Disturbing the Peace 

​A medium sized, middle class suburb located 19 km from the City Center, hence the name “cuminicyenda”. We moved here in 2004. We hate this place for its remoteness to almost everything…the market, pharmacy, bank…most necessary goods and services are within riding distance. There’s not much activity here, so we commute elsewhere for them. And public transport here is a complete terrible failure, but is at least available (that’s for another post). Cuminicyenda it is.

Our neighborhood is under the flight path of Kigali International Airport. And from where we live, it’s the landings rather than the take-offs that disturb us. Some aircrafts are barely noticeable that their sound is almost as loud as the sound of a car driving by, it’s just that it lasts a little longer. But there are those that fly over so loudly that they rattle the windows and shake your soul. Those aircrafts that fly over screaming above the rooftop that they give babies nightmares. Those that make it impossible to have uninterrupted conversations. When you’re in a conversation, either on the phone or face to face outside, speaking louder is useless. You just stop talking, let the plane pass and then continue on. And when you’re watching TV, you miss hearing every other minute.

Regardless, we don’t get a lot of noisy traffic and our neighborhood is generally peaceful. Or it’s just that I got used to most of the noise. Or that I have unacknowledged hearing loss. Hehe. I don’t know which is which. For fear of crashes…well, such events terrify me. The thought of an airplane being in a situation where they lose control and can’t avoid us, terrifies me. Besides that, our neighborhood is suitable for human living. 

However, few months ago some other kind of noise pollution joined in.
First, I heard the sound of drumbeats. I thought that it was someone playing loud music. But it went on for an hour. People joined in shouting songs of praise. Maybe it was a choir doing rehearsals and they would be gone in another hour, I thought. The following day, the same happened. And the following day. And then their noise started as early as 9AM. The noise was becoming a bit unbearable. We later learned that a certain Mama Pasteri started a church, in our neighborhood. Nowadays, churches and prophets are springing up everywhere…churches have become businesses. Where did the spirits go?

Our patience was being tested by the church members whose worship services were ultrasonic. The drumbeats from the church were too loud, they made our houses vibrate. They sung. Noticeably unpleasant songs that lack musical quality. They clapped hands, jumped and did all the acrobatics. Few yelled out random words. Praise Jesus! Hallelujah! Disturbances, yelling and tantrums that interfered with our hearing. You can imagine what we were going through daily.

Nowadays, their worship services are only held on Sundays. Even so, these people pray at the top of their lungs. They don’t feel satisfied with moderating their voices and keeping the volume low. They don’t feel satisfied with praying in silence especially in the middle of the neighborhood where babies are sleeping and people are working. People who can’t pray in silence simply annoy and irritate me.

I, by the way, am also a Christian. 
Prayer is a means of communicating to God, in word or thought. And before you say a prayer, God knows it already. Even before you have the thought within your mind, God already knows it. And God is not deaf. God listens! So, why the noise?

It’s great that some people out there are praying for all of us. It’s just the volume of their voices that frustrates me. Why must they shout? Do they pray to a god with impaired hearing? Or they worship the same god that the prophets of Baal worshipped? 

Jesus came to bring peace, but some of His followers won’t stop disturbing the peace. 

Well, get it from me, Jesus doesn’t love you anymore because you’re shouting. And please don’t tell me I’m on the wrong path. I’m doing fine, thank you very much. Don’t even try giving me a lecture, just because I don’t agree with your shouting (and doctrines and opinions). What’s left? Pray for me? 

If you want to, just go ahead and do it.

One journey, One Purpose: To Claire and Placide

Today I’m invited to eat and drink while my best friend a.k.a my Tante is getting married.
Our story began in 2009, when I first saw her during the Ingando. I knew from the start that there was something special about her. Her weird light shone bright and I instantly knew that she was that crazy girl that I wanted to get to know. Then when we got to campus, I met her again and this time she was one of my roommates. I was happy to share a room with her.

However, I don’t know how we became friends…it just happened and now she’s one of my very few but close friends. I’ve been given many blessings and I’m thankful for whatever brought us together. 

Claire has been and is an incredible friend. Her amazing soul, the depth of her heart, her little quirks, her ability to be honest and upfront yet supportive…Claire is, quite simply, the best! She’s one of the most amazing people ever! She is reliable…I’ve always counted on her, which is always nice to have in a friend. I have a few wonderful women in my life and she’s definitely one of them. She’s one of the very few people I don’t know how my life would have been without them. No matter how dark any day got, she was always a bright light that shined. She was always there with a smile, and a word or two of encouragement. 

As I still spent time kissing toads (hehe), she met her soulmate. Then it finally happened…he got down on one knee and asked her the four-word question. And she said yes. My heart was filled with happiness when she told me about the engagement. Now, she’s getting married (sounds weird to say that).

Today, she embarks on the next stage of her life with her Mr Right, Placide. As I watch her live the fairy tale that we read about as kids, I’m reminded just how important she is to me…how much I love her, how much I admire her, how much I’m proud of the woman that she is.

To you my Tante Kler, you’re my role model in so many ways. You inspire me just by being yourself. I love you. Thank you for always being closest to me even when we were in separate stages of life. We all get distant to a certain degree when we make huge transitions in life. However, you didn’t drift away and let me get very far. Thank you for never giving up on our friendship.

I want you to know that you are an amazing human being that deserves the best in the world. You are worthy of all the love in the world and I believe you have found it in him. I’m so glad you found the one who makes your heart and soul happy.

Marriage won’t be easy, but I know you are a strong woman. God made you extra special and made your husband especially for you, so together you will overcome any challenge that your future faces. 

I don’t need to tell Placide everything wonderful about you, because he already knows all. I want to thank him. Thank him for making your dreams a reality. Thank him for giving you the fairytale that you so very much deserve. I hope that he loves you in a way that makes you believe in love every single day.  

The moment you both said “I do” you became one. One marriage, one journey, one purpose. My wish is that your love for another grows every single day. 

I love you, always my Tante.

To Claire & Placide.

Kazungu

His name is Kazungu. He’s an alcoholic. The last time he was sober was in 2004, when he made a deal with his sister. A deal not to drink for a week. Not even lick a drop off the bottle lid. The reward was 70,000 Rwandan Francs. That was 10,000 Rwandan Francs for each day he was sober. The deal was to collect the whole sum after the week. But for how long could he be sober?
He was trying really hard not to drink, counting off every day until he could get his money and get wasted, again. Before the deal, he was never sober for a very long time. Except maybe in the womb. But who knows? He probably was drunken there too. He’s been drinking for as long as he can remember. The deal was meant to be a reminder on why he had to quit hurting his wife and children. If he could make it to a week, then he could make it to 2 weeks, then a month, then 2 months and so on. Till when he was sober.

Then a week later, he walks in with his coat slung over his shoulder, staggered over to the table, smiled slightly and said “Mwiriwe”

Kazungu is a binge drinker who seems to have a death-wish. He drinks morning, noon and night. He prefers the feeling that he gets from drinking to the negative consequences that follow it. His drinking has been affecting his family…messing, spending, coming home drunk and verbally abusing them…Life with Kazungu is unsettling. Most of the times, they don’t know what kind of drama will be waiting for them when he comes home stumbling through the door. His affair with alcohol is unrelenting. He’s become an unbearable drunk. Every moment is an uphill struggle.

When he works, all his money is spent on booze. He doesn’t contribute anything.

“If you want to destroy your life with alcohol, fine. Go right ahead, but…” 

“It’s my money, I’ll spend it however I please” he cuts in before his wife finishes. 

His wife, Beatrice, who does part-time jobs, is the sole bread winner of the family. The couple have 8 children. 7 girls and 1 boy. One of their daughters gave birth. That’s 11 people in their household. Beatrice does everything financially, struggling to make ends meet. Someone is sick? It’s her problem. The children need shoes? Her problem. Fieldwork? Her problem. Food is over. Her problem. And when it gets worse, Kazungu sometimes steals items from the house that he sells to get money for booze. As his wife and kids eat ubugali na dodo, he be eating some brochettes with urwagwa at the local bar. 

Beatrice has probably thought of leaving Kazungu. Been probably told to follow her heart. “You deserve better”, “You can make it on your own”, “You should grow a pair and walk out for good”. But then her heart tells her to give him one last chance, again. Her heart tells her that he can’t make it without her, bla bla bla…following her heart is what has kept her in this marriage for so long.

His son passed PLE and joined high school. He did one term but then dropped out. Because of lack of school materials. Like many low-income women, his mother is preoccupied with their survival and is unable to save towards educating them. His mother couldn’t afford to buy him books which she thought of as luxuries, yet there are 11 stomachs to feed. His father couldn’t provide his school materials. He dropped out due to the unfortunate fact that his father is an alcoholic. They have had to watch the neglect in him. They watched him drown his son’s future in a bottle of urwagwa. There have been many times in his life when he wished he’d been born into a different family… 

Few months ago, Kazungu got mysteriously sick. First, his throat became sore. Then he had difficulty swallowing and his jaws couldn’t move. He could barely down a glass of urwagwa if anything. Couldn’t even swallow a drop. He was like a fly that’s about to get splattered on a windshield. He was dead. His drinking buddies couldn’t do shit for him. He was lost in his own private hell. 

Fortunately, he was cured. He was ordered to stop drinking. He’s been sober for 2 months now. Even though his family desperately wanted him to get sober, that doesn’t guarantee that all the bad will be forgotten. That can’t fix everything that he broke. All he can do is not drink. 

So, he won’t do it today.

Wings clipped

The time: 11 AM. 

Mom gets a phone call. The kind of call that gives you some shivers even before you answer it. 

“She just passed on”

Death has never been a comfortable topic for me, but recently that discomfort has intensified. I’ve wanted to write about Agnes for quite some time. I wasn’t planning on doing it today, but last evening when I read a post about death, I knew I had to write about her today.

Agnes. Very beautiful. God must have been showing off when He created her. She indeed was a lovely woman. She was just 26 years old. She was a student at KIM, in the final year. She had recently got married, last August. She had vowed to have and to hold her husband, for better or worse. Agnes was ready for her happily ever after. But the worst was coming without warning and even so fast, just weeks later.

It’s hard to see someone finally happy in their life and it’s gone so fast. The week after her wedding, she became ill. It started with a complaint of headache. Then it got worse and worse till she fell into a coma. A coma that she never woke up from. Despite all the hard work of doctors, nothing could keep her alive. What pains me the most is that she never even got a chance to enjoy her honeymoon.

We are neighbors with her uncle. That’s how we know her. Mom attended her wedding. After she fell ill, the auntie informed her. Whenever she came from the hospital to visit her, she told Mom about her condition. So, I felt some kind of connection to her because they kept updating Mom on her condition. 

It might sound like cliché but I was devastated after learning of her untimely death. While the loss was not mine, I felt great heartache because I knew there are her loved ones out there whose lives had just been flipped upside down. Her friends who will never get to say that last thing. Her husband who now has an empty seat at the table. Her father who will never hug her again. I ached because I could relate to her as a daughter, a sister, a wife. I can imagine no greater pain than to lose a child. No greater pain than to lose your wife, even more unbearable just after getting married.

Her body lay in a coma on her hospital bed, for weeks. Death was lurking around her. It stayed behind the shadows. It was a matter of when and not if. They knew it was coming. But one can never be ready for it. It still was a surprise when she passed on. Like it had come without warning…

Her demise crushed my heart and made me reflect on life. It reminded me how much of a blessing it is to wake up in the morning and/or return to bed at night. While I have been to many funerals, I have never truly experienced the grief of loss through death. The funerals I have attended have been those of distant relatives or of relatives of close friends. I have so far been spared the loss of someone so close to my heart. But the fear of waking up one day to a gone loved one, still keeps me up. 

I have always felt grief and pain for the losses suffered by those I care about. Though it’s impossible to bear it all, I have felt sorrow for their families. I have felt that heaviness in my chest like someone laid a suitcase on it.

Even after she has been laid to rest, I’m still not over the fact that she’s gone. I deeply hoped that she would get better and they go on their honeymoon. I hoped she would finish her dissertation and defend it. Graduate and get a job. Have babies. Enjoy her married life. Cross that item off her bucket list. I hoped she would wake up to celebrate her 26th birthday, this November. 

But instead, death stole her. Like a thief in the night. It left pain and hopelessness. It brutally kicked her husband into a single life, again. Death robbed him of his love. Sad thing about losing a loved one, you are shaken to the core. He had known her for a not so long time. He loved her much. He wanted to marry her right after completing high school. But she asked him to let her go through college first. He agreed to wait and even paid her college tuition fees. Now that she was almost through, they got married. Then all of a sudden, death reared its ugly head. He had questions but no answers.

The only certain thing in this life is that it will end one day. Yes, it is a fact. No matter what precautions we may take, death happens. Sooner or later. And the best we can do is accept death as a fact of life. It happens. We can’t do anything to change that.

So, live for all the other days, for tomorrow we will all die. 

May God grant Agnes a peaceful rest and be with her family.

Aldo

It’s been almost a month since we last had access to tap water. We miss the sound of running tap water. Usually water would be gone for 2 or 3 days…then would be back and we fill every thing that can hold water before it goes again. But now, we’ve been waiting for the water like Christians are waiting for the second coming. 

Washing clothes, mopping the house, watering the flowers and vegetables are all luxuries we can’t even think of now. 

Dear Tap Water, 

We terribly miss you. Please come back soon.

Sincerely, 

Some desperate users.

To get clean water, we send a boda-boda guy to fetch for us. There’s always a queue of jerrycans waiting to be filled. And only the strongest get to fetch first (survival for the fittest). For others, unless they go at 2 AM (when the fittest are resting. Haha) they can’t even get a drop of water. 

So, some people (abadafite agatuza k’imigeri) opt to use swamp water. Just because they see that the water is clear (and not muddy), they think it’s clean and safe to use. 

Anyways, have you ever found yourself in a bus or taxi seated next to or standing in a line behind a woman with a very cute scented  baby that you can’t help staring at? And it’s not like she’s going to ask you to hold the baby as she looks for its feeding bottle in the bag. Rather, it’ll be the other way round. She’ll lift the bag and ask you to get the bottle for her. Hehe. And why is it that it’s those women with crying babies or babies stinking of urine who always ask you to hold their babies for them?

As she feeds her baby, you be there trying to resist looking at it. Because if you look at it, you’ll end up staring and that would be awkward. So, you look the other way and pretend not to have seen that angelic face. But you soon give in and turn to look at it. You notice the biggest smile and 2 tiny upper teeth which are coming out. 

Has that ever happened to you?

Now that is the precise feeling I got when I first saw Aldo. A cute boy with the most beautiful eyes.

Though I never held him in my arms or carried him on my back, but I ached to do so. The moment I saw him, he caught my heart.

What’s cruel is that he never had the chance to experience life. If he was meant to die so soon why did he even come into the world?

It all started with diarrhoea and throwing up. They took him to umujyanama w’ubuzima who gave him some pills. He didn’t improve and the next day they went back and umunyabuzima wrote them a transfer to the health center. No one thought of rehydrating him because he had diarrhoea and was vomiting. Instead, at the HC he was given the exact same pills and they went back home. But his condition got worse. By time they took him to the hospital, his condition had really worsened. He was put on oxygen. 

The poor baby had gastroenteritis. They may have used the swamp (untreated) water and he must have got it from there. But his life could have been saved if during those two days they spent going to and fro the HC, they’d given him an oral rehydration solution. His condition was treatable and the death preventable.

However, he had his last gasp last Thursday night. His death seems meaningless. It should never have happened. There were many moments where his life could have been saved.

Their lives, which had been so happy and so full of promises 11 months earlier now seemed bleak and grey. Where there once was joy and happiness, is now sadness and pain. They will never watch him sleeping soundly, all snuggled in his bed, again. They will never see him on his first day at school. They will never hear him recite his first poem. All they have are dreams of him. Dreams which will never come true. Because the Lord took him away so soon.

His mother will wake up every morning and think “my baby died”. She will weep and weep until she feels no more tears will come. But they will.

She’ll ache to hold him, to hear his voice, to see his face. She won’t look at a baby without her eyes filling with tears. Tears for the loss of her baby, Aldo. All she’ll feel will be emptiness and an ache that she has never felt before. 

Knowing that she won’t ever get the chance to watch her son grow is the most pain of all. No parent should ever have to lose their child, not this way or any other way.

Though he lived only 11 months, he was loved so very much.

Sleep in peace, Aldo.