A time for Goodbyes

Trip Start Jun 25, 2006
Trip End Aug 30, 2006

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Flag of Rwanda  ,
Monday, August 28, 2006

I've reached the end of my stay in Africa. Tomorrow morning I will begin my 30+ hour trip that takes me back to Michigan. Accordingly, this weekend was a endless stream of farewells and tying up loose strings.

On Friday I finally was able to speak with Oswald from IRC. It was a good interview, though nothing fantastically new was revealed to me. Once I returned to the office at Seruka I was surprised to find out that I was going to Ryongo (or something like that), a village about 40 minutes outside of Kigali. I accompanied Désiré and Alice out to the end of a training session for an association of beekeepers. I didn't really do anything; I was there basically for the company. But I was glad to be there. After the hour long debriefing session (which was all we were there for) the sun began to set and from the hill top perch that the village was located one could see the entire Kigali environ sparkling across the many hills. It was gorgeous. We (actually Alice and Désiré) decided to have dinner here in order to treat the facilitator of the training session. We had a grand feast of grilled rabbit and bananas. It was during dinner that I realized that sharing from a common plate and eating with your hands is the most civilized way to eat. It is so much more communal and friendly - conversation and food shared together in a way that gets everyone involved...and a little messy. I also learned I have no idea with what to do with a grilled rabbit's head, but Désiré cleared that up for me.

We left the village around 9pm, so I didn't get home until around 10pm, but I was loath to spend my last Friday night in Kigali at home. So despite my tired eyes I called up Bruno, a local Rwandan student who I had met several weeks ago. We met and went to get drinks at a local bar. First, however we visited the campus bar (nothing more than a tin shack which served nothing but the local beer Primus, aka water) where I was introduced to Bruno's 4 roommates. Lively bunch they were, clearly excited that I was there and intrigued with what little Spanish I could muster at their request. (After being away from California and speaking so much French for the last 2 months, my Spanish has been devastated). But after buying a round of beers for them, I left with Bruno to finish up the night at a nice bar in Nyamirambo, where we talked politics, school, and various other random subjects. Then I realized it was 2am, and we decided to call it a night. I walked back to the house and was surprised by how secure of an area I had been living in. Probably because I'd never been out walking this late in the area, I had never seen so many armed soldiers. I must have passed about 15 of them as they patrolled the subdivision near the president's house.

Not unsurprising, Saturday started out kinda slow. When I finally left the house around 1:30pm I decided to go to the trade exposition that started this weekend in Kigali. It was pretty big and had some good shopping, but didn't have much in the way of entertainment, so after finishing the last of my gift shopping in about an hour I returned home. Of course the strong winds blowing dust everywhere and the foreboding clouds also factored into my short stay.

In the evening I met Valery for one last night on the town. We went to Club Planete around 9pm and drank some African chai while watching football, until we finally entered the club at around 11pm. It was a fun night. I ended up dancing until around 3am, when I was about to collapse.

I was shocked when I woke up on Sunday morning when I saw that the clock read only 8:00. What was I doing up so early after such a late night? Anyways, I laid in bed reading until I headed out to 11am services to finish out the last of my Presbyterian days. Of course that meant saying many good byes to Pastor Julie, the Korean Professor, the two Korean students, Josiean and a host of others. I invited Josiean and Valery (I had to call him because he was sleeping after our night out) to come have a drink and snack with me as our final farewell.

After those goodbyes, I had to go through another round with fiends from the office. Désiré called me around 4pm to ask me to meet him. I met him and one of Seruka's drivers, Gratien (sp?), and we went to pick up Bridget and Francine. Since Bridget and Désiré were going to be out on the field on Monday, this was to serve as their farewell. We went to a local bar in Remera, near Bridget's house where we ordered my best meal in Kigali - whole grilled tilapia from Lake Victoria, and bananas. Again it was served in African fashion, so we dug in with our hands for the royal feast. I had a great time laughing and sharing stories with some of my favorite people in Rwanda. Then we shared the final goodbye speeches in which I was told that I had become less of an intern and more of a colleague and friend during my stay, and I expressed how grateful I was for their friendship and help. It was touching, but I was having too good a time to be sad. And after drinking too much Mützing it was finally time to go home. I was so exhausted I went straight to bed, of course only after calling home to iron out the final plans for my return.

And so now I'm here at work. I've finished the final reports that Seruka wanted of me, even if I technically did nothing for them. I'll turn them in at the end of the day and then there will be an office party for me. I'll go home finish the last half of my packing, then head out to the airport around 8am tomorrow. Then it'll be over. Nine weeks in Africa happened so fast.
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