Wednesday, 18 February 2009

beware of the Abashitsi....

February 16th

I decide to stay at home and work on translating another section of the yr 5 Social Studies book. Michael has given me his parts of the yr 4 book, which in theory is completely translated. Unfortunately either he didn’t load all his stuff on a flash disk, or I was in too much of a hurry to download it, and part of it is missing. It’s not a huge problem, but it may have to wait until next weekend before we can get together to resolve everything.

Kersti and Vicky are supposed to be coming for lunch on their way back from Kibuye, so staying at home gives me a chance to get something prepared. I’m at the bank early and hey presto there’s almost no queue. I’m served and out in five minutes which is almost the quickest ever. A far cry from the ninety minutes I was languishing there last time!

I come back via the market after having managed to get a good deal on both avocadoes and peppers. Both Tom and I love the Rwandan avocadoes and we seem to be eating them more and more often.

The rest of the morning is spent slogging through the textbook, with gaps to chop up a raw salsa to go with avocadoes. In the middle of all this Kersti rings to say that they’ve been bumped off the bus from Kibuye (very unusual to happen to muzungus but not unheard of), and by the time the next one leaves it will give them too little time to call in on me and still make a deadline in Kigali. So they’re not coming for lunch after all. That’s the second time people coming from Kibuye have had to miss me out! It doesn’t matter; there’s no food which is going to spoil, and I’ll see Kersti soon enough because I’ve got to go to Kigali next weekend for a volunteer committee meeting.

The translation work gets interesting today; I’m doing chapters talking about traditional beliefs. I had no idea how complicated traditional weddings were; the rigmarole I’ve witnessed myself of dowry ceremonies, and formally taking leave of the bride’s parents are just part of it. As this will be a short blog entry I’m going to paste the traditional wedding sequence below.

The language in the textbooks is getting more advanced and it’s stretching my French to the limit. It’s a nice feeling to have to stretch your brain to interpret stuff; I just wish I’d brought out a bigger dictionary with me. There are a few words I just can’t work out from the context and I’ll have to get the guys in the office to help me.

In the afternoon Janine comes to clean; she’s amused when I reel off words for the various ancestral spirits that form a large part of traditional Rwandan beliefs.

Our evening meal is a breeze – it’s almost entirely made of things left over from yesterday’s feast, plus things I had ready for this lunchtime and didn’t need.

I feel rather under the weather today. I think last weekend’s still catching up with me, and I’ve got a sniffly cold (in common with almost all the other volunteers. I think it’s because the weather has suddenly gone so cold here in Gitarama, and is yet too hot in Kigali. It’s difficult to know what to wear at the moment).

Marriage: this is part of my translation of primary yr 5’s Social Studies textbook
Marriages are an important aspect of Rwandan social life. It is a union between two people. Marriages often join up two family lines or clans.
Traditional there are several successive steps to follow:
Kureshya or Kurambagiza: the future husband arranges a meeting with the family of his intended wife, helped by her family and her friends
Gufata irembo: the future husband declares his intention of marrying and sends a cow to her family. If the bride’s family accept it, a day is chosen for the next step
Gusaba: the future husband makes his official request and the two families come to an agreement on the dowry for the future bride
Gukwa: This is the dowry ceremony and presentation of the dowry – traditionally a cow or cows
Ubukwe: the wedding traditionally takes place at night and the bride is carried to her husband’s house where the ceremony takes place
Kwarama: the bride is kept inside for several days, without doing any work
Gutwikurura: together, the couple leave the house and visit everyone in the community. From now on the bride is part of her in-law’s family and takes part in household work alongside them.
Gutekesha: the wife receives permission to cook for her husband.

Here are another two chunks, this time on traditional beliefs:

When things go badly, people sometimes seek the help of people who they think are blessed with special powers. The Abafumu are diviners who consult the spirit world to heal people and prevent illnesses and bad luck. The following people play a role in the traditional beliefs of Rwanda:
Abavubyi are rainmakers
Abahennyi are casters of spells
Abarozi are sorcerers
Abacuraguzi are night dancers
Abashitsi are people able to catch wrongdoers
Abagangahuzi are healers of people struck by lightning
Abapfumu are diviners

Traditional healers
Traditionally, healers are people who understand plants and herbs and how to use them to heal people. Not all the healers hold religious beliefs. Unfortunately some people pretend to be healers when they are not.
Nowadays the majority of true healers belong to an association of traditional healers. They use more than a hundred different local plants and herbs and care for a variety of maladies which modern medicine has not succeeded in curing.
The African Union has declared the years 2001 – 2010 as the decade of African Traditional Medicine.

Best thing about today – having a gentle day and catching up with myself. And I’ve still done a reasonable amount of work.
Worst thing – having to wait for the rest of Michael’s stuff before I can print off the final version of the yr 4 book. Still, by next weekend we should have the yr 5 book finished as well!

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