Jul 29

 

jen_blog Jennifer Moroz

Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Butare, Rwanda

There are a few things from last year that I’d forgotten about.

Like the raised eyebrows.

Which like at home can show shock or amazement.

Or simply mean “yes.”

Of course, it takes asking a question a few times and getting no audible response to figure out that the person you’re talking to really isn’t ignoring you. You’re just looking for your answer in all the wrong places.

Well, that or they are ignoring you, as happens sometimes in class.

“No” also is a little different here. It usually comes in the form of “not.”

As in: Did you have trouble with the homework last night?

“Not.”

Takes me back to Wayne’s World days every time.

Another endearing Rwandanism: the use of the word “sorry.”

I swear, you could get your skirt caught on the foot rest of a motorcycle while dismounting, fall sideways off the damn thing, and land in a crowd of people, and inevitably, someone will say: “sorry.” As if it’s their fault you just made a total public ass of yourself.

Sadly, the above is not a hypothetical situation.

It happened to me this weekend.

I was in Kigali, on my way to the opening of FESPAD, a weeklong all-African music festival. The cheapest way to get around here is by “moto” – motorcyle taxi. It also happens to be the most hair-raising way to get around here. These moto drivers are nuts, weaving in and out between trucks and dodging into oncoming traffic to pass. Add the terrain – there’s a reason this place is called the Land of a Thousand Hills – and you’re in for quite the ride.

You hear about accidents fairly regularly. Luckily (knock on wood), I’ve never been involved in one.

No moving accidents, anyway.

My problem with motos is, embarrassingly, getting on and off them. I still have a purplish scar on my right calf from swinging my leg a little too close to the exhaust during one dismount last year. I’m thinking I’m not the only one who had this problem because this year, I’ve noticed that most motos have been outfitted with special guards made, seemingly, to prevent such things from happening.

Unfortunately, the aforementioned guards happen not to mix well with long skirts. Which was, quite literally, my downfall this weekend.

As I got off the moto outside Universite Libre de Kigali, where the official opening of FESPAD was taking place, I tumbled into a crowd of traffic police and concert goers.

This time, it was a chorus:

“Sorry!”

Mortified is not the word for it.

I scrambled off the ground and into the masses of FESPAD.

And when I say masses, I mean masses.

Walking from the main road to the university entrance was like being in a pilgrimage. There were those of us on foot, and those in fancy SUVs who drove beside us, kicking up dust into our faces.

The pilgrimage ended at a big set of gates and dumped us into a mob pressed up against the bars, shouting and pushing to get in, waving their tickets at the guards Then suddenly, the gates swung open, and something like the running of the bulls took place. Before I knew it, the woman next to me, an agronomist I’d been talking to, was grabbing my arm and dragging me forward to prevent being trampled.

Getting out was much worse. I had a 6 pm bus to catch back to Butare, so could only stay for about an hour, which meant listening to the opening act – including a set by Dr. Cloud, a Burundian hip-hop artist who is pretty huge here – and leaving.
As I left, people were still waiting to get in.

And they weren’t happy. They swarmed against the gates with more force than before. And to get out meant getting through them. The guards opened the gate a sliver to let me through, then squeezed it shut behind me.

I couldn’t move, locked between the gate and the mob trying its best to get through it.

I cursed bringing my bulging backpack, and the laptop in it. I envisioned opening my bag and finding it smashed to smithereens.

If I even lived to open the damn bag.

I’ll be honest, I had my doubts for a few minutes there.

A woman standing nearby took time out from shouting and lunging her body against the gate to warn me that if the gates opened, I better not try to move against the crowd. They’ll crush you, she said. Just move with them, even if it means getting pushed back inside.

I had a sneaking suspicion I wasn’t making that 6 pm bus.

And then it happened: security opened the gate a bit, meaning to let in a handful of people. But this was one pissed off crowd and they weren’t having any of it. People literally threw themselves at the opening, jumping over the car some (probably regretful) idiot parked in front of the gate.

I suddenly knew what it felt like in the final seconds before being trampled to death. As people stomped on my feet, I held onto that car for dear life, my rock in a tidal wave. Had I fallen, I’m pretty sure I’d have died or at least pretty badly maimed. I looked behind me. The crowd had overtaken security and broken the gate, which swung helplessly off its hinges.

And then came the calm. It was over, the worst of it anyway.

I was still alive. And even had time – barely – to make my bus.

That was, believe it or not, my “treat” of the weekend.

I actually was in Kigali to try to get some work done … specifically to do reporting for a story. Really, I was trying to figure out whether Rwanda is cashing in on the “genocide tourism” you see at the killing fields in Cambodia and Holocaust concentration camps.

I had the idea last year, when I met a young Norwegian guy at a bar in Butare and asked him what he was doing here.
“I’m a genocide tourist,” he said, matter-of-factly.

The statement was so blunt. I was floored.

And decided to see whether there were a lot of others like him.

The short answer is: no. Not yet, at least.

The country isn’t set up for it.

More accurately, the country isn’t ready for it.

The genocide, I think, is still too fresh here to have tourists streaming in, gawking, asking personal questions.
There are reminders of the massacre everywhere you go: accused “genocidaires” in pink faded jumpsuits working on the side of the road, paying their debt to society while waiting to be tried for atrocities committed 14 years ago. And simple memorials adorned with purple ribbons and the word “Twibuke” – “Remember” – cover graves in almost every little town.
1994 is so imprinted on the national psyche here as the year the country started over that when meeting someone for the first time, it’s hard not to subtract 14 years from their age. How old, you wonder, were they when their lives went from “before” to “after”?

Getting information on the “during” is tough, unless you’ve been here for a while. People guard their personal stories well.
They’ll tell you the Genocide must never be forgotten. At the same time, remembering it is awfully painful.

Tourism officials don’t like to dwell on the genocide too much, either, but for slightly different reasons. The country is only now just getting over the stigma of being a place where people hack each other to death with machetes. A lot of the world still sees Rwanda as a war zone, and tourism officials are bent on selling the country on what it is now: one of the most stable and secure places in this part of Africa.

It also happens to be pretty beautiful.

So tourism officials would prefer to focus on that.

Given all that, visitors who want to learn about the genocide are largelyon their own. There really are no organized tours.
And there is little information offered at the memorial sites scattered around the country – churches and schools where Tutsis by the thousands sought refuge, told they would be safe there, then slaughtered en masse. There is no background for the rows of skulls, piles of bodies and bones and clothes people were wearing when they were hacked or blown apart.

They are just there.

The guides might fill in a few blanks if you ask a lot of questions, but language barriers can be a big problem.

Really, you have to come having done your homework.

The only real exception is the Gisozi Memorial and Museum in Kigali. It’s Rwanda’s only curated exhibit on the Genocide, providing visitors with historical background and context and the personal stories of survivors that most tourists wouldn’t otherwise hear about.

But for a lot of visitors, Gisozi seems to be an afterthought. Most tourists are here to see the mountain gorillas – 90 percent, I was told by most of the folks I spoke to in the tourism industry. Many of those people fly in and out of Rwanda within a couple of days. If they do decide to stay a bit longer, they may decide to visit Gisozi, or get talked into it by a tour operator.
But it seems most visitors to Gisozi – and to the memorial sites scattered across the country – are people staying here longer term.

People like me.

The country is crawling with them – NGO workers and volunteers and business people.

They seem to outnumber regular tourists by a long shot.

And pump a lot of dollars into the country – both tourism and investment.

A tourism flak told me Dubai World just invested $268 million in tourism development projects. The group has taken over the lodge and management of Akagera National Park – Rwanda’s answer to a Kenyan safari. It plans to build a high-end eco-lodge at Ngunwye National Forest, where chimps and other monkeys roam. It’s also taken over the golf course in Kigali, and the lodge at Volcanoes National Park, home to those famous mountain gorillas studied by Dian Fossey.

The Chinese also have a presence here.

Ditto for the Americans, who seem pretty intent on helping to build the country they – and the rest of the world – turned their backs on back in 1994.

At this moment, the country also is crawling with Brits. Specifically, Conservative Party Brits. The party has, it seems, taken on Rwanda as a bit of a pet project. They sent over a crew of volunteers last year for a few weeks, and did the same again this year. Minus the party leader. Seems there was a big flood in his riding last year during the trip, and he caught flak for not being at home to deal with it.

Some of the Brits are here consulting in their fields. But it seems like a big chunk of them took a TOEFL course just before coming and are now in schools across the country teaching Rwandan teachers how to teach English.

Over a few weeks.

Seems like it might be better for the Conservative Party (or rather, its image) than anyone else, but hey, who am I to say?

Ah well, I’ll say it anyway.


Jul 24

 

jen_blog Jennifer Moroz

Thursday, July 24, 2008
Butare, Rwanda

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat down to write this blog entry. I think I started about a week and a half ago.

If I’m lucky, I’ll finish it today.

It’s been a bit hectic lately, to say the least.

The reason?

I’ll give you 75:
Didier Bikorama
Jean Pierre Bucyensenge
Chantal Gakuyano
Jean Claude Gakwaya
Berthine Gikundiro
Froduard Habyarimana
Malachie Hakizimana
Theophile Harushyamagara
Emmanuel Hitimana
Egidie Ingabire
Alice Iribagiza Rwema
Sandrine Isheja Butera
Gregoire Kagenzi
Collins Kamusime
Simon Kamuzinzi
Nicole Kaneza
Samuel Karenzi
Irene Kimenyi
Ginette Mahoro
Maimounah Mariza
Egide Mbahunagirehe
Aimable Mbarushimana
Gerard Mbabazi
Jean Baptiste Micomyiza
Magnifique Migisha
Gilbert Mucyo
Jean Noel Mugabo
Alphonse Muhire
Jeannette Mukamana
Angelique Mukamurenzi
Divine Mukandayisenga
Rachel Mukandayisenga
Marie Solange Mukashyako
Ferdinand Muneza
Hortense Munyantore
Euphrem Murindabinwi
Adolphe Mutoni
Jean Baptiste Ndabananiye
Richard Ndayambaje
Leonidas Ndayisaba
Generose Ndayisenga
Cyprien Ngendahimana
Elvis Nibomari
Jean Damascene Niyitegeka
Pacifique Emmanuel Niyitegeka
Jules Niyizigamo
Norbert Niyizurugero
Felix Niyonsaba
Dadene Nkezabera
Vedaste Nkikabahizi
Emile Nsabimana
Paulin Nsengiyumva
Emmanuel Nshimiyimana
Gilles Ntahobatuye
Frederic Ntowukuriryayo
Jean Bosco Ntirenganya
Gisele Nyampinga
Emmanuel Nyandwi
Diane Nyinawabana
Godefroid Rudakemwa
Alfred Rurangwa
Alice Rutaremara
Charles Ruzindana
Ramazani Sabiti
Fabrice Sibomana
Abdul Tarib
Bright Turatsinze
Luc Tuyisabe Bitiki
Julienne Tuyishime
Eugene Twiseyimana
Clarisse Umuhire
Albertine Umohoza Murasira
Pascaline Umulisa
Marie Claire Uwanyirigira
Zayana Uwase

That, my friends, is my class list.

Do I need to tell you how long it takes to take attendance? Times that by a bunch and you’ll get how long it too me to work up the rudimentary spreadsheet I now use to keep track of all of them and all their assignments.

I know a lot of teachers have had to deal with a lot bigger classes. But the whole point of this class is to get the students practicing journalism – not just learning theory. And for a practical curriculum, 75 is a lot.

It’s actually triple the size of the classes I taught last year.

The result of a double cohort year, I’m told.

The result for me is that I don’t have much time to do the one-on-one coaching I did last year.

There’s not much time to get through the course, period. Which isn’t really a course, but a module. Which is worth three courses – and is supposed to be spread out over three months.

Due to scheduling and faculty issue, we’re doing it in four weeks.

To get it all done means teaching every day, sometimes all day. Thankfully, I now have a trusty co-teacher. Vinita – a former magazine journalist who now teaches multimedia at Ryerson’s journalism school – arrived this past weekend. And while the task before us is still a mighty one – teach all of our 75 charges the basics of journalism – it seems a bit more manageable now. Vinita and I sat down on the weekend and planned out what is essentially a journalism boot camp, and we’re just trying to keep up with the flurry of assignments and questions we’re hit with every day. (those questions add at least half an hour to the class most days)

Luckily, the students don’t have any other courses at the moment and have been pretty good sports about what is, admittedly, a pretty grueling schedule. (Though we did just tell them today that we would have class tomorrow, even though it wasn’t originally scheduled, and there were a few looks that I’m pretty sure were meant to kill)

We’ve raced through all the basics already and they’re now beginning to work on their final assignment: come up with a story idea and then report and write an article. We’re getting them to do it in groups of three to make things a bit more manageable for everyone. Vinita and I have fewer groups to work with, and therefore can work with them more closely. And they can coach and edit each other within the groups, calling on the stuff they’ve learned in class.

They’ll be reporting and writing all next week, and turning in their final stories next Friday. The course finishes the Wednesday after that. Exactly 13 days from now.

Maybe by then, I’ll have learned all their names. Their first ones, anyway. I’ve pretty much given up on the family names (hey, YOU try to pronounce some of them … I get a laugh every time I do).

So far, I’ve managed to nail about a third of their names. Like the ones who speak up in class often. And the ones who are always late (and walk right up to you in the middle of your lecture, interrupt you and make sure you mark them down as present… Making attendance count as part of the grade does, I’ve learned, gets them to show up, but it is also, it turns out, often a big pain in the butt).

Among the others I immediately got to know is the class president, Godefroid (“Geoffrey”) whose job I truly don’t envy. Class presidents really do a lot here, and in a class of 75, that turns into A LOT.

There are no textbooks to speak of, which means we rely on a chalkboard, classnotes and handouts. I give a copy or two of said handouts to Geoffrey, and he somehow makes sure it gets to all the students, who photocopy it at one of several photocopying stations on the campus. He also is the messenger if one of the other students is absent (at the doctor, working at the campus radio station, visiting sick relatives are common excuses) and often comes to class toting their assignments for them.

The students with nicknames are also pretty easy to remember. I learned last year that nicknames are pretty big here, so during the first class, I asked the students if they preferred being called something else. I haven’t yet got to the bottom of a lot of the names – like “Kimcraze” and “Simba” and “Bibio.”

“Costaud” is another story.

“Costo?” I asked its owner. She corrected my spelling, then responding to my quizzical look, added: “It means Big fat momma.”

The class burst into laughter.

I decided to stick to her given name from then on in.

Somehow I don’t think it’s appropriate for a teacher to be calling her student Big Fat Momma.

Leonidas is another student who has made a name for himself in class, but for other reasons.

He’s thoughtful and bright.

He’s also blind.

One of seven the university accepted this year.

Without, I might add, any supports in place at all. No policy, no nothing. Not as far as I can tell, anyway.

I don’t know how Leonidas does it.

He comes to class with an old typewriter that shoots out whatever I say (or something close to it) in Braille. He told me the other day that the machine is his own, and that the other blind students have to somehow make do in their classes without one. How, I don’t know.

We have to get handouts to him early, so he can take them home and have someone else read them out loud so he can type them out in Braille. And when he has to hand something in, he works on another machine that convcrts Braille to something I can read.

He’s apologized several times now for assignments that contain repeated words … sometimes, he explained, he forgets where he is in a sentence and types the same word twice.

He came to me with another problem the other day. We were doing an exercise on quotes the other day, and it seems his special machine doesn’t do quotation marks. Not ideal for a journalism student. But not an insurmountable problem, either. We decided his quotation marks will be stars or the number 5 – something his machine CAN type.

The assignments for the whole class have been tough. We’ve been working at breakneck speed and all the students are working in their second or third language. They’re all out reporting for the first time, which can be a daunting thing for anyone … walking up to complete strangers and asking them to open up to you.

Leonidas has to do it without sight, taking notes on his Braille typewriter. I’ve got to hand it to him, I really do. He has adapted amazingly well on his own. And his classmates are generally very supportive and helpful. But I really do hope the university puts some real supports in place for him before too long – hopefully before he hits television production next year.

I think Leonidas feels the same way… when I asked the students to come up with a story idea the first day of class, after we’d discussed what makes a good story, he proposed an article on the frustration felt by blind students to the lack resources and materials provided by the university.

Great story, I told him, and meant it. Then told him he couldn’t write it. That part I told him the next day when we discussed ethics – including avoiduing bias and conflicts of interest by staying away from reporting stories we are too personally involved in. I’m hoping one of the other students writes the story, though. It’s an important one.

There were quite a few good story ideas in the class, in fact. There were the typical offerings that could have come from a journalism student anywhere; like the fact that students are complaining that the cafeteria food is crap. But there were some really original ones, too. Some students wanted to look into the effects of the health department closing down a bunch of the cheap restaurants around campus – which has left students with very few affordable eating options outside aforementioned crap cafeteria. Another student proposed examining the rise in motorcycle accidents (it’s no joke … there was just another smash-up this week in which the moto driver died and his passenger critically injured when they crashed into a car). A third student is looking into the rising number of people who fail their driver license test … he says the numbers are going up because the test is too hard. Looking at some of the driving around here, I’m thinking maybe more people should fail.

All in all, the class is a very bright group, and eager to learn. Or at least pass the class.
It makes the long hours and corresponding lack of free time worthwhile.

What little free time I do have, I’ve tried to make the most of. I have managed to squeeze in some extracurricular fun here and there – usually at the expense of writing this blog.

I’ve been a few times to the jump-a-thon that passes as an aerobics class at Gymtonic (for a full description – and a good chuckle – see my “Rwanda-cize blog entry from last year).

And I finally got to try banana beer – in a nunnery, no less.

I’d heard last year about this group of Sisters and their brewing prowess: that the stuff they made was so potent you got drunk off one glass. And that’s exactly what you did, sitting in a nunnery. I was intrigued. Speaking purely from a journalistic viewpoint, of course.

I was dying to go last year but didn’t get the chance before I left. So I’d promised myself I would make the time this year.
I got my chance earlier this week. Oswald, one of my students from last year, offered to take me and The Twins, Vinita and her husband, Joe, came along for the ride, too.

It was a good thing we had Oswald to show us the way. The place would have been pretty tough to find. It’s behind what looks like a speak-easy door (how apropos, no?) near the hospital (again, very fitting given the beer’s reputation ….) . Oswald led us into a tiny non-descript room with three old couches and a coffee table, where we squeezed in next to a local couple who were already working on a large wine bottle refilled with murky brown beer.
Each of those cost 700 Rwf – less than $1.50.

There were, unfortunately, no nuns in sight. Just a guy who works running the beer from where it’s made, somewhere in the compound, to this little room.

Turns out the nuns were praying, and unavailable to talk to curious muzungus wanting a rundown of how banana beer is made – and why exactly it’s done in a convent.

The nuns would have to wait. The beer was a different story. Oswald ordered us three bottles for the six of us, and as we waited, I got to know my neighbours on the couch.

Well, as much as possible, given the circumstances.

They spoke Kinyarwanda. I don’t much.

Just a few basics, like “Davuga Kinyarwanda kibi”—“I speak Kinyarwanda badly.”

That usually gets a laugh, followed by “Oya! Kisa!”

That’s the locals being really nice, saying no, no, no, You speak well!

The conversation usually ends shortly thereafter because as it turns out, I really don’t speak well.

Our beer arrives just as I’m nearing the end of my vocabulary.

Unlike the honey wine from Ethiopia, this stuff lives up to expectations. It’s nectary, sweet, and goes down a little too easily. I was conscious of pacing myself, because I’d been told people can go numb from drinking too much of it. But before I knew it, I was halfway through my second glass, and some tipsy idiot had spilt beer on my dress.

OK, the tipsy idiot was me.

Clearly, two glasses of banana beer is my limit.

Lucky for me, there was no beer left to consume, and we were approaching closing hour, which comes early at the nunnery. 8 pm. Leaving plenty of time for clients to sober up.

I did just that as we walked back to the house.

Oswald said he’d try to arrange another visit to meet the nuns and observe the brewing process. He said he might even do a radio piece on it. Hopefully that comes through. Maybe I’ll bring a big old jerrycan with me, if it does. Turns out the place doesn’t just serve the stuff … they do take-out, too!

As it turns out, this was a week of doing things that I didn’t get a chance to last year.

Next on the list: go to a Rwandan wedding.

It’s not something I would normally put on m,y list of things to do, but my expectations were raised last year. Alice, a Rwandan who is studying in Canada and helped run the cultural training program we all had to do before getting on our flight, had told us to pack something nice to wear, because we would be invited to lots of weddings. Maybe even one a week, she said.

That seemed a bit over the top, but I followed my instructions last year and brought a pretty dress.

Which never got worn to a wedding.

Because I was never invited to one.

My long-awaited invite finally came through last Friday night.

I was all ready to hit aerobics class at Gymtonic when Margaret came home and said that Abdul, one of the guards, was getting married.

Right NOW.

And Youssef, another guard, had passed along word that Abdul was wondering where we were.

I knew Abdul was getting married, but had no idea it was happening so soon. Nor that we were invited. I bailed on aerobics, did a quick change into my pretty dress, and raced around looking for something that could pass a wedding present. The only thing I could find was two Coffee Crisps I’d brought along as little gifts. Not exactly a conventional way of saying ‘congratulations. Have a wonderful life.’ But hey, it IS a pretty good chocolate bar. And under the circumstances, it would have to do.

All I needed was something to cover my shoulders – the pretty dress is sleeveless and this was a Muslim wedding. So as Margaret, Kelly and I raced out, I grabbed my black cardigan.

Or at least what I thought was my black cardigan. It wasn’t until we got to Abdul’s relative’s house that I realized that in my haste, I had picked up the nearest black garment, which turned out to be my black running pants.

Kelly insisted that in the dark, you couldn’t tell they were pants, and really, I had no choice. I had to cover up.

So there I was, walking into a wedding with a chocolate bar as a gift and a pair of track pants draped over my shoulders. Very classy.

On top of it all, we were late. The wedding festivities were over by the time we got there. But Abdul and his wife were still there, and they were waiting to receive us.

It was a very formal meeting. Abdul, who is normally decked out in pants and a t-shirt, always ready with a big gap-toothed smile, was sporting a lovely traditional suit, and looking very serious. He and his new wife, Miriam, and the wedding party sat on a mat in a dimly lit room, and we sat across the room from them on a couch against the wall, making small talk through Abdul’s brother, who speaks some French and English.

A photo session followed. We took some. Abdul’s family took some. Throughout, I kept wondering whether everyone was quietly laughing at the muzungu who doesn’t know how to wear pants the right way.

Two days later, Abdul was back at work (no honeymoon here). He smiled, communicated in a mixture of Kinyarwanda and broken French that he and his new bride had loved the Coffee Crisp. Then he pulled out prints of the photos taken at the wedding.

He took me through them, then held out one to me.

“Kado,” he said.

It was one of the happy couple flanked by muzungus. And there I was, the muzungu on the end, smiling broadly with my pants hung over my shoulders.

I have to say, Kelly was right. Head on, the pants really don’t look too bad. You’d be hard-pressed to tell I’m not wearing a shawl.

Maybe I’m on to a new fashion trend here.


Jul 12

 

jen_blog Jennifer Moroz

Butare, Rwanda
Saturday, July 12, 2008

I’m sitting outside the Rwanda Initiative house in Butare in my pyjamas, relishing in the first full night’s sleep I’ve had in a week and drinking a heavenly cup of Rwandan coffee. There really is no better coffee out there. Not that I’ve really had a chance to appreciate the taste until now. I must have, no joke, consumed gallons of the stuff this week, but for purely utilitarian reasons. Those of you who know me know that I fall into that category of people who need a solid 8 hours of sleep a night to function well. I can go a few nights with less than that, but if I don’t catch up, I start to shut down. Which is what started happening after Day 3 of going from 7 am to 1 a.m. The coffee and the dedication of the journalists I was working with were what kept me going during a week that was incredibly fun, inspirational, educational, and rewarding but – I’m not going to lie to you – sometimes felt like hell. At those moments, I couldn’t help but ask myself: What have I got myself into? But as I learned last year, things have a way of working out here … usually not in the way you’d planned, but they do work out. And sorry for the spoiler here, but this time was no exception.

The week started out calmly enough. I got into Kigali on Sunday and met up with a group of other journalism trainers from Canada and Africa, plus some interns from Carleton University’s journalism school, who also had been recruited to help out with this reporting workshop. The task ahead: Helping 44 Rwandan TV, radio and print reporters from across the country to improve their skills by coaching them over a week as they reported and wrote stories on a range of undercovered issues: health, science and tech, and rural life.
We all piled into a minibus headed for Butare, two hours away – ground zero for the conference. The city, one main stretch with a few sprigs off it, is known as “the intellectual capital of Rwanda” because it’s home to the National University of Rwanda, which is where I’ll be teaching journalism for the next four weeks.

As we pulled into Butare, I felt immediately at home. After spending seven weeks here last year, I know the town pretty well, and not much has changed, with the exception of a new nightclub being built (giving some competition to Safari, which used to be “la seule boite en ville”) and noticeably fewer people yelling out “muzungu” (whitey) everywhere I go. I’m told that may be because there’s been an effort to clear the street kids out – to where, I don’t know.

Other than them, most of the same familiar faces are around. And within my first 24 hours, I ran into a bunch of people I know.
First up: Philos, president of the first-year class I taught Intro to Journalism to last year. I was on my way into town from the house, and he was on his way to the hotel where the workshop was taking place to register. The first words out of his mouth – my welcome back to Butare, if you will … “Teacher, you are not so fat anymore.”

Did I mention that Philos has a way with words?

Thanks, Philos, I say. Great to see you again, too!

He laughs. While the term “fat” doesn’t have a negative connotation here, he knows it does where I’m from. He’s cheeky that way.
That night, at the Ibis Hotel – one of the social hotspots in town, especially for the muzungu crowd—I ran into Freddy, the interpreter who helped me on a bunch of stories I reported in Rwanda for the Philly Inquirer last year.

A lot has happened in the nine months since I last saw him. Namely, he’s gotten engaged. It seems his mother—who’s been living in Denver, and who Freddy has been unable to see for years – had arranged for him to meet a local Denver girl over the Internet. The girl is now in Rwanda, here for a monthlong visit. Somewhere along the way, Freddy popped the question and she said yes. They’re getting married New Year’s Eve.

The fiancée is sitting in the other room as we speak.

“Wow,” I say to Freddy. “That was fast work. Do you love her?”
I can’t help but ask.

He laughs, and says yes, of course. Then as proof, he pulls out his cell phone to show me a picture of the two of them smiling and cuddling.
That’s great, I say. I’m happy for you.

I have a sneaking suspicion that love has nothing to do with it, but hey, who am I to judge? Happiness comes in a lot of different forms.

From there, the familiar faces come fast and furiously. Nine other journalism students besides Philos are participating in the reporting workshop, and I’ve taught most of them. Shelley, the Rwanda Initiative’s on-the-ground coordinator extraordinaire and my housemate from last year, also is here, masterminding this conference and wowing every Rwandan she encounters with her fluent Kinyarwanda. And Allan Thompson, the Initiative’s founder, has flown in from Ottawa for the week.

There are a lot of new faces, too. There are journalists from across the country, plus an impressive slate of trainers – Dave Tait, a former CBC radio guy who now teaches at Carleton’s J School; Kelly Toughill, former Toronto Star reporter and prof at King’s College J School in Halifax; Clive Emdon, a veteran South African journalist; Athanase Karayenga, a Burundian community radio speicalist who has taught at the National University here and now works at Hirondelle in Geneva; Esther Nakkazi, a health reporter for the East African newspaper in Uganda; Sasha Petricic, videojournalist/correspondent for CBC’s The National; Margaret Jjuuko, deputy director of NUR’s journalism school; Christophe Mvondo, science and environment editor for La Nouvelle Expression newspaper in Cameroon; and Tharcisse Musabyimana, a prof in NUR’s journalism school.
Also along for the ride are John Honderich, the bowtie-wearing former publisher of the Toronto Star, who has been heavily involved in the Rwanda Initiative; and Chris Dornan, director of Carleton’s Arthur Kroeger College of public policy, which has just begun sending interns over to work at the university here.

We quickly get down to business: how exactly we’re going to put out a newspaper, radio program and TV show in four days. An ambitious goal, especially here.

It looks at first as if we’ll be short on TV trainers, so I’m initially put with that group. Not exactly my forte, as I’ve spent the last eight years working in print, and just moved over to TV in December. And by TV, I mean producing for “The Hour” – not really the type of journalism we’re after this week. But I figure storytelling is storytelling, and get ready to dig in. But when we actually get started the following day, we find there’s actually a much greater need for newspaper trainers/editors. French trainer/editors, to be more exact.

There are 21 newspaper reporters at the conference – and more than half of those are Francophones, which here means that French is their second language. (For almost all of the journalists, Kinyarwanda is their mother tongue.) Meanwhile, there are only two other print specialists who function well in French. So I’m pulled over to help.
Now, let me just say that my French isn’t bad. I can speak it well and understand it well. But writing in French is a different story. And writing in French for a newspaper is an entirely different story. Then there’s the difference between African French and the French I know, which is a fairly big one. Throw in the fact that it turned out that three of the four journalists I was assigned to work with one-on-one don’t write French very well, and you can see that I had a bit of a challenge ahead of me.

And that was just the language issue. There was the journalism part to consider, too.

All the journalists had been told to come to the conference with a story idea. Most came to the table with subjects, instead, so there was a lot of talk about focusing stories. Through the week, what started out as a story on Nyiantare, an underground local brew containing a mix of ingredients including banana beer and marijuana, turned into a story about Butare’s efforts to crack down on the stuff. Another story explored the reasons for the drastic drop in malnutrition rates in a rural area known throughout the country for being particularly malnourished. Yet another focused on complaints of mistreatment on the part of patients who carry the new government medical insurance for the poor. The last story was about efforts to feed HIV/AIDS patients who are so undernourished that their treatment isn’t effective.

All great story ideas. Now they just had to execute them.

To do that well, they were up against a lot.

The Initiative had tried to replicate Rwandan reporting conditions, but some of the journalists complained that the resources at their disposal were even more limited than what they’re used to.

Which isn’t a lot.

What the journalists did get that they don’t usually is money for reporting expenses – 5,000 Rwandan francs (just less than $10) a day. And there were four minivans to transport them each day to four outlying rural areas.

But on Tuesday, their first reporting day, just as those buses were about to get ready to leave (an hour late), we realized that the batteries in a bunch of the recorders given to them to tape interviews were dead. And we didn’t have backups on hand, so someone had to run into town to buy some at the last minute. Only when those new batteries were installed did we realize that some of the recorders didn’t work, period, so the reporters had to share. Ditto for the digital recorders being used for radio. There were just eight of those for 15 reporters.

They also had to share the limited number of digital cameras we had on hand to take pictures for their stories. And the twelve computers, total, in the hotel meeting room transformed into a “newsroom.”
As for Internet, there was none at the hotel; the only access was at the Cyber café downtown, where the Initiative had reserved one computer for all 44 journalists.

The lack of Internet in the hotel “newsroom” made things tough in more than one way. Not only did journalists have to go downtown if they wanted to do online research. But it meant that anti-virus programs couldn’t update, so viruses could run rampant. And boy, did they.

The journalists were saving their reporting and stories to flash drives, which became instant carriers for the viruses, spreading them from computer to computer, often wiping out their work. Viral files started popping up everywhere and replicating. A common one: “NUR porn,” which sadly didn’t even seem to contain anything interesting to look at to make up for the damage it was causing.

All I can say is thank heavens I have a virus-immune Mac, otherwise my laptop would have been dead the first day here.

On top of all that, there was no printer for much of the time. And there was at least one power outage.

On Thursday, the last day of reporting and the deadline for first drafts of all radio, TV and print stories, it was chaotic. We had 44 journalists vying for a dozen (infected) computers. So in between editing sessions, the trainers were handing off their laptops to reporters to write.

By that point, I was suffering from severe sleep deprivation, the part of my brain where my French language skills are stored was going into meltdown, and I’d come down with a wicked cold that made my voice sound like a throaty porn star’s. As I gulped down a pot of coffee at midnight that night, I knew I’d been lying to myself all week.

This really was not going to come together.

Three of my four stories had come in late, and I was realizing as I read them that most still needed a lot of work. The concepts of a lead and nutgraph are pretty foreign here, as is our standard story structure. Attribution for facts is often missing. Ditto for direct quotes. And even when quotes are used, their translation (most of the interviews are done in Kinyarwanda) is often more than a little off, making for some pretty stunted phrasing. Another common theme: stories that end with the reporter’s thoughts on how the problem written about should be addressed. There were a lot of discussions about how such conclusions undercut reporter objectivity.

The editing sessions were long and intense, tackling the content and structure of the stories with the reporters while trying my best to correct the French. Thank God for Christophe, the Francophone print trainer from Cameroon who agreed to read over my edits to make sure the grammar and sentence structure were ok.

I really don’t know how it happened, but it all got done. I got my last story in at 5:30 pm on Friday, and it was rushed to layout – a computer in Clive’s hotel room manned by a Rwandan newspaper design mastermind named Fred and surrounded by three or four trainers doing last-minute proofing.

The story made Page One, much to the reporter’s delight.

All the journalists were delighted, in fact. We printed a mock-up of the paper, which was named New/Nouvelles Initiatives after some back and forth, and it was posted on a wall in the hotel auditorium. Everyone flocked to it, marveling at what had been accomplished in just four days under some pretty challenging circumstances:16 pages’ worth of some pretty solid stories the likes of which the journalists said were rarely seen in Rwanda. Everyone was equally impressed by the radio and TV pieces, most of which were broadcast in the auditorium that night.

We’d done it – achieved what looked just the night before to be the impossible. And yeah, we’d all busted our butts to do it. But to say the week was all about work would be misleading.

I learned a lot about a lot of the reporters – both personally and professionally.

One reporter had been jailed for a year for ethnic divisionism – accused of writing a story deemed to incite tensions between Hutus and Tutsis. That was declared a major crime here after the media played a major role in fueling the 1994 Genocide, urging the Hutu majority to slaughter 800,000 moderate Hutus and Tutsis.
Even talking about ethnicity is a no-no here. By declaration of the Tutsi-led government, there are no more Tutsis or Hutus anymore – just Rwandans.

So when a guest speaker at the conference openly broached the subject, I – and I think a lot of others – were shocked. The speaker was Andrew Mwenda, an animated and outspoken Ugandan journalist.
You are not allowed to talk about Hutus and Tutsis here, he told the crowd.

Then: “Ooops … I just said it.”

It was Mwenda’s entrée into his take on the press freedom issues here… You have a minority ethnic group that 14 years ago was nearly decimated, is now in power – and is still, understandably, feeling threatened. So that ruling minority is going to try to keep a lid on things. Point finale.

Press freedom was an ongoing theme throughout the week. The next night, thethere was a panel consisting of Charles Kabonero, the editor of the shit-disturbing, independent Umuseso and Ignatius Kabagambe, the managing editor of the government-controlled New Times. Kabonero, who has been brought up on ethnic divisionism and got off with a fine, argued for more independent media, pointing out that the outlets that caused all the damage in 1994 were tools of the government.

The key, he said “is to take government out of the equation.”
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to hear Kabagambe’s response, or the ensuing discussion with the audience, because I was playing bouncer. One of the journalists had had a few too many and was belligerently – and incoherently—heckling the speakers, as he’d done with Mwenda the night before, disrupting the whole show. So as the crowd in the auditorium hashed out press freedom in a discussion I later heard was pretty eye-opening, I was listening to a drunk rant as I waited with our inebriated friend for a taxi that took more than an hour to come.
What can I say? This week was all about multi-tasking.

And now that it’s over, it gives me hope that my teaching stint at the university, which starts next week, will work out fine, too. My challenge: teach 75 first-year journalism students (including, I just found out, one blind student; the university has just begun trying to integrate them into the school) 3 months’ worth of curriculum in four weeks. It’s their first journalism course, and by the end of it, they’re supposed to know what makes a good story, how to source it and structure it, conduct an interview, know what makes a good quote/clip, properly attribute information, then write it up for print, radio and TV. And do it all fairly and accurately. While operating in three different languages.

I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

In the meantime, one last thing before I sign off. One of the reporters I was working with this week has asked me to do something for him:
Help find him a wife in Canada.

When he broached the subject with me – just after we finished editing his story – I pointed out there are so many beautiful, smart women here.

Why a Canadian wife? I asked.

“Je prefere les blanches,” he responded, matter-of-factly.

Specifically, une blanche with strong legs who is smart, pretty and willing to relocate to Rwanda. (Moving to Canada, he figures, would be too expensive)

I told him I couldn’t make any promises, but that I’d get the word out if I could.

So if you’re reading this and you’re in the market for a tall, talented Rwandan journalist in his mid-30s, just let me know.

I’ll hook you up.


Jul 5
jen_blog Jennifer Moroz

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Saturday, July 5, 2008

I never thought I’d be back here, or at least back here so soon. A girl spends years trying to get to Africa and then finds herself making two trips in less than a year. I guess you could say I fell in love with this place. And by “this place,” I mean Rwanda. That’s where I spent most of my time last year, teaching journalism at the National University of Rwanda with the Rwanda Initiative, a media development partnership run through Carleton University’s J School (plug: http://www.rwandainitiative.ca). As I write this, I’m on my way back to teach again, and to help run a one-week reporting workshop that is bringing TV, print and radio reporters from across Rwanda together to improve their skills.

I know there’s a risk going back to a place you love, because it’s never the same. There are no more first impressions – or fewer of them, anyway. Which is why I didn’t know whether I should bother writing another blog. But I figure I’m still a fish out of water in a lot of ways, which always makes for fun writing. And a bunch of you called for a second round, so I thought I’d give it another go. Here’s hoping I don’t bore the hell out of you this time … if you were even around for Round 1 (if you weren’t, and are even remotely interested, you can catch my blogs from last year at http://www.rwandainitiative.ca/teaching/teachers/moroz-blog/index.html, or below, if you’re reading this on facebook)

So here we go … a blog of mostly second impressions, with some token firsts thrown in. Luckily (or unluckily) for you, there have been plenty of those here in Addis Ababa. I’ve been here twice before, but only in transit, so all I got to see was the airport, the Queen of Sheba Hotel, and the inside of the bus that ferried me between the two. This time, I decided to break up the trip a bit, spend a few days here and see what Addis is all about.

I’ve learned a few things in my three days here:

1) Watch where you step. This city is a death trap for those unfamiliar with its many uncovered manholes and other random gaping openings in the ground. I learned to walk watching my feet, which seemed to work well, except in cases where my eyes would have been useful at eye level. Like in the face of an oncoming herd of goats or steer.

2) Time here is not what you’d expect it to be.
My first day, I kept seeing signs for the Millennium celebrations. Funny, I thought. I guess they just never got around to taking down the sparkly Year 2000 signs.

Eight years later.

Turns out there is another explanation. Upon some investigating, I discovered that Ethiopia prides itself on marching to the beat of its own drum. Not only did it manage to go uncolonized by Europe like all its African neighbours, but when everyone else switched to the Gregorian calendar way-back-when, Ethiopians stuck with the old Egyptian calendar. Which put the dawning of the Year 2000 in the fall of our 2007. So while it’s 2008 everywhere else, it’s still 2000 here.

Not that I’m complaining. I just celebrated my birthday here, and I’m thrilled to say I just turned a very youthful 26. (Another birthday highlight: hitting Addis’ nightlife with Aiemero and having this exchange with a fellow named David: “You’re from Toronto? Toronto is very much like L.A., I think. Very Lindsay Lohan.” Oh yes. Very Lindsay Lohan indeed)

The Ethiopian quirks in time don’t end with the year 2000. You may think it’s 7 hours ahead of Toronto time, and to the rest of the world, it is. But if you ask Ethiopians the time, they’ll tell you it’s six hours ahead of that. So picture me asking the time in mid-afternoon, the sun high above, and getting this straight-faced response: it’s 9 o’clock. That happened a couple of times, and I was truly thinking the jet lag was making me crazy, when I got an explainer: While we start our day at midnight, they start theirs at 6 a.m., when the sun comes up.
Fascinating. But confusing as all hell.

Here’s hoping the taxi I called for 8 a.m. tomorrow to get me to the airport comes at the RIGHT 8 a.m.

3) It is hard to go far before someone, usually a man, falls into step beside you and engages you in conversation. It typically starts with “hey, sister.”

That was the approach used by a young fella by the name of Dannion (sp?) on my first day here, on my first trip out of the hotel. I’d just taken a long nap to make a dent in the loss of sleep I’d experienced after two days of traveling, two red-eye flights and two showings (one and half too many) of “Definitely, Maybe.” So I decided to make the most of the daylight (Ethiopian time: 11 pm) and go out on a bit of a reconnaissance mission before meeting up with my pal Jimmy G’s pal, Aiemero, for dinner.

Within a block of leaving my hotel in downtown Addis, Dannion was beside me.

“Hey sister.”

I am wary. During my travels, I’ve been suckered into my share of unsolicited makeshift tours by makeshift tour-guides. So I’m up front with my new companion. I’m not in the market for a tour, I say, and no money will be handed over.

No, no! He says.

“You are my sister.”

There are so many people here who are out to get foreigners’ cash, he says. He isn’t one of them.

Then he launches into his story. He’s 21, a student in grade 10 who studies in the mornings and shines shoes outside the Sheraton afternoons. But this is a rainy day, and business is no good, so he has some time to kill. And he’d like to kill it with yours truly. Besides, he wants to practice his English. So he walks and talks with me as I make my way up the main thoroughfare.

As if to prove his point that he’s my protector, he teaches me how to fend off all the vendors hawking big maps of Africa, Ethiopian flags and a whole lot of Bob Marley paraphernalia.

And so I learn my first phrase in Amharic: “Alfelegem.”

Translation: “I don’t want it.”

I’m getting pretty good with my “alfelegems” when Dannion turns on me. This is a great shop, he says, pointing to a little doorway. Cheap stuff. All traditional Ethiopian souvenirs. You should take a look, he says.

I quickly turned his teachings on him.

“Alfelegem.”

Dannion doesn’t miss a beat, quickly takes another tack. I should come to his home. His mother will cook for me, he offers. Can’t, I say. I have to meet a friend. What about tomorrow? He ventures. I can show you around town. I tell him I’m spending the next day with my friend.

By this point, we’re nearing my hotel again, and he’s told me his mother is blind. I think I can see where this is going, and I’m right.
Before I can make a break for the hotel, he asks me for money for his sickly mom. Suckered again. I hand over 10 Birr (a little more than a buck), figuring it’s worth the hour he’s spent trying to win me over. He looks at the bill and says: “But my mother is very sick,” he says.

He may as well have said: pony up, you cheap bastard.

This cheap bastard doesn’t budge. She’s getting the sneaking suspicion that his mother isn’t that sick at all. Here’s hoping cheap bastard was right and won’t burn in hell.

Dannion was the first in a string of sidekicks I’ve picked up during my three days here. On Day 2, it was Mersha, a running coach, and two of his long-distance runners. I’d stopped to ask them directions to the university.

They’ll show me the way, they say. No, no, I insist. I can find it on my own. Don’t be silly, Mersha says. I’m going that way anyway.

“That way” turned out to be wherever I was going that afternoon … the university, lunch, and the National Museum. That’s where a cast of Lucy – the 3.2 million-year-old A. Afarensis discovered in Ethiopia in 1974 and long thought to be Darwin’s “missing link” – is found. If you can find her, that is. She’s downstairs, past some construction, in a warren of rooms that is very difficult to navigate when the power goes out. Which it did, five times in 10 minutes. So I get about 4 minutes’ worth of light to inspect the reconstruction of ‘ole Luce, snap some pix, and learn that she is named after the song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” which apparently was playing on the radio when the archaeologists who found her were celebrating her discovery. (I guess my anthro prof never thought that was important enough to mention in class…)

Mersha stuck with me through it all. And to his credit, he never asked for money (other than the 4 Birr I paid to get him into the museums – a fifth of what it costs me as a foreigner to ger in). And he provided some good banter, taught me how to say “thank you” in Amharic, and got me through the maze that is Addis.

That’s no small feat. This city is bloody confusing. There are street signs and names, but no one uses them. And the roads are maze-like. My trusty Lonely Planet suggests it might be helpful, for orientation purposes, to view the city as one giant “injera” – the plate-sized crepe that is the foundation of most Ethiopian meals – topped with four different dishes. The “tibs” is supposed to be the meaty centre of the city. The steaming mound of spaghetti is the heavily Italian-influenced Piazza district. Then there’s the “Sichuan noodles” – the happening Bole Rd. district opened up by those enterprising, road-building Chinese. Finally, there’s the “mahabaroui” – a district that encompasses a bit of everything: the university, museums, various squares and palaces.

I don’t know how the person who wrote that crap did it with a straight face. Helpful? More like a waste of $28.95.

To whit: This morning I promptly got lost on my way to check out the Lion of Judah monument, approximately five minutes’ walk from my hotel.

I figure I was somewhere between the Sichuan noodles and the mahabaroui when I made a wrong turn and ended up in the middle of nowhere.

And then:

“Hey sister.”

Jesus Christ.

This one appeared to be high, and the people we passed gave me sympathetic smiles as he dodged the throngs to keep in step with me. I gotta hand it to him: I’m usually pretty good at losing men fast when I want to, but he was persistent. It took a real talking-to on a busy corner followed by a hard swerve to the right down an unknown back road when he wasn’t looking to get rid of him. But that of course left me on an unknown backroad more in the middle of nowhere than I had been before. That’s when it started to pour.

So there I was, meandering aimlessly through the back streets, attempting to look like I knew EXACTLY where I was going, kidding no one that I passed, and getting completely soaked. You’d have thought that once I hit a main road, which I did after about half an hour, I’d have given up on the Lion of Judah and jumped into a cab to hit my next destination: the merkato, Africa’s largest open-air market.
But no, after all that, I am going to see that bloody monument.
And I do. I finally find it, snap a pic that I’ll probably never look at again, and promptly run into Kassa, a taxi driver I ask to take me to the merkato.

Hello, sidekick #4.

Kassa is 54, and the first thing you notice about him is his smile. Most notably, that one of his front teeth has been replaced by a metal one. And right beside that, there’s no tooth at all. He was a major in the Army, he tells me, and started driving a taxi when he retired.
He seems to get a real kick out of it when I tell him he’s asking for way too much to take me to the merkato. You’re ripping me off, I say, particularly sensitive as I am at this moment to being ripped off.

I’ll give you 40 Birr, I say.

“Smart woman!” He roars, opening the door. “Strong woman!”

There is nary a moment of silence from then on in.

One of his gems: “You are my general. I am your soldier. I am at your command!”

Then he laughs. Hard. He does that often, it turns out.

“I’m a joker. Do you see?” he asks as we wind our way to the merkato in his wheezing 1996 Lada.

Yes, Kassa, I respond. I see you’re a joker.

“I like you,” he says. “Smart. Strong.”

“Some women, they get in my taxi, and they don’t see I’m a joker. They get all scared and say (he acts out the part of the woman here, looking aghast) ‘I’m a married woman!’”

He pauses, then blurts out: “Will you marry me?”

The answer, Kassa, is ‘no.’

Ha-ha! He laughs, the metal in his mouth sparkling in the rearview. Smart woman! Strong woman!

“You are my general. I am your soldier. At your command!”
The good soldier sticks with me for the entire afternoon, leading me through the merkato’s throngs of people and goods, making sure I don’t miss anything (“Have you seen? Have you seen?”) and don’t get pick-pocketed or run over by barreling goats or minibuses. As an added bonus, he takes me on a driving tour of Addis’ sites on the way back to the hotel, his half-coherent running commentary (punctuated every few sentences with: “Do you understand?”) competing with the rain pounding the windshield.

Tired and wet, I decided to end the day with a long massage ($8 for an hour! This place is heaven for a massage whore like myself) and quite night in.. So I settle in at the traditional Ethiopian restaurant at the hotel, taste my first and probably last “tej”—honey wine that is not as good as its ingredients would suggest – and pass the time spying on the tables around me.

What a spectacle.

During my three days here, I’ve witnessed a stream of westerners passing through the lobby, protective arms wrapped around small brown children.

Call it the Angelina phenomenon.

Call it a baby factory.

Call it what you want, but I must have seen about 25 Ethiopian adoptions in the making at this hotel. About 10 newly forged families were at dinner with me tonight.

And I couldn’t take my eyes off them.

Maybe it’s a good thing, giving these kids a good home in the developed world, assigning them parents who probably (hopefully) will love them and care for them somewhere in middle America. But watching these new parents and their new kids tonight, I felt something along the lines of queasiness. Or maybe sadness. Whatever it was, it wasn’t good.

The worst is watching the older kids, the ones who know what’s going on, or at least have an inkling of how their life is about to change.
At the table next to me, a twig of a girl of about 7 or 8 sits head down, fixated on a handheld video game – just one of the many gifts and bright new brand-name clothes I’ve seen these kids sporting over the last few days. Across from her, a smaller girl of maybe 4, head covered in sparkly barrettes, stares ahead, wide-eyed. Only the couple sitting with them speaks, in sporadic bursts of Spanish.
Every time a waitress passes by, chattering in Amharic, the older girl looks up, perking up visibly at words she can finally understand. When her new mother leans over and tickles her on the neck, she doesn’t flinch. She doesn’t respond at all. A few minutes later, accordion music fills the room and mom tries again.

“Musica!,” she exclaims, doing a jig with her upper body.

Please, honey, throw me a bone here.

The girl does, feebly bobbing her head.

A few minutes later, dad is pulling her onto his lap. She smiles obediently, if feebly.

Across the room, I see another mom trying to communicate with her two new little boys with facial expressions, a perma grin plastered on her face. The boys remain fixated on the accordion player passing by.
It’s all so depressing.

I’m leaving Addis tomorrow. And all these kids will be leaving soon, too.
But this isn’t my home.

I can’t even imagine what’s going through their minds right now, and how much their will change in the next few days.

I can only hope it’s for the better.