The woman who wasn’t helpful

I’m late on this one but hey, better late than never…

The year was 2014. I was interning at RMH (Rwanda Military Hospital). We (the interns) are introduced to a bacterium, Helicobacter pylori, which infects almost half of the world’s population and is now considered to be the most prevalent infectious disease known to occur in humans. But I had never heard of it before. 

For as long as I could remember, my Dad had suffered from ulcers. So, I always wanted to do some research about gastric pathologies, though I didn’t know which in particular (cause I hadn’t quite understand his condition). And since there’s also a history of ulcers in the family, the bacterium caught my attention. When I finally learned about the bacterium, I talked to him about it. He told me some doctor had requested he get tested for it, and the result came out positive. The doctor then prescribed some antibiotics and that was it. I also realized that it had been years since I last saw him take his meds at night. I was relieved but still interested in the bacterium and learning more about it.

Fast forward to 2016, as a student in my final year, I had to present a research project before I graduated. From the very first time I’d heard of it, I knew that my dissertation was going to be about the bacterium. Hence, picking a research topic wasn’t hard because I’d already found one. I also was unhappy with what I saw on campus (precisely our department) as a growing number of theses were increasingly focusing on the same area, Parasitology (intestinal worms, to be precise). I wanted to do something different from everyone else’s. 

For data collection, ​I applied for permission to collect the data at this institution that I won’t name. Initially, I was told that it would take 3 weeks to get clearance to carry out my research study (after ethics committee reviewed my proposal). After 3 weeks, I was told to wait another 3 weeks. 3 more weeks later, still there was no response. Carrying out a research study demands lots and lots of patience. I finally got clearance after a delay of 4 months (yeah, I’m very patient). You should have seen me exiting the office with the clearance letter.

I immediately went to the pathology department to present the clearance letter. The head of the lab, a woman who wasn’t helpful at all, suggested I come back the following Monday. The following Monday I was there, very early, with my lab coat and PC, very ready to begin my study. But she bounced me back. And for weeks, instead of helping me get what I wanted she kept giving me excuses…“This week is accreditation week, come back next Monday”, “We are very busy right now, come back next Monday”, one Monday morning while walking to her office she saw me sitting in the waiting room and immediately said to me “Not today, come back next Monday”. The world is full of excuses not to help someone (if you are interested), and she was excellent at finding them. 

So, I was hammered with endless and pathetic excuses, but I wasn’t going to give up. Everytime she saw me enter her office, I swear she wanted to punch a hole in her desk. Hehe. I couldn’t understand why she kept tossing me around like a tennis ball. She’d asked for a confidentiality agreement and I’d written, signed and handed it over to her. I had a recommendation letter from my supervisor, a doctor (*and knows with confidentiality). Besides that, I’d clearance from the institution’s ethics committee. What else did she want? Blood of a virgin?! Or did I look like someone coming straight from a deep & isolated village with no Biomedical background at all?! Or maybe I seemed lousy to her, like I’d no notion of medical ethics. Like I would hold a meeting to discuss the data (read: patient records) with all my neighbors. Hehe. 

Or maybe it seemed to her like she would be giving me the country’s top secret files or nuclear weapons launch codes. Haha. We are also bound by medical ethics, mama! I thought that with the clearance, she had no choice but to give me the data. But I was wrong.

After 4 extra months of more excuses and kissing ass, I was running out of time. My supervisor was constantly calling asking for my draft. It was clear to me that I wasn’t going to get the data to complete my thesis. I had no choice but to change the topic and go for another. A much simpler and easier one, since time was catching up with me. I was very discouraged. On a positive note though, I graduated and with decent grades.

Moral of the story: At some point you’ll encounter sadistic mean people. Have the wisdom to know when to fight and when to take a flight. 


The Fearsome Odor

Some time back, I travelled. To Kenya. I was hosted by my mom’s friend. A young, single mother of two. A boy and a girl. Beautiful children. She was a wonderful host.
Even though she made it clear to me to “make myself at home” that didn’t stop me from feeling uncomfortable. I am never comfortable staying at anyone’s house.

Even as a child, I never liked spending the night out…I hesitated to sleep in a different and unfamiliar place if I had to be with unfamiliar faces. As I grew up (read: became anti-social), I hated spending the night in someone’s home, even more. The uncomfortable feeling of not knowing how they will react to my late-rising-habits (I’m not a morning person. I have never seen the crack of dawn. At home, harsh methods are required to wake me up) or the continuous close companionship of people I’m not wonted to, that much.
I always feel better when I am back at home. I begin thinking about going home as soon as I reach my destination.

Waking up early (read: after everyone else), helping to clean the house, learning some Swahili (ubundi kuki ntazi Swahili?), watching TV and scrapbooking & writing – was my daily routine.

One evening I went with her to visit her friend. And to show me around.
The friend, a young woman. Short, big and beautiful woman. Though widowed shortly after her wedding, she was always joyous. Smiling often. Fortunately, her husband had left her with a baby. A healthy baby boy.
She lived in a small one bedroom house. Her place was spotlessly clean. Everything was in order.
That afternoon, we found her cleaning in her bedroom. And she kept the front door closed — I don’t know why. Maybe because there was too much sunshine. There was hardly breathing air inside. There was no window, and no other means of ventilation.

She served us tea and chapo (chapati). The delicious and glorious chapatis. I LOVE CHAPATIS! And Kenyan chapatis are, simply the best! Heavy and thick, but soft and buttery…they are so tasty (typing this with a watery mouth)!
I loved my time in Kenya and I was always overwhelmed with excitement over chapos.
I also enjoyed Sukuma wiki. At first, there was something about the look of cooked sukuma wiki that seemed very unappetizing to me (I never thought I could eat them!) But when I ate them…ooh my, I loved them! Chapos and sukuma…absolutely delightful!
In praise and glory of the Kenyan chapati, I’ll make another post. Meanwhile…Dear God, please take me back to Kenya!

Anyways, back to hot room…
Taking tea in the poorly ventilated room, I was literally burning like a furnace.
Then, there came a man.
He sat next to me. He was sweating. He bent down to wipe sweat from his forehead, using his index finger. His clothes were filthy. His t-shirt worn out, with tiny holes. He was smelly. He probably had been moving from town to town, going days without a bath in the dirty sweaty heat. I am pretty sure he only bathes twice a year on the equinox. But that au-naturel thing got messed up and he wasn’t self-conscious about the musk he’s producing. Even a buffalo wouldn’t love that!

AND… to put the cherry on the top of it all…he took off his shoes. I was too offended by the smell of his feet — gangrenous. Offensive to the senses. That fearsome foot odor. He grossed me out. His feet were stinking that if he was self-conscious of the deadly odor, he wouldn’t have took off his shoes. The sort of thing beings with adequate access to soap, water and shame shouldn’t be doing. He was a big pile of crap! If anyone was to stay inside with him, the smell would knock them out. I found it utterly repulsive to share his loathsome, foul smell of feet.

Amasogisi aratwishe twitahire” she told me. And we left immediately.
Whenever I remember that guy, I feel like puking!

To all guys out there with stinky feet, this is for you…some suggestions that may help tame that raging case of stinky feet.

1. Scrub your feet. A quick rub with soapy water in the shower isn’t enough. You’ve to get rid of any bacteria and dead skin cells that bacteria like to feed on. When washing your feet, exfoliate the entire surface of your foot with a brush and use anti-bacterial soap. And don’t forget to scrub between your toes.
2. Dry your feet, completely. And don’t
neglect the space between your toes.
3. Wear sandals or open-toed shoes. Wearing open shoes lets the air flow around the feet, keeping them cool and from producing as much sweat.
4. Change your socks daily. Putting on a dirty pair of socks for a second day in a row is essentially going to lead to a foul smell.
5. Never wear shoes without socks. Unless you’re wearing open shoes, you should always wear socks.
6. Go for absorbent socks made of cotton or wool. Non-absorbent socks (like nylon) trap sweat around your feet making them smelly.
7. Do not walk with only your socks on. They pick up lots of bacteria this way.
8. Rotate your shoes. Let your shoes dry out completely so that bacteria don’t set up camp in there. Otherwise, wearing the same pair day after day is a recipe for stinky feet.

Next time, people won’t wince when you pass by.

Things that matter

The sun was shining at 11:40AM. I was in Musanze Taxi Park, to board a bus to Kigali.
Nobody queues for taxis/buses here ─ the tactic is to mill around by the stop and try to jump in front of everyone when the bus arrives…jumping in as the bus may not make a complete stop at all.

The window seats were already taken. I spotted a seat at the back. I was relieved I wasn’t going to be seated ‘muri corridor’. I sat alongside a well-dressed woman, about age 35. She was with her husband, and their baby. She wore fake gold jewelry. There was dirt visible in her fingernails. She wore one of those wigs we see in Nollywood movies. Umusirimu wa fake!

The bus was so packed – stuffed like a sardines can, making it hard to embark.
As the bus exitted the taxi park, the woman spread her legs and bent as if to pick up something, and spit on the (bus) floor. Doux Jésus, nooon! It was filthy!

Then the baby noticed my handbag and wanted to play with it. But I couldn’t let it touch my bag. Not a chance. Poor child. Poor me. Nothing I could do with this one but grimace and smile and wish that I could teleport.
The woman turned as if to check something at the back of the seat, and spat again. Yo, woman! You are so, so gross. Absolutely disgusting.


Most people were unaffected when they witnessed it, but it really grossed me out. There’s nothing I loathe more than seeing someone spit!

The bus stopped at Nyirangarama – the official stop-over for travellers using Kigali-Musanze route. The only place the buses stop for people to grab refreshments. The husband bought some cakes. She took one, to pass to her colleague/friend. It slipped and fell on the floor. Yuck, double yuck!
She proceeded to pick it up…our eyes met and I gave her that ‘woman-I-am-so-disgusted-with-your-abhorrent-manners’ look. She examined it, and handed it over to the guy.
God! She was so appalling! What in heaven’s name was she thinking? What’s the matter with her?

These are kind of people that should be put on house arrest and home trained until they can act appropriately in public. Who still thinks it’s publicly acceptable to spit? And doesn’t anybody carry a hankie anymore? A tissue?
I was prepared for the nose picking session as well. Or even worse, blowing snot out of her nose through the window.

I don’t understand the spitting thing. I honestly don’t. Not once in my entire life (as if I’m 80!) have I ever spat on the sidewalk/floor. How come the world is full of people who do?
One thing is: that stuff comes out of the body and it might be riddled with diseases. There should be laws against spitting in public.
The other thing is inconsideration. Imagine if you happened to step into that filthy crap left behind by some jerk.
If only people were more considerate.

If you have to spit for health reasons, fine! But at least spit where there aren’t people right in front of you. Better yet carry a tissue with you and spit into that.
For Chrissake, show some class and stop spitting in public!

Rant complete! Deep breath!

Needless to say that I didn’t wait for the bus to make a complete stop to jump out!

Weird together

I have a friend, and I hope she won’t hate me for using her as an example here. I met her about two years ago. She’s gorgeous. She’s about half my size (so, miniscule) with such a sweet pretty face and a great personality. She studies hard. We talked a few times, and then I start learning things about her.

So here is her story:

She’s been in a relationship for over 5 years, and still counting.

“I love him with all my soul, I love him in the most sincere way” she professes her love for him.

He’s taught her so many things along the way. And the most important being ‘how to love’. “I’ve learned how to love him, and I’m still learning” she adds.

Their relationship is wonderful. And if asked to rate it on a scale of 1 to 10, she says it’s definitely an 8 or 9. She is happy with him. He’s the best thing that has ever happened to her. And she doesn’t doubt her love for him. And just like every other relationship, they have had their ups and downs…

Sometimes, she sees things that make her doubt. And she has lots of unanswered questions ─ which, by the way, might never be answered. I won’t try to paint the guy bad ─ I’m here talking about my friend’s part of the story.

She is a crazy girl. She loves in a maddening way. And she can act very weird sometimes. There are things she has always wanted to ask him ─ things that disturb her, things that bring out her demons. And by asking don’t think it meant nagging. They say that no matter how sure you are of someone’s love, it is always nice to be reminded of it. She just wants to be reassured that there was nothing to worry about. She wants to be comforted. He has had such questions as well, and she always made it clear that he’s the one she chose.

One or two times, she tried to ask him…not only did she not get an answer, but she felt much worse than before. He went into self-defense mode and all he told her was to deal with it cause there was absolutely NOTHING she could change/do about it. She was so devastated. She felt a wreck after that. She has cried herself to sleep several times.

On other attempts she made to ask him about anything, his reaction was nearly posing like a ninja. And if she tried to talk to him about the way she felt, she always ended up feeling worse than before because of his reaction. Whenever she is hurting, she gives herself the necessary space and time to hurt, but can’t be open about it. After all that she vowed never to pose any questions, or tell him when he’d hurt her feelings. She started to bottle up her feelings, emotions, everything. She is afraid to speak up.

He says she ‘interrogates’ like a detective. She still hasn’t figured out how to express her feelings, she just bottles them up inside. Some re-surface from time to time and then she has a gloomy day. When she lets those thoughts get to her…and sometimes she does…she wants to cry and give up. She allows the buttons she already has from some past experience to be pushed. Sometimes when she is having a gloomy day, he notices it (he can read her like an open book) and asks what’s bothering her. She always say it’s nothing (and try to put on a smile) cause she can’t express herself without getting hurt even worse. Few times she can’t help it but cry…and when he asks what’s wrong she feels an urge to tell him but then she can’t. And then she is forced to lie to him about something sad, so that he leaves her alone.

She can’t come clean with him. She has been like this almost the entire relationship. And the result…she a walking bomb! The bottled up emotions/feelings are becoming such a burden. She might explode one time. The only way to avoid the possibility of exploding is talking to someone. She would prefer talking to him, as he’s the one behind all that. Hélas, that is never happening.

Inspite of the hurt feelings, she still loves him…more with each passing day.

I was so surprised that so much trouble and worry could fit into such a pretty, small, and joyful person. But truly, we are all the same. Fighting our inner demons (and outer ones too) trying to make it through each day as happily as we can. She confides in me. But I think after reading this, she will never again.


To the most crazy couple I know,

Sometimes it may seem like a man and a woman are on totally different pages in all aspects, yet always seem to meet in the middle, find love, and a future with one another.







Face it Girl

Before I completed high school, I had unrealistic expectations about “the ideal guy”. Just like many other girls, fairy tales had always captured my attention. Those fairy tales that told us of the meeting of the handsome young Prince and the beautiful young Princess.

I’d a mile-long superficial list…a guy over 6 feet tall with a full head of hair, nice big eyes, long fingers, physically fit (not slim). A guy who has at least a 5-figure salary, his own place, a great personality (with a sense of humor, of course) and has no previous relationship baggage. A clean and tidy guy, who can cook very well, who loves to travel and can speak more than two languages (French being a MUST!). One who would enjoy the things I do and loves children and my family…bla blaah!

I had set my expectations too high! Unfortunately for us women, these men make up only about 10% of the population and half of them are gay (sure you might get lucky and find one, but the reality is you might not.)

So I waited. And I got knocked down. Eventually I realized there was no prince on his way, he didn’t exist (welcome to real life. It’s where you live!). I had to forget what the books have told us. There is no Prince Charming, no fairy tale ending (someone should sue Disney for making little girls think everyone has a prince charming). If there was, we’d all be living happily ever after. But sadly, there’s no such thing. There’s no recipe, no secret. There is hard work, compromise, sacrifice, heartbreaking and trying times, soul-searching, faith-leaping and, yes, dream-fulfilling, pinch yourself moments, too.

I am responsible for my life. Then I met a guy…I don’t have it all figured out still. But rather than spending my days in misery dwelling on the perfect men that don’t exist (and watching romantic movies and wishing that boys would them, take notes, and learn to be the perfect boyfriends), I am writing my own happily ever after on a more realistic level. No tiaras, castles or princes needed. I would spend my life close to the birds than waste it wishing I had wings.

I accept him for who he is…his flaws (so what if he has a messy closet, would I really be spending time in there?) and I don’t want to fix him to be perfect. We need to love someone for who they are and who they can become, not for what we think we can make them if we are lucky. Everything about the guy is just right. It will always take continued effort to keep the relationship alive. I do know that any relationship is a deal, a pact, a negotiation. So I got to keep the fire burning!

Frankly, I hope my life is never complete. The yearning to better myself, learn more and reach that next level is what keeps me going.