Walking to the bus stop with Jane, my new friend, I felt nervous. One of those “too good to be true moments” and I feared that any minute, she would turn around and say she was sorry but couldn’t help me.
There were a couple of people at the stage and we had to wait a few minutes for a vacant bus. In time, one came along and we boarded. My tension somehow eased. “You don’t know anyone in Kigali?”
Jane asked me, snapping me back to reality. I shook my head. I felt her staring at me, perhaps wondering what she was taking on. Silence.
I looked outside the window at the buildings flying past, hoping to see a job advert. I needed a job right away.
Eventually, we got off the bus and passing by a supermarket, Jane said something about not having a container to buy milk. Like a lost sheep, I stood, waiting for her to lead the way.
I followed closely and she signaled to two motor riders. She was on her moto before I settled on mine, still trying to balance my bags in the small space. Once again, my paranoia took over.
She was going to disappear and leave me on my own. Fortunately, she didn’t and my rider wasn’t slow either. About 10 minutes later, we were home.
She paid for the journey and we walked a short distance to her home. We turned into the first compound and my heart sunk. Dirty laundry strewn all over the compound, chicken and turkeys, naked children playing with a dog and the all familiar smell of a dirty latrine welcomed us.
Desperate as I was, this was not what I’d imagined coming home to. There were about 10 houses facing each other. We entered the first one and I was disappointed even more.
Apart from four chairs, a table and dirty dishes, there was nothing else in what appeared to be the sitting room. I sank into one of the chairs and tried hard not to look disappointed.
Just then, a boy who I later learnt is my host’s 10-year-old son walked into the house. They spoke Kinyarwanda so I couldn’t make out what they were saying. She later told me she was angry because the maid had left the house open and uncleaned, and no one knew where she was.
Next thing I know, Jane is handing me water and soap to go and bathe. It was very little water but I didn’t dare ask for more.
When I emerged from a dark room that serves as the bathroom, I was shocked to find a man washing dishes right outside.
I wanted to ask why he couldn’t find another place but I didn’t. Walking into my new home, I found a “Fanta” (which is what many people here call soda) and a mandazi waiting. I almost wolfed it down because I was so hungry.
“You’ll forgive me but can I please take a nap now?” I told Jane when I finished eating. “It’s okay. Go to that room over there,” she pointed. There were two mattresses, about two inches each. Putting one on top of the other, I laid a sheet on top and hit slumberland.
I must have slept for about two hours and when I woke up, my host’s son was summoning me to have supper. It was a dish I was familiar with, only cooked differently. I ate anyway, for two reasons. I didn’t have many options and secondly, it was only polite.
The maid had finally returned with her own child who is about four years and the three of us were to share a room, and the two mattresses.
That night, I went to bed grateful that I had a roof over my head but at the same time wondering whether I’d be able to live with that family long enough.
To be continued…