Robert Lacroix's Notes From the
June 4, 2006 — The inevitable goodbye
Well the day has come. I am leaving Rwanda. I must say that I enjoyed my stay a lot more then I expected. I really don't want to go.
My only regret is not to have seen a lot of the country because of the hectic schedule we had at the university, but as people tell me, I will just have to come back and visit again.
I will miss the people most, their friendliness, their smiles, their constant and prolonged hand shakes. I will miss the scenery when I walked to and from the University, the sounds of the people with the huge loads on their heads, coming to sell their product in the market, the occasional shouts of masounggou, the kids going to school and them asking for Bics (their word for pens).
I will miss the people at the university, the students with insatiable thirst for knowledge and their constant good humor. They actually forfeited their reading week to fit our schedule — now I may be wrong, but I don't think that would sit right with the students in Canada. These guys did not seem to mind.
Last week, the students came over for a party and that is really where I got to see them in action. These guys can really dance. They always insisted that we dance with them; I've never felt whiter then when dancing with a whole bunch of black people. It was a lot of fun, they had a bunch of thank you speeches and gave us gifts. I really want to come back and stay much longer.
Thank you for reading,
May 30, 2006 —
It's been a while since I have
blogged, not because I haven't had anything to talk about,
it's just that things are pretty busy at the university here
in Butare. The weekends are basically for cramming
in some African sites.
Today I would like to talk to you about
friendship, friendship between men and how it is expressed
here in Africa. Men here have much less restrictions on ways
of expressing their friendship. It is really touching to see
how and how often they express their friendship. You often
see them holding hands while walking down the road or having
their arms around each others waists or necks or even their
hands and arm strung across the another guys lap when sitting.
In North America we would see this as definitely gay but here
in Africa it's simply friendship.
While coming back from a visit to Akagara
National Park we suddenly stop to let a 4x4 jeep go by when
it suddenly stopped, we were all wondering why when the guide
in our minibus, who had been in radio contact with the jeep
said to Eugene, a journalism student with us that he should
go outside and meet with someone in the Jeep.
As it turns out the person in the Jeep,
also a guide at the park, was a friend of Eugene who he hadn't
seen for about two years. Well I wish I would have had the
presence of mind to take a photo of this reunion. The smile
and look of sincere joy, warmth and love of these two guys
was extremely touching. Here are two guys in the middle of
a dirt road holding back a jeep a minibus and a huge bus with
close to a hundred students in it and nobody really seemed
to mind the delay.
They hugged and shook hands and probably
told each other how good it was to meet, then Eugene came
back into the minibus and off we went. For a while Eugene
was notably quiet and pensive but very quickly came back to
I think the strong bond and friendship
between men and how they express it here will be a major thing
that I will remember Africa for. If we were to inherit something
from Africa , I would put that very high on the list.
May 21, 2006 —
After yet another full day in Kigali,
chest deep in bureaucracy, the equipment is at the university.
This has to be my fifth trip to Kigali. I'm really
starting to know that road. Seems that every time I take that
road, I see some big tanker truck who has either left the
road or has overturn. It is really not a safe road —
with all the very steep hills and curves. I am told that it
is one of the safest roads in the area. I really don't want
to use the others in that case.
Following a hasty inventory of all the
equipment, I started to teach the students how to operate
the cameras. They were all very excited and had a lot of questions.
It is difficult at times to hold them back, everybody wants
to touch and use the cameras. Seeing the majority has never
used a camera, the challenge is substantial. Monday we will
get more into it and they will finally get to shoot with their
new found toys.
As for the weekend, the plan was to go
to Acagara National Parc but some little virus had other plans
for me. I stayed in bed for a lot of it but did manage to
sit by the pool at Hotel des Mille Collines, a.k.a Hotel Rwanda
from the movie of the same name.
My stay here is close to half over, time
just flies. I hope I will have time to get the students at
a comfortable level technically before I leave.
May 13, 2006
— Surprise, surprise
Today was a day that I was looking forward
to practically since the day I knew I was coming to Rwanda.
As chance would have it, my cousin’s daughter
Danielle is working in Kigali. What are the odds of that?
So with help from her mother in Ottawa and a couple of friends
of Danielle in Kigali, I arranged a surprise meeting.
I boarded the bus that does the trip from Butare
to Kigali. Two hours on this crowded mini bus — you
would think that would be a bad thing, but far from it. The
bus goes through the small villages and sometimes stops. It
was great to see all these people and the scenery again. There
was a little boy, maybe four or five years old, looking at
me very curiously for a good part of the journey. The expression
on his face was priceless, as if he was wondering how can
a person not be black. I gave a gum, which he thought tasted
like Colgate, and one franc. We became buddies for the trip.
I finally got to the hotel where I was supposed
to meet Danielle and also met with her friend who took me
to her. When she first saw me she did not recognize me but
as I got closer she did a serious double take. The expression
on her face was nothing short of spectacular. We had a great
lunch and she was very grateful for the care package from
her mother. That was definitely a highlight for this trip.
May 11, 2006
— Equipment in customs
As it turns out the equipment did
come but is now stuck in customs.
I was in Kigali on Thursday from 10am to
4pm trying to negotiate with custom agents. We, the university
driver and I, went from the airport to downtown Kigali four
times, one time to pick a customs agent and bring her to the
airport then to another customs building in downtown Kigali.
The one nice thing about that day was the
trip back to Butare. Rwanda has to have the most breathtaking
scenery in the world. Rolling hills as far as the eyes can
see with lush green vegetation. Just watching the people on
the side of the road going about their business is a treat
in itself. They range from women wearing very colorful dresses
to small children carrying bundles of grass on their heads
that are sometimes taller then they are.
May 10, 2006
— Cats and dogs
It's 9:30 am, it is raining cats
and dogs and by the way, in Rwanda, the cats and dogs are
much much bigger.
Think of a big rain storm in Ottawa then
double then have it last at that intensity for 6 hours and
Despite the rain I am really glad to be
here, the friendliness of the people here: Jean the cook,
Jovin the driver, Emmanule and of course, Peter and his wife
Diane and Andy and Lucy who picked us up at the airport make
it feel like a bright sunny day...
The biggest disappointment so far is that
our equipment did not arrive yet. Our job today is to fine
out where and when can we get it. Without this equipment the
course we will be teaching will drastically change.
This afternoon Kanina and I will be going
to the university for the first time, I can't wait. I have
just steeled in and I am now ready to go. I have a feeling
that these four weeks will go by very quickly.