1.11.07

snake on the road.

First of all, I need to say, I am astounded by both the amount and content of responses I have received in regards to my last post. Whether public or private they were all honest, open and insightful. I feel privileged to have such supportive family and friends, who are so willing to discuss with me, regardless of differing opinions or beliefs. So thank you.

I was (obviously) feeling a little spent last week, so I decided to take off with five other canadian ex-pats to Gisenyi. A border town on Lac Kivu, brimming with tropical languor, poverty, abandoned architectural remnants of colonialism, and great swimming. We stayed in an old mansion turned hotel, with enormous windows that opened wide, (I definitely spent a good chunk of the weekend curled up reading on our two foot deep wooden window sill). If you looked one way you had a fantastic view of the water, if you looked the other you saw Goma. A tiny town in the DR of Congo, half buried under volcanic rock after an eruption in 2005. I walked to border on our second day. A metal bar swung open and shut. Shocked that there is more security around a house in Kigali, then the border to a country with a foreign affairs warning.

The six of us were looking for adventure, and made it our mission to find the Ginsenyi hot springs. Volcanic hot springs; sounds great right? WRONG. After taking an unnecessary and expensive boat ride across a channel (it was easily walkable) in loud fluorescent mandatory over-sized life jackets, we arrived at the hot springs…or should I say hot puddles. Hot puddles full of naked children and men in see-through underpants bathing.

Awkward.

But, we were not deterred, promptly stripped down to our bathing suits, and joined the group. This was clearly quite a spectacle and immediately attracted an audience. Overall it was rather hilarious. The “springs” were also “run” by an old man sporting an enormous moth eaten fur hat, and multiple strands of wooden beads. He shuffled about shaking a large stick, and muttering in Kinyarwanda the entire time. Although, I’m not sure he would have been comprehensible, even if I spoke the language.

I think it was good to get away, and clear my head a bit. Also, Sometimes it is just nice to hang out with other canadians. People who understand your humour, references, & perspectives. People you don’t have to explain yourself to. There is something undeniably refreshing about that. I am happy enough to be outside my culture and comfort zone, I just start to go a little crazy when I get home at night and often realize I haven’t had a legitimate conversation all day. I have begun helping prepare a large meal for street kids in the gikondo district every Friday. Five or so hours of peeling potatoes and shredding cabbage with big rwandan mamas. The last time I went they gave me a kiyarwandan name. Uwitonze, meaning quiet one.

Gisenyi was beautiful, but oddly enough, I think my favourite part was the drive home.

Sandwiched in the back corner of the bus, we left at dusk, snaking through the mountains. I have now seen my first live volcanoes. Towering black pyramids billowing a thick grey smoke that hangs in the air. A chain of seven in congo, and three visible in one of rwanda’s nearby national parks. Ten in total looming through the trees. It was unbelievable.

Then darkness fell and the drive continued. The interior the bus enveloped in slate overtones, silhouetted heads leaning against one another, or looking out fogged up windows. Every now and then I would run my palm against the glass. It reminded me of long ago family vacations. Road trips to the east coast, fair havens, the cottage. The back of our big brown oldsmobile. Writing names and drawing pictures with delicate fingertips. Gliding swift and steady across the cool wet glass. Temporary masterpieces in the moisture of a humid interior. It was these same nights that sarah, christine and I would loosen our seatbelts, sit on our pillows, and rest our heads on the back dash staring upwards. We would watch the night through the reflection on the windshield, and pretend to be astronauts with only a window full of stars. Barrelling vertical in stead of horizontal.

But this night, I only cleared my view in one quick gesture to see the stars, still sitting static. It made me miss my sisters.

Under stark headlights, eucalyptus trees look suspiciously like birch and maple. And despite the deep valleys we skimmed the tops of, with no light to distinguish their depth, they merely appeared as expansive black fields beyond the tree-line. It was only in approaching Kigali that our height became tangible. A series of flashlights gripped at the base of a large dark funnel.

And then our bus hit a snake, and backed-up the road for a good two minutes to avoid supposed bad luck. Only then did I fully remember I was not in canada.

I feel I revert back to my childhood a lot here. Specifically fair havens, probably because it’s always warm and always raining. I watch the rain from my couch, and yet I am seven and sitting on our picnic table. Scraped and freckled knees tucked under my chin. Watching the water flood the gravel roads and pool in the edges of our green and white striped canopy.

Mom and Dad gave away the trailer a few summers back. A retro staple of my childhood. Its orange circle patterned curtains and vinyl seats that would stick to the back of your thighs in the heat. The bees caught in the screening, petrified after summers in the sun. The green canvas wings with tiny holes covered in duct tape that glowed in the mid afternoon; the summer my sister decided to use a sharp pencil to create her own personal universe.

Perhaps it is because, in many ways, this feels like one giant camping trip. A never ending summer of sorts. Not unlike my entire childhood.

Slightly dirty with lots of improvisation.

l.

2 comments:

Tristan said...

I had a trailer as a kid as well. It got infested with mice and we had to give it away.

Updates for those who can't get updates:

-the new maritime is awesome sounding
-murder by death (snake on the road) just got signed to vagrant and have more albums in 2008
-the new wilhelm scream is amazing.
-there are tax cuts coming to make the poor a little less poor come tax time!
-It is the warmest fall on record here although it seems cooler than usual
-metropasses went up 10 dollars a month
-katie is still a drunkard but she wears business suits now
-i have read a lot of good books lately. e-mail me and we'll trade titles?....

Christine said...

Quiet one is totally perfect :) Miss you too.
xx