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Entries "July 2006":

Thursday, 27 July 2006


Just to let you all know I've managed to upload more photos.  It always seems like a miracle.  Antonia fans can find more pics of her especially under Uganda cont...


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Written by: cathie78    in: My travelblog
Sunday, 23 July 2006

Advice for those travelling to Rwanda

Here's a list of a few quirks that I have discovered in my time here. Some of them important, some insignificant, some very taboo.

1.  Eating in public (even drinking) is very rude.  Don't eat in the street!

2.  Women should not whistle if they ever expect to find a husband, or keep the one they have from meeting with some fatal disaster.  (Not to mention the fact that the shape of the mouth while whistling is vulgar... Disgusting!)

3. Women should not ride a bicycle.  In some places (like the city) this is ok, but in the country, I wouldn't dare.  The reason for this has nothing to do with the straddling position, as women are most welcome to ride motorcycles.  But the pumping up and down of legs!  Oh my!  How very provocative!

4.  Do not sit on or put your bag down on dirty surfaces, especially not the floor or ground.

5.  Women should also avoid smoking in public places.  (I'm sure I need not mention that smoking and whistling while riding a bicycle are completely out of the question no matter how tempting)

6.  If ever you are asked a question by someone in kinyarwanda and you do not understand or know the appropriate response, you can always get away with a simple "eh" (a bit Bob and Doug MacKenzie/ Strange Brew/ Hoser Canadian - like).

7.  If you ask a Rwandan a question and they simply raise their eyebrows, it means yes.

8.  When serving drinks to Rwandans, always open the bottle in front of them.  That way you will not be blamed for poisoning them later on.

9.  The bicycle boys who hiss at you, raise their eyebrows repeatedly and motion towards you with puckered lips are NOT coming onto you but rather asking you if you want a lift.  

10.  Finally, if ever attending a marriage in the countryside, do not be alarmed by the high-pitched "eeeeee" sound that the married women make instead of applauding.  It has been explained to me very clearly and logically that they do this because they're not wearing any underwear. 


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Written by: cathie78    in: My travelblog

Modified on July 26, 2006 at 7:12 PM
nothing much to do but read

Well, strangely enough for July (supposedly one of the driest months) it is pouring rain and so I am trapped in the internet café.  It's alright actually because I find myself with nothing to do anyway, except read my book.  I'm reading A Suitable Boy, finally.  I brought it with me from Canada thinking it was the perfect time to dive into a 1500 page book.  I was wrong.  I was so distracted when I first arrived (almost a year ago) that I couldn't follow all the different characters and plot lines, but I finally found myself with a bookshelf full of books that I'd already read (some of them twice) and decided it was time to take the plunge.  I did and now I am on page 1235.  It's great!  After the headache of marking and filling in report cards, I'm on HOLIDAYs, (again).  It does seem like I'm always on holidays, about to go on holidays or just coming back from holidays.  It's not meant as a complaint, but I do have a hard time getting in everything that I need to teach given that there are so few weeks of teaching.  When I finish this book, I'm going to start with King Leopold's Ghost.  Thanks dad, I got the package a few days ago and was really pleased to have some serious reading lined up for my vacation.  I plan to spend a weekend in Gisenyi, some time in Kibuye, maybe a couple of days in Cyangugu... and of course a few hours with the famous mountain gorillas.  But that does leave a lot of reading time in the middle.

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Written by: cathie78    in: My travelblog
End of term and my hair

The end of term is always a frenzied time. Teachers are racing to finish correcting 400 exams, preparing their lists of marks, then filling the tiny numbers into the over-crowded report cards, (being careful not to make a mistake because there's something about white-out on an official document that somehow makes it seem less official).  Then on the last day we give out the report cards.  I have to say it all seems like a bit of a waste of time though given that we can only give the reports to those who have paid all of their school fees, which I noted with regret was not many of them.  A lot of times the school fees are not even being paid by the student and his/her family anyway but by some NGO or another who hasn't gotten around to paying yet and over which the student has no control.

One of the most fascinating things about the end of term though is watching as the students from schools all over the country stream out of the villages and school compounds, luggage in hand and make for the main road and taxi parks.  It is big business for all the taxi drivers and street vendors and they're out in full force.  It is a frenzy of activity all over the country as taxis whiz by with students and their luggage.  It's especially interesting to watch at the end of the year when the students roll up their foam mattrresses and the taxi convoyeur ties them to the back of the taxi to take home... not so good when it rains.  

On Friday, even the bicycle boys were so busy transporting students and their luggage that I was not able to wash my hair... connection?  Well it's the dry season which means that my standpipe is almost perpetually dry so we hire a bicycle boy to fetch water in the jerry cans...  We were down to one jerry can and Sylvester, try as he might, was not able to find anyone available to fetch water... so I had to go one more greasy day with dirty hair. You'll be relieved to hear though that it's clean now.  Even trimmed... I had another successful amature hair cut, this time from an American friend, Jessica.  It also seems that I must have lost a significant amount of hair when I arrived because I have all these new, short ones growing in.  Culture shock, I guess it's not good for your hair!  Happily, it all seems to be coming back.  

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Written by: cathie78    in: My travelblog
Monday, 17 July 2006

A breath of fresh air

After living in Gasarenda for almost eleven months, I'm realizing how little I know of it. I know the main street, the tailer's, the bakery that I like, the main bar, the market, and a couple of other shops. I know the taxi park, the private college on the other side of the main road, the pharmacy, the medical centre, my house, a few other houses and the school. Outside of that, though, is the real countryside and I hadn't taken too many walks outside until recently.

Elson and I have started taking little walks out into the hills though and the views are gorgeous and I'm learning a lot more about the place where I live. One evening we went for a walk down one path that led past fields of tea and into the cool shade of tall Eucalyptus trees. We came around the side of a hill and looked down into a steep valley. On the other side was the school. Elson constantly quizzes me about the small crops that we see and I'm getting better at recognizing potatoes, sweet potatoes, sorghum, manioc, etc. (Luckily I'm not totally hopeless as I can recognize the obvious ones like tomatoes, carrots, wheat and corn).

Our second expedition involved taking another dirt path out of town. We were quickly joined by five curious little children. We walked past mud huts, a small primary school, a small pentecostal church and fields of wheat, eucalyptus and sorghum. The hills have dramatically changed colour now as the dry season has arrived. The earth has turned a dusty orange colour, the green has faded and as it is the wheat season the hills are covered in patches of gold. As Elson and I walked past one small hut we heard a man's voice calling out to us in kinyarwanda. Elson said that the man wanted to know if we wanted to see how drums were made. We went into his yard and he was busy sewing cowhide onto a drum. He showed us the carved out bases for the shipment of drums he was preparing to send to Kigali. His wife was twisting cowhide into string. So I ordered one from him, about three feet tall for rwf 2500 (about six dollars). We continued our walk and ended up on a hill overlooking the bustling wild-west town of Gasarenda and watched the sun set from our quiet viewpoint.

It's refreshing to stand above and see the place I live from a different perspective.

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Written by: cathie78    in: My travelblog

Modified on July 17, 2006 at 2:01 PM