A High Day in Rwanda

Trip Start Mar 31, 2009
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16
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Trip End Apr 22, 2009


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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Today was quite full and in some ways more exciting that we would have preferred. The taxi and driver were at the hotel promptly at 7:30 as was Mugeni or Myriam, the Mundelis' eldest daughters. She, like many Rwandans has two first names, one western and one Rwandan.
 
There was a surprise waiting for me inside the Toyota Carola. The steering wheel was on the right, that wasn't a surprise even though Rwanda drives on the right. Up until recently most of their cars came from the former British colonies around them that still drive on the left - Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya. So you find both configurations in Rwanda. The surprise was a large nontransparent cloudy white spot on the windshield right in front of me. I noticed there was a serious-looking hole in the windshield at the bottom of the blob as I dubbed it. I wondered if they had somehow frosted the windshield to stabilize it after this hole occurred. When I asked though, it turned out to be the other way around. The driver explained that the blob just happened one day. He assumed that a seal had broken and air or liquid had accumulated, so he chipped the hole in the windshield to let whatever it was out. But that didn't help. Now I had a blob, a hole in the windshield and cracks already spreading.  

It was too late to make arrangements for another taxi, so this was going to be a rather strange trip. Sensory deprivation is not pleasant on mountain roads.... We started the expedition to Giti right on time. If I leaned to my right, I could see out the middle part of the windshield, and take photos by holding the camera there as well.
 
On the outskirts of Kigali we picked up Nathan and Mo´se from Burundi, then continued on, observing the usual colorful activities going on along the side of the road. As we drove Myriam mentioned something that her father had mentioned last night; it seems to be on everyone's mind. The Government has just recently announced that English will become the official language in the country along with Kinyarwanda. No public school teaching and no governmental work will be done in French anymore. They have decided to move as quickly as possible out of the Francophone sphere and completely into the Anglophone. The desire is understandable in several ways: Rwanda is part of the East African Community, which is mostly English-speaking. English is the language of business and commerce, so their development chances would seem better if business were done in that language. And France is still resented here for having sided with the Hutu Power government (which was French-speaking) that attempted the genocide, at least well into the early days of the massacres - against the RPF forces (mostly English-speaking) that overthrew it, stopped the genocide and who run Rwanda today. France would no-doubt dispute that version of events, and has publically done so. But the perception that that is what happened is very strong here. This is still a major, culturally radical decision.
 
Teachers must now teach in English, even if they themselves don't speak it very well. It will be a hard transition for those who had their higher education in France or Belgium. Many Rwandans speak good French but not English. The learning curve will be steep.
 
We chatted off and on as we drive the half hour out of town to the road where we left the blacktop and started on dirt roads. As if on cue, that's when the rain started. This is a rainy season in Rwanda, so it wasn't unexpected, but it does make the drive to Giti more difficult. The soil in Rwanda seems to have high clay content. When it gets wet it becomes thick and slick. Not the best road surface.
 
We slipped and slid and bounced and rocked our way up the mountain-side to Giti. That part of the trip took 90 minutes. There are some sections of the road that are so rocky we could only inch along to avoid damaging the car.  The driver was good, however, and we made it without getting stuck or having to get out and push.
 
The rain slowed everyone's arrival, even those who live in Giti and walk to church. The van with the church members from Remera arrived about 20 minutes after we did; people trickled in through the rain with very muddy shoes, which they cleaned in puddles outside before entering.  We finally started services about 11:00; there were about 70 of us present. As the congregation sang hymns in Kinyarwanda, I sang along with a French hymnal. Those from Burundi can understand Kinyarwanda well, the languages are very similar.
 
We had announcements, the choral sang, we gave an offering, and then I spoke on the topic of repentance. During the sermon, Mr. Mundeli stood next to me and translated into Kinyarwanda phrase by phrase. The rain became very heavy during the sermon. On the tin roof of the Church the effect was very loud. We both ended up having to shout to be heard. The rain could keep going all day, so we couldn't really try to wait it out, and everyone had come to have a service, so we just shouted our way through the sermon, which I shorted by 10 or 15 minutes, given the circumstances.
 
After services I showed the video of the African youth camps and commented as we watched. The young people were mesmerized. They're very hopeful that we can hold such a camp here soon. While this was going on Mrs. Mundeli and some of the ladies were organizing lunch. The guests from Burundi and I were invited into a back room where there is a table and chairs. The others present ate in the hall on their benches (the adults) or their mats (the children).
 
The menu included chicken, potatoes, unleavened bread, boiled eggs, local cheese, avocado, bananas for dessert and a coke or fanta. The ladies did a very nice job, and we enjoyed having the meal together. After lunch we fellowshipped and packed everything back up again. Those of us going in vehicles left about 3:30 for the long drive back. It would take us more than two hours back to Kigali, those going to Remera had another 60 to 90 minutes beyond that.
 
The drive down the mountain was hair-raising. We were very thankful that it had stopped raining an hour or so before we left, but the roads were soaked. The car often lost traction on all for tires and slid, sometimes completely sideways. There are places where there is no bank on the side of the road. If we slipped over the side, it would be a long steep way down. We slipped into ruts so deep that the car bottomed out and the engine died several times. At one point, we hit a rut so deep that Edison and Charles got out and pushed us out. They didn't want me to help and get muddy. There were some beautiful views on the way down, but mostly we just watched the road and hung on. I'm sure we took some extra prayer time on the way down, I know I did. And our prayers were answered; we made it down safe and sound, though the car looked like it had just come in from a jungle rally somewhere.
 
In fact as we drove into Kigali, a policeman at a checkpoint waved us to the side. He told the driver "your car is very dirty, you must clean it." Apparently it's a minor infraction to drive with a very dirty car.  We were let off with a warning....
 
Back at Chez Lando I had another meeting with Charles, Edison and Triphose. We finished going through our fundamental beliefs and discussed practical applications. They finally left about 7:00. They had hoped to attend our leadership conference, but I felt it was too early for that. I didn't want to make the presentations less effective for our church leaders by having to simply or over-explain the presentations. Rather, we agreed that I would reserve several days for meetings with their group leaders the next time I went to Burundi, possibly in July.
 
I had a pizza for dinner here at the hotel (puffed up crust!), and will head for bed early tonight.
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Comments

maryhendren
maryhendren on

Hi Joel,
Thanks for the exciting account of the HD. What a ride to and from services behind the blob on the mud-slick roads. The roads look almost impassible! It was a pleasure to see the photos from the HD and hear the audio clip of special music--quite joyful. Your experience of shouting the sermon over the pounding rain must have made for a powerful message! The children at services look cute sitting together on the mats. The government must have considered all the pros and cons in switching from French to English. What will it mean for the brethren and work there, I wonder.

Regards,
Mary

Jan Taylor on

Wow!! Ali, This is all very amazing .
Good for you!
I know that you are working very hard, but finding JOY as you work!
Your Blog is great way for us informed and i touch with you!!

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