The views expressed in this blog are the author's own and do not reflect those of VSO

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Rocking it in Rukira

The visit of Liam led to a flurry of activity. Trips into our favourite valley were refreshed by our son's enthusiasm and camera fearlessness. He would just go up to strangers, ask permission and within seconds have everyone laughing at the snaps he had taken. It always helps, of course, when you don't understand the meaning of the occasional 'amafaranga' (money) request, or pretend not to!
Seeking a bit of the action

A major party had been planned for his arrival at our guard Justin's village in Rukira sector, half an hour from Kibungo and we duly turned up in our Sunday best for an afternoon of food, drink (that included Mutzig beer and fanta), speeches, juggling, singing and dancing. A large crowd of senior relatives, Kinyarwanda teacher Theo and the abazungu glitterati of Stella, friend Jen, Liam and me crammed around the table in Justin's living room. The front door had to be shut to keep out any uninvited encroachers which then forced all the room's heat into my near-exploding cheeks. A few children managed to get a peek into the inner sanctum via the one, tiny window.
The big feed
It is amazing how coordinated these affairs are. An MC is always appointed to run proceedings in a very serious way. Roughly translated the spiel was: "first of all we shall hear from the leader of our abazungu guests, then the rest of the abazungu will say a few words, followed by Justin's father and father-in-law, then by anyone else who would like to speak, followed finally by the host Justin himself." A special preliminary agenda item was telling us the ingredients of the strong tasting gravy which accompanies meat dishes in Rwanda. We had all been effusive in our appreciation. One of the cooks came out from the secret nook where the brewing had occurred and intoned the recipe while we nodded sagely. I really should have written down Theo's translation but fustling around for pen and paper somehow seemed undignified.
Justin's speech
Turns out I was the abazungu leader so went first in my very best Kinyarwanda. It was all recorded by Liam so you may be able to discover some time in the future, when Kinyarwanda becomes the world language, the scale of my repetitions (too many to count probably), deviations (praise, wonder, peace and human bonding were pretty much the themes) and hesitations (I just slowed right down until the mot juste - usually a deviation of a repetition - miraculously manifested itself). The Rwandans were very attentive to my discourse breaking periodically into applause at each cheesy but heartfelt utterance. Abazungu tend to be more cynical so instead of going on for another five minutes about the oneness of humankind (I was just warming to the theme), I pre-empted any catcalls and suddenly sat down.
Old jugglers never die, they just can't see the balls
Justin's speech was particularly lengthy and included details of a night he got wet when we showed empathy and gave him a cup of tea and some clothes to keep warm. No Rwandan boss would do this apparently. Must be character forming to shiver the damp out of a night guard! (Not that we're saints; for example it's not done for him to come into the house and use our facilities.) All this apple-polishing could have gone on forever so it was time to bring out our secret weapon - Liam's juggling skills. Shame they haven't been recorded because he is much better than me. I even, rather pathetically, needed glasses to be able to see the small lemons in the photo. Ageing and juggling don't go well together.
Getting funky
The inhibition wall had been breached and if the abazungu could show off then why not their Rwandan hosts. Justin started it up and within no time the whole room was a rhythm of African singing and dancing in which we happily participated. Gee, it was a fantastic afternoon. We had to have more beers and fanta, more speeches (yes, I got to be even more cheesy) and more juggling which eventually left the confines of the small mud living room and became part of a street carnival with many bemused onlookers. We lined up for a final group photo, avoided what looked like an imminent downpour, shook many hands, hailed a passing taxi-bus, yelled farewell to the crowds and were gone.
Justin's mother-in-law, Justin, Liam, me, Stella, J's wife Emmeline, the MC with Theo in front
Mixed crowd of guests and onlookers

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