Day 8: fumes and beauty

Day 8:  Fumes and Beauty

I had three things on my “to do” list today:  buy passport photos for the Batwa, visit the Ministry of Health (Rwandan government), and visit the Office of Immigration.  I could only complete the first task. 

Health Development Initiative and our group have developed a plan and have received the Batwa’s approval.  We will go out tomorrow and administer de-worming meds.  We have made plans for a water collection system.  We will buy their children school uniforms and shoes.  Lastly, we will pay for their government-issued medical insurance cards.  

The Batwa currently fetch water from a stream, which is an hour’s walk away from their village.  They have no other means of collecting water.  They have no form of transportation other than walking.  They collect water at least twice a day. 

Their houses are about 100 square feet or less, made of sticks and leaves, except for the chief who has clay walls.  During cold months, they keep fires in their houses to keep warm.  When the rains come, all the wood is wet, so they then burn rubber tires. 

They do not seek health care at the clinic because they have no money and they are shunned by others.  [Rwandans are generally very tidy and dress “very smart.”  They do not respect those who do not keep clean, so the Batwa are not respected by other Rwandans.]

The Batwa live in an area infested with microscopic worms.  The Batwa are all chronically infected with worms.  They have virtually no material possessions. 

They live horizontally on their land, i.e. they all live along a mountain ridge, not clumped together, not close.  From one end of the village to the other is a long walk (mostly due to difficult terrain).  But they do not park their huts near each other, such that even the walk from one hut to the next in this long train of huts is relatively long. 

The government requires all students to have clean uniforms.  Since the Batwa have no water and no electricity, they do not have clean clothes, let alone clean uniforms.  Thus, they do not go to school.  If we are able to get the water pumped up to their village from the stream, they might be able to wash their clothes because they will save so much time, and will then be able to go to school. 

As to the government-issued medical insurance cards . . .  One of our main liaisons, Dr. Dan, negotiated a price with the government.  We can get the cards for $1 per family for one year, after which the price goes to $2 per family.  What a deal!  It is normally $4 per person per year.  However, in order to apply for the cards, one must have passport photos.  That’s where I come in.

I was up almost all night long trying to get my printer to work.  Best Buy had given me lots of photo paper and color cartridges for my printer.  I have printed many, many pictures for the Rwandans who have helped us.  Anyway, one of our team had gone up to the village yesterday and took “passport” photos of each person, a total of 114.  For some reason, when she took the pictures off her camera and put them on a thumb-drive for me.  I absolutely could not get the pictures to print and since then, none of the pictures I try to print will work.  I hope to find a new SanDisk tomorrow and see if that fixes the problem.  All of this is to say that because

Because I could not print the pictures myself, I had to take my digital memory cards to a special shop in a market.  Long story short (I could talk about the negotiations and what the market looked like, etc.), it ended up costing me $170 US.  Now think about that.  We will pay $114 for the whole village to have medical insurance for a year and it cost us more to secure the right photos, which were required to get the insurance.  I have decided that “paradox” is the best one word to describe Rwanda. 

Now, the reason I named this entry “Fumes and Beauty” is because I had to make so many trips back and forth from the hotel to the print shop, each trip was on a “moto,” their word for the motorcycle taxis.  Ugh!  The fumes were nearly unbearable.  By the afternoon rush hour traffic, which is nearly as bad as Seattle’s, I was sucking diesel exhaust the whole distance.  The funny thing is, Rwanda’s capital city, Kigali, which is where we are staying, has had a big air quality problem related to road dust.  They solved that problem by putting in a decent road system, good asphalt.  This allowed for more traffic, which is now creating more smog.  It is only a matter of time until this capital city looks like any other economic hub.

At the time of this writing, I am hearing my first siren. 

With love to all,


PS to WH:  The pomegranate exploded on AG several days ago.

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