Wednesday, June 18, 2008

off to tanzania

I am currently eating a meal of my own words. It was only 2 months ago that I swore never, unless forced by gunpoint, to enter Nairobi airport again.

And yet, here I am.

A man just walked by wearing a cheesy tourist tee-shirt, spouting the phrase “It’s all Greek to me” with a bunch of basic Greek phrases, and their translation listed below. I was reminded of the period in my own life when I owned, and wore proudly (with many a laugh) a t-shirt that said “Hukt on foniqs rily werked fer mee”. And I had another good laugh, silently remembering my 12-year-old self, by myself, at the Nairobi airport.

This morning, I arrived 1 ½ hours early for my 8:35 flight. Only to find that it had, indeed, already departed. Apparently, you are supposed to reconfirm your flights by going to the local branch of the airline (a 2 hour process, at least) 48 hours before the flight… in case they decided to change the time. Now, I understand delays, but I don’t really get bumping UP a flight to an EARLIER time. And somehow, everyone but ME figured it out! Another one of those things that I will never quite understand about Africa…

The scene has changed. I have boarded the a tiny plane that is taking me to Kilimanjaro Airport, where I am meeting up with a cast of characters from NYC, affiliated with the Theatre Development Fund. For the next 3 weeks, I will be working along-side a professional (Broadway?) director to write and direct a play with a group of children from a school in Arusha, Tanzania. At this point, this is all the information I have, so please, hold your questions. More to be revealed, as always. Oh, and my dear friend, Rebecca Blumhagen, will be taking a short respite from her burgeoning career as a young actor to join us.
And THAT is a sure excitement.


I haven’t exactly been writing much about my life lately. Messages from people have gone from the more specific “How was your time at the Orphanage?” or “did you get your car battery fixed?” to the less specific “How is Africa?” or “Are you still IN Africa?” to, least specific and most desperate “Mags… are you still alive?”

Excuses (in order of influence): Laziness, business, writers block, laziness, recent addiction to arrested development, more recent addiction to Heroes, laziness.

For the 3 of you who care, and want specifics, here they are:

Upon returning from Ireland (family vacation) /France (Taize) /Belguim (the only thing I did in Belgium was drink a beer at a noisy youth hostel with a guy from India): I settled in to my current living arrangement and, after months of straddling the hips of skinny Rwandan moto-drivers (and more than a few scrapes with death), I finally 'broke-down' and got a car (ironic choice of words you say? not so ironic...). Well, I rented a car. From a friend of a friend. It’s what we would consider in the US a “beater”. But I love it. It has lots of character ☺

Driving around Rwanda is a totally different experience of Africa.

First of all, Kigali is an expansive matrix of non-parallel streets, with a few random one-way streets… without markers. The only way to tell you’re going the wrong way on a one-way street is by the hissing and clapping noises coming from the pedestrians by the side of the road. You may think they are minding their own business but the second you make the wrong turn, about 40 of them turn toward the middle of the intersection, flailing their arms and hissing… and you realize they have, indeed, been watching you the entire time, and you are, indeed, going the wrong way.

The only time i attempted to take my car out out of Kigali, i got a flat tire 50 miles out of town. there we (my friend Jenny and I) were, sitting on a curve in the road, with no help in sight... except for the "help" that came from behind the bushes the ditches ---people with nothing better to do with their time--- who did nothing but bang on my spare tire with a crowbar and steal my money.

we couldn't get the spare tire off. There was a key to one of the bolts that we couldn't find, no matter HOW many pairs of hands searched my glovebox... and stole my money.

finally, after 2 hours in the hot sun, we gave up. I sent the keys back with a Mutatu (the name for a closely packed taxi van) to Kigali. that's how it works in rwanda. everyone knows everyone. the owner arranged to meet up with the taxi driver and we took the only ride we could to Ruhengeri... which happened to be a tow-truck, already towing 6 men and lots of heavy machinery. there was only a bench seat, which was chivalrously given to Jenny and I while the rest of the men sat, or swung, from the machinery in the truck bed. we drove half the way to Ruhengeri, with hot air from the front engine blowing in our faces, then had to catch two different Mutatus to finish the journey. the whole thing took over 5 hours (it's normally a 1hr40min trip)

[I am, by the way, still typing--AND listening to my ipod--and the plane is about to take off. I am sitting across the aisle from a crew-member. Either he doesn’t notice or doesn’t care. Either way, I am going to do my civilian duty and close my computer because I don’t want to “interfere with the instruments.”]

Ok. I’m back. To Rwanda…

Part of the reason it’s taken me so long to write about Rwanda is that some of my experiences have bordered on the unbelievable. Certain things are hard to write about on the world-wide-web. Especially when security is involved. Less especially when you face the threat of being misunderstood. I might find a way/reason to write about this at a later date, for now, suffice to say: my circumstances are quite extraordinary and I’m being well taken care of.

Last week a group of potential investors visited Rwanda. The major perk of my job is that whenever someone even slightly “important” lands, I get to drop everything to join them on a tour of the country. Of course, it’s difficult to spend 5 minutes in places where you’ve spent 5 months, and feel as if an accurate representation is being given, but it doesn’t take much for people to get a vibe of what’s happening in this place, and to fall in love with it. It’s very exciting to watch.

It is difficult to have an “endless possibilities” personality in a country of endless possibilities. You may think this is a good match at first, but soon you become overwhelmed with the … well… endless possibilities. And you are rendered immobile, or indecisive, like a child in a candy store. This year has taught me more about myself than I ever cared to know. Under which circumstances I work well… and under which I fail miserably to organize my time and get anything done. How easy it is for me to ignore God. How much I really LOVE him... (like, instead of feeling like I should love him more and wondering why i don't and beating myself up for the disparity therein) it's a very exposing time.

When you're in college and frantically busy with assignments, rehearsals, coffee dates and house meetings, it's difficult to get a true sense of who you REALLY are. I don't mean this to sound all self-discovery-ish, nor do I claim to have "found myself", not nearly. but when you see yourself outside the high-performance landscape, you see how a lot of things you have done in the past because you wanted people's approval (consciously or subconsciously) sort of fade out when you're in a culture that's not performance-based. but it's also revealing to see what's left: what you still have appetite for. chances are you are now doing the things you're supposed to be doing... without all the busy clutter.

but i digress. i think we're about to land.

"thank you, maggie, for sharing your narcissistic thought patterns with the whole wide world."

you're welcome.



No comments: