Gutembera is one of my favorite words in Kinyarwanda. The first time I ever heard the definition it was explained to me as, “walking with the purpose of seeing many things.” Some would argue that this definition is incorrect since the verb “gutembera” implies you have no purpose and you are simply walking for pleasure- either way it is one of my favorite activities. Here is a brief summary of my “gutembera adventure” today:

4:04 pm- I leave the house and cross the street to visit some of the nuns at work

4:10 pm- We chat for a little and then I head on my way and I end up walking with a very nice woman named Marie- she has three children and was properly appalled that I was single and without children, I tell her I love children and hope to have many once I find a husband, this response makes her very happy and she tells me that God will deliver me a husband before I grow old and die, I tell her that would be nice

4:25 pm- I arrive at the main road, feeling pretty good about my walk so far, it feels good to be out in the community

4:28 pm- I spend some time greeting adorable children, I am really loving life!

4:30 pm- Meet a man who knows my name and speaks English (must have met him before but cannot remember where)

4:31 pm- He asks me why I am wearing clothing “for sport” and I tell him I am going to gutembera to which he replies, “That is good because you are so very fat- walking will be good to reduce your weight and then you will be less fat.”

4:32 pm- I resist the urge to slap him while he smiles at me, I can tell he wants to know why I am not responding to his comment in a timely fashion so I remain quiet just because I know it will annoy him

4:34 pm- Frustrated with my lack of response to his lovely observation regarding the probable transformation of my physique he grows weary of our conversation so we shake hands and part ways

4:36 pm- I cross the main road to hike up into the hills, greeting my motorcycle driver who is parked on the side of the road

4:38 pm- I am called into a yard by some enthusiastic children, I greet them and shake their inordinately sticky hands (make mental note to use extra soap when I wash up later)

4:45 pm- After walking further into the hills it is relatively quiet but I eventually run into a small gang of children chasing a small tire with a stick, they invite me to play for a bit and enjoy mocking my attempts to get the tire rolling with the small branch they provide me for a stick, I explain to them that it would be nice to have an actual stick instead of a flimsy branch and they continue to laugh, we part ways on friendly terms even though I am slightly disenchanted with their refusal to provide me with proper equipment to join in their game thus setting me up for failure (yes I am competitive- even when competing with children in a game that involves hitting a tire with a stick)

5:10 pm- I have never walked this long without seeing another person- it is blissfully quiet and incredibly beautiful, the higher I climb on the trail the more I can see of the surrounding valleys and hills, a truly serene moment

5:12 pm- I see an old woman standing by her little fence and she is calling me to come and see her, I am tempted to just continue on but I decide to go down the path to her house to pay her a visit

5:13 pm- She begins telling me how happy she is that I have finally come to visit her and I start to panic- should I remember this woman since she clearly knows me and has been anticipating a visit for a long time?

5:15 pm- I realize immediately that I have made a crucial mistake and she is an “umasazi” which translates to crazy person, the moment I enter the house I begin formulating my exist strategy

5:16 pm- She proudly shows me the posters on her wall that belong to her son, it is a rather eclectic group of people: Paul Kagame, Mother Mary, Avril Lavigne, and some type of slightly pornographic advertisment that is situated just to the left of a particularly graphic image of Jesus on the cross.

5:17 pm- She begins telling me how happy she is that I am visiting her and starts to cry (big red flag- people here almost never cry except during events related to the genocide) and I stare awkwardly at the poster behind her head

5:20 pm- I bring up a safe topic and ask her if she likes to pray and she replies, “Of course!” With the introduction of this topic I offer to pray for us in Kinyarwanda which she loves.

5:25 pm- She stands from her wheelchair she is sitting in and  pretends to sweep the floor with a small napkin and then again with a random spoon that magically appears from her dress, this seems like an opportune time to part ways so I thank her for my visit and off I go!

5:35 pm- After exploring a few shortcuts I arrive at the main road and enter a boutique to buy envelopes

5:36 pm- It turns out the boutique belongs to the family of one of my favorite students, Yvette. I buy my envelopes and we chat about school. She offers me a Fanta and refuses to let me pay. I select Fanta Fiesta (the newest addition to the family of Fanta beverages- it is purple) because it reminds me vaguely of Cream Soda.

5:40 pm- Divine, another one of my students, arrives and we all hang out. Yvette and Divine take turns feeding each other bananas- kind of bizarre but funny to watch.

5:45 pm- Yvette asks to use my camera to take a photo of me and since I trust her I teach her how to turn it on and let her take a few shots.

5:50 pm- A creepy man emerges from the shadows of the neighboring boutique and requests to be in a photo with me. His clothes are saturated in a mixture of cigarette smoke and dried cassava (a truly disgusting combination) so I tell him the camera has died. The girls smile and agree with me even though they know it is not true- I remind myself to give them some candy next time I have extra!

5:53 pm- I am walking down the dirt road and run into some of my boys from school. Fred asks me when I will visit him at home. I ask Fred why he is carrying an enormous stick. We part ways and I head home.

6:10 pm- I arrive home and grab a jerry can so I can kuvoma amazi (fetch water) to bathe.

I think that covers all of the fun highlights from the afternoon. Life here can be challenging but the one guarantee is that it is never boring! 🙂

Here are a few shots from tonight, and a few from the orphanage as well:

Yvette and Divine

Random Primary School Girl, Divine, Uwineza (me)

Zach and his cape- off to save the world!

In this world of children growing up too fast it is nice to know that kiddos still enjoy a good game of telephone! 🙂


One response »

  1. I love this post! My daughter, Jana has the same issue with people telling her she is fat. I am glad you have maintained you wonderful perspective. Keep up the good work.

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