Lanes Island


Pre Order a DVD

We are taking pre-orders for DVD copies of There Is My Home: Somali Bantu Farmers of Lewiston Maine. To order one (or two, or three) go to our website here. DVDs will be shipped shortly after the film airs on on MPBN Thursday, June 30 at 8:30 PM and Saturday, July 2 at 11 AM.

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Maine Things Considered radio story about documentary There is My Home

Maine Things Considered's Tom Porter produced a radio story about our documentary, There Is My Home: Somali Bantu Farmers of Lewiston. To listen Click Here.

Original Broadcast Date: April 1, 2011
Total running time: 5 minutes, 34 seconds


Broadcast Premiere of our documentary: There Is My Home – Somali Bantu Farmers of Maine

There Is My Home is scheduled to air on MPBN (Maine Public Television) on Thursday, June 30th at 8:30 PM with an encore presentation on Saturday, July 2nd at 11 AM. Check your local listings.



About a month ago I had an intense craving for brownies. On a Skype call I mentioned this to my mother. Two weeks after my birthday, a week after the U.S. Postal service promised their prompt delivery, I received a box containing a smattering of chocolate products AND serious Rwandan contraband in the form of plastic bags.
A blog about Rwanda is not complete without a mention of umaganda day and Rwanda's ban on plastic bags. So here I go.
I said it before. I'll say it again. Plastic bags are illegal here. You won't see any, unless of course you come to my home. My parents had no idea that Rwanda has created this ban. The ban is an effort on the part of the government to keep streets clean and to keep landfills free of the non-biodegradable petroleum product. And Rwanda is impressively clean. But not for long, thanks to my mom and dad who loaded my care package with almost as many zip lock bags and cellophane as there were brownies.
There was far too many chocolate products for one mouth to handle. So I brought the box to the university. I know very few Rwandans who like sweets. But my students are the exception to the rule. Within 30 minutes, word had spread to my class of 23 that "bread" was here for the taking.
"Ngwino urye ku migati."
Come eat some bread. Chocolate bread. My favorite kind.
Within 31 minutes, the brownies were going...

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How Sweat is the Moment?

How Sweat is this moment?2.jpg
I spotted this special Wedding Poem banner in the downtown Kigali mall, known as Union Trade Center or more commonly as UTC. A vendor was selling this along with other lovely gift for newlyweds. I'm guessing, as with all the best misspellings and bad translations, this banner was made in China. I hope the festive banner is not a foreshadowing of what's to come for the poor bride and groom who are recipients of this gift. Blood, sweat and tears.

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White Bread, Sugar Cereal & Amandazi

It's been a long standing tradition, ever since the depravity began over 30 years ago, that once a year I can select anything I want to eat for breakfast. ANYTHING. You can imagine the possibilities. So when I tell you what my longstanding choice inevitably is, I fear I will disappoint you. At this point I could change, but the change would mark the end a ritual that is as much a part of me as the laugh lines and new grey hairs.
The day of ultimate dining freedom is my birthday. You've heard the story before, but I'll tell it again, with a Rwandan twist. As a child, 364 days a year I had to live without refined sugar, chocolate, and all other delectable gifts that I saw around me at grocery stores and in homes of my friends.
But on my birthday, that glorious day when the potential for rotten teeth, hyperactivity and obesity were forgotten, I got to call the shots -- at least for breakfast. The menu that I always created consisted of white bread, sugar cereal (usually Honey Nut Cheerios) and donuts.
Monday was my birthday. My sugary breakfast tradition had been forgotten until my grumbling stomach propelled me to go searching for some breakfast. I found myself at a little shop up the hill from my home in Kimihurura. On the counter were plastic containers filled with bread, sambusas and a reminder of my longstanding tradition: donuts. Or I should say Amandazi.
It was golden brown and buttery. I bought one and took it home. I showed my finding to a housemate who warned that it might be tough and not as sweet as a donut should be. As a preventative measure I sliced the amandazi in half and dropped it in the toaster. When it was crisped, I coated the halves in sugar and cinnamon. It wasn't bad. And considering no one bought me cake, it was the next best thing.

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The small rebellions

My disproportionately high number of blog postings about my bus rides must be an indication that I need to cut back on my commutes.
But until I do, I will continue to write my bus ride observations column and may even expand my study to include the behaviors of moto drivers since I ride motos even more frequently.
Here's the latest from my April 28th journey:
I typically think of the Rwandese as law abiding citizens. Laws are created and they are followed. But I suppose every society needs to find small ways to rebel.
I haven't read the law, but based on what I'm told and the behavior of today's bus driver, drivers must wear seat belts. I hadn't noticed that my driver was not buckled in until we approached a security check point. During the two hour drive there are frequent junctures where we encounter Rwanda's finest, in their blue berets and navy belted jumpsuits. As the van slowed to a stop, the driver reached across his chest to draw his seat belt across his body. When we were out of sight of the police he released the belt, never actually latching the buckle into place.
Now, I would imagine the law was created for the safety and health of the citizens. It's not a bad law. And clearly, the driver was aware of the law since he made a gesture to follow it when the law enforcement was present. Yet, rather than simply buckle in he staged a minor rebellion -- one with the potential to do more harm to himself than the law he broke.
On a related note, the law requires moto drivers to provide helmets to their passengers. And they do. However, recently I had a short distance to travel. I climbed on board and beckoned for the driver to pass me the helmet. He shook his head and clutched the helmet to him. Okay. Fine, I thought. I just have to get from my house to campus.
But as we approached campus, my moto driver spotted two police officers in the distance. Without hesitation he passed the helmet over his shoulder. I was furious and refused to put the helmet on. We only had a few more meters to traveled. I hoped he'd be punished for putting my safety at risk. We zoomed passed the police without arrest.

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Prime Real Estate

I ride the Volcano bus between Butare and Kigali a lot. This two hour journey takes me past beautiful terraced hillsides, usually at sunset. It's a pretty ride. And I always welcome the opportunity to read my book without distraction while the lovely landscape passes by. However, the wrong seat on the bus can detract from this visual beauty and the overall bus riding experience. My legs are long and my luggage load excessive. I frequently have to stack my camera backpack on my lap with my computer and clothes bags wedged under my feet. By the end of a trip seated in the WRONG seat, I am crampy and cranky.
In a quest for prime bus real estate, I have consulted with fellow travelers to determine the top three seats to make my bus ride a pleasant one.
#1. Shotgun seat
A. Ample leg room
B. Windshield AND side window views.
C. With a seat to yourself, there is no danger that the person sitting next to you who is strickened with motion sickness will "share" her regurgitated lunch with you.
D. You have your very own escape route door, should the bus catch fire.
#2. The seat behind the driver, next to window
A. Moderate amount of leg room.
B. Luggage storage space under your seat.
C. Large window escape route should the bus catch fire.
#3. The seat at the back of the bus, behind the driver, next to the window.
A. Moderate amount of leg room
B. No one will climb over you during the frequent stops.
C. Large window escape route shold the bus catch fire.

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A Rwanda first

Whenever I go anywhere with my video camera I am asked to pay to take people's image, even if my camera isn't directed at them. Recently, I have started asking people to pay ME to film them. Most are confused at first. Then laugh me away. But on Thursday, I actually got a taker.

Rwandan dude at the market pays ME to take his image. from on Vimeo.

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My dark colored dots

My dark colored dots from on Vimeo.

Yesterday I was at the old Huye Market doing some reporting for a story. As my translator extraordinaire was off negotiating whether or not a cassava farmer would grant us an interview, I entertained myself with a young man, I first thought was a traveling liquor salesman. It turns out I was close. In fact he was selling "medicine." In his plastic tub he carried several bottles that once contained wine and waragi but were now filled with an elixir to alleviate stomach pain. He took one look at me and immediately diagnosed my problem.
He handed me three plastic packets filled with eggshell colored powder.
"For your dark colored dots," a woman next to me translated.
"To erase them?" I asked.
He nodded.
He recommended three packets at 5000Rwf ($8) each. He had only seen the freckles on my arms at that point.
Once I tried to count all my freckles. I lost my place somewhere between 738 and 839. Rather than start over, I gave up. Needless to say I have many and it would cost more than 15,000Rwf to erase them.
I offered my Pharmaceutical Salesman friend an alternative which you can see here:

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