Sunday, 27 April 2008

Super Saturday; Christi nearly gets murdered on Sunday

Apr 19-20th

To the VSO office Saturday morning with Soraya; they’ve already bought her and Épi a Terracom phone each, so as soon as they can buy some calling credit we’ll find out whether we can contact them more easily in their houses! Feel very pleased about this because it’s one development I can take some credit for, having really laid it on thick with Heather about their isolation! Soraya’s definitely not quitting – hooray! She had a long phone call with her mum the other night and her mum’s persuaded her she ought to stay.

Fortunately the Office is very quiet so I have time to do all my blogs, read emails at leisure etc. Many of the others are up at Kimironko market or gone swimming. I feel a bit of a chicken that I haven’t been to either of the really big Kigali markets at Nyabogogo or Kimironko, and I must make a point of going some time soon. Problem is, that whenever I come to Kigali I’m preoccupied with getting to the Office and doing internet, or I’m rushing to meetings. I must buy some material and get a couple of African shirts made; none of the other men in our batches has done it yet and it’d look really cool. They’d certainly add a splash of colour in Bridport when I come back! Cathie’s told me where there is a super shop in Mu Muji with mountains of bolts of batik cloth. You buy material in lengths called “pangs”; one pang is the amount needed to make a wrap-around garment for an adult woman. I can get shirts made up at my friendly dressmakers in Gitarama; all I need to do it take in one of my existing shirts to give them size and pattern. Watch this space!

Not much more to report for Saurday – I know that Irene from the Gihembe refugee camp is coming into Kigali to party the night away; she agrees to bring her laptop with her. I’m hanging around most of the day waiting for her but we finally meet up and in half an hour or so over a glass of ikivugoto we’ve swapped vast amounts of music. I’ve transferred nearly 4 gigabytes of data onto my laptop – that’s the equivalent of about 36 music CDs. Isn’t life wonderful! I’ve got all sorts of West African, Cape Verde and South American music, plus a lot of Dutch stuff too (Irene is Dutch). Only problem is that many of the some titles are in Dutch so I’m rapidly getting a Netherlands vocabulary to cope with them!

Marisa shows me where there is a bank in the middle of Kigali which you can use to get money with Mastercard. It isn’t an ATM machine; you have to go inside and do it with a cashier (so I can’t use the system out of hours), but it’s nice to know that in an emergency I can get money on my plastic. I bet Goldfish’s security system blows a fuse when there’s suddenly a transaction on my card from the middle of Africa.

Back home on the evening bus; there’s no food in the flat. Tom’s had a dreadful week and has consoled himself by going out to watch football (Gitarama has just got a proper professional team together and if you’re willing to sit in the open in the stadium you can watch for free). Within the last five minutes of the game there comes on a heavy tropical rainstorm, so they just decide to abandon the game there and then. Mind you, most of the spectators have already gone. Just before it comes on a heavy rain you feel the temperature drop rapidly, and it gets very windy and gusty. Cue all the new loyal fans legging it up the road into the nearest bar!

So we dine out at Delta, a café-bar attached to Gitarama’s one and only nightclub. Either it doesn’t come to life until about 1 a.m. (as in Kigali), or it’s truly the most dire nightspot in the southern hemisphere! Even the MTV in the bar is playing better music, and the dance hall echoes as if there are only about three people in it.

On Sunday Tom’s off to Kigali on his moped for a meeting, so I go to church on my own. Arrive at ten after things have already been going for an hour, but the service doesn’t finish until half past twelve. Fiery preacher who barely pauses for breath in a 20 minute sermon, and loads of choirs – about 6 different groups. The student choir is, as usual, excellent and a treat to listen to. Many of the others are like bigger versions of our Bradpole Music Group. I really must get some of the songs, and the karaoke thudding backing tracks, and try them out at Bradpole….. I tell my translator to use French because it’s easier for him, so I’m well in touch with what’s happening. And people at the church are beginning to recognise me (but few, yet, to try to speak to me).

Cathie and Elson come round after lunch to talk about her teacher raining programme. There’s so little time left before she goes that we need to condense it from a two day to a one day programme (times twelve for the twelve secteurs), but if the District budget doesn’t arrive soon from Kigali then even this amount of training will be impossible. Elson looks very fit after twenty days of boot camp!

That leads me to the final instalment in the Boot Camp INSET saga. It was decreed that all the teachers should be taken to the Amahoro Stadium in Kigali for the final session of the training (the address by President Kagame). In order to get them there, and back home afterwards, virtually every matata in Rwanda that could turn a wheel was commandeered. This meant that there was total traffic chaos on the roads, and that virtually every Rwandan who was not a teacher had no means of transport for two days. People were stranded everywhere, couldn’t get to market etc. Many teachers stayed over in Kigali on Thursday night to see relatives or go shopping; this meant that the buses on Friday were also full to bursting and many local people were stranded again. (Hence Samira’s travel troubles while we were at the Ethiopian restaurant).

I race round the market to get some food in the flat, and hastily do nearly a fortnight’s worth of ironing and tidy up. Then George arrives from Kibuye; he’s enjoyed himself there but is tired. When Tom gets home (his moped is very, very sick and using huge amounts of petrol), we cook up a massive meal and just as we’re getting ready to flop in the armchairs we get a dramatic phone call from Karen, saying there’s an emergency at her house and can we come, quickly.

So we down tools and leg it, all three of us, to her house. Takes us ten minutes or less. There, on the living room floor, there’s a young Rwandan in his early twenties, unconscious and with bloodstains all over his shirt. His hand is heavily bandaged. Christi is leaning over him, holding his inert hand, reading verses from her bible. Several Rwandan neighbours are standing around, and children coming in to gawp.

We’ve been expecting some sort of confrontation with people who won’t take no for an answer, but its clear this young man doesn’t pose any further threat, and everyone else is there to help or simply for the entertainment.

The story emerges. Claude often comes to the house; he’s a young man with both physical health problems and definite psychological problems. He’s overseen by the “Bureau Social” which is the local equivalent of Social Services (but virtually penniless). Tonight he’s come to the gate and been let in because he’s known to both Karen and Christi – they counsel him and have arranged care from him during previous bouts of ill health. But tonight he’s clearly very mentally disturbed; he says he’s been told by the devil that he must kill someone, and that he’s come to kill Christi.

Christi isn’t in the house at this stage, so Karen manages to text her and warns her to be on her guard. Karen then tries to talk Claude down out of his rage, as she has calmed him down on previous occasions. Christi, good Christian soul, doesn’t stay well away and leave Karen on her own, but comes home at once. I’m not exactly sure of the next sequence, but Christi manages to get safely inside the house, and Claude is out in the courtyard, and the women lock the door while they ring for help (to us, and to neighbours they know). Meanwhile Claude gets into a frenzy. He produces a knife and rattles the front door until the key falls out of the lock and he can get inside. He comes at Christi with the knife and both women wrestle with him. Eventually they get the knife away from him, but not until he has stabbed himself through his hand, and tied to kill himself with a stab to the chest. Somewhere in all this he goes unconscious and falls to the floor.

Karen has a small nick on a finger. We know Claude’s brother is HIV positive, and it’s reasonable to suspect Claude himself might be positive as well. So Karen’s flooding this cut on her finger with antiseptic, but will have to sweat it out for three months before she can have a reliable HIV test to find out whether she’s been infected. As well as treating herself, she’s bandaging Claude’s bleeding hand and generally trying to mop up any blood which might be on furniture, the floor etc. (You have one HIV test within twenty four hours; if it shows positive then you’re definitely HIV positive; if it shows negative then you have to wait a few months for a second, more reliable confirmation. So a “negative” at this stage is not a definite negative. It makes for a hugely stressful period of limbo when you’re convinced that you will end up HIV positive and you’re trying to confront all the stigma and future problems….. You see why Karen is going to need a lot of support and friendship this spring).

Tom and Christi sit hunched over Claude’s bulk in the middle of the floor, saying prayers for him. It’s a completely surreal sight – this man has come with the express intention of murdering Christi and its only good fortune that has saved her; he may already have condemned Karen to a horrible, slow, lingering, painful end; but here they are saying prayers over the wretched man. Nobody wants to call the police because when the police find out he’s tried to kill a muzungu, and a female, American muzungu at that, they’ll probably beat him to a pulp and may well accidentally kill him in the process. Whatever he’s threatened the women with, they don’t want his death on their conscience as a result. The rest of us are milling around, waiting for transport to arrive. One of the neighbour’s husbands is a taxi driver, and he eventually cautiously comes into the yard and does a seven point turn in pitch darkness. (Karen lives down a narrow alley which is a challenge for cars even in daytime. I certainly wouldn’t like to negotiate it at night). We bundle the unconscious Claude into the back of the car as if he were a sack of bananas. Two Rwandans are in the front, but who is to travel with him in the back to Kabgayi hospital? Christi wants to. We persuade her that’s not a good idea. Claude might come to and resume his murderous intentions. Tom insists on going with them. What Claude needs is someone sitting on each side of him, to prop him up and restrain him if he comes to and gets violent again. But the driver is adamant – the law only allows him three other people in the car. So it’s just Tom and Claude sitting in the back.

George and I escort Christi up to the town centre, through milling drunks from all the local bars, and she takes a moto to Kabgayi. I’m very impressed – even though she’s in shock, she still manages to knock down the price of the moto and dismisses the first driver because his spare crash helmet doesn’t have a strap. Attagirl!

After this, George and I have a quick beer in one of the more salubrious bars, then it’s a long phone call with Teresa relaying all the evening’s drama and off to bed. Tom comes back from the hospital round midnight; Claude is resting and will be OK; Christi is still on autopilot and will need support when the full implications of the evening hit her, and Karen also will need a lot of friendly support over the next few months.

So that’s my Sunday evening, folks. As they say, “expect the unexpected”.

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