Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Canada Day

July 4th

An excellent day today. First of all a nice lie-in at AEE, followed by their pancakes and honey breakfast. Some more photo swapping with the girls, and then off back to Gitarama. July 4th is Liberation Day in Rwanda; the powers that be are making it more of a holiday than Independence Day. We know the long distance buses aren’t running until afternoon, but we suspect the local matatas and sardine-tin buses to Gitarama will still be on the road. (How many Rwandans will be able to resist earning some money, even on a public holiday?). Poor Joe is stranded in Kigali for another night; he booked by phone a ticket on a bus to Cyangugu, only to be told this morning that the bus wasn’t running after all. Oops!
Just as we thought, there are loads of buses on the road. The official bus stations are all closed, so what happens is the buses pull on to garage forecourts or anywhere else where they are off the road, while they load up. (The traffic police here are fanatical about enforcing the rule that vehicles are not allowed to stop on the carriageway except in case of dire emergency).
I get down to Nyabogogo bus depot, and I’m left at yet another garage next door to it. I just miss one matata to Gitarama, but that means I’m the first passenger to board the next one and I get the most comfortable seat, in the front. It only takes twenty minutes or so before we’re on our way. And even though it’s a public holiday and there are fewer buses than usual, the convoyeur is still charging the same fare as usual to Gitarama. A couple of huge black and white herons circle over us as we leave the Nyabogogo terminal; the heat is building up and its always good to feel that in one hour I will be in the fresher air of Muhanga!
Back home at the flat there’s a quick turnaround and we’re off to Becky’s house for Canada Day celebrations (postponed from last weekend. The actual date of Canada Day is July 1st). Tom’s wearing a USA flag tee-shirt brought to him by Christi’s family when they visited last year. It’s not quite appropriate for Canada but we’re all wearing little Canadian flag badges that Becky gave us with our invitations.
Unfortunately Tina is ill again and won’t be coming, but Épi and Janneau will arrive later in the evening. At Becky’s the front gate has been decorated with chalk; she has enlisted the help of all the local children to get this done, and it looks very effective.
We spend the afternoon on games. I manage to win at skittles (lots of practise in Dorset pubs might have helped me there); we also play volleyball with water filled balloons (messy), do blindfold games in Becky’s front garden, music chairs and so on. It’s great fun. Becky has provided prizes for all the winners; I manage to win some yellow plastic ducks for the skittles. (Anyone reading this with a connection to my church in Bradpole will understand immediately just how appropriate yellow plastic ducks are for me!!).
By mid afternoon the local children can hear all the laughter, and climb trees just outside the house so that they can see over the gate and watch what the muzungus are doing.
We also play some inappropriate and ad-hoc games: Christi went to the Independence Day party at the American Embassy in Kigali yesterday and she has brought back with her a couple of water melons. We eat these and have impromptu pip-spitting sessions on Becky’s front porch. I am pleased to report that Tom can spit for England….
We all do badly in the general knowledge test on Canada – well, how many Canadian prime ministers can you name?; and would you have known that the national sport is lacrosse? Jenga blocks are eaiser; Becky has a “truth or dare” version where every time you pick a block you have to do something. “What would be your nightmare date for an evening?”; or “stand up and sing a verse of a song”, for example. Highlight of the game is when Christi has to rub noses with Soraya. Beth and I have to swap an item of clothing; she decides we’ll exchange watches and we stay with each other’s timepiece for the rest of the evening, much to the amusement of anyone who hasn’t seen the game.
Eventually we gather up and go to Christi’s house, just down the road, to wait for her while she heats up some food for her guard. Meanwhile we’re entertained by little Bruno, who models Moirta’s sunglasses and Soraya’s hat for us, not to mention another of the garish wigs we keep finding in Gitarama.
Then we go to Lando’s the upmarket eating place in town. As its Liberation day there’s a party atmosphere there. A live band is playing, Congolese style, and the music is really good. So is our food – succulent beef brochettes and spicy fish ones, too. Then we’re dancing with the Rwandans to live music and generally enjoying ourselves until late.
What a lovely way to spend Liberation Day!

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