Saturday, 23 February 2008

Here come the photos at last!

Hi everybody. Thank you for being so patient with me and putting up with text only blogs for so long. Today (last Saturday in the month) is "umuganda day" when normal business stops in Rwanda and everyone is supposed to be doing public works (clearing drains, clearing rubbish etc). I'm in Kigali, having stayed overnight with a colleague, and I've been smuggled into the VSO office to use the computer. Brilliant; it means I've got almost a whole morning with a good internet connection and nobody waiting for me to finish.

So here follows a series of photo essays which give you a pretty good visual idea of what life in Rwanda is like. Those of you who have been following the written blogs will recognise many of the places in these.

For the next few days at least, there's a facility which allows you to click on any photo and it'll enlarge up. I've had to compress each picture to get it to load in a reasonable time, but I've done minimal compression so the picture resolution should be pretty good even when enlarged. Try some of the landscapes, they're just super!

Postcards from Gitarama

Looking across the big stadium to the hills beyond. Somewhere beyond all the hills is Lake Kivu (see later photos)!
From near my flat, looking across to the Catholic church in Rwanda's headquarters at Kabgayi. Besides the cathedral here there are at least four schools, a seminary, workshops for the maintenace staff, a printing workshop, and craft workshops as small business startups.

Looking towards the small stadium. This is where the Tuesday Gacaca courts are held.

This is the Bureau du District de Muhanga, otherwise known as my office. I work in the new extension on the left; far left hand window! This shot taken at seven o'clock in the morning; in another hour the place would be heaving with people coming to get forms signed, ask for jobs etc. And it stays like that till about four in the afternoon.

The street outside Karen's house. This is pretty typical of a back street. Unpaved, and with a storm drain a good 2 feet deep. It's unlit at night, and the drain is a lethal mantrap for the drunk or unwary! Further up the hill the drain runs in the middle of the road and is covered with dubious planks which move beneath your feet and feel as if they'll give way at any moment. Also, they're treacherously slippery when it rains; you've got wet wood coated with a vener of mud. Lovely.....

This is Karen's house. You can tell she works in Special Needs education because of the coloured blocks on the front porch. We use beer and fanta bottle tops for teaching counting, so every time we have a drink we keep the tops. It's also a good excuse to go to a cafe for yet another drink!

The Catholic church has a broadcasting station with national coverage. Fortunately the studios are here in Gitarama. We're wondering if we can get them to help us compile school broadcasts so that we can have native English speakers heard in even the remotest primary schools.

A long shot lookign down past the matata park towards the town centre. Most signs and hoardings here are in both Kinyarwanda and French, and a lot are in all three languages with English.

This is the main central crossroads in Gitarama in the middle of a hot Saturday market day. The main market is out of sight in front of you (I haven't dared to take any pics there yet). The lorries park by this building site waiting for people to hire them.

This sight is so common that after a few weeks you don't even notice it. Most of the long distance lorries passing our flat will have hands of bananas draped over the girder frames.

P.S. until you've tried picking up one of these, you've got no idea just how heavy they are!

Deluxe, secure local transport.

Home-made wheelbarrow used by market porters. The wheels squeak like crazy. Note the rubber straps (recycled cycle inner tubes) used to tie on heavy loads.

Rwandan beehive in a tree. Unfortunately you can't get the honeycomb out without breaking up the entire hive.

Traditional round hut and rectangular modern hut side by side. Took this at Claude's weddign reception on long telephoto, so picture may not as clear as it should! Round huts are now very rare indeed.

Claude's wedding

At a Rwandan wedding the bride and groom enter together.

In Rwandan weddings neither bride or groom are expected to show any emotion. You don't smile, or laugh with your guests. It's most odd! Claude wasn't able to stop himself cracking into a grin whenever he saw friends, but Immaculee spent the entire service with a stony, severe expression.

This is my favourite of all the wedding. It's a telephoto of Immaculee just after signing the registers.

Leaving the church. Claude's just about to break convention and smile.....

In all the crush of photographers, this is the best I could do in terms of a formal shot.

Charlotte, my VSO Programme Manager (i.e. my VSO boss) on the left, with Cathie who is wearing her Rwandan robes.

Bring on the dancing girls!

Not sure about the trainers, or the tee shirts for that matter, but the dancing was energetic!

Hoedown at the wedding. Pity all the rest of us just ahd to sit and watch. The man in white on the r.h. side is the leader of the whole troupe of dancers.

Yes, that's a Roman Candle blazing away from one of the cakes. And remember, you two, your wedding day is the happiest day of your life.....

Family members

Cutting one of the cakes

Friday, 22 February 2008

Picture record of a school inspection

With all the elegance of a hogtied elephant, Mr Inspector man roars off into the distance.

A typical Rwandan rural road. Imagine trying to get down this slope when everythings wet.
My partner, Cathie, with one of our moto drivers. On a two and a half hour journey over earth roads you have to take a break or two!

On the road.
Welcome to my school. This is my friend Etienne Nsanzimata, headteacher of Ntungamo primary in the remote Rongi secteur. He's sitting in his office. All teachers wear white coats to protect their clothes against chalk dust, and to make them easily visible to the children.

Amongst other things, I have to report on the state of the toilets. Well, these are more than 100 yards from the school and down a very steep, potholed, earth bank. Imagine trying to make a run for these during a tropical downpour!
The view from the school. This picture is so exceptional you need to click on it to blow it up full size. In one shot it epitomises Rwanda - steep slopes, every in farmed, variety of shades of green, and so, so beautiful.

All primary schools teach gardening. These are "patates" (sweet potatoes), and looking very healthy, too

The cassava plants are ready to harvest

General view of the school buildings and playground.

The newer looking classroom on the left has just been refurbished by the parents, but it still has an earth floor. At least the rain won't pour in through holes in the roof, like in the older room to the right!

Classrooms. No glass in windows, just wooden shutters to keep out the rain and for security at night.

The Head's office (MB take note!). Also the staffroom, stockroom....

To just turn a corner and see this river was simply amazing. Border between southern and western provinces. One or two chilsdren have to cross it every day to go to school, but at the height of the rainy season it's too dangerous for the ferry to operate, so the chidlren have to stay at home!

Another shot of the Nyaborongo.

Rwanda is green and fertile

There's a super view round every corner

Bicycles are rarely just for riding

Photos from Kibuye

This is just one very small corner of the enormous Lake Kivu

Dawn on the lake
Early morning on the lake

Dawn on Lake Kivu

Boats on Lake Kivu


Boat for hire!

The Centre Bethanie at Kibuye
Seen on the way to the hotel. I like it that one's in English, the other in French, while most of the target audeinec probably can't read in either!

Epiphanie and Marisa

Our little part of Kivu in the early morning

Kibuye town from the Centre St Jean

View from the Centre St Jean

The Tiga from 50,000 fathoms deep...

Water babies!

Part of the lake from our balcony

Lake Kivu from the balcony, Centre St Jean

Chillin' on the balcony at the Centre St Jean
L to R Marisa, Caroline, Epi, me, Tiga, Lisa and Marisa
Marisa is a Canadian VSO; she, like me, is a District Education Officer in Nyamata, about an hour south east of Kigali
Caroline is not a VSO, she's a Belgian agronomist specialising in soil erosion prevention. She is working in Gikongoro area in the far south, where there are very steep slopes being used for crops, and the risk of disastrous soil loss
Epiphanie is another Canadian VSO, a native French speaker, and is half Rwandan (Rwandanfather, Canadian mother). She is teaching science and maths in a secondary school at Kayonza in the far south east of Rwanda, right on the edge of the Akagera National Park
Tiga is an English VSO, she is teachign English at Nyamagabe secondary school in Gikongoro in the far south of rwanda, near the Nyunge Forest National Park
Lisa is a German girl, non-VSO, who was just finishing a short term placement before resuming a university course in South Africa. She is a specialist in conflict resolution - teaching people how to solve their diferences by peaceful means
Samira is an English VSO, also based in Gikongoro in the far south. She is a specialist HIV/AIDS worker in the schools and adult communities of Nyamagabe district.

The Centre St Jean on top of its own little hill