So four weeks have passed since I descended the steps of the Kenya Airways jet and set foot on the asphalt at Kigali International; my first tentative steps on African soil (the short layover at Jomo Kenyatta does not count). The weather has been kind. It is hot here but not oppressively so. When clouds gather the temperature can drop quite dramatically and leave one a tad chilly. Today is a hot one, of the more uncomfortable variety if you are in any great hurry to get somewhere. Beads of sweat lubricated my back as I paid my daily lunch time visit to Shekina, anxious to gorge on a plate of white and yellow, that has become my signature dish (rice, three kinds of potato and cooked bananas). The diet here is high on starch, low on protein, serving me up a stodgy and lumbering start to Cuda preseason training. Since my last installment, the pattern of day-to-day life has been much the same with only minor reverberations thrown into the mix.
I am finally out of the roach motel after over three weeks of pungent odours, unusable amenities, 5am call to prayers, load, late night and incomprehensible conversations supplemented with music of interminably repetitive melodies that make me feel like I am an unwilling bystander at an Arfrican election rally. Then there are Butare’s resident DJs who begin their shift at six in the morning and pump the same playlist into the arid and dusty air of Huye’s major city. It’s as if Heart FM have exported their format to East Africa. I will miss the staff of Motel Beaux Arts, almost as much as I will miss using one of my truly useful Kinyarwanda phrases “amazi ishyushye, mushobora” (hot water, please). The solace I found in the blue bucket with its precious capacity to clean me, after another evening of interrupted sleep, was almost euphoric… I’ll miss old blooey. The only tragedy of leaving the motel is that I will no longer receive my warm greeting from the shop assistant next door, from whom I purchased my morning muffin. Our conversations (part in kinyarwanda, part English) were always a treasured part of the day, and started my day off with a wide smile, ready to face the constant stares from the locals. I don’t visit him quite so often now that I have moved into the house set aside for the duration of our project. I really should go in, get a muffin for old times sake, and then I should probably ask the character his name.
I have lost my train of the thought momentarily. I was distracted by a host of monkeys on the wall outside our house. I couldn’t resist chasing after the little dudes and taking some photos. The monkeys have not been near as plentiful to satisfy my curiosity and adoration of primates. The chimpanzees in Uganda are much anticipated, but for now, while in Rwanda I will settle for chasing after them around the house, university and forests. There usual hangouts so I am told. Ooooo, there they are again, and with a little babby. OK, concentrate… So yes, now I am in the house with the girls following the departure of our new American friends from George Washington University, who were representing GlobeMed. The extra space and time in the shower is much appreciated, but there is a bit of a void now. They were fun and welcome company during our settling in period in Rwanda. Aside from these minor developments, not much has changed since we returned from Lake Kivu. We have been continuing with visits, analysis and evaluation of data, and I wrote up our first report for the girls’ scrutinising eye. We are aiming to finish reports for a second project out of the five before our final HIV visit on Sunday, after which we will be able to begin analysis of that data on our way to writing a further report. We are having to knuckle down these past few days, to get a lot of admin squared away before a busy eight consecutive days in which we will be conducting visits and research in the field for malaria and gender equality: the final two projects we need to assess. The sense of urgency will kick in harder when we get to this time next week and the clock is ticking before our project ends and the baseline report needs to be submitted to our committee head. But we’ve gelled into a good, hardworking team and we are on the cusp of becoming a well oiled machine now that we have our first mini report typed up.
Tomorrow, before we recommence our field visits, we will be visiting the local orphanage. It is not a part of our mission here, but myself and Orla have gifts to give, and the four of us have our friendship and love to confer on these unfortunate little mites. I’m sure it will be emotional but rewarding, and time well spent. Before I end this latest communique, I have to mention the unusual coiffure I saw today. An otherwise slick looking Rwandan man was sporting a bizarre fade-mullet combo that made his bonce look like a medieval knight’s helmet. I’ll have an artist’s impression ready for next time. For the time being I will end transmission