It’s that time of the year

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, the festive season. Christmas has always been my favorite holiday and probably will always be. Ever since I was a child, I excitedly await Christmas because there is so much that I love about it. First, there’s the moving magic of Christmas carols. The joy of listening to Christmas carols can cheer one up, no matter how bad things in life may be. Second, the beautiful lights and pretty decorations that give a feeling of happiness. Decorating the Christmas tree with lights and other sparkly ornaments was enough to brighten even the most gloomiest of moods. It’s a pleasure worth experiencing. Third, Father Christmas.

I went to La Colombière School. Every year Father Christmas celebrated Christmas with us before school closed. It was the school policy to make sure that we, the pupils celebrated Christmas with the school management before we went for holidays. And I so loved that. I loved seeing the man in the red and white suit.

“How old are you?” He asks.

“Eight” 

“Have you been a good boy/girl?”

Then you nod. I always felt proud to receive a gift from Santa. So, whenever I saw Santa, I begun absorbing the Christmas spirit as if by magical Santa osmosis.

I loved making cards for Daddy and Mommy, plus all the decorations for closing day celebrations. A certain teacher who was our neighbor and who taught in baby class at school, noticed my artistic skills (which have long departed me). When closing day would be around the corner, she would ask for my help to make cards for her class. And I would get treats for my services.

Mums who still uses the decorations that we made in nursery school, evokes a wave of nostalgia that sweeps over me whenever I see them. It makes me excessively yearn for returning to the irrecoverable period.

Christmas was a time when I hoped to receive presents from my folks. Mom always bought us new clothes and shoes for the festive season. Everyone wears their best clothes for Christmas (hehe). For some families, the only new clothes they get every year are for Christmas. And the parties are a good place to show off the new clothes. If there was an auntie or uncle who had travelled from abroad to be with the family for the festivities, then we would also get some chocolates and sweets.

Christmas Eve has always been one of the biggest nights of the year, as it kicks off the festivities. And for new year, one song really puts me in the mood. The Bonane (Bonne Année) song by Orchestre Impala. I listen to the song and feel like I’m flying.

Now that the holidays are in full swing, I’m already absorbing the Christmas cheer vibes and I’m going to smile at everyone I encounter and say “Merry Christmas”

Oh and Santa, I have been a really good girl this year, so do you think you could give me an extra special present?

It’s been 17 years…

I was an only child for two years before my parents began giving me brothers. 7 years later, I and my younger brother were told that another brother was arriving. However, I was still safe in being the only daughter. This little one has been my favorite because since the day he was born, my life has changed completely. From the moment I saw him, we bonded in a special way. The very first time my parents brought him home from the hospital, I felt that he was mine somehow and that I was responsible for him. I was like his third parent (and still I am). 

However as a kid, he had this annoying habit of hiding stuff from whoever annoyed him. Mom won’t buy him a lollipop; he hides her shoes. Dad won’t take him out for brochettes, he hides his shoes. Whoever annoyed him, he hid one of his/her stuff. Especially shoes. 

So I annoyed him, and he hid an envelope that contained all my documents. It was that time when I was applying to join the university, and my documents happened to be in that envelope. Report cards, diploma, ingando certificate, bank slips. He hid it and forgot about it. 

When I was arranging stuff, I unexpectedly found the envelope where he had hidden it. I took it and then told my mom. Mom decided to give him the scare of his life.

Mom told him that I would be going to school soon and asked him to give me back the envelope. He rushed to get it but couldn’t find it because I’d already took it.

“I can’t find it” he said. “Where did you put it?” mom asked him. “I’d hid it but I can’t find it” he told her.

Mom puts on a serious face.

“See what you’ve done. Now, your sister won’t be going to school” she told him. “You need to find the envelope” she added.

He was seriously panicking.

“What if I find you a new school?”

I burst out laughing.

From that day on, he never hid stuff again.

He’s younger than me but like all younger brothers, he thinks he is the eldest.

Once on my birthday, it was that time of the month when my period had decided to rear its big ugly head (yeah, it almost always comes at the worst time possible). That birthday I’d planned to spoil myself a little. Then my period was like “Not so fast, my dear. I’m most definitely attending your birthday”. My body had a painful way to remind me that I was not pregnant: hot flushes, bloating, back pain, persistent sharp lower abdominal pain, and an emotional instability — mood goes from gloomy to suicidal to angry to loving to crazy bitch in like 2 minutes. Hehe. My hormones were all over the place and messing me up. 

My folks had forgotten it was my birthday (couldn’t blame them, they are growing old after all). My phone was bursting from receiving those Facebook notifications of supposedly birthday wishes. The HBD and HBD2U type of messages. I can’t even begin to say how much I dislike these so-called birthday messages. Is there anything more annoying than the HBD texts? You people who send HBD have failed your parents (or whomever). They invested in your education, only for you to write 3 meaningless letters supposedly as a birthday message? Or is it because Facebook put a bug in your ear with their little reminder to wish someone a happy birthday? Well, if you lazy donkey can’t write the whole damn thing, then don’t write anything at all! I wonder what these people do with all the extra time they save by just writing HBD instead of Happy Birthday. 

Anyways, back to my room…I was curled up in bed like a fetus, laying still, had probably spent half an hour trying to figure out the best lying-down position (that position that seemed reduce the symptoms) and I wasn’t going to move from that position even if our house was on fire. Then, my baby brother came to my room. And just before I could spit fire on him, he said to me…

“This is all I had. Happy birthday”
And he gave me 2 samosas. Oh God! I cried (not the hormones! Hehe). How thoughtful of him! He probably thought they were little or meant nothing much, but they did. They were (and still are) the best birthday present. By then he was still a little boy (who had no Facebook to remind him), but he remembered and got me a birthday present. It wasn’t about the samosas, it was about the acknowledgement. He remembered when everyone else forgot. He’s never forgotten my birthday. Not once.

At home, birthdays have always been days like all the others. Nothing special. I have never had a birthday cake baked or bought in my honor. Never seen my name on a cake. I don’t know how it feels to blow a birthday candle *rolls eyes* I certainly don’t recall any cake cutting. Growing up, we didn’t celebrate birthdays. The best part of not celebrating my birthday is that I didn’t have to sit as everyone gathered round to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ while I watched, unsure of what to do with myself. Am I supposed to smile? Do I make eye contact with everyone singing? Do I do that orchestra conductor thing? What do I do after they’re done singing? Clap hands? I don’t know. 

Mom and Dad always remembered and wished us a happy birthday. Perhaps they would take us out – for brochettes and soda and perhaps buy us some sweets – but that was it. You weren’t going to receive a single birthday present. You didn’t get lots of well wishes from family (who else even knew it was your birthday, apart from your parents and siblings?). No party. No birthday cake. None of that stuff.

And I’ve not yet learned to embrace growing up. With every year seems to come more responsibility, higher expectations, less cartoons (Hehe). Every year, my birthday is a reminder that I’m leaning closer to kissing my youth goodbye.
My baby brother goes out of his way for me because I’m his one and only sister (that’s the most adorable part of being an only girl!). He loves me and there’s no guessing about it.

Today it’s been 17 years since I’ve been blessed with another brother. The boy I once held in my arms, as a baby. Now he’s taller (and bigger) than me, but he’ll always be my little brother. Today the world is blessed with his presence for another year. I thank the Lord for the life in him. I’m happy for your 17 years and many more to come.

My everyday prayer, God, is that You keep my little brother in Your care.

Happy birthday, Jeune Homme.

P.S. One more year till you’re legal.

Ikibasumba Mutabonwa

“Come, I have something to show you.” I hand her an envelope.

“What’s this?”

“Open and see for yourself”

She then looks at me…

“You do really love me, now I know.” She says.

We both smile.

Later she tells me that it was not really necessary. That there are lots available for rentals, that I could have used my money for something else. For something more important. But what’s more important than my mom? Or who is more important than my mom? 

She’s got 3 kids, a husband, a house and bills to pay. On her to-do list and budget, there’s unsurprisingly no room for shopping for luxuries. She’s constantly coming up with excuses not to treat herself. Too busy, no time to go. Bills to pay. Priority issues to solve. Too worried about her kids to spend any money and time indulging herself. And she forgets herself. 

I wanted to spoil her with something she loves but would never buy. For me, it was umushanana/umukenyero. Umushanana is the Rwandan traditional attire. It wasn’t her birthday. It wasn’t the festive season. There was no major event coming up. I didn’t need a reason to spoil my mom. I just wanted to buy her something randomly, as a sign of appreciation. So, I saved up money to buy her one.

However, it was hard finding the perfect mushanana for her because she’s this type of woman that I have never fully understood.

The next Saturday she wore it to a wedding. 

As a kid, I hated my mom. Because she was the disciplinary, I thought she hated us. Whenever we stepped out of line, mom was the one who delivered the whippings. In my eyes, she was a very mean woman. Mom was super strict. I hated school, though I got excellent grades. In fact, I have always hated school. The only thing I’ve loved about school was having Father Christmas at school when the festive season was coming. When it came to Maths, I was an annoying lazy girl. I deliberately made mistakes because I would get bored while solving the problems. But mom wasn’t going to allow that. She would make me repeat, and beat me if need be. She never gave up, till I got the correct answers on my own. Never did the homework for us. I hated her for that. Then I got to high school (boarding) and I was on my own. No one to check my assignments. What if I got the answers wrong? I remember wondering how I was going to make it on my own. 

I did. We all did. Because she has set us on the right path. She has powerfully shaped our lives. I often find myself wondering what we would have been without her around.

The thing that mom dreads the most is hearing someone say “Uriya mwana yishwe na Nyina” or “Nyina yamureze nabi”. The statement is like nails across a chalkboard. It breaks her heart. The thing I also fail to understand is why, if kids don’t turn out right or are badly behaved, the mother takes the blame even when she is doing the best she knows. And the twist to this story is that most of the time, the fathers take the credit if the kids behave well or are successful in life. Wow! The upbringing of a child is affected by many factors such as parenting and environmental influences. And in parenting, it takes two to raise a child. Fathers are equally responsible for how the child turns out to be. So should anything go wrong the mother alone should never be blamed. 

Anyways, for that reason, my biggest fear is disappointing her. My worst nightmare is to make her (and/or my dad) cry. And being her only daughter, I never wish for her to feel like she hasn’t done enough for me. I have disappointed her once but I pray I never will again. I don’t want to put her through the excruciating heartbreak again. Not when I’m alive. So, help me God. 

My mom has been and still is the best life coach. Without her there were many occasions I would have missed, things I could not have achieved and I don’t think I would have grown into the person I am without her influence. I look up to her because she is strong, loving, caring and beautiful. In her other life, her name should be Grace. Grace, because she is graceful and kind. Generous and giving. Quiet but caring. Because she cares deeply about those around her. I always asks myself what kind of heart the Lord has given her?

Now that I’m an adult, I realize how blessed I truly am to have her as my mother and how fortunate I am to still have her around. There’s nothing I enjoy more than seeing my mom smile. I take joy in seeing her happy. For I now know how unconditional a mother’s love is.

And we’ve now become friends. I am glad that she is still alive. The little girl who hated her years back has grown up to love her more and more with each day that passes, to see what a gem she truly is. I miss her when she’s not at home, that when she comes back I almost feel like jumping around shouting “Mama araje”(hehe). I now tell her jokes and we laugh. She tells me stories and I too tell her stories.

My one wish is that she lives long enough to see her grandchildren. The last time I was on my periods, I’d serious cramps (never been that painful before). She came to my room to check on me…

“Tete, uracyahumeka?”

Painful grunt.

“Icyazakunyereka warabyaye”

So, I hope she lives long enough to see me crawling to the toilet after giving birth. I hope she lives long enough to help bathe my babies after they’re born. I hope she lives long enough to carry my babies like she carries Ivan. I hope my babies get to feel the warmth of her love. I bet they’ll fight to be adopted by her! Haha

I could write a 10,000 words or more blogpost, but the truth is I don’t have enough words to express my love for my Mama. I could write about all the other things she (and Dad of course) does for us but you’d say, “they’re supposed to do that” *rolls eyes* But they’re awesome.

So, today I’m celebrating the phenomenal woman that God saw it fit and made my mom.

Happy Birthday Mom.

I love you beyond time and distance.

Sent with love

My dearest love,

Every morning (that comes too early, wondering why, yet again, our time together has been cut short) I hit the snooze button an extra 6 times because I just don’t want to leave you. 

I know that there was a time in my life when I used to take you for granted. That time when I used to just expect you to be there for me, without giving you any appreciation. That time when you came second to dozens of others and it might have made you feel completely worthless. How could I have done that to you, my love? It was a mistake. A terrible mistake that made me wonder silently if I’m not probably the most terrible person alive? For that, I am really ashamed and I apologize. I didn’t know any better. My love, one thing I can assure you is that I will never take you for granted again. Never.

I know we’ve been together long enough for you to see that you’re the longest relationship I’ve ever had (and I hope we’ll be together forever). As we’re going through a rough patch right now, I know that you’re feeling the pangs of our separation too. They say that every relationship goes through ups and downs. Maybe you’re having your revenge for all of those times when I treated you wrong. But, my love, can’t we let bygones be bygones and find a way to come together again? Because I haven’t given up hope that we’ll find our way back to each other again. And I hope that you haven’t either. We need more time together to make our relationship work.

I never treated you right before. Sometimes, you even agreed to things simply in order to keep the peace. Perhaps love is truly blind. However, I can assure you that I am a changed woman now. 

Now, I know that you deserve the best. I really do. If I could, I would just take you with me everywhere. Sadly, the reality is that it’s not possible but I hope you realize that it’s the thought that counts. My love, just so you know, I might be a 1000 miles away but you’re the first thing on my mind.

From now on, I promise, to always give you the respect and love that you are due.

Because really, my dear Bed, I miss you.

Comfortably and exhaustedly yours,

One very sleepy girl

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.

Already Fabulous Enough Anyway

​”Ko utashyizeho bya bindi bitukura ku munwa?” (Why didn’t you put the red thing on your lips?)

Our neighbour who’s come to see Mom, asks me. Mom, who knows the kind of girl she has for a daughter (who doesn’t even have a mirror in her room) bursts out laughing. And I credit my upbringing (mom) for my no-makeup approach.

I personally don’t like wearing make up because I’m not good at applying it. In fact, the truth is that I don’t really know how to apply make up. Here’s a story about that…

One evening I was feeling ambitious and I decided to apply some make up and take pictures. Just for fun. And by make up I mean lipstick, cause that’s all that I own (thanks to Vicki who gave it to me. Hehe). Foundation? I don’t even know what exactly that is, I have never bought it. So, I apply lipstick and take tons of silly pictures. I upload one of the photos to my whatsApp profile. At 10: 03 PM, my Dad whatsapped me saying “Kuraho iyo foto” (remove that photo)…I showed Mom the message and we had a good laugh. 

So, yeah, that’s how bad I am at applying make up.

The main reason why I don’t wear make up and have no plans of starting any soon is because I’m a lazy girl. Putting all of that on is one extra thing to do in the morning. Applying make up is sooo time-consuming. I’ve seen girls waking up an hour or two earlier so they get time for the make up session. A whole hour! Make up doesn’t make me feel as good as that extra 1 hour of sleep. So, why waste that precious time when I could use it to prolong my sleep?

To those girls, who spend hours applying make up, much respect to you. Your tireless efforts really deserve recognition.

I, on the other hand, wake up, shower, apply lotion on my body and gikotori for my face (being careful not to apply too much that would leave me shining like a diamond! Hehe), then I’m good to go. And being the lazy girl that I am, I now have dreadlocks. Faux dreadlocks. I cheated on the locking process. Hehe. I didn’t want to go through the shocking and most unpleasant part of the experience, the budding stage a.k.a the ugly stage, as my hair was starting to figure itself out. However, my dreadlocks look natural like real locks. So, with the dreadlocks I don’t stress myself brushing my hair and stuff. I just wear them down and loose or tie them at the back. 

30 minutes is the time I take to get ready. Easy! I must admit that girls who wear make up look amazing but…laziness is a lot easier.

I really don’t see make up helping me in any way. I love my natural look. Because I’m already fabulous enough anyway. Hehe.