15. VISITING VILLAGE WOMAN
Continuing down the highway, toward Akagera National Park, I began to wonder, as I looked at the tiny houses, what source of heat the women used to cook the food. I asked Cecile (in my pitiful French) "kess koo say lay femmes preparay lay monjay?" which drew a blank. Then I tried "kess koo say lay ovens, lay fire, lay heat, lay fuel, lay stove?" which wasn't any clearer. So then I resorted to the tried and true method of all communication - hand signals. Finally Cecile got the message and translated the question into Kinyarwandan for the driver, whose response Cecile attempted to translate into English, thus repeating the above scenario only from the opposite direction, and failing as miserably as I had, and the subject was dropped with a "nay say paw" or "don't worry".
Then a few miles down the road we saw smoke rising from beside a house and the driver pointed to it saying "fire" (in Kinyarwandan) and Cecile turned around saying "cooking" to which I replied "ah wee, merci".
There was an old woman standing in front of the house and I suggested we stop and go talk to her, as I had been wanting for a long time to get a closer look at village life.
In the picture above I've joined four photos together to make a panoramic view of the little roadside village with the banana fields in the foreground and some of the "thousand hills" in the distant background. Notice the yellow water container to the left of the front door, which is the water source for everyone, and which the people haul from the nearest communal pump, usually on bikes or carried by hand by children and adults alike. Notice the steam coming out of the black pot on the fire beside the house. That's where all the cooking is done, on a grate just like what we use when we go camping. That's Cecile in the centre of the photo, standing beside one of three cows. Up the hill, on road level, the villagers all stopped to watch what was going on.
I asked Cecile if she would talk to the old woman and ask her if I could go inside her house because I had never been in a village home before. The woman said that it would be okay but first she wanted to go inside and tidy up a bit, coming out a few minutes later and inviting me in.
The first photo is taken inside the living room, on the left as your enter the door. There were tables and chairs but no luxuries, no electricity outlets and no electrical appliances like radio or television. The second photo is of the woman standing in front of the door leading into the bedroom, which belongs to the outside right window. The living room extended beyond the front door. Then there was a hallway which led to another small room in the back which was used for storage, and there was a back door leading around to the cooking area. Notice that over the door to the bedroom there's a picture of two sorghum branches being held in a hand by a heart, over the word "waranyuze" written on a partially-seen banner. All over the walls there were loving pictures with seemingly inspirational messages.
I walked back around from the back yard of the house where I'd been talking to a neighbour about how happy and healthy the cows seemed to be. Cows are very valuable commodities in Rwanda.
In the meantime, Cecile had been talking to the old woman and later explained that she had lost nine of ten children in the Genocide. It's hard to imagine how one person could bear such heartbreak and yet the woman still had generosity of spirit for mankind, the way she had so kindly allowed us into her home.
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