Friday, 9 November 2007

A Hundred words in Kinyarwanda

Landscape near Gitarama - land of a thousand hills

(photo from Google earth)

Every day I'm slogging away learning about 10 new words or phrases. It's slow progress and maddening because the language is slippery as an eel. I'm told that people use "r" and "l" fairly interchangeably (so I can expect to be introduced as Bwana Bluce), and sometimes "k" is pronounced as "sh". This means the capital city could be pronounced as Kigali or Shigali or Kigari or Shigari. Oh what fun.....

Never mind. I can count laboriously to a hundred. I can ask directions and follow directions. I can greet people. I know enough words for food to survive.

I love the poetry of the language. Apparently the word for goodnight, "mwaramucye", really means "may you not die during the night"; the word for good morning "mwawamutse", means "I am glad to see you have survived the night". Lovely.

Went to Poole last night to a Dorset VSO meeting to see Heidi Farrow's photos of her 3 years in Rwanda. Lovely pictures and I already feel a real attraction to the place before I've even been there. Rwanda is green and profoundly beautiful.

Friday, 2 November 2007

At last - getting a handle on the job!

Street scene in Gitarama (photo from Google Earth site)

Sixty seven days to go (my departure date has now changed twice; the latest change came through while I was typing this posting). A good few days with lots of progress. Made contact with Bola Ojo, who I am succeeding in the post at Gitarama. (Thank you, Skev, my ultra-efficient placement adviser, for linking us together). Bola has sent me a detailed summary of what he has achieved during his time in Rwanda, and what needs doing. It is exactly what I needed and I feel energised and terrified at the prospect. But it's so good to at last have some details and specifics to work on.

My patch consists of 106 primary schools, 23 secondaries and 23 private schools. That's slightly more than in the entire county of Dorset. Also, ten of the secondaries have full or part-boarding establishments attached to them.

I now know the name of my boss - Claude Sebashi - and Bola says he is a good man and hard working, so I'm looking forward to meeting him.

I've discovered the main Rwandan website with details of the education system (see sidebar to this blog), and can begin to get to grips with it.

Other little snippets from the news.....
  • class sizes can be enormous - up to 87 I have seen in one particular case

  • according to the newspaper, thousands of school textbooks in Muhanga district have been stolen from schools, presumably to be sold off cheap in the markets of Kigali

  • some primaries still work in double shifts, i.e. one population of children in the morning and another completely different set each afternoon

On the other hand, Bola says nice things about Gitarama town - "the Birmingham of Rwanda" (yer what??) "it has electricity and water supply, inside loos, and even a hot shower is possible if you're lucky".

I'm intrigued. On Bola's "activities yet to be done" list it talks about the "Radio Maria Project" = "use local radio to broadcast a weekly English lesson aimed at teachers/students and the general public keen to learn English". Now that sounds like a real challenge/opportunity. Move over Chris Moyles; Radio Brucey could hit the airwaves some day soon............

Bola - you've made my day. I salute you!