Saturday, August 27
Second Day in Rwanda – Aug 27th
Last night we had a fabulous dinner with our dear friend Arthur. He became Vicky’s son 6 years ago when they met and so it only made sense that he became my big brother, since he is 9 months older than me J Arthur and Vicky met 6 years ago when he was translating for her on her first trip to Rwanda. I met Arthur 3 years ago this October on my first trip to Rwanda. Arthur is a real go getter; he went to Belgium to get his masters in International and Development Economics a few years ago and now works back here in Kigali. We had a great catch up with him and look forward to seeing him again on Sunday afternoon. Samputu never arrived so at 10:30pm, we politely told Arthur we had to go to bed as we had to be up for a 7am start!
At 7am Vic and I met in the restaurant for a quick breakfast because at 7:30am we had to leave to go to a meeting about our Child Sponsorship program. This normally would not be such a rush, but today is umuganda (In Rwanda, there is a mandatory community service day from 8:00am to 11:00am, on the last Saturday of each month called Umuganda meaning community service. The day is called umunsi w’umuganda, meaning “contribution made by the community” which is designed to be a day of contribution and building the country by citizens themselves. By law all able bodied persons above the age of 18 and below 65 are expected to participate in volunteer community work. The start of this practice goes back to colonial times and is still practiced today. Participation in Umuganda is usually supervised by a manager, or Umudugudu chairperson who oversees the effectiveness and efficiency of community participation. On this day, business activity halts, public transportation is limited, and people are seen everywhere working. People participate in cleaning streets, cutting grass and trimming bushes along roads, or repairing public facilities or building houses for vulnerable persons. People with particular skills offer their services for free on this day. For example, doctors may offer free medical examination. The benefits of Umuganda are not merely economic. The day is intended to build community involvement and strengthen cohesion between persons of different background and levels. One such a benefit is that people can access authorities to articulate their needs and voice opinions on various issues. The labour cost from Umuganda contributes to national development programs. By reaping the rewards of the volunteer labor and by having more capital to invest in the country, Umuganda has contributed to the growth and development of the Rwanda.) So as you can see from that definition, we had to be OFF the roads by 8am!! Along the way we were stopped twice by police who wanted to check our IDs and know why we were on the road. Through Christophe, our Country Director, we were able to explain we were on our way to a meeting. Both officers were very understanding and let us go. (side note: last year when I was here I had booked a flight for the last Saturday of the month and learned how hard it is to get to the airport, we went through 7 check points, each time all the muzungus (white people) showing their passport and plane tickets in order to be allowed to pass)
We made it to the meeting on time and I handed over the M&Ms to Pastor Francis & his wife Dorothy to give to his four children. They love M&Ms so I brought a large bag over for them to share. Our meeting went for four and a half hours. At which time Vicky, Christophe and I left to go to the MTN Centre to get some much needed lunch. We enjoyed traditional African food, beef, plantains, rice, sweet potato, beans, carrots & green beans.
After lunch, we drove back home to the Iris, where Vicky & I rested for a bit waiting for another meeting which then got cancelled . . . neither of us wanted to admit it but we were sort of relieved, we needed an calm afternoon – Vicky took a nap and here I am writing blog post and skyping with Caylin and looking at Mies photos of her Spartan Race. Gosh I love the internet and technology; I can still follow what’s going on in the USA even though I’m thousands of miles away!
Okay I’m off to take a few photos of our apartment which hopefully I will be able to upload later tonight so you can see how sweet our “presidential suite” is!!