Friday, January 14, 2011

First Week in Gisenyi

Ah, it's been a whole week, so here's a summary. I'll follow up on
these items in more detail in later posts.

- English-language church service in the morning. Service was by
Pastor Matt from the 'States, from the Evangelical branch of the
Quakers. I also met the other seven Quaker westerners visiting in
Gisenyi. I got a brief tour of Gasharu, and then rode to Gisenyi with
Dave Bucura. We had a great chat about the history of churches here,
and about things in general. Etienne come in late after helping
organize a 1000+ person "Crusade" in partnership with a coalition of
other churches here in Gisenyi. The posters for this "Great Great
Gospel Festival" are still up all over town. Etienne's sons Josh and
Elijah are using the posters as book covers for their notebooks.

- I visited the Gisenyi Peace center for the first time, and met with
Etienne and Dave Bucura at the Friends Peace Center in Gisenyi. They
had laid the foundations and partially built some walls, to satisy the
Rwandan government's requirement that property be used or built upon,
or someone that will use it will get it. Etienne showed me the limits
of the property and we discussed potential locations for buildings for
the finished state. I think it's probably okay at this point that
much discussion is in Kinyarwanda, as I don't want to be too active in
the planning yet as I haven't met much of the community. I also met
Etienne's wife Nyiransabuwite (spelling by Etienne's son Joshua.) I
have been calling her "Mama Timo". Mama Timo is wonderful, and speaks
primarily Kinyarwanda, so this is another big incetive to learn
Kinyarwanda. I will be quite limited in the scope of people I can
talk to as long as I am limited to French and English here.

- Met Zawadi Nikuze with Etienne and Dave Bucura at the FPC. Zawadi
runs a small local NGO which has five or six projects around the
region with various donors, many of them Quaker. The primary one in
Goma is the work with rape survivors, and the women's shelter
there. We will be working hard on figuring out how to get my visa so
I can get over there. Hopefully it will go through easily.

- I busted through four Kinyarwanda lessons today. The lessons take
me about 2 hours apiece, and there are 130 of them in the book. So I
can be mostly done with the book if I can do four a day. After
studying in the morning, Etienne had invited one of his in-laws, a
young man named Harora, to take me to see a football game. It was a
small 4-team tournament in the Coupe d'Afrique U17 league, including
teams from Mali, Cote d'Ivoire, Congo-Brazzaville, and one other team.
We watched the second match, between Cote d'Ivoire and
Congo-Brazzaville - it was an exciting game, with Cote d'Ivoire
scoring the tying goal in the last 5 minutes.

Inspired by the soccer game, I went for a 20min jog to the church and
back on Thurs morning, and then finished out some emails discussing
funding transfers with AGLI staff. I was lucky to visit with a
Congolese law student named Aime, who I will write more about later. I
sent an email to introduce him to Camilla Campisi at QUNO.

During this time, my laptop was also completely trashed yesterday by
an incredibly terrible virus. Half an hour and three restarts after
plugging in the guilty flash-drive, my computer shuts down abruptly a
few seconds after I login. This is re-inspiring me to be more careful
around other kinds of endemic problems - whether medical or in terms of crime.

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