Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Well, it's been a quiet day here in Lake Woebogone-on-the-Mountain. A nice "sleep late" and a few cat naps have surrounded my attempt to give myself a crash course in teaching English as a Second Language. I have no text, the students have no text, I have no magazines out of which I can cut pictures, nor a nice color printer if I find things to use on the internet. I'm soon to begin teaching an ESL course to the first year students, who are at very different levels of English skills. What a challenge!!

I got back to Byumba yesterday evening as expected after my two meetings in Kigali. My friend, Jeff Wms, with whom I stayed, said I'm the only one who doesn't come to Kigali every weekend. The rest of the HRH staff works Tues., Wed., and Thurs., travels to Kigali on Friday, stays through the weekend, and travels back to their respective sites on Monday. I don't know how they get away with it. Jeff works five days as his hospital is in Kigali. I don't even like going to Kigali!! No wonder they think I isolate myself! But I don't want to do what they are doing either. I'm here to work.

I will travel there tomorrow for a special reason. An old friend of mine from my doctoral program, Nicole Warren, will be in town for just a few hours and I want to see her. Nicole went through the PhD program with me at UIC and had two babies while she did it!! She is now teaching at Johns Hopkins. I haven't seen her since she left Chicago for Hopkins about 4 years ago. She has just been in the Congo where she has a research project and is on her way back to the states. She'll be staying with another of our folks here. I'll get to have supper with them and some time to talk in the evening. 

Now to try to catch up. I still have photos from the big trip we made a couple of weeks ago.
This one is to show my brother, Don, that there are irises in Rwanda. I took this in Ruhengeri, but also saw some white ones on the grounds of the hospital in Butaro.

This is a bed of wild calla lilies. We see them all over Rwanda. When you go to a flower seller, they are the most prominent flowers on sale. They are almost like weeds.

This photo is also in Ruhingeri. The peak of the right volcano is covered with cloud, but you can sort of see the Left hand volcano top. These are the volcanoes we will be climbing on when Don, Kate, and I go to see the mountain gorillas.

The old girl having wrestled a fierce crocodile into submission at the Dian Fossey Hotel.

For some reason, Jerome wanted to take a picture of me preparing a banana. The other fruit on my plate is passion fruit cut in half. One scoops out the fruit with a spoon to eat it.

Next we go to the wedding. You will be disappointed. In trying to get video footage of the "praise choir", I used up my camera card way too quickly. Also, as people moved me up to the front of the church, I ended up sitting behind and to the left of the bride, so could hardly see her myself. I have one photo of the back of her here. The bride wore a traditional Western strapless gown of white and the groom looked like he could have walked out of the pages of GQ. The men all wore their favorite dress shoes with very long square toes. There must be at least three inches of dead space in those toes! 
Here us the photo of Alphonsine's back!

We'll see if this actually goes through to you--a video of the "praise choir"
The bride and groom sat to the side for about the first hour of the service. This was at a Jehovah's Witness Pentecostal church. During that first hour there was a lot of singing by the choir, by a soloist, and what I can only discern was a sermon of sorts. (Everything was spoken in Kinyarwanda.) Finally the bride and groom stood. It seemed I saw some of the same things that are part of U.S. wedding services: exchange of rings, etc. There were many more spoken parts for the bride and groom, however, and signing of legal documents was part of the service. Once we left the church everyone got in a line of cars to drive to Byumba. Everytime we went through a little hamlet there was lots of honking. In Byumba we stopped in a park to take many photos. Then on to a room at the Anglican mission. Lots of cake was served with Fanta. We also presented our gifts at that time. The bride and groom each held a "peace basket" into which many people placed money. The bride and groom fed one another cake and some other foods. It was actually a fairly brief affair after which I went home. There was another celebration at the bride's mother's home afterwards that I didn't even know about. The die hards went there with the bride and groom afterwards and there was further eating. Apparently the bride and groom have to be well fed before they leave on their honeymoon.! And there was a ceremony at 9AM before the wedding. At that one, the groom's family gave a ceremonial "cow" to the bride's family. As you can see it is a long day for those who attend everything. 

This last week for me was pretty busy with those two 14 hr. days. And I don't know what this week holds yet. Jerome and I want to do some more site visits, but he has let me know nothing about them yet (when or where) I'm sure I'll keep reading up on ESL teaching and wondering how I'll do it!!

You'll be having Halloween there this week. Sorry to miss seeing Serena--or maybe she is not even going out this year. There is no such holiday as this here. I did hear that Thursday, All Saints Day, is a holiday but one never knows until President Kagame actually declares it a holiday a day or two before. 

Muzungus here are having election night parties. Of course we won't know anything until way into the early morning, so they are calling them Election night sleep overs! I finally got to cast my vote at the U.S. Embassy a week or so ago. Boy, they sure do not make it easy. 

That's enough from me. I'd surely like to hear from some of you!
Carrol, CA, G-ma, Ma, Mom

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Thursday, October 25, 2012

This entry will be brief--just to let you know I'm fine, though rather tired. I've had two workdays this week that went from 8:30A to 10P!

I'm off to Kigali tomorrow for a meeting and will stay overnight for a meeting on Sat. as well. Then I will return home late Sat. afternoon so I can have a restful day on Sunday.

I tried to make an entry four different times the day after the wedding (last Sunday). We were having lots of power outages and I lost each attempt to write. I was not a happy camper!

I have many photos to put up, but will add these only tonight. This is the dress I wore to the wedding. These photos were taken by my friend Cairn at her home near the U. S. Embassy just before she and her husband drove me to the church. Seems like my hair is looking whiter these days! I was told by my friend, Jackie, that the consensus among the Byumba staff and faculty was that I looked "very
young" that night.

I'll try to write more on Sunday.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sunday evening, October 14, 2021, 6:56 PM

I'm feeling a little crazed this evening. Too much to do and I don't want to do it!! So I decided to stop everything else and try blogging a little before too many people write to find out what's wrong!! Just so you'll be forewarned, after this past week I can see that my entries may sometimes come a little further apart! Things are heating up!

The big event of the week was going on a three day tour of three distant hospitals in Rwanda. It was not without tension. I knew we were going to visit hospitals but not where. On Wed. AM when I was waiting for the car and driver to take me and Rani to Kigali where Jerome waited, I got a cryptic message from Jerome listing the three hospitals where we would go. I did not know the locations so asked one of the other administrators. It became clear that I would need to pack for this trip and that everyone knew we were going to be away for three days but me! I threw some clothes in my rolling bag and hoped I had what I needed, jumped in the car, and went to Kigali.
OK. Get ready for a geography lesson. On Wed. I went from Byumba to Kigali (Go directly north of Kigali to find Byumba. Then from Kigali to Butaro. Butaro is a tiny town way north in the Ruhengeri district. It is almost on the border of Uganda. Can't get there from Byumba, even though that would be a much shorter distance, but there are roads only from Kigali. And those roads are mainly of dirt and not so great. After interviewing at the hospital in Butaro, which, incidently is very new and built jointly by Paul Farmer's group Partner's in Health and the Clinton Foundation--but so far out in the world we couldn't figure out how ill people would get there--Jerome drove us to Ruhengeri, to the west of Butaro (not Butare down south) in the dark. I still hold my breath when Jerome drives in the dark. (I hold my breath in the daytime, too!!) The road was dirt and there were many people out walking and carrying loads on the side of the road. He doesn't slow down for anything and his hand is always on the horn. I'm sure a few people lost a little skin that night as we whizzed by. We spent the night in Ruhengeri at a very interesting hotel that was described as the hotel of the Catholic church (Our Lady of Fatima Hotel). There were Catholic icons all about and a cross in each room. The beds all sank terribly in the middle and the bathrooms were the kind that are completely open: toilet, sink, shower all together so that when you took a shower everything in the room got wet! (No shower curtain.) I was so happy to have a hot shower, however, that I just let her rip! The hotels provide your breakfast free, so after breakfast we headed for the bank to cash our travel allowance checks. (Wouldn't it make sense for the accountant just to give us the cash instead of our having to take time to cash the checks?) fOf course, that took over an hour. Then we went to the hospital. Later, Jerome wanted to get his car washed. (I didn't get to see the car wash--wish I had.) Rani and I determined we were not going to get stuck sitting around at the car wash and as it turned out he was there about two hours. We had him drop us off at a pretty good looking market. I found another blanket there similar to the two I have. Now I can sleep three of us here at my house. Rani went crazy buying clothes and fabrics. We got to a place inside the market (mostly under a sort of patchwork roof) where stalls were selling fabric for women's dresses and suiting for men's suits. Then there was room after room of people sitting at sewing machines making clothes. You could have a dress made while-U-waited! These markets are very intense to me. When they see muzungus coming they try to talk you up to get you into their stall with the few words of English they know. Or they try to get you to speak Kinyarwanda. Of course the dollar signs are lighting up their eyes at the same time. I almost felt I was being assaulted at times. We still had to wait for Jerome for about 1/2 hour, but he finally picked us up and we headed for the third leg of our journey, Gisenyi. Finally, we were on a paved road. Look way west on the map to find Gisenyi. It is just across the Congolese border from Goma and right on Lake Kiva. Lake Kiva is one of the lakes "discovered" by Stanley in his travels through Africa. It is supposed to be very beautiful and Rwandans consider it a terrific vacation spot. The lake is split right down it's long axis by Rwanda and the Congo. Once in Gisenyi it was late again. We found a much nicer hotel, actually the Dian Fossey Hotel! I have many photos of the animal statues inside the compound. There was a dugout canoe with two men and a lot of fruit perched on one of the balconies. Actually, quite an interesting place. I slept so much better there than at Fatima. We ate breakfast, went to the hospital for interviews then left for Kigali. One must go back to Ruhingeri to get to Kigali so our trip back was about three hours.

I saw a huge tea plantation the last day. It covered about three mountains! Throughout the trip, all the hills and mountains were terraced. The Rwandan farmers definitely got the message about that!

You'll have to wait until I have a little more time to put the photos up. At the Fatima hotel there was an awful step down when you came out of the bathroom. First I fell there, then Rani did. At least I didn't feel I fell b/c I was just an old lady. That is another reason I fear going to all these new places. There are no standard heights for steps or rules that say the steps have to be the same height. And steps appear in the most unlikely places. I am constantly on the lookout to keep from being surprised into a fall. At least here in Byumba I am now pretty familiar with the horizontal terrain. Elsewhere is up for grabs.

When we got back to Kigali I had Jerome take me to Jeff Williams' home. I had been calling and texting with him to know I would be welcome. I enjoyed my night with his family and we went to a very nice new restaurant where they had live American music! Sat. morning I engaged Jeff's taxi driver, Innocent, to take me shopping. I had two very special items I needed. The first was a new watch. Sadly, my gold Seiko nurse's watch that my mother bought for me back in the eighties fell off the shelf in the bathroom to the concrete floor. The crystal was destroyed. I will wait to get a new crystal till I return to the U.S. I found I just could not manage well without a watch. Taking my phone out to check the time was a bother. Innocent didn't just drive me to the shopping district, he got out to help me shop. He speaks English well and Kinyarwanda, so he was a good interpreter. I found an inexpensive watch quickly (5,000 frw or $8.00 USD. I think it will last the rest of this year. The second item I needed was a traditional dress. I was informed last week that if I am to go to the wedding or our office Secretary on the 20th (and how could I miss it!!) I would need to rent a Rwandan dress. At first Innocent didn't quite know where to start with that. He asked around and we went to one place where I didn't really like the wares. Then suddenly he said, "hey my Mom could help us with this". He told me she has a small business buying and selling products to individual businesses. He texted her and she was also in town shopping. We found each other and I really liked her from the beginning. She was very lively and talkative and full of smiles. She also took quite a shine to me. As we walked around she held my hand (which men and women do all the time--holding same gender hands!) Finally she told Innocent we should go to their house close by. (Innocent lives with her.) She said she had some dresses there. We went to their cozy home and she brought down three outfits. There is a long skirt that just ties on (your waistline can increase and decrease with ease!), a sweater or other short sleeved top maybe of silk, but usually a plain fabric, and finally a sort of long sash that goes over one shoulder and hangs down to the left. It is a very traditional look. I expected to pay Deet (her name) a rental fee. She said absolutely not, she would loan it to me for free. Then, as the skirt was a little long  for my runty legs, we had to take it to a tailor for shortening. That was another event in itself. We went down a steep set of stairs to a sort of courtyard under street level where there was a tailor as well as two big fabric shops.The tailor's room held about six to eight treadle sewing machines. People were seated at them all. In another room next to it, there was a place to iron. People were sewing away and jumping up to iron in between. Deet knew the owner and went right to her. She immediately measured me and began working on the skirt. While I waited I just enjoyed watching the tailors/seamstresses. Somehow they reminded me of my mother who was an excellent seamstress as well. Fun to see. The tailor charged me a pittance (1,000 frw or $1.60 USD).

We were all thirsty and after getting some juice I said good-bye to Deet (she said we were sisters) and Innocent took me back to Jeff's house. I was pretty tired and glad to have Jeff take me to the U.S. Embassy a little later where a driver was waiting to take me back to Byumba. Since I hadn't known I'd be away so long, I had only taken enough medication to last me through last night; that meant I needed to get home The young man got me home before dark and I was very happy to be back in my own little house.

I have a big project to finish up this coming week. We are taking inventory of all the materials in our skills lab. Once done, we will complete a wish list of materials we would like to have. Jerome, Rani, myself and Libere the faculty woman who is in charge of the Skills Lab (and for you non-nurses, a skills lab is where students practice doing things like starting IVs [on models not people], setting up various apparatuses (or apparati???) like chest tubes, etc. There are manikins in hospital beds so they can practice making beds with patients in them, thermometers and blood pressure cuffs so they can learn how to use those) will all work on the Wish List with consultation with a couple of people in Kigali. The Ministry of Health will send us our budget so we can be reasonable with our Wish List and finally, it will go back to the Ministry of Health. They may or may not honor all of our wishes. I will need to see that all this gets done between Monday and Thursday. On Friday, I will go to Kigali to a meeting with the other Advisors and nurse educators. Before I go to the meeting I will go to the Embassy to cast my absentee ballot. I'll pack my beautiful dress for the wedding. I'll stay the night at the friend's who is holding the meeting, then go to the wedding from there on Saturday. The wedding will be in a church in Kigali, but the bride is from Byumba, so everyone will drive back to Byumba after the wedding for the big party. It will be held in a big tent maintained by the Anglican mission just down the road from me.

I probably will not write again till after the wedding, so I'll tell all then.

And a final question: does anyone know of a nice, large easy to play b/c it is not tiny), game of Tetris that I can get for free w/out having to subscribe to Facebook or any other advertisers? If it is impossible to get a good one for free, I am willing to pay a small amount to purchase good software. Surely, among all of you following this blog, someone can help me with this!

Oh, I had my first taste of banana wine this week. It is fairly intense, not really like wine. Almost more like a liquer, but not quite. I must say, I rather liked it.

Take care, everyone. Talk to you later.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Saturday, October 6, 2012, 1PM.

I'm waiting for Miriam to arrive. She is coming to help me plant my few garden seeds I brought. I put the packets in a long sock in my suitcase and thought I was running a huge risk. They never even looked in one of my bags in customs in Kigali!  Sure wish I'd brought a lot more. I have none of my heirloom tomato seeds. Here is what I have: Radishes, 2 types: French Breakfast and Plum Purple; arugula; cucumber; bright lights Swiss chard; three types of flowers--some yellow four o'clocks the seed of which I harvested at my house in Oak Park in some past year; cosmos; and some double yellow sunflowers. I'll put all the flowers up against my tall bamboo fence. Not even sure they'll germinate as they look like little samples and no telling how long I've had them...And now it's thundering and clouding up.

Jackie brought me a hoe and a rake. One would recognize them as such, but the hoe is shaped differently. These are the hoes that all the women carry up in the mountains. Usually, they carry them over their shoulders but every once in a while you see one balancing the hoe on her head!

1:35: Miriam arrived just as it started raining a little. We planted the sunflowers and the cosmos, then it was coming down too hard. We're just sitting in my living room now as it actually looks like it might clear up. See if we can wait it out. The soil is very dry. We haven't had rain in at least a week which is very unusual for the rainy season.

We were soon rewarded by the cessation of the rain, blue skies, and lots of sun. Got everything else planted!  These photos are of Miriam planting the last hill of cucumbers and of yours truly in my schmata and my Chicago Bears shirt! Best investment I ever made! I'm going back to that second-hand market again.  Miriam laughed at me when I actually sat down in the dirt and moved along a row to plant seeds. Rwandan women always stand to work. They do not bend their knees. They bend over to do whatever they are doing (laundry, thinning seedlings, etc.) They are very long-legged and graceful.

Here are photos of the rake and hoe we used

Random photo of Miriam taken earlier in the week. The two big yellow "Jelly cans" under the table are the cans of water they bring us every day since we have no water. They are really heavy. The small yellow one-liter containers on the table are what Miriam buys the milk in. They were once containers of cooking oil. Somehow they clean them out well enough to carry milk. Miriam and I had a real problem with "potatoes" this week. She fixed white potatoes and I showed her how to make mashed potatoes. I then asked if she could make sweet potatoes. She made them, and they were still white and tasted like "Irish potatoes" to me as they call them here. We agreed that I will go to the market with her sometime soon so we can straighten out what we each call sweet potatoes! I want to see her buy our hot milk, too!
And the final photos are sort of weird, but I thought you might like to see them. The photo of the ladder was taken in the open area between my house and the little shed in the back. They have left the ladder there all week as they continued to tinker with the water system. Until now, I have never seen a ladder hand made from found pieces of wood. It actually looks quite sturdy and somewhat a work of art. The big black tank you see up high and the smaller white tank just outside my kitchen door are the hot water tanks. We actually had hot water one night this week, but then it disappeared. And we had no cold water, so with nothing to mix with the hot, we couldn't shower in it! The other sad picture is of the crumpled and torn metal water tank that "broke" along with the structure that held it when they filled it with water the first time. Supposedly, the Clinton people sent a plumber from Kigali toward the end of this week to help them figure out what to do. That tank cost around $2,000 USD. I hope that plumber will oversee the project till it's finished. Someone smart needs to be in charge.

That's about it for now. We only visited two clinical sites this week. I feel this project of interviewing instructors, students and staff sort of slipping through my fingers. All Jerome's resolve has disappeared and my ineptitude with the languages keeps me from going out by myself. A note to MiJa: next year's group definitely needs some Kinyarwanda instruction before they get to Rwanda. It is very hard to study and learn a new language while you're in the middle of doing another job. My "Advisor" work takes all the energy I have every day. I'm learning a few words in Kinyarwanda, but it is going every slowly.  

I hope everyone is doing well. Must be getting close to midterm time at school.

Your Advisor on the Ground in Rwanda