I spent Christmas this year in a lake-side cottage with several friends from Peace Corps who also live in the eastern province of Rwanda (and one who lives in the North.) While we were there someone brought up that benefit song from the 80’s — I think it’s called, “Do They Know It’s Christmas” — where the lyrics say “But there will be no snow in Africa this year. Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?”
We all agreed that this was a stupid — of course people in Africa know that it’s Christmas. Christianity has been in Africa longer than it has been in Europe and there are more Christians in Africa than the US, after all. And, even those people in Africa who aren’t Christian usually listen to the radio and know what time of year it is, at least. But, for those of us who grew up in non-equatorial climes with Christmas trees, Christmas lights, Christmas cards and Christmas carols, it certainly didn’t feel like Christmas!
We stayed at Seeds of Peace, a quiet little resort on the shores of Lake Muhazi, a lake in eastern Rwanda. We had a simple cottage where the seven of us could stay. It had a shower with hot water, a flush toilet, and a beautiful view of the totally undeveloped lake shore, the lake itself and picturesque sunrises and sunsets — so, everything we could want.
Seeds of Peace was small but obliging. They brought towels, mugs, a hot water kettle and food to the room upon request and gave us an extra set of rooms when they had to ask us to change cottages. We also went to “Jambo Pleasure Beach”, a restaurant just down the road, a couple of times. The service was so ludicrously, unbelievably slow, though, that we would show up in time to order breakfast, and receive our food in time for an only slightly early lunch. This considerably cooled our enthusiasm for the place, even though the food was quite good.
This was the first time we had been with a big group of fellow PCVs since we had gone to our respective sites so it was really good to see everyone, hear their stories and speak English at a normal speed with all the slang and contractions we wanted.
I had two favorite moments of our time there. The first was taking a ride in a small ferry boat which was bringing passengers from one side of the boat to the other. We went right at sunset and enjoyed the leisurely ride, watching the sky darken above us and jellyfish float by in the water below us. It was idyllic and different from anything I’ve ever done on Christmas Eve.
My second favorite moment was when we exchanged presents. We did Secret Santa and White Elephant. It’s a sign of our current lifestyles that gifts like seeds, a flashlight, cornflakes and oranges caused great excitement and gratitude. It’s good to appreciate the little things.
So, Christmas came and went without every feeling particularly Christmas-y but I got to attend a lovely mass on Christmas Eve morning and spent some time reading my Bible on Christmas morning so it felt good to mark the meaning behind our celebration and it was very encouraging for me. I hope you had a Merry Christmas, too, and a very Happy New Year! In Kinyarwanda, Noheli Nziza n’Umwaka Mushya Muhire!