a little different to at home!
28.12.2009 23 °C
Christmas in Africa is so refreshing as the pressure to go out present buying weeks and months in advance just isn't there. However we were reminded that Christmas was just around the corner with the arrival of Stina and Jon, (Rob's sister and brother in law) bearing gifts and delicious Christmas cake that Sti had been 'feeding' with sherry over the last few months - one of the more discreet ways to get alcohol onto Shyira hill!
With a couple of days to go before the big day we thought we'd better get out and do some Christmas shopping. There's not too much choice as it seems there is only a market for the bare essentials of Rwandan life and seeing as our parents wouldn't be very happy with a bag of beans or some fresh veg, we put our thinking caps on and went for a walk for inspiration... and it came:
and beautiful handmade pots made by a local pygmy lady.
We went on an early morning walk up the mountain to Jomba on christmas eve. It was a cold morning and the morning mists shrouded the view for most of the way. Everyone we met was full of the joys; greeting us animatedly and wishing us a happy christmas. The phrase quickly stuck and we were soon able to return the greeting. By the time we reached the top the mists had evaporated and we spent a while absorbing the views.
Back down on Shyira hill we had to turn our thoughts to Christmas dinner. Our neighbours, the Kings, managed to get their hands on a turkey – lucky them!
But we had to rely on Jemima and Dafney who had become very friendly and trusting over the past few weeks. I have to say we did feel a bit bad as they allowed us to pick them up and they put up no resistance as Rob placed their head on the chopping board. We consoled ourselves knowing that they had a much better life and death than most turkeys back home!
Jemima and Dafney with Mr Duck in the good old days (ie before Christmas eve) Mr Duck still comes looking for his wives
In a society where everything usually stops as the sun goes down, and most people are fast asleep by 8.30pm it was a surprise to be woken at midnight by loud drumming which continued on until dawn. It is a Rwandan tradition to anticipate the arrival of an important chief by drumming through the night and clearly Jesus is regarded as such.
Church kicked off in style – incredible as many of the congregation had spent 4hrs in church on Christmas eve and many of the young men would have been drumming through the night. The huge church was jammed full but there was not a Christmas carol to be heard – more the atmosphere of a semi formal rave.
“Wow” shouted Rob “these people really are glad it's Christmas day” as the pastor in full white robes started showing the young'ns how to really move, while singing into a red megaphone as the sound system went on the blink again.
The church has many choirs and they all took their turn singing and dancing to varying degrees of perfection which meant a lot of sitting and listening for the non Choir members. I was joined by a lost looking little boy, thinning hair, round face, sad and expressionless, dry skin, pot belly and swollen ankles – all the classic signs of severe kwashiokor malnutrition. He simply climbed up on my lap and sat – it was impossible to get a smile out of him, his body had gone into shut down mode, any emotion - a waste of energy, even his pulse was slow.
Sitting there, not understanding a word of the service, guts rumbling, looking forward to the Christmas feast, Pol read a verse that hit home:
'Suppose a brother or sister has no clothes or food. Suppose one of you says to them, “Go. I hope everything turns out fine for you. Keep warm. Eat well.” And you do nothing about what they really need. Then what good have you done?
It is the same with faith. If it doesn't cause us do do something then it is dead.'
The little boy stared blankly as Pol read the verse.
Christmas in Africa is not without it's challenges.