Lanes Island

21Apr/100

Once bitten

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I was bitten. It happened sometime over the weekend. I never caught a glimpse of the culprit, but his legend remains as a slow growing red rash on my upper right thigh. It has burned since the start, but what was once a small isolated area, now occupies nearly the entire section of leg above my knee.
Last week I had an abnormally high number of mosquito bites. So naturally I assumed this was just another addition to my growing collection. But as the pinching burn spread, I decided to seek consultation from the local experts around me: my students. I described the pain and within seconds my three advisors announced, almost in unison: nyamuca. Nya-what? I delivered the news to another friend who translated: Nairobi Fly. Despite the translation from kinyarwanda to English, this was still a creature I had never encountered.
This is what a nyamuca looks like:
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Everyone seemed confident that there was no need to fear for my life. And as you can see from this post, I’m still here to tell the tale. But there were no assurances I wouldn’t lose a leg. This unofficial diagnosis was already three days in. The burn was intensifying and the area around the bite was beginning to turn blue. Perhaps a lack of oxygen to the leg? Surely I would need to be amputated.

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10Apr/100

Dinner!

Kigutu Dinner from on Vimeo.

To celebrate the opening of the Village Health Works community center a feast was prepared, featuring the rare treat: poulet!
These are hens with no name. Unlike, Asman Ashura, the Muslim goat who not only has a name but also harem of lady goats. Asman will soon to be featured here.

8Apr/100

Just a typical rainy season afternoon in Butare

A typical rainy season afternoon in Butare from on Vimeo.

I just need to cross the street to buy my bus ticket to Bujumbura. That's where the crowded gathered for protection from the rain, at the bus ticket booth. But it was another typical day during Rwanda's rainy season. Eventually the rain stopped, but I had to wait another three hours for my bus to take me away, across the border to Burundi.

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5Apr/100

Not your average groupie

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This weekend I was invited to watch one of my students perform at the Alpha Palace Hotel in Kigali. She's a national singing sensation, so of course I accepted the invitation. She put on a soulful show, which I videotaped. Afterward, I talked to the groupies and admired the latest in Kigali fashion. Here, I stand next to a student sporting a hoody that transforms the wearer into skeletor.

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2Apr/100

Rat Trap the Movie

Rat Trap from on Vimeo.

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2Apr/100

It’s a Trap!

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Yesterday, I was waiting for the bus to take me from Butare to Kigali. It started to rain so everyone huddled under the gas station covering. As I spoke with a student from the National University, a man approached carrying a cluster of egg-shaped wire baskets. But what really caught my eye were the two small rats contained within a basket.
"Sont-ils pour le diner?" I asked.
He laughed, no.
"Votre animal de compagnie?"
No again.
Turns out the baskets are actually rat traps. He was a traveling salesman with a demo. The rats inside demonstrate that they can crawl in but they can't escape. How you deal with the trapped rat is another matter. I bought one for 500 Rwf (under $1). I plan to use the trap as a lantern. I wish I had bought more.

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31Mar/100

Mutzig, Speeches and now for the very latest in Rwanda’s mixology trend…

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I have been so impressed with my students' documentary project ideas. To celebrate the completion of their documentary proposals and treatments, last night I called for an impromptu gathering at Hotel Faucon. I treated the group to Mutzig, tea, and was introduced to the very latest in Rwanda drinking concoctions (or maybe it's been around for years and I was just hanging out with the wrong people).
Every class has a chef de la classe, the class leader responsible for disseminating information, organizing groups and relaying class opinions to the faculty and administration. My 4th year students' chef is Fidele. The waiter came. I placed my order, JB placed his order, JC placed his order. Claudine placed her order. Mutzig, Mutzig, tea, tea. But Fidele requested a Guiness and coca. Okay, I thought. He wants to relax AND he need some caffeine in his system. But when the drinks came, he pour a little beer in his glass then topped it off with coke. GuinessCoca. It's really not bad.
There were speeches, declarations of love and promises of a lifetime of collaborations and partnerships. I couldn't be happier than when I'm with my students.

31Mar/100

Pesach in Rwanda

I was sad to go. All weekend, at my house in Kigali, I watched a housemate transform mountains of whole cauliflower heads, eggplant, onions and sweet potatoes to peeled and chopped and diced ones. Then they were baked or sauteed or boiled. The warm sweet scent of onions permeated the house. I even paused from my work editing students' film proposals to take a teary break to chop red onions. Monday night, fifty people were scheduled to arrive for one of at least three Passover Seders in Kigali. Unfortunately, I could not be one of them. I teach on Tuesday at 8 AM, so I departed a house filled with mouthwatering smells, to board the bus back to Butare. Read about Josh Ruxin's Seder here.

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30Mar/100

Happy Hour Motorcade

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I don't have another class until next Tuesday, so to settle into my "weekend" I went to the local beer distributor to kick off happy hour. In Butare, you can't go to a supermarket to pick up ONE cold beer. You must go to the distributor who will sell nothing less than a crate. A crate of Grand Primus costs 6100 Rwandan Francs -- about $10 (whereas the petit Primus cost 7100 RwF). To guarantee you bring the bottles and crate back, you must pay an additional 10000 Rwf deposit. I really wanted that beer so I paid the deposit. I paid for the beer. Then, since I don't have a car, I paid for transport. At first I optimistically (i.e. cheaply) considered stacking the gigantic red crate on my lap on top of my bag filled with my students' papers, teaching materials and my laptop. A small crowd gathered around to watch this inexorably doomed balancing act. Seeing this damsel in distress a small fleet of moto drivers pulled up to offer assistance. We chatted about distance. Prices were suggested. Prices were lowered. Finally, I hired a second moto to balance my crate of beer on HIS lap. I hopped on my moto and led the happy hour motorcade back to my house.

30Mar/100

The “Scotching” Heat

The electric bill at the house where I've been staying wasn't paid so I've spent a better part of the evening reading by candlelight. After a long week, it was lovely -- and the reading material provided some much-needed comic relief. The article I was reading in Rwanda Dispatch describes Pres. Kagame's visit to a rural village to investigate corruption cases. The article begins, "Thousands brave the scotching [sic] sun that glows and burns with a rage so intense and piercing, to grace this function." I would need a sun scotch if I were investigating these matters. I've started a new collection of malapropisms and inappropriate metaphors. How's this one? It's a story about an orphan whose land grabbed after her parents died. The articles says, "she went to complain to authorities who have been tossing her up and down." Upside down. Boy you turn me, inside out. And round and round. Back and forth, up and down. I get the author's point perfectly