headscarves. All of them remind me of private school kids in the US; forced to wear the same thing as everyone else, they try to be different in small ways--here, they wear bright socks or colorful shoes. Women balance baskets on their heads, often with babies wrapped on their backs. I haven't figured out how they manage to do this, but it's really an amazing sight. It also seems like every woman has a newborn, but none of them are pregnant, like every woman gave birth to a child six months ago. And children that aren't in school lug yellow jerrycans of water home for the family.
Must run home. I was told that I shouldn't walk alone at night anymore, because I'm a muzungu. If I'm lucky, maybe my hot water heater will finally be installed (I've had a week of cold showers!)
Rwandan Thoughts on Hotel Rwanda
I've had this conversation numerous times, and never at my suggestion. Rwandans are aware of the new attention it has been getting as a result of the movie, and talk about it surprisingly frequently. They think that Don Cheadle decided to take the role because of the money, that the movie doesn't show what actually happened (and I must concede that with the exception of the part where they drove over bodies in Gitarama, it is pretty light on violence), it doesn't show Rwanda (the film was shot in South Africa), it doesn't even feature Rwandans (the characters were played by South Africans who are apparently the cast of a famous S. African TV show), and it is the story of a Hutu who saves some Tutsis (many, it appears, would prefer a story featuring a Tutsi).
Instead, without exception, everyone has recommended the HBO flick Sometimes in April, which came out the same year as Hotel Rwanda. I saw it when it was shown for the first time in Washington. It had been seen as such an important film that HBO teamed up with PBS to show it on public television. It's the story of two Hutu brothers, split by Hutu Power politics. One of the brothers was a radio commentator on RTLM, the radio station which broadcast anti-Tutsi messages. The other was a moderate. It's very violent, but, I will grant, is truer to the more general story of the genocide than Hotel Rwanda. (Plus, apparently it was filmed with Rwandans in Rwanda.) The movie should be in your local video store, if you're interested in seeing it. It's very good.
Most Rwandans have seen both films, because every April, they remember the genocide. For two weeks, TV stations only carry movies and programs on the genocide, because the government fears that if the Rwandan people regard the genocide as history, they will be doomed to repeat it. And many people believe we're in the eye of the storm.
As a post script, if anyone was ever interested in what those kids are singing at the end of Hotel Rwanda (that song with Wyclef Jean), in Kinyarwanda, it means this: "The sun will rise once again over Rwanda."
Sunday, February 05, 2006
First Visit to the Transit Center
There it is: proof that I haven't been making up all of these stories, and that I am actually in Rwanda.
I visited the Transit Center an hour outside of Gisenyi last Friday. We were having our first meeting with the refugees, to hear their concerns and address them.
The Transit Center is the camp to which refugees who have sought asylum from Congo are transferred. They stay here for two days, are given kits that include plastic sheeting, mats, blankets, a kitchen set, felt for women and girls (for their periods) and some food, and are then moved to the large refugee camp in Byumba, two provinces away. However, there are so many Congolese refugees that they haven't been able to make shelter fast enough at the refugee camp. Therefore, people at the transit center have not been moving on--some have been here since April. We're trying as hard as we can to move them to the camp, where conditions are much better.
In an effort to address their concerns, a refugee council (made up men only) and a women's council were formed. They work with UNHCR, MINALOC (the local government), and GTZ (A German organization...I thought it was their equivalent of USAID, but I think I'm wrong) in the administration of the camp.
Yet, because it's not a real camp, we're limited in what we can do. Education, training, sports, employment aid, etc., which are provided mostly by NGOs in the big camps, are not provided here. Most people here were forced to leave their homes so quickly that all they took with them were their family members and the clothes they were wearing. They have nothing more, and no money with which to buy new (or even used) clothes. Some parents, unhappy that their kids were not receiving an education for a year, put their children in the local schools. Only 250 children of the several hundred are in school, and none of them have the money to pay for uniforms, books, or pencils.
There are over a thousand people here (small compared to camps like Byumba, of tens of thousands) but they have not been receiving crucial services. The teenagers, with nothing to do, sleep with each other; one teenager said that he wanted to be tested for AIDS as a result. The small kids, having no toys, play with trash. A string tied in a circle can entertain a child for weeks. One child chased a plastic bottle around the camp.
Soccer is the sport of preference here. Children stuff plastic bags inside another plastic bag until it's hard, and then tie string around it to make a ball. This is what they use to play.
I've decided to try to set up a soccer league. Maybe two teams of children and two teams of teens. I'm going to try to find soccer balls the next time I'm in Kigali. I'm not sure I can find jerseys, though. If anyone is interested in sending jerseys enough for two teams, I would be deeply appreciative. Just send me an email and I'll give you my address! (And hopefully I will be able to take a picture of the teams playing, and post it!)
I'll be working here once or twice a week.
Saturday, February 04, 2006
Home Sweet Home
My apartment's not really ready, but I moved in anyway. I thought it was about time that I had my own space.
The funny thing is, I never imagined that I would have an apartment here. I always thought I would share a house with a bunch of other internationals. But there are no other internationals here. And I could probably afford a house, but why on earth would I want to live in a house alone? And for six months? And where on earth would I find furniture to fill a house?
Of course, I don't have any furniture for my apartment, either. I borrowed a mattress from a co-worker, which I have put on the floor, because I don't have a bedframe. I borrowed a table and two chairs from the office. I don't have a stove, but eventually I will borrow one from a co-worker. I was going to borrow a fridge, but sadly, that fell through. (So I have to buy one, I think. I'm not happy about this. They cost $300.)
I went to the market for the first time today. Kiosks beside kiosks beside kiosks, with wares spread out in front, behind the shopkeeper, and up high enough that a ladder was needed to retrieve some of them. In the middle of the market was a shaded area with tables where women sold fresh vegetables: roma tomatoes, "celery" (something that looks like parsley leaves), carrots, sweet potatoes, onions, leeks, "spinach" (texture of collard greens), avocadoes, pineapples, mangoes, tree tomatoes (I have decided that, after giving these about 20 tries, that I find them unpalatable), passionfruit, papayas, corn, and micro-garlic (they are about 1/4 the size of garlic cloves you find at the supermarket). Oh, and the ever-present bananas. The prices were pretty reasonable, I think: 4 roma tomatoes for 100 Frw (20 cents or so).
I bought 3 casseroles, an extremely cheap pan (made in China), a knife, soap, and a beautiful piece of traditional fabric that looks like it was designed by Roy Liechtenstein. I have draped it over my table.
So now I have food, but I have no way to cook it, and no way to store it. So I went back to the Kivu Sun to have dinner. Who knew that Saturday nights this place is jumping? Gisenyi's a deserted town during the week, but I always forget that it's a resort on weekends. There were so many muzungus that I was almost overwhelmed...where did they come from?? Germans and Brits and Americans, oh my! A Rwandan band was playing...the lead is the Rwandan equivalent of Craig David, and they actually had a couple of really good songs. (I got a special serenade of "Sous Le Vent" by Garou and Céline Dion, for Francophiles who know this song.) Then they started playing strange polkas. Hm.
I befriended the lead singer somehow. He just came over and asked if I lived here and said he wanted to get to know me better. It's odd, but it's normal for me. I have about 20 male Rwandan friends, and only one female one. And it's not for not trying--it just seems like Rwandan women my age distrust me, like I'm trying to steal their men. I'm not doing anything! I went to a women's college! I love having female friends!!
I have to admit that, whether I like it or not, most of these men friends probably want to get with me. But that leaves me with two choices--1) Have no friends and lead a lonely existence for six months, or 2) Have a lot of friends who probably want to get with me, and I get to know the culture. In light of the options, I'd rather go with the latter.
I am very excited to head back to my own apartment! I guess I'll have an avocado for breakfast, since an omelette isn't an option.
Thursday, February 02, 2006
The Patchwork Hills of Gisenyi
National Heroes' Day
There are surprisingly few national holidays in Rwanda, one of which is National Heroes' Day, which is basically Veterans' Day. The entire town collects in the local stadium for speeches, dances, music and a parade.
Wanting to learn and experience as much as possible, my boss and I decided that morning to go. The walk was long and hot, so we put on jeans and t-shirts and made the hike. Drenched in sweat, we dragged ourselves to an entrance, where we were immediately escorted to the main grandstand, where another of our staff members had been inexplicably waiting for us.
We were seated in the second row of the VIP section, directly behind the most important people at the event--the governor, top Army officials, top police officers, etc. Everyone, EVERYONE, was dressed to the nines--full suit or fanciest dress. My boss and I, again, were in jeans, right in the center of the second row. Somebody tried to move us, but when he realized that my boss was the head of office of one of the biggest international organizations in the province, he relented. It was hilarious.
So, whereas we had expected to be spectators like everyone else, we got the best seat in the house.
The event began and concluded with the national anthem. Then a band with 6 too many members began playing music that was at times so cacophonous that I couldn't help but smile. It was exactly like karaoke--the background music was great, perfectly rhythmic, but the singers were so off-key and off-beat (and SO into their music) that the comparison was unavoidable.
Traditional Rwandan dancers then came out--the men wore loincloths of colorful fabric and wore bells around their ankles. They jumped and turned and did amazing acrobatics with their bodies, all without breaking a sweat or even breathing hard. The women then joined. Fewer of them had bells and I wondered if that was traditional or if the women just didn't have enough.
Then the parade began. Every school child and university student marched by the grandstand, holding a handmade banner from their school. The smallest kids, surely told to march like military men, swung their arms so hard you thought they might fly. Then the handicapped group followed, with their hand-cranked bicycles. Following were the bankers and money lenders, waving 5000 Frw bills. Then the bakers walked by, waving their bread. The cleaners waved their brooms; the weavers did a special dance; the men at the mechanic shop marched by; then the Boy and Girl Scouts; then each of the hotels and restaurants, large and small; the Rwandan Red Cross; a Mutzig truck with men wearing Primus shirts in the back; the taxi-motos; and all twelve of Gisenyi's taxis. There were more. Each group wore the same kind of outfit, and many were loud and colorful. It was such a sight.
The national pride, particularly in light of everything they've been through, was really beautiful. I can't think of any other word. It was just beautiful.
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
Yesterday morning, despite my illness, I dragged myself out. We were to visit the transit center an hour from Gisenyi, which we manage with MINALOC and the World Food Programme. On the way, we stopped at the Imbubazi (Compassion) Orphanage, a site made famous by Rosamond Halsey Carr, an American woman who has spent a large part of her life here in Rwanda.
In 1994, she had been living an hour from Gisenyi, in a little house by herself. When the genocide began, she was evacuated with all of the other Americans; however, she followed the events closely from the U.S., and begged the Ambassador to let her return in August, despite continued insecurity and constant interahamwe attacks. She had seen the orphans of the genocide on TV, and wanted to help them.
The Ambassador finally agreed, and she returned in September 1994. She was 82.
We met with Rose, and she welcomed us into her European-style cottage, which was enveloped in ivy, and surrounded by exquisitely kept floral gardens. She served us tea and told us her story.
She was childless herself, she said, but at the age of 82, she had 40 children. She founded the orphanage in her old house, which had been completely ransacked and emptied by the interahamwe. She cared for the children in the farmhouse adjoining her cottage.
The children had nowhere to go, and if they were found walking about, they would surely be slaughtered. Most were babies, the oldest were 5 or 6. She struggled to keep them well-fed and to protect them from the constant interahamwe attacks.
The insecurity became too much, and she moved her orphanage to Gisenyi, where it remained until last month, when the landowners raised the rent to $700 a month. With help from UNHCR, the Red Cross, Save the Children, other organizations and private donors, she reopened a new, expanded orphanage next to her original cottage. The old, bombed-out farmhouse is still there. She now hosts 120 children, some genocide orphans, some who have been left behind by their asylum-seeking parents, some without parents. She is 94.
It's enough to make you cry.
She said this: "I never knew the generosity of people until I opened this orphanage."
But really, she is astonishingly modest. I believe that we are all, fundamentally, cowards. We all want to do good, but no one actually does anything. It takes an exceptional individual, like Rose Carr, to take that first step, and undertake the hard work--and then the rest of us follow, giving her money to support the cause. We congratulate ourselves for having done something good, when all we did was give a couple of dollars.
So when Rose said she couldn't believe the generosity of people, I couldn't help but tear up at the thought that she passed on the credit that she deserves to others.
The Human Parakeet
I am currently homeless. Well, only sort of. I gave up the mosquito-infested "Dian Fossey Lodge" (despite the fun statues of giraffes and gorillas and whatnot, do NOT EVER stay there) to stay with my boss in her new house. This has been mostly okay, except that I've been there since last Thursday and will be there until Friday afternoon, when I am supposed to move into my apartment. I fear the old Ben Franklin adage "Fish and visitors stink after three days" is true--I'm trying hard not to be a burden, but I fear I've started to smell.
I'm looking forward to having my own place. Even though they upped the rent by $25 and informed me that electricity and water are extra when I told them I wanted to take it. It's great being a muzungu.
I haven't had the internet to share anything with anyone, so please excuse me if this post becomes a mishmash of random thoughts. Also--be assured that I do have photos, but in my daze today (I am ill again) I forgot the cord that connects my camera to my computer. I'll try to do this tomorrow. (I have some great photos!)
Firstly, I will start with a list that I began to note with exasperation while eating the other day:
I am tired of:
Bananas (with or without tomato sauce)
Being stared at like an alien
Feeling on the brink of collapsing or puking all the time
Brushing my teeth with bottled water (and afterward, the bottle tastes like toothpaste)
Not having the internet
I am not tired of:
Not having to dress up every day
Not having to dry my hair
Learning intricacies of the culture and history
$6 Tennis lessons (will be discussed further)
So I'll start with last Friday. After the internet was more or less hooked up, the computer guy and one of the drivers and I went to Bikini Tam Tam, a bar on the beach. Since Fridays are half-days for the UN here, we were there from about 2 pm until Morgan was wasted, about 9 pm, I would imagine. Everyone here drinks beer--there are two kinds that you can find everywhere: Primus (my assessment is that it tastes like soap) and Mutzig (a Belgian beer, but licensed to be produced here). Mutzig is better. Primus costs anywhere between 50 cents and 2 bucks; Mutzig is slightly more expensive. However, anyone who knows me well knows that I only drink beer if I have no choice. Therefore, I was served what appears to be the only hard alcohol around: Uganda Waragi. Yes, it comes from Uganda. It tastes like gin, and if you ever questioned if it was gin, it is conveniently packaged in exactly the same bottle as Gordon's Gin. It was tough stuff. They mixed it with Fanta.
At some point, the two guys and I went out to a local bar in the middle of town for brochettes (kebabs) of beef and more beer (for them--water for me). There are few times in my life when I have been truly terrified. (One was the other night, when I walked alone to a restaurant to eat dinner in the pitch dark--the roads are terrible, there are ditches everywhere, there are drunks wandering around, and you can't see anyone on the road until they are right next to you.) The second was at this bar. The lighting was dim and splotchy, there were beefy men who glared at me as if to tell me I didn't belong, and there were few women. At one point, the lights went out, and I nearly jumped under the table. I wouldn't go alone to a place like that in the U.S., either.
A note on the staring, just to make this picture perfectly clear...and perhaps I'm using this example because I've just finished Life of Pi. I feel like a parakeet at a zoo. Everyone stops to look at it, maybe poke at it, and tries to get it to say something. For me, everyone says, "BONjour. Donne-moi l'argent." This means "HELL-o. Give me money." It's very tiresome. They try to get me to say something, like we try to make a parakeet say something. And if the parakeet ignores us, we try to do something to get its attention. Here, people try to get my attention by one of the following techniques: 1) In Kigali, they say "KssKssKss," much like a cicada; 2) In Gisenyi, they say "SssSsssSsss"like a snake, and 3) Everywhere, people make these weird kissing sounds. My boss, who fits in physically (since she's Kenyan) didn't realize what this was like until today, when we were walking to the stadium for National Heroes' Day, and we were barraged by "BONjours" and "SssSssSss."
I have also been told that I get stared at even more because I am not a true muzungu--I don't have white skin, as the name implies, so people are surprised to see a tan Asian-looking girl walking around with a backpack.
It's a bit annoying. I really hate being treated differently. It's only occasionally that I'll have a pleasant exchange with children. Three girls approached me the other day, and told me that they thought my hair was pretty and that they liked my sunglasses. It was very sweet of them, and it was nice to finally have a friendly word.
(I also want to say that although I understand that many of the children who are asking for money are poorer than I will ever be, and that they will be using the money for food, I don't want to feed a begging culture. It's not as bad here as it is in Kigali, where foreigners give money freely because they don't like kids to bother them. Here, there are few tourists.)
As a result, the only place in town where I really feel at home is the Kivu Sun, the fancy resort hotel where I am currently using the internet. I really hate that...but at least when I come here, I am treated like a normal person. I can move freely without being hassled. And I can use their sad excuse for a gym for $6/day, or their private beach for free. On top of that, you can use their tennis courts for $6/hour, trainer included. He's been trying to rip people off by privately telling them that he costs extra (he tried this on my boss) but when he tried to approach the subject with me, I pretended I didn't understand. :)
There is literally nothing else to do, so my weekends have been filled with lots of exercise...and I've been sick from something I ate here last Sunday, so I haven't eaten in two days. I'll be really skinny when I get home, I imagine. (Don't worry, I just had a bowl of pea soup. I'm still a bit dizzy, but if it gets really bad, I'll go to Kigali to see the UN doctor this weekend.)
I have to admit, though, that I couldn't stomach anything Rwandan for the past three days (and I still can't)...but there are no other food choices except at the big hotels (of which there are two) and I got sick eating at this one! All I wanted was a bowl of cereal or some plain pasta with olive oil...but there is no cereal or pasta here. Just bananas. And bananas and bananas and bananas. (The time has come when I cannot eat another banana.) I wish I had brought some Ramen for times like this...