Thursday, May 19, 2011

The photo is a hotel from Ethiopia but this story is from Rwanda.

The front of the hotel had a small restaurant, but there was no one around. I dragged my bicycle through to the open area in the back and called out for the receptionist. After a minute a woman arrived and I asked her how much it was for the night. She looked confused.

I studied French in high school. You know how French has those gender things, right? Perhaps I had gotten one of them wrong. Nothing offends French speakers more than grammatical errors. Or perhaps it was her French that was bad. The genocide made people flee to countries that don't speak French. The country is officially transitioning to English. The kids who graduate from high school after 2020 are supposed to known English.

Regardless, I try again slowly and distinctly, "How. Much. Is. It. Per. Night?" This time she tells me to wait here while she goes to get the person in charge. When the next lady arrives, I'm still in my slow and distinct mode of communication. "How. Much. Are. Your. Rooms?"

"Oh. You want the hotel. That's next door."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mortuary man

“Let's go! I want to show you those dead people.” The man talking to me is clearly stoned. He has to take a break between each sentence to gather his thoughts. He leans against the wall drunkenly for support.

“I work at the mortuary,” he assures me. “When the bodies come in, I get the coins” He looks at me, evaluating. “Pickpocket you.” He pauses. “Yes, and take your shoes.”

For the previous ten minutes, he has been asking me over and over for $0.25. But now he is settling in for the long haul. “You never know,” he beams optimistically. “You could die tomorrow. Only God knows that.”

He is wearing a blue hoodie. It is threadbare in places and layered over with grime. There is a plastic water bottle stuffed down one sleeve. Curious, I ask him whether his bottle has glue or embalming fluid. He covers his nose and mouth in his sleeve and huffs. It is embalming fluid.