Monday, August 16, 2010

The end of vacation

My last weekend of vacation was exactly what I needed. On Thursday I went into Kigali to talk to the psychologist who was sent from Washington. In the process of doing so, I had the opportunity to get know Laurent (our new PCMO) who is nothing short of incredible. After only five minutes of conversation it was clear that this guy had his ducks in a row.
I was coming in to get advice on how to deal with trauma victims and individuals who suffer from severe post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He told me he was planning to put together a peer support group for volunteers who dealt with people suffering from PTSD, and asked me if I would be available for a training session before the next stage began.
“I’d like to get a small group to present the topic of PTSD in Rwanda, but I would need you guys to attend a training first.” He said.
A training? What? You mean… Someone is actually going to organize, prepare and present pertinent information for the new trainees? Via the current volunteers who deal with the subject matter everyday? It seemed so logical, I forgot I was talking to someone who worked for Peace Corps, but then again I’ve become horribly jaded to our administrative process. The idea of having someone who truly intended to assist in the lives of and facilitate the purpose of the volunteer was tragically foreign to me. My only thought after our interaction was: “He. Is. So. Cool. I hope to god he doesn’t bail like the last two PCMOs.”
Talking to the psychologist helped me recollect myself in regards to my ongoing struggles with Jo. We came up with several good activities to try to pull Jo out of her head, and discussed the prospect of introducing her to some PTSD literature in French. We also focused on my need to be able to let go of things and accept that just because I see something as a problem, it does not mean it’s my problem to fix. I can’t be Jo’s counselor, babysitter, or mother. Anything I try to do to fix her will be like putting a band-aid on a gaping flesh wound. In the long run, she’s the only one who can change her mental state.

A group of us stayed a day at St. Pauls and the moved over to the Procure because it’s about 2000 francs less expensive. After we bought the rooms in the morning, ran some errands and came back, the man working the front desk informed us that there was a slight problem and he needed our help.

Procure Attendant: There is a man coming who is sick and he needs a room with a double bed.
Me: Okay?
PA: There aren’t anymore rooms with double beds.
Me: If he’s one guy why does he need two beds?
PA: Because he’s sick.
Me: So what?
PA: He has someone coming with him to attend to him. I need one of you two move into a single room.
Me: … Well, if you’re going to move one of the pairs of us into a single room for this guy, I want an upgrade. So, you should give me one of the singles with a private bathroom.
PA: … What? No.
Charissa: Whatever, I’ll just sleep on the floor. Let’s just exchange.

A few hours later an R1 Health Volunteer showed up asking for a room. ‘Elle immediately jumped on the chance to split a room with her if there were doubles available.
“There aren’t.” I said. “We had to move because they’re sold out.” But they went to verify in any event.
Five minutes later the health volunteer was in the process of buying a double room. I got up to see what was going on.

Me: What are you vacancies?
PA: What vacancies? There are none.
Me: You’re joking right? You just sold this girl a double room. Why did my friends have to move into a single room, where someone is going to sleep on the floor, if you still have double rooms available? Just give us on of those.
PA: There are no double rooms.
Me: You JUST sold one to her.
PA: Well… The sick man…
Me: Whatever! Where even is this guy?!
PA: Well, he’s left now. He is not staying.
Me: So you have rooms.
PA: No.
Me: But you’re selling her one.
PA: No. We haven’t exchanged money.
Me: That’s totally beside the point!
PA: There are no rooms here. All of you can just go to St. Paul.

He got up to leave and I walked away from the room to stop exacerbating the situation. It was clear to me that there was never any “sick man” and that the reception clerk was just trying to con us from the start. It’s not as easy to sell single rooms, so if he was able to push two people into single rooms he could fill them all and still sell all his doubles to different clients. He’d be making more money overall. I was about ready to break something when all was said and done. Given my karmatic history (R.I.P MS Sea Diamond), maybe his office will legitimately get hit by a meteor or something. Moral of the story? If you’re traveling in Rwanda, your money is probably better spent at a hostel that ISN’T the St. Famille Procure in Kigali. Because those guys are ready, willing, and prepared to screw you over with a smile.

Later on that day the Ed PCVs plus Liz made a mass exodus to Hot Racks. It’s a pretty stylish restaurant which serves cocktails, a full roast pig, and has a solid menu. On Saturday they have a dating show for locals and ex pats. Contestants get to eat for free. It’s the old 90s dating show type, where you can’t see the bachelor or bachelorette who is quizzing three potential dates. I was a contestant and decided in advance I didn’t want to win, so I tried to come up with the worst answers possible.
“Contestant number 2—I might kiss you tonight. If I tried, where would it be?”
“… Um, probably the side of my head as I turn it away from you, creepshow.”

“Contestant number 2—If I were to take you on a long romantic get-away, where would you want me to take you?”
“The Seychelles.”
“… The… Sea Shells?”
“Dear god man, get map.”

“Contestant number 2—If you could have any super power, what would it be?”
“Because then I could spy on you when you inevitably try to cheat on me.”

I was one up’ed an hour later when ‘Elle was interviewing her potential bachelors as “Maria, the Mexican in Rwanda looking for her mother”. Most of the bachelors (being PCVs) also adopted personas like “The Situation”—the ‘roid raged Guido from Jersey Shore.

After a few drinks and a few dances, I left Hot Racks with my friend Steve to attempt the now failed: Operation Kitten Rescue. I had mentioned earlier that I was interested in getting a kitten, and he said he had a lead for me via a friend. However, when we got to her house and I saw the kitten, I wasn’t entirely convinced the poor thing would last the night even if I had the money to rush it to an animal hospital at that instant. I decided to leave the kitten, but before I had a chance to give directions back to Hot Racks, Charissa called me to inform me she was going to hang out with the Marines at Top Tower Casino.
“Sweet! I was going to go there after I dropped you off! You can just save me the trip.” Said Steve.
So I went to my first Rwandan Casino. It was like a teeny tiny Vegas that didn’t have slots and didn’t provide free drinks to gamblers. We sat at the Black Jack table for about an hour and Steve fronted me five dollars so I could play too. After the hour was up I had gone from five to thirty five dollars (not including the chips I spent on drinks), but there was still no sign of Charissa. We ended up going back to the hostel because Janelle needed the room key and it was about 1:30am. Charissa was still missing. She reappeared at the Procure the next morning, however, porting an unusually sunny disposition. I’d speculate on the events of her evening, but I’m afraid she might try to “refocus me” if she ever reads this.

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