So I was on the bus today coming home from Musanze, finishing the last leg of the trip. Until that point, the trip had been surprisingly uneventful. Normally the bus has some sort of issue- flat tire, engine trouble, or doors falling off (yes, that is a true story from another PCV.) There were no screaming babies, no animals crammed under the seat, no one throwing up.
All that changed on the last bus back to my site. There was an umusazi crazy man who had been trying to talk to me in the parking lot as we waited. Luckily he ended up sitting several rows in front of me when we boarded the bus.
I ended up squished next to a young woman who was going home to visit her family. She was really friendly and talked to me the entire ride home. She also insisted on giving me a series of gifts.
First she dug deep into one of her three backpacks that shoved under my feet, jabbing fellow passengers with her elbows in the process, in order to find a volcanic stone used to polish your feet. Then a few minutes later, she asked if she could take a picture of me on her cell phone. Next she insisted I take her Kinyarwanda Bible so that I can teach myself Kinyarwanda. (Feeling bad that this woman was giving me her only Bible, I tried to discretely leave it on the seat as I left, but she caught me.) She also pressed some unidentified plant buds wrapped in toilet paper into my hand. (I chose to discretely leave that behind as well and was luckily more successful.)
It was at this point that things got really interesting. The crazy man turned around and started trying to talk to me again. I couldn’t understand a word of what he was saying, but my seatmate decided to intervene. They started yelling at each other, back and forth in a mixture of Kinyarwanda, English, and French. The woman kept shaking her fist and shouting, “If you talk to my murumuna (little sister) you must give me ten cows! Ten Cows!!!”
The whole bus was turned around to watch this spectacle. Half the passengers were rolling their eyes; the other half were laughing hysterically. I sat there dumbly, unsure what to make of the situation.
At this point, the man started trying to prove he could speak better French than my protective big sister. They both started screaming odd phrases that must have memorized back in their school days at each other. “What is your name? I would like to buy a cow! I love to pray my God!”
In the end, the woman wrapped her arm around my shoulders and started singing at the top of her lungs, “Frère Jacques, frère Jacques, dormez- vous? Dormez- vous?” That finally shut the crazy guy up, and he turned back around and ignored us the rest of the trip. I guess she out-crazied the crazy man!
As unusual as our interaction was, I really appreciate this brief encounter with this stranger. Had she not been there, I would have just ignored the man, he would have eventually lost interest, and the rest of the trip would have passed uneventfully. But I was touched by this woman’s willingness to stand up for me, the quiet, foreign umuzungu at the back of the bus. And besides, this makes for a much better story.