07 April 2014

memory

Ten years ago today, I was in the Big Apple, interviewing for a law school scholarship.

I should have been in Rwanda.

There is no should, of course. I got a call from the law school, and I bought a ticket, and I didn't think of the fact that I would miss the 10 year anniversary of the start of the genocide in Rwanda.

I felt like I should have been there, even though being there, the year before, felt like an intrusion into some private grief that I couldn't share.

One April or May morning in Rwanda, up on a mountainside in the mist, I thought about 100 days. 

Because it wasn't just a day of massacres all over the country. It was 100 days - more than three full months - of fear and hiding and panic.

When you go to Rwanda and sit beneath the trees with real people, it's hard to imagine that in those same emerald green hills, in that same perfect sunshine, so very many people died.

I didn't go to genocide memorials until I'd been in Rwanda for over a year and a half. I just couldn't do it. I wanted to see life before I saw what came before. 

When I finally went to a church in the east of the country, and the museum in Kigali, the guides opened mass graves and stepped down into them. One opened a casket for us to see the disintegrating body inside. The damp air smelled of death. 

Out in the garden again, the air was fresh and clean. Flowers grew bold, as they do in the tropics. Kids shouted as they played in the distance.

Rwanda is alive with memory, but it is still so alive.

This church in Kibuye was the site of a massacre. On Sundays, the church is filled with parishioners. The mass grave is outside.


The stadium in Kibuye was another massacre site. Now teams play football next to the cemetery.

05 April 2014

reason 934857 that I love this city

Yesterday in the square, I saw a young woman sitting on the steps dressed as a unicorn.

Not like a horse, you know. Just a little horn in the middle of her forehead.

It was strikingly pretty.

03 April 2014

down

I parked my car in a downtown garage yesterday, in anticipation of driving to the other county, and when I went back to my car, I had a briefcase and a bag on my shoulder and a cup of coffee in my hand.

The exit of the elevator on the correct floor was on a little bit of a raised platform, which I did not notice in my hurry to get to my car. I stepped forward as if there would be ground beneath my foot. 

There was no ground beneath my foot. Not, at least, at the level I expected. It was about three inches lower, and by the time my foot hit that level, I was already toppling.

The grooved pavement was not kind to my knee, nor to my non-coffee holding hand.  My coffee sloshed all over my other hand (fortunately it was not too hot). 

There on the ground, I looked up as three cars passed without so much as rolling down their windows and asking if I was okay. (I go through life expecting people to be reasonably nice and generous. It doesn't usually bother me when they aren't, but when I am in pain, it does. A kind word would have soothed me greatly.)

I was wearing fleece lined leggings (don't knock this until you've tried it), so I couldn't see the state of my knee, and I was now worrying about being late, so I climbed off the ground, licked at my coffee-covered hand, and stumbled to my car. My non-coffee hand was red but no skin had been broken.

It wasn't until I got home that I peeled the leggings off my knee and saw the sort of knee scrape I used to get when I was a kid - the kind that takes off a whole round chunk of skin several layers deep.

Then this morning I noticed that the missing chunk of skin sits on top of some weird-looking lump that does not normally exist on my knee and is turning funny colors.

I am... probably never going to learn to walk properly, am I? I think it's a little late now.

Also, pro tip: fleece-lined leggings. They will survive when your skin does not, and you will not have to stumble into court with a hole in the knee of your tights.

02 April 2014

could

As a lawyer who is making a job out of the air, I had to go to court in an unfamiliar county today. It was a beautiful day, and on the way back I went a little bit out of my way to stop at the K.s' to pick up a couple of things.(I am house-sitting at the moment, and I needed a different shirt to wear to an event tomorrow for ridiculous reasons that cannot even really be explained, namely institutional rules.)

I set google maps on avoid highways, and set off. I just couldn't bear the thought of closing my car windows or of driving on the freeway with the roar of the surrounding traffic.

Google maps led me to a winding road along a river. I put on my sunglasses and drove. I soaked in the sunshine.

After a while, my phone told me to turn left, and then turn left again, and then turn left again, and then turn left again. 

It seemed impossible, all these left turns onto roads I'd never heard of and roads I only knew as exits on the highway, but the roads were all curving, so I trusted the map, and suddenly I was on a familiar corner.

When I lived in Gone West the first time, I thought I might move back to Africa. When I lived in Universe City, I wanted to move somewhere, anywhere. When I lived in Gone West the second time, I was planning on leaving nearly the entire time I lived here. I kept trying to drink everything in because I knew it would soon be gone.

This time (Gone West version 2.1), I don't have an end in sight, and I felt, driving on those strange roads, a strange feeling that I could someday know the back roads around Gone West. I could belong. I could be home.

29 March 2014

?

It turns out that I have a very hard time producing writing for public consumption during times of great uncertainty.

17 March 2014

useful

Sometimes I think that the most useful skill I have, cultivated in East Africa, is that of driving on unlit roads when oncoming traffic has lights so bright I can't see. 

In Rwanda and Uganda, that was because no one believes in turning off their bright beams.

In the US, it is because my car is small and many big SUVs now have extra bright headlights that shine directly down into my eyes.

Either way, I have long experience in looking down to the side, away from the light, at the edge of the road and nothing more. It doesn't even give me a headache anymore the way it did when I first moved to Rwanda and would have to go to bed early whenever I went to Kigali.

16 March 2014

hope is our four letter word

I listened to a lot of radio stations in six days of driving to the Mitten and three days of driving back to Gone West. 

For instance, I can tell you that there is a radio station in Southeastern Wyoming that calls itself "Buckin' Country." My amusement level was high.

I turned off the radio and listened to Garth Brooks on my iPhone in Cheyenne, because obviously one has to listen to Beaches of Cheyenne and Rodeo while driving through Cheyenne. 

There are songs that will forever remind me of pieces of that drive. One of them I heard for the first time along the river east of Gone West. When it comes on the radio, I see the cliffs rising on the side of the car all over again. One of them I let play for the first time in the mountains in the eastern part of State of Happiness, driving on snow under a temporarily clear blue sky. (I had always before switched away when that song came on, because it sounded boring. Now I like it.)

As I got closer to the Mitten, I started noticing all the songs that talked about doing things that everyone else thinks is crazy. 

Mostly, as I drove, I scanned the airwaves looking for two songs that summed up the entire experience.

The first one was One Republic's Counting Stars:

Lately I've been, I've been losing sleep, dreaming about the things that we could be.

Hope is our four letter word.

Everything that drowns me makes me want to fly.


(The video is super weird.)

The second was Lady Antebellum's Compass

Let your heart, sweet heart, be your compass when you're lost, and you should follow it wherever it may go.


 (PS. What is UP with Lady Antebellum's name? I just can't even deal with it.)