Gisenyi, Rwanda

In Mama Chacura’s guesthouse, it is Robert, Mama’s oldest son who oversees the activities in the house. Robert, who is twenty-six years old, comes to and from the house usually whenever he pleases, most of the time to bring over friends to hang out because it appears that white people are a status symbol inRwanda. Robert is the boss over the staff at Mama Chacura’s guesthouse which includes three “mamas” who are our beloved cook’s and three guards who also act as handymen and janitors.

Of the several employees at the house who are all wonderful people, I have become fascinated by Isadore, the main guard. For one, Isadore does not sleep. He is always keeping guard all night, gardening when I wake up in the morning and does random chores during the day. In my time here, I found him asleep only twice. The first time I saw him asleep, I was woken up in the middle of the night by a terrible thunderstorm. I walked to the backyard patio to see how hard the rain was coming down. When I opened the door, I felt it thud against an immovable soft object. I looked around and I saw a hulk covered by several blankets, protected by the roof, but less than a foot away from a growing puddle. I took a closer look and saw the red hood from a sweatshirt that Isadore wore everyday draped over his sleeping head. This was particularly strange to me because Isadore does in fact have a room in a separate house right next to the compound. But, I did not ask any questions and let him sleep on the ground as the storm beat down on Gisenyi.

Isadore tries to speak English to me. He knows some words, but when he cannot communicate with me he has an interesting way of saying what he wants to me to hear first in Kirwandan, then Swahili, then pantomime and finally when he gives up he sticks out his fists to pound with mine and says, “You and me… friends.”

My friend Isadore is the kind of guy that when there are a large group of people hanging out in the backyard, he stands off to the side and laughs whenever a joke is told, but seems too timid to posit a joke himself. You know, however, in his thoughts there is something brewing, something that he really wants to express.

On Friday night, the six other members of the squad took the evening bus to Kigali, while I decided to stay in Gisenyi with my Rwandese friends because it would be my only Friday here. In the early stages of the night, I planned to go to a local bar to kick back a few Mutzigs (Heineken style beer) with Damas and Robert. As we were leaving the compound, I asked Isadore if he wanted to join us. Robert granted him permission and he left his night post and walked with us down the pitch dark road to Bar La Bamaba.

Now, it is important to note that big Mutzigs are about .75 liters or about 2 beers in size and that they contain about 5.5% alcohol. It is also important to note that Isadore weighs about 130 pounds. So when we drank two Mutzig’s it was not too shocking to discover how wasted Isadore became. What was surprising is that the shell of seriousness cracked open exposing a stumbling partying Isadore. He started bouncing up in down in his seat, dancing and at one point he even tried to get me out of my seat for a little grinding session. And yes, Rwandese men do commonly grind with each other and it freaks me out big time.

So after Isadore became a little out of hand, the four of us exited Bar La Bamba and I was forced to carry him home all the way. As we entered the guesthouse, I laid him down on one of the couches and he soon entered a well deserved sleep.


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