Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Iminsi myinshi!

It has again been a long time (iminsi myinshi – literally “many days”) since I have written. Everything is still great here. I love the opportunities this experience is giving me to learn more about Rwanda, and I especially love running around asking people about their views on gender, justice, and recovery. I know recovery is not the best word since one does not really recover from such things, but it is the closest I have found to imply continuing on with life after mass atrocity and suffering.
I think much like teaching took some time to be able to do well (or at least better than at the beginning stages), interviewing must take time to learn to do well. I feel I am finally getting better at interviewing and talking with new people about their ideas and experiences, though I of course still have much to learn. I have also been having some great interview experiences, including an interview in a parked car (though not in a dark alley so not as Dick Tracy as one might think). It is humbling that so many people are willing to offer their time to talk with me. I have had some amazing conversations! For more details see my forthcoming book. Actually, it will obviously be some time before something like that happens. I need to first write a dissertation, find a job, and more long before any book project starts. Just wanted to practice saying “forthcoming book” should I accomplish all the prerequisite tasks.

Despite getting better at interviewing, or perhaps only thinking I am getting better, I have not gotten better at navigating high level bureaucratic offices. These typically involve making the interview request at buildings with high security, needing to submit very specific letters of request (with revisions occasionally requested), and then waiting for responses. It always takes a lot of time, but it is one of the many reasons I am fortunate to have so much time here in the country. The research would be very difficult to do well without such time. Fortunately, in addition to having the benefit of time here, I also have a fantastic research assistant who is helping me schedule interviews in addition to translating and interpreting.

In addition to interviews, several things have kept me from writing more frequently. One of course is simply failing to write. Others though include the visit of my wonderful partner Andy, internet issues, and ongoing computer anti-virus program problems. The anti-virus problem should be fixed this weekend and the MTN network seems to be stabilizing, both for the phone and internet services. Andy’s visit went quite well and he, too, now really enjoys Rwanda. I showed him a bit of everything, and we also went to Gisenyi for my first trip out there. You can see lots of details of his visit at andrewhusk.blogspot.com. For those inspired by his blog to check out Rwanda, I HIGHLY recommend contacting Dr. Chantal Kalisa (mkalisa2@unl.edu) at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln regarding the summer study abroad. One does not have to be a current student to go. You can find out more information at http://www.unl.edu/iaffairs/study_flyers/summer/rwanda.shtml (keeping in mind that the most recent information can be attained directly from Dr. Kalisa).

While the research and visits from my beloved have been great, the living situation has also continued to be good. I like getting to meet new people interested in gender from around the world. Since I last wrote, there have been guests from the U.K., U.S.A., Australia, Kenya, and South Africa. Today a returning German guest will arrive. This is a busy house but it is busy in a good way. It has been a bit quite lately as the woman in whose house I stay has started a trip to the UN Commission on the Status of Women and Canada. Also, very sadly, the houseworker decided it was time to focus on her own business after becoming a grandmother. Definitely understandable but she was great to talk to, despite our conversations being a mix of basic French, Kinyarwanda, and charades. The Kinyarwanda in particular is getting better though. Ndagerageza (I am trying).

In other happenings around the city, it seems that the rain is again trying to make sporadic appearances. It particularly does so when I have meetings or places to be. Last Thursday I was caught in an amazing rainstorm that had me completely soaked in a matter of minutes with little warning. It was also raining as I went to the book launch of Justine Mbabazi’s This is Your Time Rwanda (http://www.thisisyourtimerwanda.com/). The trek was most certainly worth it, as there was inanga (a traditional guitar-like instrument that looks like a body board - http://music.africamuseum.be/instruments/english/burundi/inanga.html), traditional dancing (39 dancers in total), and interesting speeches. The inanga was traditionally played only by men but there is now a woman named Sophie plays the instrument. One song she performed talked about the rights of women in Rwanda. She would refer to times when husbands used to be able to beat their wives but said that now if they so much as shake a stick at her the police will be there. At the end of her performance she gave a speech talking about the change that has allowed her as a woman to play this instrument and her rights to participate in politics and elsewhere. After I read the book itself I will write a review of sorts.

As for travels outside the city, I got to take a particularly memorable trip to a village in the northeast called Mutaro. It was a very long ride out there, and I most certainly caused a stir as foreigners don’t often visit there. I visited the aunt of a friend, shared a meal and met the neighbors. I will go back later in March for a wedding. It was a great visit and a beautiful village (in which, as in much of the rest of the country, electricity and street lights were going up despite its seeming remoteness).

News I have heard from back home has been mixed. I sadly missed a milestone birthday for mom, but it sounds like her and my sister had a good time. I also heard from my dad about my aunt in the hospital. My thoughts are with her as she tries to recover. I did want to let everyone back home know I am thinking of you all, even though I have certainly not written enough.

With that brief overview of the last couple months, I will start getting ready to head out. Today is a big day as it is the second round of qualifiers for the World Cup I think. Whatever the specifics are, it is Rwanda playing Nigeria in the regional stadium rather than the national stadium by the house, which is getting renovations. This means I have to make it all the way to Nyamirambo and try to beat the crowds there. I will let you all know how it goes, especially as it will be my first live football/soccer game. I hope they will sell vuvuzelas, but somehow suspect that they will not. Future posts will also feature a lot about the women’s month celebrations here in Rwanda. Each week has a specific theme: malnutrition, women’s health, economic empowerment, and finally women in governance and decision-making. Also for those out there curious about the happenings of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, you can search for UNCSW on Facebook or Twitter, or you can go to http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/csw/56sess.htm. These will have links to speeches, events, etc. As always, stay tuned for future, and hopefully more frequent, updates!

Ni aha ubutaha (till next time – nah-hooboo-tahhah)!


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