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Even when under voltage Kivumu is – out of the current
Wednesday, 01 August 2012 Written by Maja Sajler Garmaz

Even when under voltage Kivumu is – out of the currentBurundi sure is beautiful. But I’ll tell you about that in one of my next stories. Because... just like in those days when we were still enjoying ourselves on the African continent, I’m simply in a hurry to get to Rwanda! It has grown near to my heart, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

I’m trying to recall the impressions of my first encounter with that small but beautiful land of a thousand hills. It was in January of 2007. Željko and I chose it for our honeymoon. Although it hadn’t been my first encounter with Africa, I remember that getting off the plane at the Kigali airport was a somewhat tense experience – ‘tense’ in the sense of wild excitement. Because, after all, it was to be my first big adventure: a month of rambling through African forests and mountains. What’s more, I had just gotten married. It was going to be the ultimate thrill!!!

Back then, I thought that the adventure would last just for the month we were staying there. But no, that was just the beginning – and a big one, for that matter! The adventure has lasted to the present day. Africa has become a passion for us.  Rwanda, is now our second home, and the travels have come to be the favourite part of the year for us.

Even when under voltage Kivumu is – out of the currentI will never forget that first time. It was January, and Croatia was terribly cold. I’d left home without giving too much thought to the clothes I was wearing. I arrived in Rwanda in a lovely, thick sweater, underneath which I didn’t really have an appropriate T-shirt I could strip to. As I exited the plane I was hit by the heat so hard! And the bags just didn’t seem to be arriving. And then you had to fill a form, then another one… and then, what do you know!, another one just to be safe, and then pay for the visa, and then wait for it to be entered in your passport, and then you had to show the little booklet that confirmed that you’d gotten the yellow fever shot. Then and there, my sweater demonstrated and proved all its warming capabilities. It was a hot Rwandan arrival!

This time, we didn’t land in Rwanda. Instead, we drove in, with fra Ivica’s car. But, because he calls his almost 20 years old Toyota Starlet the ‘Dragon,’ and also treats it like one, we literally flew over the border on this particular occasion as well.

As we drove nearer to Kivumu - the village we are always so happy to return to, the fatigue caused by an anti-nausea pill I’d swallowed before began to wear off. Although the Dragon did fly, the nearer we got to Kivumu the slower we seemed to move. It was taking an eternity to get there.

Even when under voltage Kivumu is – out of the currentAnd then… a familiar turn off the asphalt and onto the muddy road soaked with rain that had washed Kivumu just a moment before. We were there!!!

Familiar hills, familiar faces, familiar little houses. And something totally new to us – electricity lines! Only a year ago we had been sitting by lantern light in our room, and now Kivumu has electricity. And Ivica has a fridge! An unprecedented miracle!

Again, I think back to our first stay in Rwanda. As I arrived to Kivumu in that warm sweater of mine, because I hadn’t gotten the opportunity to change into something more comfortable, I was boiling hot – so I wasn’t thinking at all about where and in what kind of condition I had come. I simply hadn’t given it any thought. When I finally opened my bag and uncovered the carefully hidden kulen sausage, I immediately ran to Ivica.

“Please, will you immediately put this kulen in the fridge, because it spent two days travelling in the bag? And when it tightens a bit we can get down to chowing right away,” I told Ivica.

He looked at me in amazement and his moustache revealed a grin. He started laughing.

“Don’t you know where you are?” he asked me, took the kulen out of my hands, and added, “Come! Let me show you our fridge!“

We went to the kitchen; he took out a knife, cut the kulen into small pieces, and called his Franciscan brothers and the rest of the crew. We annihilated the kulen then and there. Even the label was gone.

“There! That’s how you preserve food here: you eat it right away and you’re done with it. There is no fridge of any kind here,” Ivica mocked me.

Even when under voltage Kivumu is – out of the currentOur first three stays in Kivumu were ‘without current’ and I got used to it very quickly. Now that I think of it, in light of the recent electricity price rises in Croatia, it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to go unplugged from time to time, even at home. I could save a bit on the electricity bill.

This fourth arrival to our dear Rwandan village was, therefore, ‘under voltage’. But the guys from the Rwandan electrical company made sure that not everything was as orderly as we’re used to, at least when it comes to infrastructure. People spend more without, than with electricity, and the wooden electric poles have been placed – well, rather imaginatively! The poles don’t follow a straight line like they do elsewhere in the world, but instead they – zigzag... I guess it was the simpler for them that way. And it all looks like a big circus. Well, at least it shines; if you pay, that is. And one buys electricity in tokens. That way, one lives within one’s means.

The one thing that is probably never going to change in Kivumu is its wonderful kids. The moment they saw the Dragon they started running after us, all barefoot as they were.

“Muzungu! Muzungu! Bonbon! Bonbon!” they shouted, running after the car and hoping to score a candy or two.

They don’t have cell phones, they don’t know what a Playstation is, they walk around in shabby clothes, many of them have never slept in a bed, and many also eat maybe three times a week. Nonetheless, nowhere else are you going to see so much sincere laughter, innocent joy and eagerness to play, dance and fool around. That’s why I love Kivumu. Because it always brings me back to my childhood!

Translated by: Branimir Mlakić
Edited by: Valerie Kae Ken

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