Any of you who knew me "back in the day" remember that I liked the modern adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma in the form of the movie Clueless. Over the last few days one part of that movie keeps coming into my mind. To paraphrase: Cher is trying to describe something and she says that it's kind of like one of those impressionism paintings--when you step back and look at the whole thing it's really beautiful, but if you look closely it's actually a big mess.
That seems to be Rwanda. Really and truly the country is beautiful and when you take time to look out at the hills it really is spectatular, and I haven't even seen the prettiest parts yet. But when you come down to the day-to-day reality that is getting by in Rwanda it is tedious, frustrating, and really hard work.
While the first 3.5 days of my trip went spectacularly well, Friday to Monday have been more frustrating. Let me paint you a picture of my morning (and this was actually a fairly effecient portion of the day). Today, we needed to get our document copies all notarized. While we were at it, we took those of our friends' as well. I got up at 5:45 so that I could walk up the road to meet Peter at 6:30 where we took motobikes to the notary office. Here we waited for the doors to open at which point a massive throng of people attempted to simultaneously enter through a double door. The throng moved to the back corner of the office where we all jostled to be near a door--I think the wizard of Oz was inside. Then we were all informed that we all needed to sign this sheet of paper which was then passed around to whomever could grab it next. From this paper, we were all called and issued little pieces of paper with numbers on them. At this point I'm kind of impressed because this is the first sembelnce of order I have yet witnessed. So, Peter had to then leave so that he could get more copies and I made myself conspicous by whipping out my E-Reader, but I had to because if I read I can try to forget that I have been openly and continously stared at for the last week. Anyhow, the "gatekeeper" now instructed numbers 1-10 to line up at the window--and they formed a single file line!! Well, it lasted for numbers 1-7 then it disolved into the normal mob around a window look. From this point, anyone who had a number remotely close to that which was supposed to be called was free to push, shove and elbow their way to the window where they handed in their documents. Blessedly, Peter arrived back quickly and was able to get our documents in the window. However, since we had so many, we were told we needed to rearrange and staple them for them, so we did this. Next, the amount we were to pay was written on our oh-so-meaningful number and we went to the other side of the room. Here, again, we were told that we were to approach the window number by number. Peter left to try to get the rest of the birth cerificate documents telling me they were on number 15 so that I could keep track and know when my number 41 was up. From 15-24 people filed through slowly but surely. I say slowly because after an hour 9 people had walked to a window and waited while a handwritten receipt was carefully written. Did I mention that every so often the people behind the desks get up and walk away with no explanation and stay away for a fair bit of time? So anyway, after number 24 this system too went the way of the mob. After trying unsuccesfully to get someone to speak English, I got in the line and managed to pay after the man holding number 50 but before 30-39. But it was over, right? No, I now proceeded to another window where the "gatekeeper" now sat and he looked at my receipt and told me to come back in 4.5 hours for my documents. That was part 1 of my morning. Do you really need me to paint a picture of the next 3 items we tried (and failed) to accomplish?
So, Rwanda is beautiful, but I am homesick and lonely and frustrated. I am worried becasue there are three holidays in the next week or so and Rwandan immigration was less than enthusiatic about helping me out this morning. I am worried that I will be "stuck" here and we can't really make travel plans for Chris and Brooks until we have some certainty. I knew that this would be a hard trip, but you really can't prepare yourself for this. The back-breaking, feet blistering walk up the steep, potholed dirt hill from the orphanage; the hours of waiting surrounded by people you can't understand; the longing for home--they all just take the fight out of you a little. I enjoyed my week of solitude at my first guest house, but I so needed to be with someone who I could talk to that I moved to another guest house up the road. It is American owned and so it feels like a little piece of heaven. I have an indoor room with a rug; a shower curtain in the bathroom; a beautiful yard and views over the hills; a cushy living room; a kitchen with a microwave and fridge that I can use . . .you don't know how much you miss these until you don't have them. Most importantly, when I need to ask something, I can. And, the owner sat and talked with me for a long while. It felt good to be empathized with.
Tomorrow I hope to get the travel letter; I will also attempt to file the paperwork at the embassy. I don't know what we will do about the passport. By the way, by the next post I should be able to let you know what our son's name will finally be . . .stay tuned.