on birthdays and hospitality

my brother luke has come up with a fantastic way to celebrate other people’s birthdays when you’re too far away from civilization to send a present. he makes a point of doing something special on that day- taking a hike, or going for a swim, or enjoying life in whatever form that may come in. and at some point during the day he angles himself in the direction of the birthday boy or girl and hollers happy birthday to the far corners of the earth.

so to luke, who’s birthday is today,

to celebrate your day, i got up yesterday morning and made crepes with bananas and pineapple, some highly treasured cinnamon, and organic dried cranberries that i got for christmas and have been parsing out ever-so-slowly. then i packed a small bag and walked 8km through tiny mud-hut villages and laughing children that followed along at a gallop, my gait being somewhat faster than theirs, all the way to lake muhazi. there i swam a bit, relaxed a bit, and enjoyed the equatorial sun. tried to soak up some rays for you. then i came home, bought some milk straight from the cow, and made icyayi (rwandan chai). it was a lovely day. i’ll admit, i cheated and celebrated your day one day early, due to the labor day holiday here, but it worked out because today i made it to the internet cafe to send you this and tell you all about it. happy birthday.

i cut-and-pasted that email into this blog, but it’s not the end of the story. on our hike down to the lake, amanda and i got an offer from a random rwandan villager to accompany us nta kibazo (no problem). this ‘accompanying’ thing keeps happening to me and we tried to turn the guy away but he wasn’t having it. so he walked with us for about 45 minutes until we reached the lake, where he led us to jeremy’s house. who is jeremy? not really sure. but he has a house on the lake and a dock you can swim off of and his domestique is friends with our guide and so we spent the day at jeremy’s while jeremy spent the day in kigali.

rwandans go out of their way to help the mazungu out with unnecessary hospitality all the time. take for example our mansion of a house that the school gave us, our neighbors from the house before this one feeding us every night, my students dusting down the chalkboard for me, the guy who owns the local restaurant offering to pick up vegetables for us at the market, students arriving at our house with buckets of water when the pump was down. despite all our protestations, they always insist. actually, there’s a clever exchange in kinyarwanda: murakoze cyane, si cyane, ni cyane, si cyane, ni cyane (and so on). it means, translated by the amazing john, ‘you can refuse, but i must insist’.

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~ by aliciawolcott on May 2, 2007.

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