Day 5… still no luggage…My apologies for missing a few days, our electricity has been a sketchy at best and consequently Internet (and lights) have not been functioning. I am working at a clinic in the village of Byamana. This week I am teaching women on subjects of reproductive health and family planning. The country of Rwanda tries very hard to help the poor women from villages like Bimana, they have very good insurance through the state and the government will pay for almost any type of birth control. Unfortunately there are very few education programs to accompany their healthcare. Today I met with a group of primary school teachers who are supposed to be teaching about reproductive health and family planning, but were never taught themselves. We went over very basic anatomy and hygiene and will be leaving many resources with them. We also partnered with the local clinic to get a better understanding of the types of issues women are facing. Rwanda is seeing several of the same issues the United States faced decades ago. Rwandan teenagers, like teens world wide, have sex; but because the culture here is one that does not permit relationships outside of marriage, unmarried women are unwilling or unable to access birth control. Even though the government will provide pills, injections, implant, or IUD for free, some women who want it still are left unprotected. Consequently there are high rates of teenage pregnancy and STDs. Something shocking one of the teachers told me this afternoon was that several girls who want to go to school but can not afford the school fees are having sex with older men who claim they will pay for school and supplies. Apparently some men will actually pay and others will not. How devastated and humiliated those young girls must be. I do not know if this is a nation wide problem or only an issue in this village, but I do intend to find out.
My mother, stepfather, and I went fabric shopping yesterday at the market. At first sight it reminded me of an even more overwhelming version of Shuk Ha’Carmel, if that is possible. The majority of the vendors were a barn much like the ones at the state fair that house cattle and prize chickens. Where you would find the stalls are 15 foot tall wooden ladders holding batiks and tie-dyes, hand painted wax dyes, and sarongs of every color and pattern imaginable. No one except the seller has any idea what the price will be until someone asks. and the way they decide on the yardage they will sell you is the most peculiar thing. I found a fabric I liked and my mother helped me negotiate a price. The strange part is that instead of saying “I will give you 6000Fr of 3 meters” you say “I want a long dress” and they take your measurements and sell you how much it takes to make a long dress. Fascinating! They really should do it this way in the states, it would greatly cut down on people buying and hoarding fabric they are never going to use.
At the suggestion of the house girls I am getting some dresses made incase my baggage never arrives. (If it doesn’t arrive this weekend it is unlikely to get here… it is currently Sunday) The fabric I picked out is a beautiful blue, green, and white wax print with a coordinating light blue sash. Enough fabric for a knee-length dress cost 8000Fr ($4) and our tailor charges a negotiable 7000Fr for the sewing. The entire ordeal will cost me about $9 or $10 american dollars, after I add a couple thousand franc tip.
I have arrived in Africa. It took 5 days to get here from Nome, though my baggage is still on its way. After a night in Chicago, a pleasantly unexpected day in Brussels, and a stop in Paris, my first view of the continent was Addis Abeba, the capital city of Ethiopia. When flying over the outskirts of the city farm fields and gardens make up a mosaic of oddly shaped greens, yellows, and khakis. Closer to the town small home structures begin to appear; clusters of aluminum and plaster roofed huts positioned near muddy rivers and red dirt roads. From above the city there are buildings that look like could be at home in any rural American setting. Homes and office structures, a soccer field, a market place, and what appears to be a newly built hospital. From the ground this view changes. The streets are narrow, as is to be expected, transportation is by foot or motor bike and there are few large vehicles to be seen. The many multi story grey buildings I assumed were steel office type structures look as if they have been bombed. Windows are no longer intact, roof tops are caved in or non-existent, walls are leaning precariously towards busy streets.
When I stepped off the ‘Ethiopian Airlines’ jet I expected to be stifled by the heat, instead the air is unseasonably cold, (60F) and laced with so many smells it is hard to distinguish where one stops and the others begin. A young barista in a white gauze dress sits on a raised platform outside a café making tea and popcorn. The eucalyptus wood and charcoal smoke from her stove hang in the air so thick I can still taste them hours later. Thankfully the incense is so thick any unpleasant city smells are well masked. The ukulele strapped to my pack has become a useful conversation piece several times already. I have been asked by several shop owners to come in and play for them in exchange for tea. The people I have met, mainly women shop workers, are gracious, and the tea is so plentiful it is easy to see how a person could fall in love with such a place.
I landed at Chicago O’Hare last night on a brief jaunt through civilization on my way to Rwanda. I can learn to love a lot of things, but I don’t believe high class Chicago style living is one of them.
My sister and her new husband have a beautiful apartment down town, there are security guards and numbers to punch in at the door. The elevators don’t have a button, you instead hold a little key thing up to the wall and an elevator comes to get you. Everything inside my sisters apartment is sterile and modern. I have nothing against a good clean kitchen and bathroom, but she puts lysol on her cats feet so she won’t cary the germs out of the litter box. I happen to believe there is a certain amount of ‘germs’ every home needs to be healthy. Getting dirt, even potting soil, under your nails and eating a little sand on the beach has never hurt anyone.
Out of the city and back in to the dirt, my next entries will come to you from the seats of several 8+hour airplane rides along my way…
peace and blessings
While preparing for my yurt to come on the July barge I have been contemplating many aspects of ‘city’ life.
Where I live now is by far not a city even the city I live near is not a city), I live on Anvil Mountain in Nome, Alaska. There are about 7 houses near us. You can see town if you walk up the mountain a bit, but we are most definitely not in it. The apartment I am in now comes with very expensive electricity, well water when out pump isn’t frozen (between november and april) and a cute little monitor heater, and a almost always unplowed but easily snowshoe-able driveway. These conveniences have taken the following priority in my life and I will include them in the yurt as follows…
Heat- A non-electric fuel oil burning ‘nordic stove’ which I will be able to cook on
Furniture – I have a book shelf and will add furniture as I can afford it. A bed most likely being my first purchase followed by a chair or possibly a table… (this is probably be near winter)
Electricity – NO
Running Water- NO
Light- Ill consider it… probably not.
I have a habit, not a horrible nasty habit like chew or liqueur, but a habit considered equally as dangerous by some. My habit is letting the powers that be decide most all of my major life decisions. The whole process has led me on a pretty interesting path so far. I graduated high school early because my guidance counselor assumed that I was and I didn’t want to correct her. I chose my college because it was the first acceptance letter I got back, I chose my major because I could spell the advisors last name easily. I went to Israel because I had nothing better to do at the time and I moved to Nome, Alaska because they handed me a contract, (in all honesty I had to google where Nome was when I went home, that I do feel bad for)
I have done it again… I bought a yurt…
After looking for a way to better spend the $13,000 I spent on rent this year (yes that number was read correctly $13,000) I had two options:
1. purchase a finished cabin out of town get a snow machine and commute from hastings creek and pay land fees. Total Cost $15,200 total + $550/year
2. Buy a 20′ Yurt, platform, fuel heater, furniture, skis to pack in, and place it on a friends land (funny land story soon to come) Total Cost $16,000 total + fuel oil
Last week I bought a yurt. It is being made by http://www.nomadshelter.com and should be coming air freight at the end of July (while I’m in Rwanda) just in time for me to start my new job at the hospital August second. Which I think I forgot to tell you about… It is going to be a hectic few months, but I can’t wait!