Lucia has something to say

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Rwanda: The Convent

Our destination was a convent where 5 sisters of the Holy Mother Virgin Mary (or somesuch order) live and do parish work. They use African stools in the chapel for their worship.

My room is basic and clean, with sturdy wood single beds and a concrete floor. There’s a garden of large onions outside the door and daisies out the window.

Food is served often–breakfast, tea time, lunch, snack, dinner. In the convent, bottled Rwandan beer appears with dinner. If I do not eat much, my friend says, “You are lazy in eating.” Losing weight is not a priority here. Staying healthy is.

A generator runs from 6-9 and a small fluorescent stick lights the room. When the generator goes off it is dark as pitch. And quiet. I brush my teeth with bottled water with my head out of the window, so as not to trip over anything in the night.

I wake up under my mosquito net with the morning light. There do not seem to be many mosquitos and few cases of malaria, but I am told to use it anyway.

I head to the bathroom with a green plastic pail of hot water. I often forget that water is a resource. Engineers without Borders has been here to put in water reclamation tanks and wells. There is plenty of water in the rainy season; not enough in the dry. It is the transition now, before the long rains, which will last about 3 months, start.

A key has appeared in the bathroom door of this otherwise keyless convent since I walked in on a man yesterday. The bathroom is painted bright green on the bottom and bright yellow on the top, with bright green doors that are starting to peel because of the moisture. I stand in a small shower sink and splash and pour, pour and splash. This is the moment on every trip where I think about how glamorous people think my travel world is. They are not the ones pouring water from a bucket to bathe. I don’t mind it and never have. I pull a skirt over my head so as not to drag it in the water on the bathroom floor. I put on blue borrowed flipflops.

I am dressed and my day bag is packed with rulers and tape measures for measuring handwoven baskets. With files and a notebook. I have brought bright sparkly hair clips for girls, only to find that most have their hair shaved close to their heads, and this is not a good choice for a small gift.

8 Comments:

Blogger Maggie said...

Bathrooms seem to play a key role in travel stories - laughing at the key. But I can see why, even not being bothered by bathing from a bucket, you would be reminded that your travel is not as glamorous as we sometimes think. Still, your accounts are fascinating.

7:56 AM  
Blogger St. Dickeybird said...

Wow, this trip sounds incredible!!!!
:)

8:23 AM  
Blogger Sanjay said...

Been lurking a bit ..sorry. I have to say I am absolutely rivted by your posts esp since you have been in Rwanda. Nothing like this reality check to remind myself about how lucky soem of us are and not to take anything for granted.
Stay safe and have a great trip.

9:07 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

I've done a wide range of business travel, and I'd take the bucket shower and the concrete floor in an interesting part of the world over the Hilton in a homogenous business district any day!

9:19 AM  
Blogger QT said...

Yes, I am often reminded during the personal hygiene portions of the travel experience how absolutely spoiled we are here in the US.

Too bad about the sparkly clips. They willc ome in handy eventually.

9:21 AM  
Blogger meno said...

I felt for a few moments as if i were there, washing in a bucket of water.

Thank you.

12:05 PM  
Blogger Tink said...

Someday, when there is time for more than small chapters, you should write a book. Every post, I find myself wanting more to read and feeling guilty for having so much already.

3:16 PM  
Blogger Rebekah said...

You know, even though the clips might not be used for hair, the girls/women will still love them and still find a use for them.

You described this well... what an amazing experience.

8:28 PM  

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