With S in the United States and a full weekend at his disposal, D decided to make good on what he’s long thought about doing: take Munchkin on his first camping trip.
Taking advantage of Friday’s shortened Embassy schedule, D rushed home and packed the car while Munchkin was still at school. As soon as our carpool partners brought Munchkin home, D swapped him from one car seat to another and asked if he was ready for a new adventure. “Готов поехать (ready to go),” Munchkin gamely answered. “I’m c тобой еду. Is папа готов? (I’m going with you. Is papa ready?)” he added to ensure that D was also ready to hit the road.
The drive from Kigali to Akagera is around two hours, and when Munchkin wasn’t busy singing to himself, he kept up a lively banter from the backseat. D asked him if he was excited to go camping, to which Munchkin replied enthusiastically, “Let’s давай попробуй! (let’s lets try)” before admitting that he had no idea what D was talking about. “Папа, I не знаю (papa, I don’t know). Can you please show me?”
Arriving at the campsite, D found four other Embassy dads, with eight children among them. The kids were a bit older than Munchkin, so he did not join in their games, preferring to stick close to D and observe the campfire with fascination. This was not an entirely unwelcome outcome, as a few of the kids were already covered in mud by the time D and Munchkin had arrived, and a muddy toddler was the last thing D wanted in his tent.
It also meant that D was able to feed Munchkin his dinner while putting up the tent. “What I’m going to have if I eat it all? Maybe шоколад,” Munchkin mused. And when he declared himself full, D inquired skeptically if Munchkin had room for desert. “There’s месту…место for шоколад (there’s room…room for chocolate),” he responded to dispel all doubts. D had brought a bunch of bananas and some chocolate to cook in the coals, which went over well with the young campers. “We have to почистить зубки (brush teeth) because they’re chocolick.” Munchkin insisted on brushing his teeth when the time came for D to hustle him off to bed.
Since this was a trial run at camping with Munchkin, D decided to stay only one night, going for a short game drive in the morning before heading back to Kigali. Munchkin cheered for the giraffe and said hello to the zebras – in a surprising combination of Russian and French, no less: “Как дела, зебра? (what’s up, zebra?) C’est va bien? C’est va mal?” He also joined in D’s excitement whenever they found a new bird: “I нашел красивую потичку (I found a pretty birdie),” he would chime in whenever D pointed a bird out to him, потичка being a definite improvement on чипка, the way Munchkin used to say birdie.
But his favorites were the hippos. He made D park the car for half an hour at the lakeshore to watch about a dozen hippos take turns coming up for air while most of the bloat remained submerged up to their ears. “Look – большой бегемот (big hippo)! In the water. Он плавает. Он опять прыгнул (he’s swimming; he jumped again),” Munchkin would call out while keeping track of which body parts he could and could not see: “I don’t see ушки (ears) and belly. I see only глазки (eyes). I don’t see носик (nose) and face.”