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Robert Lacroix,
Media Producer,
Carleton University


Robert Lacroix's Notes From the Field

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,
Robert

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May 30, 2006 — Friendship

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 being himself.

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.

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May 21, 2006 — Enter equipment

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 counting.

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.

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Postings

June 4 , 2006 — The inevitable goodbye

May 30, 2006 — Friendship

May 21, 2006 — Enter equipment

May 13, 2006 — Surprise, surprise

May 11, 2006 — Equipment in customs

May 10, 2006 — Cats and dogs

 

 

 

 
    © 2006 Carleton University School of Journalism and Communication DESIGN: SMDESIGN