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!)


Blogger casper the friendly ghost said...

So what is it that you have to actually do for work each day?

2/10/2006 10:48 AM  
Blogger Morgan C. said...

I go out to the field to check up on returnees after the genocide to make sure they're reintegrating into their communities. I also help out with the transit center--we may get many more refugees from Congo over the next couple of months. I think I'm about to start liaising with the international community in Gisenyi soon, too...

2/13/2006 9:21 AM  
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