Friday, August 31, 2012
Well, some of you have gotten antsy, so I guess I'd better make an entry today! I returned from the week in Kigali yesterday and am once more settling down in my house in Byumba. The cows are hollering outside my window and all is well with the world.
The biggest change since my return is that I now have Miriam, my housekeeper, with me. She comes at 7AM and stays until 7PM, doing whatever is necessary to keep the household running. Currently, she is out food shopping. We made a list before she left (she is a fairly good English speaker) and I gave her 10,000rf (rwandan franks) with which to buy the food. I hope to have my first fresh milk when she returns. I realized after she left that we forgot to put tea on the list, but perhaps she will think of it. We talked of having tea this AM until I reminded her there was none. Just so you can complete your picture of Miriam she is quite tall and very softspoken. She was mesmerized this AM by my wind-up emergency radio--she alternated between serious listening and laughter when she discovered she had to keep winding it up to get any sound! She will stay with me to work (do laundry, clean, wash dishes, prepare food, and help with the garden I will soon plant). She will be here the five days of the work week for approximately $90.00 USD/month. And I will be so spoiled when I come back to the U. S. Apparently, it is almost mandatory that we have someone like Miriam who needs a job and we have the money.
In the middle of that last paragraph, Miriam returned from her shopping expedition. She brought at least 1/2 gallon of hot milk with her! She said they will heat it for you in the market. I have not had milk to drink since I arrived in Rwanda; I have only had small amounts in tea. So Miriam set about making Rwandan brunch. We had hot milk, bread and butter, and my small bananas. I was very hungry and I cannot remember when anything tasted so good--especially the milk! She placed more of the hot milk in an oversized thermos that seems to be part of the table setting in Rwanda, and the rest will be placed in the fridge. I never realized I would miss milk so much! I haven't been able to see everything else that Miriam bought, but she is already busy preparing supper.
I also just went over to see my office on the campus (probably no more than 75 ft. away from the front door of my house!). It is very serviceable and right next door to Jerome. I won't actually start working until Monday, Sept. 3, but now I have the keys to my office. I will use my own laptop there, probably keeping all related documents on one of the very large thumb drive's Mike got for me before I left.
As for the week in Kigali, I might just as soon put it aside!! I got extremely motion sick on the bus going down to Kigali from Byumba. It's dramamine for me and my future on that bus! And I have to be able to sit by an open window where I can see out. I did the shopping I wanted to do in Kigali, thanks to friend Jeff Williams from Urbana, and his car. On Saturday, 8/25, we joined the rest of Rwanda in Umugandi, a once/month national community service morning. We were taken to the small town of the Minister of Health where they are building a new school building; our utlimate job, to haul rocks for the foundation!! The local Rwandans carried the rocks on their heads, of course. It was a real hauling job, not just bringing rocks a short distance, and it was mostly all uphill. But we had a good time. After the rock hauling, we all met on a big grassy space, had some speeches by local grandees, and then some singing and dancing. The Rwandans can really dance. Then we went back to the hotel for lunch and some playtime in the afternoon (swimming for the kids and brave adults and relaxed visiting by the adults). Our final UIC workers have now arrived; they are a couple, she is American, he is Rwandan.s
I became very tired in the afternoon, so returned to my hotel a short walk down the street. I took a three-hour nap then ate supper at the hotel. After that, there is a 36-hour blur wherein I became very sick with a G.I. bug. Serena, it was truly a Series of Unfortunate Events! As the night wore on and I realized how much fluid I was losing, I wanted to notify someone that I was ill. (I was the only person at my hotel.) It turned out that my phone was dead and needed recharging, but I had not brought my charger from Byumba. I sent an e-mail to someone at the Clinton Foundation saying I was ill, that they never received. Finally, in the mid afternoon, someone from Clinton called the desk at my hotel to see if I were going to the Ambassador's reception in the evening. I told the person at the desk that I was way too sick to attend. That and my absence at all the morning orientation sessions tipped them off. By 4PM, the Chief Nurse from the Clinton Foundation and the head physician were in my hotel room!! I must attest, the Clinton Foundation does take care of its own!! Anne Sliney, the Chief Nurse, gave me flat coke and stayed with me for a couple of hours till I finally stopped wearing a path in the rug to the bathroom. She was my Angel of Mercy. And Joe, the MD, got my phone recharged. It took me until yesterday to really get over the whole sickness and I don't want it again; however, I'm sure it could happen just because I'm in a different country with different bacteria. One never knows quite where it came from. The next afternoon, I was invited to move down to one of the apartments so I would not have to be alone at the Top Tower Hotel. I felt much better being at the apts with others around.
The remainder of my time there was spent in orientation, a rather grueling affair to say the least. We are now supposed to be prepared for our work here. We had dire warnings about putting anything in our blogs about patients or specific health providers--nothing identifiable. And the nurses heard over and over that we are not to provide direct care to patients. We are only to support those who are providing the care unless it is a dire emergency.
Back in my house I am happy to report that I finally have hot water. I took a shower this AM and it was delightful. One never imagines how important these small things can be until there is none.
Observations: you can drive a car that has a left-hand or a right-hand steering wheel, but you always drive on the right side of the road. Getting in on the left side as a passenger is really weird!
At each fuel station there is a service person standing by each pump waiting to fill your car with fuel. You do not have to get out of your car at all. Remember when it was that way in the U. S.? It gives people jobs.
The cows are hale and hearty. Now that Miriam can bring me milk from the market, maybe I won't have to have milk delivered.
It is now the "small" rainy season here which will last until late December. Apparently, Byumba is the coldest place in the country and I keep having people warn me of how cold it can get. So far I have not been impressed with the cool temps. We'll see what happens when it really gets cold! They have not had to survive Chicago winters.
That's enough for now.
Miriam has promised to help me with my Kinyarwanda. We'll see how that goes, too!