Sundaay evening

February 21, 2011

I almost stayed home today to write up my family tree assignment (in which I talked to my family about their relatives, history, etc.) but ended up going out with my host mom and brother, which cheesily enough turned out to be more of a study in family relations that writing about something I interviewed them about.

We visited her cousin who had just had a baby, and the dynamics of visiting Rwandan families (for white people who don’t know the language anyway) is that you sit on the couch while watching TV with other people for a couple hours. We went into the room of the woman and her baby which was all pink and there were a million pink congrats-on-the-baby-girl cards around (all of which featured white babies. Weird). So, stock baby room and I saw/held the baby and did not get all googly, but was in shock at how little she was and proceeded to wonder how we grow so much bigger but keep generally the same face shape and feature shapes – how does our DNA know to keep arranging the cells in the same shape? Anyway.

Proceed to sit on couch for hours and get slightly desperate about finishing my report thing, but whatever. We went into the room again to say goodbye and there are several other folks in there looking at a wedding album, and they stand up and start singing. My host mom then embarks on a 15 minute speech/chant, the couple with the baby is holding hands, and it sounds very baptismal but it turned out to just be a traditional thing of congratulations to the couple with the new baby. Obviously I didn’t participate, but in those situations of completely not knowing anything I think I just turn into a pair of eyes and ears with no real concept of myself or my own context. In that way it wasn’t “awkward” that I was the bystanding white girl, but that everyone in the room was fine that I was there and I was fine that I was there. The loud shouting/chanting of the mother and that everyone else was crying a little or answering back made that little nursery with white baby cards into a passion pit of Rwandan humanity. (Yes, I just used passion pit).

On the way back from that, I learned we’d be picking up Stecy, an 11-year-old sister who was coming home for a bit because she’s sick. I got a good vibe from her right away and now she’s hanging in my room watching me type. The whole feel of the night was family-ish and while I’m still not an outgoing crazy guest daughter, there are increasingly cozy feelings of being here.

So today along with last night was my first time of actually feeling like I was observing/participating in Rwandan culture. One of the employees with SIT, Issa, had a birthday and we all clamored to hang out with him somewhere on the weekend (that’s not a taboo and this story might sound seedy but it’s not). The original plan was karaoke, and I think that’s where we went, but it wasn’t stock boring bad singers karaoke. We found the hotel it was at and were led through a back hallway and outside and down some stairs into this big tent where people were watching like, a small act of people dancing/acting out Kinyarwanda music. Then two women were wearing traditional-ish skirts and shaking their asses like nobody’s business (but not in a slutty way, interestingly) and I got a good snapshot of good Rwandan Saturday night fun.

So that was this weekend. Last week our highlight was the two-day trip to Butare in the south, which is basically a college-y town with a national museum and a university. The highlight in turn of that trip (for me) was our visit to a women’s cooperative association, where women were working with the wives of those that had killed the other women’s husbands. For that visit, picture our group of students asking questions through a translator of these women in a shitty concrete room with school kids peeking in through the window. These women, however, were obviously princesses in that they could work and be just a normal giggly bunch of friends with women who should have been their enemies. People are people, you and I should get along so awfully.

So that’s this week in a long-ish blog entry. Lots of other little things happen that make me think, and there’s a lot of time to think, which is nice most of the time. Time isn’t going fast necessarily, but it is full of things to process. I’m more of a processer than a hands-on, all-out participant, but I’m doing that too just by default.

Also the taxi driver we always have at night totally likes to sing along to Kelly Clarkson, but quietly, and I think one night we may all just have to belt it out.

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