This has been a bizarre week on a number of levels.
I think I am acclimatizing remarkably well. There are times I feel as though i'm back in Toronto, until suddenly, something snaps me back into the reality of the moment.
An invisible and internal whiplash of sorts.
Like when the water stops running for 3 days, or when i see a man balancing 16 (we counted) yellow jerry can water jugs on his head in the middle of "downtown," or when three men wearing pink uniforms are ushered past us on the way to the market by a guard clutching an AK47. Prisoners, past-genocidaires, doing their community service.
It is moments like these that i don't even know how to comprehend what i am witnessing, or begin to know how to respond.
We were invited out to dinner last friday, for my friend & neighbour Scott's birthday; an amazing indian restaurant called Khazana, down the road from the Mille Collines. The food was unbelievable, although i must admit there was something terribly odd about being served by rwandans in traditional indian garb. Especially, when the restaurant's clientele was primarily white. THEN because of Scott's birthday, everything suddenly went dark, a spotlight hit our table, and out of nowhere, our we were quite literally engulphed in a barrage of singing & dancing, that lasted for at least ten minutes. Around 20 people congo-lined around the restaurant, then continued to circle our table with drums. It was beyond surreal & quite hilarious. And I thought a Jack Astors sparkler cupcake was special.
And while moments like that are fantastic, there is something that all feels very colonial about the westerners here. We hired a guard this week, at the insistance of all north americans we've met thus far. Vioneste, 24 year old "orphan & christian" he proudly told us in our psuedo interview. We only have a guard though. Most westerners here, enjoy impeccibly high living situations, with a fleet of people working for them. And while i understand it is beneficial to employ people, I think I'd always feel a little strange paying people to do things i could easily do myself. Specifically when "payment" is near laughable.
Our guard gets 30,000 Rwf a month, less than 60$ US, to sit outside for 12 hours everynight, before he goes to school for a full day. Surprisingly we're paying him considerably more than most night guards make, and he was more than happy to accept the position. I think some people think we were foolish to pay him that much, whereas I feel as though I'm ripping somebody off. So we bought him a large golf umbrella, lent him kathryn's rain coat, my maglite, and make him tea/soup everynight.
Only a year older than myself, Vioneste feels just like Kathryn & I, as we play with our dog (or dogs? two more have arrived out of nowhere), chat about our days and generally joke around. Then internal whiplash occurs yet again, as i focus in on the three scars that run across his brow and cheek. And I am reminded that his parents we're murdered, and he headed up his remaining family of three siblings, at the age of 11.
We are not similar at all. In april 1994 i was having a pirate birthday party.