drop a key

We ended our four day training with the college students in Butare after  a ceremonial commencement complete with procession, handshakes, certificates and then with a tearful goodbye and many group photos. We really came to admire these determined, generous students. The language was a challenge. Our Kinyarwandan is limited to hello and how are you. We were told that these students understand English but we quickly learned how limited it actually was and when they spoke we had trouble understanding them. But by the end, they were practicing the skills in a mix of Kinyarwandan and English and it seemed to work. Their enthusiasm is boundless and they want to bring these new skills everywhere — to children, and alcoholics and families and genocide survivors.

They are the best and the brightest and had to pass difficult exams to get in. They have high hopes for improving the well being of people in their country. I was talking to Evangeline, a serious, shy young man who hopes to go back to his village and help people there. Sam just graduated and is already working with mental health, a topic that has only been recently introduced here. Many of them wish to work with genocide survivors. Others with alcohol abuse or domestic violence. There are not many jobs available so whether they will actually get a job after graduation sounds pretty iffy.

We headed out to celebrate at the newest restaurant in town…”the Chinese Restaurant”. Really, that’s what the arching sign says. and the next morning we said good bye to Butare and hit the road  to drive to Gisenyi where we will be offering a 1 day workshop to 50 workers at a coffee//tea cooperative on Kivu Lake near the Congo. The trip took all day. Winding roads, climbing people walking along the road with bundles on their heads…. Carrying bananas, roof tiles, farming tools and of course babies wrapped tightly. Love that swaddling!  Much of the green land is covered in cabbage, potatoes, and assorted crops. The corn hangs drying from the eaves. There seem to be no tractors and no beasts of burden… only bicycles laden with goods and people carrying heavy loads on their heads, with babies tied to their backs.



We stopped at a tiny, rough town to find a bathroom and get a drink.  A woman led Sara and me to the bathroom. It was a rickety, tiny goat stall that was a latrine. This is about as rough as it gets. Outside in the dirt would be better. Sara went first while I waited with the bags. Sara, our guide, our leader, so competent and thorough and wise. As she emerged from the dark structure she comes out pale and shaking…”something awful just happened “.  Oh no, a snake bite, an illness….what could it be? Here we are as far from civilization as we know it. what could it be ?Something terrible???  It turns out the car keys had fallen out of her pocket and down the latrine hole. OMG. These latrines are so dark and deep, people fall in and die in them every year. Our car is here, locked on the side of the road and the keys are down there. We take a breath.  No one is injured, no snake bites. We will figure this out somehow.


In a very few minutes people are beginning to gather. They are sensing something is up. Nikaey quickly sends all of us white women into the soda shop to get us out of sight. Then she and the driver, Jofay got to work. Pretty soon there is an expanding contingent of men all bent over the car. While they are working on it…a group of teenage boys is gathering at the latrine. Their excitement is building. Someone comes running with a long stick. Then they tie 2 sticks together with a rag and soon began adding a third stick.
In maybe 35 minutes the men have broken into the car,  taken the key cylinder out and replaced it and things were being settled and we were getting ready to drive off when a mob of boys comes running up from the latrine cheering. They go off to I guess wash the keys and themselves and then they came charging over to the car triumphant waving the keys. Of course by that time we no longer needed the keys. Then came a huge haggling session. Finally the reward was settled and we were once more on the road. Wow. The whole thing probably took less than an hour. Africa is such a wonder — the people are exceedingly self reliant.

We have a new saying now. When anyone needs to go to the bathroom we say,
” I think I have to go drop a key.”



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