Have you ever sat under an avocado tree and had a meeting? Personally, I think all meetings should be held under diverse fruit trees. Shade, food, entertainment, fresh air and well as efficiency are on the order of the day. Today was our fifth day in Kigali, and our last before we are shipped off to our host families in a town called Musambira, about 2 hours from here. But, maybe I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Let me start from the beginning. It will be a story. You can pretend that you are sitting right in front of me, and we are eating freshly picked avocados from the tree and that there are lovely flowers all around us. The earth is red and the sky is cornflower blue and the people friendly. And all you need to do is read and follow along….
Our plane journey from Montreal to Kigali lasted about 32 hours. Arriving in Nairobi, our group, composed of 6 people (our Team leader was already in Rwanda), took a position in the main corridor. Claiming the few metres in front of a tobaco store as our own, our luggage piled up around us, and glad to get a little time to stretch our legs. The diversity of the people really surprised me. Truly multicultural. The was calmer than at any airport I had ever been to. None of the scurry of the usual travellers. Just people ambling from gate to gate, truth be told, the heat made it quite impossible to run about! Four hours in the stickyness of Nairobi and we flew off to Bujumbura, in Burundi and then off to Kigali. Arriving at 2am, we were very glad to see Pierre Olivier (our Team Leader) waiting for us with a van that carried our tired souls to the hostel we were staying at. Kigali is very peaceful at night. Having travelled in India and Bangladesh, I was struck with the silence that enveloped the city, as well as the sidewalks, the cleanliness as well as the fact that the driver actually used his indicator!
We spent the next few days just exploring the city. Sunday quietness was soon replaced with relative chaos. As I found my way around the city, I’m still amazed at its cleaniless, how helpful everyone is and by the beauty of the surrounding hills. I woke up for sunrise one day, and walked down to the school near the place we are staying and sat down on the flank of the hill and looked upon the city just waking up slowly and calmly to resume their daily grind. We tried to go to the Genocide Memorial and got lost on a bus and had a person negotiate prices back to the Memorial. Along bumpy roads in red dusty dirt, we made friends in broken Kinyarwanda and lots of smiles. It was an interesting place, we all know what happened here 15 years ago but it seems impossible that this beautiuful land of smiling, happy people went through what they did.
We took a bus we didn’t know and wound up at the cleanest market I have ever been to where smiling women in colourful clothing made us repeat the names of fruits and vegetables and wound us up in clothes of different colours. They also pushed away any annoying vendors trying to sell us things, telling them to leave us alone. We’re their guests.
We went to a lake about an hour from Kigali (Muhaze) where it was calm and peaceful and where I took some great bird shots that I’ll only be able to share once I get back home unfortunately. The hills here are fulls of delicious fruit trees and little houses. People are everywhere yet, not in profusion like in India. Rather, they are where they are and seem to belong, without being overwhelming.
There is something calm about the people here. They will move to let you walk on the sidewalks, everyone will flash the biggest smile when you greet them in kinyarwanda. We sit down for lunch and dinner and point at things and learn new words. And I feel safer walking here at night from the Internet to our little hostel that I have ever felt even in Montreal. Thats saying something! The daily routine is complicated somewhat with the lack of clean water so having to ensure that there is a constant supply of water that has been treated, brushing your teeth, washing clothes by hand, everything takes on a magnitudinal proportion but all in all, its been pretty good so far.
I’m a little worried about whats going to happen in the next little while. We leave for the countryside and we will be living with our host families (we each have one). I can’t say much about that now but hopefully, I can update you in the next 2-3 weeks. We start work on Monday and I’m excited about the work that we will be doing with the organization. I will be working with an agronomist and am super super excited to learn! Other than that, there isn’t much I know so, that just means that there’s lots to find out! The weather here has been gorgeous except today when it rained. I do miss my bed but this country and its people have already cast a spell upon me. Maybe its the distant misty hills that make me dream of adventures yet to come, or maybe its just the delicious avocados? This week has been a good transition, having Internet, electricity and running water (most of the time) seems like a luxury I will have to go without soon. And news. I crave news. All the time. Friends and family seem so far away and although I know that time goes quickly, it is a hard thing to say to oneself when you are in a strange place. I somewhat wish that I could spend my days here but my nights at home. But then again, once I get back to Montreal, I will soon be moving back down to the little island I love so I try to keep things in perspective and enjoy all the time I have. As they say here, “Akeza Karigura”— Something rare is always precious. A little man told me this at lunch the other day. Its a good quote. I try to remember that this opportunity is rare and that every moment is precious, no time to worry, but immerse myself in what it is. Everything will turn out just fine, especially when you’ve just spent a day lying down under an avocado tree. Much love.