Ufite Amazzi? Food, Language and Culture
on Rebecca in Rwanda (Rwanda), 22/Aug/2013 15:12, 34 days ago
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My first few days in Rwanda, I practised the language a bit in my head in preparation for leaving the capital to visit the more rural areas. It is such a beautiful language, it rolls of the tongue quite nicely. I remember enough verbs to get by and I always find it quite fascinating when I travel to use gestures, facial expression and laughter to communicate with people.As a culture, Rwandans tend to be quite guarded at first contact but then very warm, friendly and generous. Yesterday during the AziziLife experience visit- more to come on that later- I ate a meal with several artisans. We then helped to cultivate the land, fetched water from the well and learned how to make a Sisal bracelet. We wore traditional clothing and the lady that helped dress me was so sweet. When there is no language, the barrier becomes only how limited we are in expressing ourselves without words. A smile, a handshake, a hug, a raise of the eyebrows or even a wink work just as effectively as words. I like this about Rwanda. It only requires that you be honest and be authentically YOU.You don't come to Rwanda for the food, that's for sure. I've been in Gitarama about a week now and I don't want to look at another potato for awhile. Or rice. The fruit is amazing- fresh avocado, papaya, pineapple, banana, etc. But other than rice, potato and goat brochettes, there is little else to eat as a main meal. Bread is a luxury item.The market is kinda fascinating, it hasn't changed a bit since four years ago. In fact, the same lady is sitting on the ground at the foot of the hill that leads up to the market; she has hobbled legs and sits there asking passersby for money.I would be remiss not to comment on the poverty here and the way that it impacts me. I am grateful that it was so easy to connect with neighbours and colleagues but I also know that it is likely that if I returned four more years from now, they would still be close-by. They don't have the means to travel. It's hard to look at dusty children. The first few people you see who are missing limbs is quite shocking but strangely enough, you then become acclimated. I struggle with seeing handicapped people beg at bus windows; this is probably related to having grown up with a handicapped brother. I see potential in what they can still do and I feel sad for them that they don't have support to realize this. I also cannot fathom how awful it must've been to suffer such trauma. The man at the Gisenyi bus stop yesterday had visible stitches overlapping the flap where his elbow used to be. I shuddered to think of how it happened and who saved him. I also marvel at the women here. Three of the women we worked with yesterday were widows with multiple children. Their faces were smooth, youthful and there was no hint in their spirit of loss or trauma. It is remarkable because surely they have experienced great loss.Culturally, it is different to be in an environment where there are so many machine guns present and to see prisoners being carted from the prison to their work detail and back. The mini-bus ride is not that different than riding the Dufferin bus- haha- in that we are all squished on. My ride back from Gisenyi was twice as long as it should have been because my driver was stopping to give messages to various people along the way. I decided near the 4th hour that I would bond with the boy beside me by sharing my iPOD. It was a great ice-breaker because after hours of winding roads, incredible views and squishy close contact- and having spent the entire day on my own speaking only kinyarwanda-- we were able to bond over "Jenny from the Block" (Jennifer Lopez) and Bob Marley tunes. We spent the last hour, as darkness fell and I was anxious to make it back to Gitarama, bopping our heads along and giving thumbs up signs to each other. It was neat.Headsup tip if you are planning to visit Rwanda: always tap the toilet paper 3 times before using it to scare away anything that hides under there, be prepared for slippery pit latrines, daily power cuts, waiting several hours for your meal, being hugged by anyone under 10 at any time as you walk down the street, having dirty feet the entire time you are here and don't be surprised by the many many different variations on the flying beetles and the cute geckos that eat them for you.Next blog: a weekend in Kibuye, teaching a lesson with Daniel in Rugobagoba and hopefully a wedding update as Tom's wedding is Saturday! I took one last walk down my old street, touching the gate to my old house. Noella and Thierry were there. I am cognizant that it is likely the last time I will be in Gitarama, for a while if not forever. I feel lucky to have lived here, lucky to have had my life be impacted by so many people and I am hopeful for their future. If Noella can come running down the path to give me a massive hug- as jubilant and cheerful as she was four years ago, with a wicked cackle of a grin-then let me imagine that her spirit will support her, let me imagine her growing up to be a mother, a teacher, an old lady. It's so much nicer to imagine a hopeful future for her. I'll post a picture of her soon. You'll see what I mean.Food: excited for salads when I get home.Language: the best interactions here are the ones without words.Culture: i don't wear a watch, i wake up with the 4:25am call to prayer from the local mosque and i never feel lonely here.Murakoze cyane Rwanda na imana ibahe umugisha to all my inshutis here.