Murisanga! Feel at home.
It’s good to be back. It was hard to explain to my colleagues at school that I wasn’t excited to go to Rwanda. Excited wasn’t exactly the word I would use to describe the feeling of returning—as my fifth time in Rwanda, it felt more like I was just going home. There’s a strange comfort in the sights, smells, and sounds of this place. Landing at Kayibanda airport, I felt like I was a full human again.
I don’t have much time here, but have a lot to do. The conference on the genocide lasts for three days, and this Tuesday, April 7, is the official day of mourning. While I’m here, I also have to see my friend Faycal (the pop singer) and my Rwandan family in Kigali. Today, I stopped by the newly-opened Peace Corps office to say hello to the staff and drop off some magazines for the Volunteers, including the latest Vanity Fair. When I was living in the north, I made a pilgrimage to Kigali’s Librarie Ikirezi, where I spent 7,500 FRw ($15--ouch) on a Vanity Fair and read it cover to cover by candlelight, memorizing every word and studying every photo.
After visiting the office, I took shelter from the torrential April rain at the MTN Center and had a Rwandan buffet for lunch. Such buffets are typically comprised of salad, a long series of starches (rice, fries, fried bananas, fried plantains, sweet potatoes, and pasta) and then isombe, beans, some meat (usually beef) and tomato-based sauce. I regrettably took a large portion of isombe, and was reminded that it is an acquired taste. Bitter, green, and a bit pasty, isombe is prepared with cassava leaves. It looks vaguely like spinach, but that’s where the comparison ends. After I forced it down, I nearly broke a tooth on a rock I found in my beans. Eh, well.
Before leaving, I popped by Café Bourbon for an ikawaccino (their answer to the Starbucks Frappuccino). While making small talk with the woman behind the counter, I discovered that they have opened a Bourbon Café selling Rwandan coffee in Boston, and soon they will be opening one in Washington, D.C. Let me just repeat that, if only for my own benefit: there will be Bourbon Coffeeshops in Boston and in D.C. Now I don’t have to go all the way to Rwanda to restock my coffee supply! Score!
Now I’m relaxing at my friend Victoria’s house in the middle of a thunderstorm. The rain is pounding so loudly that we can barely hear, and it’s glazing the windows as if we were in a car wash. It’s nice to be home.