Friday, January 9, 2009

Holiday, Celebrate

Well a few days ago ended a whirlwind holiday season that leaves me with a lot to say...if I could only remember what I did then i could say it... :) Anyways, first I'll make a bold, unexplained statement then give non-indepth Cliff's notes version of what happened and finally I'll add 2 stories. Hope you like the format.


December started really well. We had a Peace Corps Olympics that included major competitions between the Western and Eastern located volunteers in the sports like Ultimate Frisbee, Soccer, Basketball, jerrycan relay races, pop culture trivia, and the controversial condom water balloon toss! Needless to say, the East is Beast and won handily. Ok, so it was really closer than "handily", but we still won. The big news was the arrival of my sister, Marci and my Brother-in-Law Sean. I was super happy to have them here for Christmas and New Years. I really think they got the full experience of Uganda, Africa in General, and most of all, Wes in Africa. They saw me at my finest in the village and my worst in the bus park (in all fairness, the bus park guys are jerks). They experienced things when they worked right and were properly arranged for and they also were around when no one knew what to do. Highlights of the trip included tour of Queen Elizabeth National park and all the cool lions and such there, a few days in awkward but rewarding village situations, Christmas at the extremely beautiful Sipi Falls and then 5 days in Rwanda having a good time but not doing what we planned. Marci and Sean so graciously brought a bunch of gifts for me, my girlfriend, and people in the village. She brought a small DVD player and medical DVD's for my supervisor Kateu to use at the school. He was super excited and made us watch them for way to long at his house. Don't get me wrong, i like to see some guy poke the muscles of a dissected human as much as the next guy, but not during lunch! :) To thank them for their efforts, we sent them back with 65 handmade baskets and 200 bead necklaces with the arduous task of selling them all. Thanks guys!

Now for my 2 stories.

Story 1: Saving Lives

When Marci, Sean and I went to Queen Elizabeth National Park, we were given a private driver from the tour company to take us there and show us around. Our driver, Sam, was pretty much the greatest person ever. Ok, maybe not, but he was pretty cool. Not only did he know everything about everything, he actually saved a child's life! Let me explain.

On the way home, we stopped at a wildlife visitor's center so that we could all relieve ourselves. This place was pretty quite with the staff and their families just hanging around and relaxing. Kids were running around and people were chatting it up. As we get in the van to leave, Sam freezes and stares off in the distance. All of a sudden, he's screaming and running full speed across the yard towards a small building and 2 children. When he reaches the children, he grabs one who was about 1 year old and holds it tight. "What happened?" we asked, panicked. Apparently, the kids, a 5 year old and the 1-year old were play fighting and the 5 year old didn't like that the small guy hit her. So to punish him, she started to put him down the hole of the pit latrine! By the time Sam reached him, the little one was still holding on to the older girl but was about halfway in the hole. Keep in mind that this hole was about 30 feet deep. If that boy fell he most likely would have died or been extremely injured.

So Sam walks back towards the main buildings a hero with the little boy in his arms. The mother came running up hysterical about what might of happened and very thankful that Sam was there. We were all shaken at the prospect about what almost happened. None of us saw what was going on and it took Sam's trained eye, which he's used to using for spotting game animals to save this kid. Good job Sam!

Story 2: Breaking Hearts

For New Years we traveled to Rwanda to live the high life and see what's happening there. Well, besides being an extremely clean and beautiful country that is amazingly developed so recently after being in complete chaos, it was a huge disappointment. Where did my disappointment lie you ask? FOOD!

On New Years Eve we wanted to have a really good meal in Kigali, the capital, and then go out and dance. So about 7 or 8 we get all excited to go to "La Fiesta," a Mexican restaurant that we'd read about in a travel magazine. We had all been craving Mexican our entire PC service and the non-PC folks were also hankering for it. We travel to the other side of town and show up to this big, 2 level place that's setting up for a big party. "COOL!" we think. We can just stay here and party after we eat good Mexican food. So we all march up the stairs and find the hostess and ask for a menu. "We don't have one", she says. "We have rice, goat's meat, cow's meat...". "WAIT! You don't have Mexican food???" "No, this restaurant was bought 4 days ago by a Congolese man from an American and he doesn't think that people want to eat Mexican Food in Rwanda." "BOOO!!!" we all say. Ok, so that's annoying, but we all chuckle at the ridiculousness that we missed Mexican food by 4 days. Not to be deterred, we look at the guide book and see that there's a well-touted French/Thai restaurant down the street. Inspired, we trek down the road for a while till we finally find the place. We see that there's an actual French lady running the place which seems promising. The staff is very friendly, but a bit snooty. Ok, it's French, I know that stereotype. The menu, all in French, was difficult to read for us non-speakers and the prices were pretty steep. "Ok, whatever, it's getting late and we're starving. Plus, it's New Years, let's celebrate!" I'm really excited because Diana and I have decided to split a cheese fondue. Always a fan of dipping stuff into stuff, especially when cheese is involved, I'm feeling pretty good about myself. Time starts wearing on and though conversation is really good, people start to realize that it's been a long time and their hunger is starting to set in. At the 2 and a half hour point, we start pressuring the waiter. He says that the food will be out in no time. We're used to slow service in Africa, but it was getting ridiculous.

Finally, around 11pm our food arrives. Everyone is immediately annoyed about how small the portions are based on our hunger factor as well as the hefty price of the meal. Then the waiter plops a plate on the table in front of Diana and I. As we're staring at the 2 deep-fried cheese sticks, I ask the waiter out of desperation "the fondue is coming, right??" "This is the fondue." "NO, fondue is melted cheese." "NO, that's the blah blah blah fondue blah blah. You got the blah blah fondue blah blah blah." "REALLY??? ....sigh..." It was at that moment that my heart was broken. To add to the insult, a few minutes later, my friend Kate decides to add to my pain by pointing to the next table over and says "Check it out Wes." To my horror, there was a group of Germans laughing and dipping stuff into a bowl of stuff. FONDUE!! Apparently the chocolate fondue came melted and the cheese one that we ordered was a stick. I was irate. The worst thing of all was that the owner, the French woman, never came around to apologize for the slow service or false advertising. Ever since, I've been asking if anyone has ever had something called Fondue that wasn't melted something that you dip other stuff in? Have you??

So, once again I can declare that I don't like the French language because it got my hopes up and then slammed them into the ground. Boo French!