Thursday, July 17, 2008

Keeping busy!

I haven't had a moment's rest since I got here. My organization is seriously understaffed (just the Country Director and myself at the moment) and I have been running around getting various and sundry things done.

Of course, because I've been running around and operating on generally little sleep, I've now come down with a case of the sniffles. While I bought some $2 sandpaper tissues, I recently discovered that the woman whose house I'm staying at has stockpiled lotion-infused Kleenex, which is probably the best thing ever invented.

So yesterday, I did what I hate to do...I stayed home. Well, not really. I went into the office in the morning and tried to work for about 2 hours before I essentially fell over. So I went home at 10 am, and passed out for four hours. When I woke up and dragged my sorry self into the kitchen for some water, I found that Laetitia, the angelic housekeeper, had prepared lunch for me without my asking. She knew I was sleeping in my room and brought me some leftovers of what she had prepared for her family--matoke (cooked plantain) with peas in tomato sauce. She then boiled me some water with ginger, which soothed my throat and is a trick I'm taking back with me to the States. I was so touched that she took care of me!

I ate until I was stuffed (plantains are like potatoes in that way) and went back to bed, where I slept for several more hours before one of my friends came over and offered me company despite the fact that I should have been quarantined. He happened to have a stock of Campbell's soup, and offered me a can. I am getting better, Rwandan and American-style.

* * *

For the past several weeks, I've been taking Kinyarwanda lessons from a guy named Patrick, who used to run the Kinyarwanda language training center at the Franco-Rwandan Cultural Center (now closed since the French have left). The classes haven't been cheap ($20 an hour...quite a muzungu price!) but since I'm here for such a short period of time, I have justified the expense to myself. It has been good, though--I have been able to bounce my Kinyarwanda questions off of someone, and my language skills have been improving very quickly. We meet for four hours a week, and it is pretty intensive.

I had a major breakthrough today! After massive struggles with the numbers (it's addition on steroids, really, the way the numbers work here), I was at a Forex today haggling for a better exchange rate. The Forex guy noted that I was speaking Kinyarwanda with him, and challenged me--he said that if I could say "551" in Kinyarwanda, he would give me that rate per dollar.

So....I thought about it, and I came up with "Magana atanu na mirongo itanu na rimwe." That is, literally, 500 and 50 and 1. (Told you it was math.)

He was stunned, and forked over the money at the higher rate. Patrick would be so proud.


Blogger Michelle said...

Nice work, Morgan :) My husband (then, boyfriend) was so proud of me when I could finally say my age in kinyarwanda. makumyabere na gatanu, at the time. It took me about a month before I could spit out the word for "twenty"!

7/18/2008 8:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Morgan.
Hope you are feeling better today and I see your Kinyarwanda is good.
Is your company hiring? I know some rwandan orphans who finished university and still looking for a job and its not easy unless you know somebody. Wish I can help them find a job but being in America, I cann't do much for them.

Take care.

7/19/2008 3:06 PM  

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