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.


  1. Hello Caroll, Thank you very much for updating me on what is happening in my beautiful School. Hope to see the pictures of the wedding as well as some of your trip to northern part of Rwanda. Extend my greeting to everyone.

  2. So good to hear from you...and very interesting update. Looking forward to your photos from this trip and hearing about the wedding. Please be sure there are also photos of you in your traditional garb for the wedding. Love you.

    On the Tetris front - you do mean for your computer? your i-pad, your phone? all of the above?