Mornings, always one rooster does not know the time of day. As is customary in the neighborhood, most chickens start calling between five and six – but renegade number one is early. 4:30, last time I checked.
To be sure, were it not for the roosters I am guaranteed to wake soon after. Shortly after six the children start to make pattering noises outside my door, as they run out to wash and brush and use the outhouse, and to heat the water kettle for the plastic basin in the washroom. There are four of them – aged 7, 7, 9, 12 – plus an assortment of relatives. School starts early in the neighborhood, and they must all start walking by seven.
These are the children of a colleague, with whom I have been staying since I arrived in Rwanda. Their neighborhood lies 10 kilometers outside Kigali, near the military camp. Rwanda being the land of the mille collines, the thousand hills, our house opens onto a road with a far view of the surrounding peaks and valleys, which in the mornings are liquid with fog. With the west wind and an uncertain sun in the banana leaves it is as beautiful as you can imagine.
My adoptive family is quite a well-off one – they have a car, a few servants, a house under renovation – by no means poor when compared to the 60% of the Rwandan population under poverty line. Simplistically, poverty line here goes by the dollar-a-day standard, which you can benchmark roughly to a liter of milk, two bottles of water, or a half-pound of passion fruit. Meals, then, are necessarily starchy in composition – boiled bananas, rice, beans, potatoes – limited meat.
When I have eaten breakfast, I walk down the dirt road towards the main intersection where a great number of people wait, on toe like a swarm of runners at the starting block. They must scramble to get onto a public taxi, one of the local mini-buses that shuttle between town and the local residences. I am of course no match – you will perhaps permit me the luxury of hiring a motorbike to work, which is too a means of public transport in these parts.
Yesterday my colleague Jean and I made our first expedition into the field, which has given me a new appreciation for dust. In the upcoming weeks we will be venturing further afield – so more to come.