I’m a Supermum!

Suppose I were to let someone take care of Jeremy for a week, I thought to myself, what instructions would I give the person? What’s my typical day like?

Jeremy usually wakes me up – yes, he’s my alarm – between 6 and 7am. Children and old people tend to be naturally early risers, at least from my experience. Like one time when I was in shagz (the village?) with my grandmother and got up “early” at 7:15am, only to find that she had already milked the cow, made tea, swept the house and even made chapatis. I don’t know if I’ll ever be an early riser but for me, 6-7am is already pretty early if you ask me!

He wakes me up by pulling at my ears, inserting fingers into my nose and poking my eyes, singing in my ears, sitting on my face, jumping on my sleeping form etc.Never has a better alarm been invented. So if you were to take care of Jeremy, you had better wake up earlier than him, or brave this morning assault.

As he is a 3 year old just weaned off diapers (sometimes on, mostly off), it is my duty after coming into (I’m deeply asleep in the early morning) to remind him to go to the toilet, wash his hands and dry them. Sometimes he goes by himself, mostly the excitement of a new day (!) makes him easily forget and he can have a dry mattress but after getting up, he will pause in his jumping up and down with this blank look on his face and you just know it’s coming. That’s when I will rush him to the toilet.. “no no Jeremy, to the toilet, to the toilet!”. I make it sound like it’s a call to war! You have to make these activities exciting so he looks forward to it every time.

In the two hours between 7am when we wake up and 9am when I drop him off at the nursery (daycare center/play school/preschool/baby class/all the above), I have to make him breakfast, feed him, dress him and myself as well. Usually, breakfast is a cup of brown uji (porridge) with a slice of bread and cheese. I don’t know how many of you can make smooth uji without lumps, it took me years of practice to get it right. And even then, sometimes it’s too thick or too thin. I then enrich the uji with some milk. When the temperature of the uji has cooled down enough for him to drink it, I hand it to him. While I make breakfast, he is usually preoccupied with driving his (toy) bus. I have to ensure he pauses long enough to finish his breakfast.

Cooking brown uji

Cooking brown uji

As he takes his breakfast, I prepare his school bag. Into the bag goes:

  • a clean hand-towel
  • his cup bag with a clean cup inside
  • his lunch bag with a dish of rice and spoon inside it. At the nursery they provide them with the meat and vegetable side dishes as well as fruits but rice, oh no way, how dare you suggest that! So I have to make sure to cook rice daily.
  • a change of clothes for the times when he soils the current ones. They always keep a change of clothes, at least one set, at the nursery. If he uses up the change of clothes, then I have to provide a new set the following day
  • his announcement book – not daily, just on the days when they have some message to send to parents
  • his attendance notebook – also includes a diary section where the teachers will tell me anything interesting that happened that day and I will also respond in kind. Things like did he eat, sleep and play well? Will he take the bus on the way back or will I be picking him up, and at what time? All this is in Japanese. My Japanese vocabulary concerning children has greatly improved. The notebook also includes a recording of his monthly weight and bi-monthly height checks. He gained 300gms over the past month.
  • any other items necessary or requested. Like on Mondays, his bag weighs tons because I will be returning a picture book that they lend us for the weekend, or his indoor shoes that needed cleaning over the weekend as well

He has taken breakfast, his bag is prepared, but now comes a challenge: making him wash his face and brush his teeth. Some days are easy, but on others I need to convince him why he shouldn’t leave the house with uji stains on his face. It helps that there are songs about “washing my face, brushing my teeth, etc”. I usually brush my teeth and wash my face at the same time too.

Next is the question of what to wear and what to dress Jeremy in. After I dress, I then have to beg, plead or do whatever it takes to coax him out of his pajamas. If he’s in a great mood – which is the usual case unless he hasn’t slept well – he just lets you change him right away. Otherwise I have to let him know people don’t go to school in pajamas, well, unless they are in college!

By now, I will be in panic mode as I look at the watch that will be saying it’s 8:30am. The distance from our apartment to the parking lot is normally a 2 minute walk and the nursery is just a 5 minute drive from the parking lot, but it will take us about 20 minutes. First, Jeremy has to decide which shoes to wear, and sometimes nothing will do except the yellow shoes. Then he has to carry his bus with him. When I finally drop him at the nursery, I have to wait until he has changed from his outdoor to indoor shoes, given me a hug, and has waved bye as he runs to his classroom.

Then I drive back to campus to start my day. I usually feel like a champion for getting my son to the nursery on time!

Back at the apartment, I will probably hang out the laundry to dry – which I somehow managed to throw into the washing machine sometime after breakfast and before leaving to drop off J. I do his laundry about 3 times a week, mine once, and once for bedding and towels. So pretty much daily. Then I do any dishes that look they won’t last till evening. Take out the garbage, if it can’t wait for the next day. Open the windows to let in the fresh spring air. I don’t make the beds, that’s for super supermums with nannies, and I’m just a supermum. But I sometimes put out the blankets and futons out to air on the balcony. Then I put together my bag – laptop, charger, earphones, phone, phone charger, notebook, diary, wallet, keys, glasses, tissues, tampons, the basics etc – and head to the lab to do some research.

I have a tiny window from 10am to around 4pm to do my research and any other work, workout, have lunch, respond to emails, and check facebook and twitter. Sometimes I will upload a picture of flowers to Instagram. Maybe even update this blog. Thankfully, I have already finished my coursework but boy, wasn’t that hectic, when I had classes and assignments.

It’s 12 noon. I’m writing this at a desk in the lab where I am doing some part-time job. It’s not much, just about 6 hours a week. I am also supposed to be coding my minor research project while revising my official doctoral proposal. I should also be doing some reading as well designing the system for my main research. I just checked my phone for the first time since 9am this morning, and realize I forgot to charge it. I quickly plug it in, I am always on high alert for any phone calls from the nursery, in case I need to respond to something. Like if he’s sick, or if it’s a reminder that the school bus won’t be running today and I need to pick him up.

By 3:45pm I have to be at the bus stop to wait for the school bus. Then supervise the kids as they play outside until around 6pm. If the weather is not good, then we have to play indoors.

Jeremy and his friend play outside after school

Jeremy and his friend play outside after school

Between 4-6pm I have to make dinner while simultaneously supervising play time! Put away the now clean and dry laundry. Do dishes. 6pm is dinner time. Then shower time. Then story time. Or TV time. Bedtime at 8pm. Actual falling asleep time is around 9:30pm. By then, I am supposed to get up to continue research, or study Japanese, or do dishes, or maybe vacuum – oh, wait can’t vacuum at night and risk waking him up. Sometimes I will hear loud voices of some other (single) students laughing just right outside our window – at least that’s what it feels like, and I wanna slap their mouths shut haha.. can’t they see it’s quiet time for me? That blissful time when mothers put their kids to sleep and they can finally sit down to breathe.

Usually, I am too tired to do anything intellectually useful but I don’t want to sleep too early because then I end up sleeping for too long and wake up tired the following day. What twisted irony. So then I end up on the couch just watching a series, I prefer watching classics that I missed back in the day. The X-Files. Sex and the City. But I sometimes watch sitcoms like Mom, Modern Family, The Big Bang Theory.. and dramas like Shameless or The Good Wife. Sometimes I will read a book, I am currently reading Brisingr, the 3rd book in the series Inheritance by Christopher Paolini. I also recently read my first Manga book, called “Weird Storm Boy” 風の磨転郎. It was great actually, looking forward to more.

Cover of Weird Storm Boy

Cover of Weird Storm Boy

On weekends, we’ll go to a park or a children’s event or swimming or the local library or an English class for kids, or somewhere Jeremy can have fun with other kids. On Sundays, we go to church for the same reason, keeping Jeremy meaningfully engaged in play with people his own age. We might stay home and just ride bikes around the campus, as I clean the bathroom, the walls, vacuum and do (grocery) shopping.

So if someone can do all this for me for one week, I will personally give them the supermum cape. And yet, I’m not special neither am I the only one. There are women out there with 2, 3, 4 or even more kids. They take care of their kids and their husbands, they supervise the cooking, cleaning and arrangement of their houses even if they are working or not, they turn up at work looking great and kick ass getting things done. I salute all the women out there with kids, I know the day passed but Happy Mother’s Day, every day.

Everyone is busy, but if at the end of the day you get to spend the rest of your evening sipping on whiskey in your(QUIET) bachelor(ess) pad while you watch TV as this blog puts it, you are not allowed to seek sympathy from me! I can sympathize with Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau though. Sure, I would love a personal assistant or 7, but luckily for me, I can say it here on the blog without an entire country getting outraged.

P.S.

I have recently removed a few words from my dictionary. I know not their definition anymore and will wear a blank look if a topic involving them comes up. They include “dating”, “social life”, “grab a drink”, “go out at night”, “uninterrupted sleep for more than 3 hours”, “sex”, “marriage” etc.

P.S.II
I hope this post didn’t come out too whiny. I actually prefer a busy life and would be extremely bored if I didn’t have important stuff to do. This post was inspired when a recent situation made me wonder whom would I leave Jeremy with were I to travel for a week or two. The answer, only my mother! But she’s all the way in Kenya!

Money Matters: Men Borrowing From Women

Money

Money

Money is a sensitive issue. Money can and does cause a rift between siblings, friends, spouses, lovers… Last week, I was reading Biko’s Saturday Magazine article about people (especially women) who borrow money and never return, and they make it so hard for the lender to ask back for their own money without being embarrassed. Even if it’s 200/- or 200,000 shillings, do pay back without being asked. It’s the honorable thing to do.

Anyway, today it’s about the men.

Disclaimer: the following story may or may not be fictitious. 

I met a man once. At a car wash, and you know they don’t have magazines for you to read while your car is being washed, all they can offer for a waiting lounge is plastic chairs in the open. I checked my phone and my battery was running low so the only source of entertainment turned out to be the guy who was also waiting for his car to be washed.

Ulikuwa umeenda ushago?” he asked. (Had you gone upcountry?)

“Why?” I wondered how he got to the conclusion.

Nimeona matope kwa gari yako” Your car is muddy.

Ok I admit, Bella is not the cleanest car in town. I hadn’t washed it in over a month, mostly because it had spent a number of days in the garage sorting some acceleration issue. Finally, when I thought I might develop a cold from all the dust, I took it to the car wash and that was when I met the guy.

From the beginning, he came on strong. Sharing personal stories at that first meeting, instead of sticking to safe topics like the weather, politics, Raila, explosions, (in)security, Anglo leasing, scandals, Manchester United, the world cup, what’s your favorite colour (mine is blue), music (the proper way to watch Sauti Sol’s video is on mute)…

Red flag #1: Eager to share personal experiences/details too soon, to create a false sense of intimacy and imply their total trust in you. And you also start to think you can trust them since they trust you so much.

In fact, from the first meeting I knew where he worked, his family history, his relationship status, and how much money he was making/spending etc information I didn’t particularly want to know. But he let it slip, no I mean, he let it be clearly known, that he is a rich man.

Red flag #2: Implying their wealth when you have not asked for it. No one volunteers information about their financial status.

Thereafter we exchanged numbers and went our separate ways. As he started his car, it made some funny noises (this will be relevant later) and he left. I got into Bella, wet floor mats dripping in the boot, and took them home to dry.

The first coffee date went well. He paid the bill and a date was set for the second one some 3 days later.

So after we had ordered for drinks, he said he didn’t have his wallet, he must have left it home. I didn’t think it was a big deal, I mean it is possible to forget one’s wallet home. It happens. So I said fine, don’t worry I’ll pay the bill.  I have blogged about men and paying bills before. But this guy said that he would refund the cash the following day, and in fact he also needed to fuel and *cringe* I gave him 1K. He renewed his promise to refund the following day.

Red flag #3: He leaves home without knowing how much fuel he needs for the day? Maybe he’s not organized: personally I fuel once a week because I know my usage.

Once again we parted ways, I zoomed up to Mombasa Road towards home, the thin traffic working my favour. As is the polite custom in Kenya, when you get home, you text to let the other person know you got home safe and inquire if they did too.  He called to say, actually no.. something had happened to his car and it had stalled on his way home. Could I call him back? No big deal, I have a lot of talk time thanks to Safaricom’s post paid tarrifs that are now set to end. But I did wonder why a rich man didn’t have credit. Another red flag?

Remember the funny noises his car was making? Yes.. that was some issue in the hood that caused the car to stall. My friend later said rich people’s cars don’t funny make noises, lol. They buy their cars still in plastic from DT Dobie, and not sbtjapan.com (very nice site for importing cars btw, but their sales people are AGGRESSIVE!).

Red flag #4: Rich people car’s don’t make funny noises

Calling him back, he starts to imply well, that he needs money to have the car towed. Could I lend him?

I was astounded.

I had just met the guy. Of all his friends from childhood, secondary, university, neighbours, relatives (and you know in Kenya we have over 100 relatives), workmates, family, his entire network; he forgets all of them and borrows money from the girl he is trying to impress?

So of course not, I could not lend him.  I hadn’t known him for longer than a week. In fact, I was broke. Just because I drive a small car and pay my own bills doesn’t make me rich 🙂

The following day dawned bright and early. Wanting to find out how it all went, I called the guy and he said the car had been towed successfully but he must have lost his wallet because he still couldn’t find it. So he had gone to the bank but we all know you can’t withdraw money over the counter without an ID, which he had also lost. So he wanted to ask me for a small favour.. and you guessed it, money. Again.

I told him to consider asking his friends or family or colleagues. This is someone who was implying dealing with millions. With the right connections even, so he was saying he’d get a replacement document/ID within 24 hours. I told him he could also wait those 24 hours.

We didn’t talk much after that.

To this day, he hasn’t refunded the bill or fuel soft loan. Making it embarrassing to start asking back for it. Same thing Biko talked about in the magazine.

Anyway, the point of this post is: at what point is it okay for a guy to ask money from some woman he is trying to impress? I think that unless you are engaged/married, a man should never borrow money from the woman he is dating. He should first of all exhaust all his options (family, friends, relatives, colleagues), but even then, there is M-Shwari. Loan sharks. Faulu and other banks hawking loans. Sell his phone on OLX. Salary advance. Chama. Sacco loan.

Never the woman he is dating, but if it comes to that, the first priority on his list should be refunding the loan.

So if you see all those red flags above, please run. This is not someone you can trust. There are those who will borrow the first small loan and refund in record time, so that you can give them without hesitation the next time they ask. The next they will ask for some more money; and then you will never hear from them again.

What is your opinion?

DATING A NAIROBI MAN

When you are a beautiful young woman in your mid 20′s, you meet all types and ages of men.

35 and Over

Idris Elba

Idris Elba

Idris Elba is now 41. Sadly, he’s already married. Or divorced and taken. It’s confusing.

When this man meets you, he wants to wife you. The dates are not about having fun or getting to know each other slowly, they are opportunities for scrutiny and the Spanish Inquisition. 21 questions are asked and more. How many kids do you want to have? Where do you come from (tribewise)? What are you future ambitions? How many brothers and sisters do you have? When am I meeting your father? All these are asked within the first 2 or 3 dates.

The older bachelor has been through it all. He has dated all kinds of chicks, has driven fast cars, has climbed the corporate ladder or established his business. But he’s still empty inside. He goes home at night to an empty (spacious) house, and wakes up to a cold bed. He tries to stay out in the club a little longer but his friends with their partners leave by midnight. He can no longer stand the young girls who are in the club past midnight, because he’s done it all before and he knows how the scenario plays out. He doesn’t fit in at the places with loud music and campus kids, but he doesn’t fit in the mugiithi and nyama choma joints either because they are for married men.

So you ask him why he’s not married at that age. There’s probably a sob story in there. His ex-fiancee gave birth to a kid who wasn’t his, she broke his heart and trampled it to pieces. He said he’d never love again but suddenly he’s 35 and his parents are asking him for grandchildren. He has all the money he needs but no one to spend it on. He has land and has built a mansion but how can a man live alone in a house meant for a family?

If you meet this kind of man, do not date him unless you are ready to settle down. You can’t change him, he is set in his habits. You have to conform to his world, submit to it. He has no qualms about taking responsibility, paying for all you financial needs including a monthly allowance whether you work or not. He will gladly adopt your kid(s) if you have any from a previous relationship but he will want his own as well. The price you have to pay is living in his world with no ambitions of your own. This could work if you are looking for someone to ‘take care’ of you, while you nurture his children.

The man I have described above however, should not be mistaken for the chronic bachelor. This is a man who is over the hill (35) but is never going to settle down. He still drives fast cars and chases after young girls and refuses to grow up. Or he’s grown up but prefers being alone. Avoid the chronic bachelor as he will just use you and move on.

Late 20′s to Early 30′s

This is the perfect age of the man for a mid 20′s woman. There’s some seriousness to the relationship and if you can find a connection with someone, you could end up with a life partner. This is the guy you can ‘grow together’ with, meaning you can make compromises and he can make some. You cannot change him completely, but you can soften the sharp edges, smoothen the rough surfaces and will you shave that beard already (okay sweetie, do it for me please.. I like you cleanshaven). You need to find someone who has most of the characteristics you are looking and be willing to compromise in some areas because nobody is perfect.

The kind of car this guy is driving will tell you if he’s life-long-partner (in other words husband) material. If he’s driving a Toyota Premio, say yes, for God’s sake no single man drives a Premio unless he has secret ambitions of a family. If he’s driving a loud Subaru, leave him alone swiftly as he is still out to impress (the ladies). Well, if it has to be a Subaru, let it be an Outback or Forester. Spacious for the family, and with enough boot space to carry sacks of foodstuff from shagz.

Subaru

Subaru

Subaru Outback

He will support you with your business/career/school ambition, and you should offer the same support. Together, you can build that ‘dream’ house in Syokimau and get the picture perfect 2 kids. Or perhaps you can date for a short while, but you will have fun together in that short while. He wants to stay out with the boys, sure let him but he has to be home by midnight. etc etc

Early to Mid 20′s

This man wants to have fun, whether he has money or not. He is restless, full of energy and wants to dance all night. Your dates are in loud clubs with thumping music. He has no time for mushy coffee dates or movie theaters. Pubs playing rumba with no dance floor are boring. He can tell the difference between Justin Bieber and Miley Cirus. He wants to drive the hottest, loudest, fastest car. He wants you to dress up so he can show you off to his boys. He is fun to be with, but this requires energy from you. And time.

miley

Who is Justin who is Miley?

If you are dating him, do it for fun. Do not even hint at settling down as this will send him scurrying off for the next ‘fun girl’. For him, life is just beginning and he feels invincible. He’s the god of youth and will not be satiated until he’s pocked it in every hole and overtaken all the cars in the world. Maybe I exaggerate but dating a man in his early 20′s requires a lot of energy which can only be matched by an equally youthful woman.

What’s your experience?

Men and Paying Bills

I admit times have changed. Just as women demanded equality, men did too. If there are bills to pay, the cost is shared between the man and woman in the relationship, be it business, marriage or dating.

I’m going to blog about restaurant bills today.

I do not have a problem paying my bills, which is why whenever I meet up with a friend/potential date, I always make sure I have at least enough money to pay my part of the bill.

However, there is this crop of men emerging in Nairobi. Men who expect you to pay their bill too. They will not only expect you to pay yours, they expect you to pay theirs as well. With the exception of those older career woman-young college man relationships, I really think men should pay the restaurant bills for their women.

 

It’s never about the money. I have met men who did not have much money but will gladly pay the Kshs. 1000 bill at the coffee house. I have met others who earn upwards of 100K a month but expect you to pay their Kshs. 200 bill, considering it too small a bother. This second group does not flinch when the waiter brings the bill, and while you fumble around for your wallet, they sit tight, relaxed.

Restaurant bill

Restaurant bill

The least a guy could do is pay his half of the bill. The LEAST. (Unless it’s one of those older career woman-young college man relationships, as I said.) Especially if the guy earns more than the girl. It’s just basic manners.

In Other News: The Polygamy Bill

If MPs want to pass a bill to legalize polygamy, let them be my guest. However, polyandry should also be legal.

Let’s take an example of a man with 10 wives. The 10th, 9th, 8th wives will probably get ignored as time goes past. It should be possible for them to be married again to any other men they desire, without losing the privileges associated with the first marriage.

My humble thoughts.

Friendliness: It’s not a matter of race

I’ve met so many people here, from so many different nationalities: Germans, Americans, Croatians, Canadians, Kenyans, Italians, Britons, Spaniards, Congolese, Zanzibaris, Belgians, French nationals (Frens? Frenchians?) etc. Most are tourists, some work here, some to visit, some for whatever reasons… goes without saying I’ve met lots of Rwandans too.

 

black-hat-white-hat-struggle

It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white

Let me break this into locals and foreigners:

Rwandans

Reception from locals is mixed. One time, I was hanging out with the Zanzibari (I’ve since learnt they are not called Zanzibarians) at a small café, and someone asked us if there are no jobs in Kenya/Zanzibar. Well, we broke it down to him: had we remained in our own countries, we’d have got better paying jobs (after lots of competition, of course) and we’d be in cities with vibrant social lives (read fun). Of course, we seem to be escaping competition and we have an edge in the rat race here because we are generally (sic) more qualified. We want to contribute to Rwanda’s development (at least that’s my dream) and I don’t intend to stay here forever, but when I leave I hope to have left a mark. We then told the guy who asked us the question that this is not a matter of just Rwanda but East Africa, let there be love among us. He was welcome in Kenya/Zanzibar anytime!

So far one of the challenges I face every day is trying not to scream when someone says: “but you look like one of us, how can you not speak Kinyarwanda?” Well, I have news for you: every black person looks Rwandan. There are black people in Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Senegal… and they all don’t speak Kinyarwanda. I’m trying to learn it, you know, the basics. I even borrowed a book: English, French, Kiswahili and Kinyarwanda phrases that is so inaccurate (at least the Eng/Swa translation because I understand these two languages), I literally laugh out loud at some of the translations. Everywhere I go, whenever I tell people I don’t speak Kinyarwanda, they’re always genuinely surprised. “ You look Rwandan!” Then they tell me they’ll find me a Rwandan husband.

Well, some of the kids we teach conservation education have taken a liking to me. One time during recess, one of the girls wanted to take me to a market somewhere and buy me tea because she thought I’d be so hungry by the time the class would be over. Glad to know someone cares about me! I politely declined but they ask every time I’m in their class. Later, we had a broken conversation (as in, it was hard to understand each other), and she told me about her brothers and sisters, then asked me how many children I have, or if I’m married.

The other Rwandans I’ve met have all been very nice to me. My co-workers, I love them very much. Some others who are friends of friends, them too. The girl who works down by Volcana Lounge where I sometimes play pool. Some vets from Kigali.

The Other People in Rwanda

Well, foreigners sounds like such a harsh word, innit? Though I think it’s better than aliens!
By far, the Americans are the friendliest. I guess by the time they overcome the images ‘genocide’ brings into most minds, they’re pretty much open-minded and informed. So they’re not likely to say something like:

“Wow, you speak good English.”

It’s a miracle! A Rwandan who speaks good English!

Then when I clarify that I’m Kenyan, they sometimes nod their heads in understanding. Sometimes they’re still puzzled as to how an African (am using this term loosely, I think I mean a black African) can speak such good English.

So I’ve had some ask me, “pizza, you know pizza? We’re going to have that.” All the while speaking slooowly so I can get what they are saying. Other times, if I happen to hang out with some of them amongst other friends, they won’t speak to me directly and am like, why am I even hanging out? I love staying in my room listening to music, typing these blog posts…

But as I said, these are rare times. If someone actually decided to travel to Rwanda, they must be well informed and it’s always fun to interact with all these different people from all over Africa, and the rest of the world.

The question am sure you want to ask me is, how do I meet all these people?

Well, I live at a guest house. It’s quite small, so I get to meet all the visitors that pass through, staying for a day or two at a time. Then there are friends, and friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends… I think that’s what we Kenyans like to call connez (connections).

connections

Connections, see what I mean?

 

Rwanda: Comparison with Kenya

It’s been a week since I got here. It’s only natural I compare Rwanda and Kenya in almost every conversation I have. In Kenya this would never happen, in Kenya this is how we do it, in Kenya we do this, we do that, we hate this, we love that…. I hope my workmates are not tired of me yapping all day. I try to keep it to a minimum and to avoid saying just how better we are than them, because we are not. Our technology may be better, the education system may be way ahead, but in the end we’re all just people. Equal yet not equal.

Three things bother me, actually, four things bother me about this country. I love Rwanda so far, but it has a long way to go. Eric, a colleague of mine, told me he listens to East Africa Radio and they always ask, “Rwanda mtaweza kweli?”

The first thing that disturbs me is people’s reaction to white people. Don’t get me wrong, if a white person goes to a remote village in Kenya, everyone is bound to get curious and a little excited. It’s allowed. But here, it’s a little too much. My host (the guest house owner) told me sometimes when she opens the gate, she may find adult women who stop walking to just stare at her. One time they even formed a semi-circle and just stared until she’d closed the gate.

When Julie and the rest of the team, I included, drove up to Rushubi Primary School to prepare the classroom for lessons this year, all the kids in the playground stopped what they were doing to run to her. They had surrounded her so much she could hardly take a step. Some of the little kids were falling over and getting stepped on; it was almost a stampede. Whenever she’s driving, kids who know her shout her name, which is great, and she honks at them. Those who don’t know also call out, mzungu, mzungu and ask for something. Most kids almost always wave, at first I also waved back till I realized, oh, I’m not included in the waves. So now I don’t wave back.

 

Children from Rushubi Primary School when we visited

Children from Rushubi Primary School when we visited

There is always an association in people’s minds of white people and an unlimited amount of money, which is common all over the world and more so here.

The second thing that bothers me is the newness of things. When I first came here, I was so excited to see almost everything looks new. The roads, the buildings, the fences… when we drove through the countryside, the farms looked like they hadn’t been around for long, the houses looked like people had just begun to live in them. It’s been only 15 years since the genocide so this should not surprise me, the country is still rebuilding. At first it was exciting to see how new and organized everything looks, but now it just makes me a little sad. I like the way there is a permanence to old things. An assurance that since these buildings have been here for so long, they’ll still be here many years to come. If you go to our home in the village, where my grandmother still lives, there’s a feeling that we’re all totally settled and the place has been and will always be there. With new things, you can only hope that they’ll last, that just maybe this is the last time they’ll have to rebuild.

 

A view of the volcanoes (can you see them in the distance) from the appropriately named Volcana Lounge where we sometimes hang out in the evenings

A view of the volcanoes (can you see them in the distance) from the appropriately named Volcana Lounge where we sometimes hang out in the evenings

The third thing that has me sleepless at night (let’s just say it’s not the source of the sleepless but I think about it whenever am awake) is the education system in Rwanda. This is the third week of January and schools have not yet opened officially. Can you imagine that? While in Kenya, it takes two days for kids to settle in school and learning to start, in Rwanda, schools don’t even open on the first week of January but on the second, and even then kids may not turn up for school for almost two weeks. The primary 8 results are not yet out (by the time am typing this they’re already a week late) and like Kenya they determine which secondary school you go to. The laxity with which they are taking their education is just disturbing.

The standard of education needs a lot of improvement. Rwanda switched to English as its official language but hardly anyone speaks it. The teachers themselves don’t know it very well, so sometimes they teach in Kinyarwanda. Kids in primary five can hardly understand what you’re telling them in English, let alone express themselves beyond, “my name is….” and good morning, good night and bye.

The teachers looked like a sad lot to me. Okay, maybe not sad but there is no enthusiasm in them. If you’re teaching kids, you have to be motivated. They’re paid so poorly ( I don’t know the exact amount, will try to find out) and there may be salary delays. Teachers all over the world may be underpaid, but any government that knows the importance of education should realize that a motivated teaching workforce is the key.

The last thing that bothers me is lack of openness. The fear of the police. The way there are some things you can’t talk about. The way you can’t criticize Kagame. He’s a great man but he’s not perfect. But these things take time.

 

A message in Kinyarwanda that is displayed in front of all classrooms. I'll get the translation to English later.

A message in Kinyarwanda that is displayed in front of all classrooms. I’ll get the translation to English later.

I just hope there is some way I can contribute towards Rwanda’s development. It needs the support of the rest of East Africa.

Onto Lighter Matters:

I have had some good times here. Remember the cute guy who came to stay at this guest house with his parents? Well, he came with his American girlfriend who’s of Chinese/Japanese origin. Sad, right? I don’t think the gf considered me a threat so we spent the second night chatting with him before dinner. He has the heaviest American accent I’ve ever heard, it’s like he swallows all his words. He was reading some book about Rwanda in ’94 and he’d put a thumb we he’d stopped so I told him I’d give him my bookmark.

At dinner time, we sat next to each other and I noticed how well toned he looked 😉 and his hair is like golden (it’s some shade of brown, I think). After dinner, his parents retired for the night and they live in Kigali. They offered me a place to crash if am ever in town, they’re sweet people.

Then we also left to go to bed and since our rooms are next door, cute guy (his name’s Matt) came into my room and I searched among my books for the bookmark I had. It was written something like: from someone who loves you or crap like that and I thought it’d give a strong hint. I couldn’t find the damn thing!

Rwanda Room

Rwanda Room

Anyway, he said it’s the thought that really matters and thanks and then he gave me his card with his number and email. I asked him what he does for a living and he said he’s a personal trainer and massage expert. I told him if am ever in Oregon I’d give him a call. I’d certainly do with a massage, LOL. Then he gave me a long goodnight hug, sad I may never see him again.

The following day, as they were leaving early in the morning, I woke up to say bye and gave Matt a bookmark I had improvised. You know those decoration cards you find in new wallets? I never threw mine away so I scribbled my number at the back and gave him the bookmark.

Time will tell.