Yesterday was umunsi w'umuganda. This is a day of service during which all who are able between 18 and 65 are supposed to participate in community service from 8-11am on the last Saturday of every month. A chairperson directs the work, and at the end there is a community meeting to discuss problems, concerns, news, etc. One is supposed to bring one's own tool and be directed from there. Our guard gave me a hand tool which has a long metal piece that bends at a 45 degree angle for the last 4-5 inches (http://www.chillingtonhoes.com/images/GrassSlasher1.jpg). It is meant for cutting grass, so I helped cut grass along a small hillside and along the street. Needless to say, I was quite terrible at it. Others were able to hold with one hand and swing. To be somewhat effective I wound up holding it as a cross between a gold club and swinging like low baseball bat. By the end I started getting better, but I will clearly have to practice before the next umuganda day. There were some nice people who helped shuffle me around and one that had gone to university in Kampala who talked with me about umuganda. He was very proud and said that umuganda helps Rwanda be the most beautiful country in all of East Africa. After umuganda, I spent the rest of the day resting, which included accompanying my housemate to a massage and my first ever sauna. I understand it is supposed to hot but it was really hot! I only lasted about five minutes in the sauna.
I woke from my rest this morning to church music and preaching. There is what sounds like a Southern minister at the church next door today. He's speaking English and someone else is translating what he says. On Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays the church is definitely up and running. Last time I was in Rwanda we were right next door to a church as well. There are many here, and I am often asked if I am here working for either an NGO or a church.
In addition to umuganda and sauna, since I last wrote I was able to have another new experience on Friday night: Tanzanian food. For one of the gender researchers leaving the Centre to return to Australia, a group of us went to the Tanzanian restaurant near our house. You order goat in kilos there, and the group of us went through three kilos of goat. From the Tanzanian professer at the Centre, we also learned about the softest part of the goat: the underarm. In addition to the goat, there were DELICIOUS greens, some vegetables in a red saunce, fried potatoes, and a curry-like sauce. It was a very good meal. Tonight I may go to a local restaurant frequented by foreigners as they are having a Halloween gathering complete with Halloween buffet (unsure what that means), treats for kids, costume contest, and a showing of Ghostbusters. I will also find out today if I will be starting Kinyarwanda classes tomorrow.
Until next time, take care and umunsi mwiza (have a good day - OoMoonSee MweeZah, see http://morganinafrica.blogspot.com/2006/02/rwandan-dictionary-kinyarwanda-english.html for more Kinyarwanda words and phrases, spelled phonetically)!