The mud rally and on to Burundi
Trip Start Feb 13, 2011
30Trip End Mar 14, 2011
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James and I had a long and varied conversation about the meaning of baptism, how young people can find mates in the Church when there are few young people in their congregation, prophetic implications of the unrest in the Arab world, differences between the US and Rwanda, and country music (older American country music is very much appreciated in Rwanda). The time passed quickly.
Mrs. Muneli showed us her knitting machine which is what she is now doing to provide for family finances now that she has retired from her teaching job. She can make three sweaters a day, if she works all day, and can make approximately a dollar to a dollar and half profit on each sweater. It’s a used machine but quite well designed though complex to operate. She knows it well already and showed us how she creates different kinds of patterns and thicknesses. The yarn and attachments have to be set just right and then she slides a handle back and forth “it’s like ironing” she told me. She currently has a contract for 80 school sweaters, so she has work for a while to come.
Mr. Mundeli and I discussed the Q&A from the previous day, and told me the church members very much appreciate my coming to see them and had been very encouraged by the service and the Q&A session we had. The entire Giti congregation held a discussion after our departure and decided unanimously that they would be part of the new association. The few other members are still thinking and praying about it and will make their final decisions soon.
I asked about arrangements for the “Remera” congregation, now that Mundelis had moved to this neighboring village. He told me that he wanted to show me a “field house” he owns that is convenient for everyone, and that with a little modification (a suspended ceiling) would be quite serviceable for a meeting hall. He asked if I would go see it on the way back to Kigali; it was almost on the way.
He also showed me his laptop computer which his daughter who lives in Europe had bought for him when he was able to visit her last year. Using his cell phone as a modem, he can go on the Internet with his laptop even from this rural village. It’s really quite amazing. We discussed Bible software programs (French versions) and Skype and its uses.
It was time for me to head back to Kigali. I had my flight to Bujumbura at 17:30, but I don’t like to cut things close when I’m in the bush. Unexpected things happen: tires go flat, taxis break down or get stuck and so on. As it turned out it was good we left ourselves a good margin of security. As we left the Mundelis thanked me warmly for taking the time to visit them, and I thanked them for their warm welcome. They are very faithful servants to the church members in Rwanda and their example is inspiring and much appreciated.
It started to rain lightly as the four of us boarded the taxi. As we started driving it began to raid heavily and there was a strong wind. I could see the wind was so strong rain was actually moving horizontally. I always become uneasy driving on mountainous dirt roads in heavy rain. The earth here often enough has varying clay content and roads can get treacherous and taxis get stuck. I’ve been through that many times and I always dread the thought of missing a flight because of being stuck. As we left the main dirt road to head to the “field house” the rain remained heavy and I could also see that fresh dirt had been thrown in the potholes and crevices of the single lane road we were on in order to fill them. Normally that’s an improvement, but in a heavy downpour, the fresh earth just turns to slick mud and limits the traction the car can get. I made a gentle comment about hoping we could get back up again, and Mr. Mundeli took the hint. Rather than driving all the way down to the house, we stopped where we could see it in the distance through the rain, and he described the space and the work he felt needed to be done. The cost would be minimal. I agreed that it seemed a good solution.
Mr. Mrs. Mundeli got out there with umbrellas. They would walk down and do some work in the fields when the rain stopped. The driver and James and I turned around and started back up the track. Sure enough after a few hundred meters we lost traction and the wheels of the Corolla spun, throwing mud all over. I suggested we back down and take a run at it. He did and we did and with much slipping and sliding we made it past the slick muddy spot and tried to keep moving, but another hundred meters up we lost traction again and there was no way to back down for a run at it. Several young men showed up in grimy clothes, several bare chested in the rain and offered to push. They tried and the driver tried, but it wasn’t enough. One young man got a hoe and pulled out the mud and fresh dirt. Other boys and men came. Mr. Mundeli had heard about our plight and had come to offer advice and umbrellas. After 15 minutes of preparation it was H-hour. James and I got out in the rain and stood aside under an umbrella while the boys pushed and grunted, the driver revved the motor and the tires spun searching for traction. It caught and the car went fishtailing up the muddy track with muddy boys behind, and children who had come to watch, cheering them on. They made it to hard ground and we walked up behind a bit muddy ourselves. There was water and mud everywhere and no way to stay dry. Even the car leaked around the windows and I found later my bags in the trunk were wet and muddy too. I kept my cameras in their cases which is why I can’t documents our mud rally.
I asked Mr. Mundeli to negotiate a little thank-you gift to the boys. They asked for 50 cents each, which Mr. Mundeli found to be rather outrageous. “If we had more time, we could negotiate them down” he told me, but I was happy to hand over a pocketful of coins that had accumulated during my stay.
We shook hands again to say goodbye and then started down the mountain back toward Kigali. We sang along with Kenny Rogers on the way. We had lost one hour of our safety margin. Thankfully we lost no more. On the way down, I was struck again by the size of the Yucca-like plants along the side of the road. They always look slightly menacing to me, like something from Jurassic Park.
Back in Kigali, I asked the driver to stop at Chez Lando so we could have a quick lunch. If we didn’t do so then, it would be a long time until dinner. I invited James to have a bit too and he responded “there is no problem.” After the late lunch (brochettes again the national dish), we drove to the airport, stopping along the way at a bus stop where James could get transportation home.
Check in and exit formalities went smoothly. The Rwandair plane was Dash-5 a small (two seats on either side) prop plane. My seat number was 5B, but when I go there I saw the seats were numbered 5A, 5C, then on the other side of the aisle, 5D and 5F. There was no 5B, when I started to turn to ask the obvious question, the stewardess knew what was coming. Before I could say a word she said “open seating”.
The flight took off on time and in 30 minutes we were in Bujumbura. Nathan and Mo´se met me at the airport and after greetings and questions about friends and families; they drove me to my hotel. I’m trying a new one this time to try to keep costs down. It’s called the Hotel Dolce Vita, which sound very nice.
I had a bowl of chicken soup for dinner and won’t be up much later. We plan to visit the main congregations in the north east of Burundi tomorrow.