Archive for September, 2009

Holiday busing edition:

Sleep is the most unaffected form of communication.

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This past weekend’s imu roast was a gratifying success. Not only had 20 hours in the imu steamed the pig to perfection, but just as the first cuts were being tossed on the grill for a finishing sear, storm clouds also darkened the sky and the first shower of the rainy season began. I and others were beside ourselves that our imu had pleased Lono, who had clearly sent the Pineapple Express our way.

Problem is, while Lono does exist in Hawaiian mythology, and the Pineapple Express is indeed the layman term for a genuine meteorological event, nearly everything else I included in that e-mail/post was harvested from my well-irrigated imagination; any resemblance to real persons or events was entirely coincidental.  Nonetheless some at the party did and as far as I know do still believe the tale to be true, and their innocent credulity fills me with mirth.

I’m reminded of a perhaps apocryphal story about Niels Bohr:

One of his students once noticed a horseshoe nailed above his cabin door and asked him: “Surely, Professor Bohr, you don’t believe in all that silliness about the horseshoe bringing good luck?” With a gentle smile Bohr replied “No, no, of course not, but I understand it works whether you believe in it or not.”

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Ladies, Gentlemen,

The Power Brokers are at it again:

  • What: The Pineapple Express Imu Pig Roast
  • Who: Pious People Pining for Pig – Bring Drinks and an Appetite
  • Where:  Jon and Josh’s House in Nyamirambo
  • When: Saturday @ 3:30
  • How: On the Winds of Fate

In Hawaiian mythology, Lono is a god who existed before the world was created. One day he descended on a rainbow to the earth and made the goddess Laka his bride. Since that day long ago, he has been worshiped as a god of fertility, music, and most importantly, agriculture.  Farmers would through the ages pray to Lono for the rains necessary to sustain their harvest. But Lono was not always pleased with their piety, and the rains would not come, and the parched earth would crack apart and reveal the wounds of his wroth.

It was in one of these wounds that the first imu was formed.  In the gathering darkness of evening, food was bundled in banana leaves, lowered into the divide, and covered with earth in an attempt to appease Lono.  During the night, if Lono was satisfied by their supplications, he would heat the very earth with a long exhalation of his hot breath. The next day, the people would unearth their offerings and discover the mighty feast Lono had steamed under the surface. At the conclusion of this feast, Lono would again breathe deeply, this time inhaling all the moisture-rich air from across the ocean, and blowing it across the Hawaiian Islands where it would condense into drenching rains. So great would his breath sometimes be that the wind and rain would reach even faraway lands. We know this phenomenon today as the Pineapple Express.

Please join us as we in Kigali do our part to usher in the cleansing rains of the new season. On Friday evening we shall bundle in banana leaves a newly-slaughtered portly pig and bury him in a freshly-dug imu. During the night we shall slumber, and during the day we shall engage in ritualistic motopolo battle to honor the warrior god Kū. At the end of the day, if we have done well in our endeavors, we shall unearth a feast fit for the gods, which is roughly equivalent to a feast fit for 75 people. Lono will then inhale, and purifying water shall strip from the air the dust of the ground from which we were all formed.

Yours Porcinely,

The Power Brokers of Kigali

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Sitting in a dank room lit only by a single candle a few nights ago, an acquaintance of mine explained a thought of his about Africa. As we sipped our homemade banana beer (which I believe was responsible for an unpleasant trip to the toilet a few hours later), he talked of how both literal and metaphorical darkness is such a salient element of the Africa experience.

In a continent of little electricity and black skin, literal darkness subsumes detail and nuance. Faces become floating eyes and teeth, potholes and washouts in dirt roads become shadowy rivulets of an unknown depth. Metaphorical darkness manifests itself in the disconnectedness caused by lack of trade, routes, education. Candles of knowledge are rare; rarely are they lit; rarer still can they be used to light other candles.

Images make the point best. Bill Easterly just posted three good ones on his blog (click on the images for larger sizes and/or the source):

The first is of seafaring routes from a World Bank report:

The second is a map of IP addresses and thus internet connectivity:

The third is of airline routes:

The last two are ones I’ve found in the past. Here’s country size based on GDP:

And a more famous one again showing Africa’s disappearance:

Some economists are now using light data as a proxy for economic growth.

Darkness can be illuminating.

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Every so often, usually after the house’s water tank has been dry for a few hours/days, the first flow from the faucet fills my bathroom sink with muddy water. The other day the mud was especially thick and of such a hue that for a moment I was sure the first of ten plagues had been visited upon my house:

Exodus 7:19 And the LORD spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and stretch out thine hand upon the waters of Egypt, upon their streams, upon their rivers, and upon their ponds, and upon all their pools of water, that they may become blood; and that there may be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood, and in vessels of stone.

The water soon cleared, thankfully, and as of yet no scores of frogs are hippity-hopping into mine bedchamber or kneading troughs.

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Caveat Venditor

A common complaint of expats here is that Rwanda, in contrast to other African countries, has no cheap, delicious street food.  The reason is because the government forbids street vendors. Here’s a New Times article from today on the subject

Following the directives from Kigali City Council (KCC) to get rid of all street vendors operating within the city, penalties for those who will be caught in the act have been made public, The New Times has established.

In an interview, Bruno Rangira, the KCC Director of Media and Communication, said that those caught in the act will on top of seizing their merchandise, be fined Rwf 10,000 [~$20].

Goods seized from the vendors are given to different orphanages in the city.

Why the beat down on the beleaguered burghers?

“These are the people who cause commotion and poor hygiene in the city,” he said.

He added that some of the vendors indulge in pick pocketing, snatching ladies’ bags and stealing phones around town.

Of course, the “Three C’s” of good governance: Commotion Prevention, Cleanliness, and Crime Stoppage. Of these, the only one that has any smell of legitimacy amongst all the African odors is the last.  But does the fact that some vendors engage in petty crime necessitate a ban of their hitherto legal profession?

Here’s a story of firefighter who stole over $150; here’s another one of a police detective who pilfered $8,000 worth of confiscated drug money. Guess we better get rid of the police and fire departments.

One suspects the “Three C’s” are ex post rationalizations for a policy based primarily on the personal preferences of people in power (isn’t alliteration fun–er, alluring!).

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