Saturday, 24 May 2008

The day I became a Man United fan!

May 21st

A really chilly morning. Down to the internet cafe at half past seven. This time the connection’s working, I’m the only person there, and the system works like a dream. Why couldn’t it have been like this on Saturday? I even remember to create an anniversary card and send it to Teresa! Whew!

However, when I arrive at the office it’s one of those days when the place is deserted and I can’t summon up any energy to work. I find another article in French in the Government newspaper, this time about plans to put canteens in every primary school as a means of improving child nutrition and at the same time stimulating the local economies. I’ve copied the important parts in French and will post it as a separate blog, so if anyone of you fancies improving your French………

Karen comes in to the office; she’s just collected her green card for her second year. We end up chatting for a long time about the issues for handicapped children raised in the census data. No answers, but as a side issue she’s set my mind to thinking about how to reduce the number of children made to repeat years in our schools (and cluttering up the lower years in particular).

Off to lunch with Cathie; she gives me a bunch of rice sacks to use to make my own wall posters for training sessions. Then we go to the market and find the same seamstress who made my first African shirt, and haggle about a second one. Another RwF3,000; ready on Saturday. I’m sure I’ve been overcharged, but Cathie says Elson paid that much to have one made so I don’t feel quite so bad. And this girl is certainly competent; we take one of Elson’s shirts in as a template and the girl is dismissive about the quality of stitching on it. She actually grabs a passer by to show me how the stitching should be done! Instead of an English style in African material, this will be a proper African shirt – collarless and button-less, with two pockets and fancy stitching along the seams.

Then back to the District office via the bank (time to pay for another month of Janine’s cleaning and laundry). At the office I realise that why I’m not actually doing anything today is because I’m putting off two difficult jobs – planning inspection visits and translating my census stuff into French.

Cathie’s suggested I have both English and French copies of the census stuff, and by going home time I’ve got about half of it translated. But I’m sure my translation is full of holes, and that the primary heads will pick on the grammar and vocab errors and ignore the real content, so I need to get someone like Épi who has French as their first language to go through and correct my bétises. That might take awhile!

Back at the flat I get stuck into ironing, including gently ironing my piece of batik cloth from yesterday. Unfortunately somebody has stored it by folding it, and there are straight lines in the wax along the creases. I don’t think it spoils the effect unless you look very close up, but it’s taught me to look carefully at any future pieces for flaws of that sort.

We dine early, including a lovely smoothie made from raspberries and yoghurt (who says we can’t be inventive here in Rwanda?); then it’s off to the cultural centre to watch Man United Play Chelsea. Rwandans are obsessed with English football, and the place is packed out. I couldn’t care who wins; it’s just fun to watch half the men in Gitarama letting off steam. The atmosphere’s electric right from the start. There’s half an hour of pre-match twaddle with loads of talking heads, but every time a picture of one of their heroes flashes on screen there’s huge cheering. Drogba, Ronaldo, and any African player are all big favourites.

Janine’s there and has saved us seats. So are Ward and Marin. Janine’s an ardent Manchester United fan; she’s so prim and proper most of the time that it’s quite a revelation to see her let her hair down!

The match is a draw at full time; then there’s extra time; then there’s penalty shootouts which go on for ever. My backside is aching on the hard seats. It’s hot and sweaty inside the room; there must be well over a thousand people crammed inside, peering in the windows. The guy’s charged RwF500 a pop and has made a fortune, but we’ve had really good value for money from the game.

Eventually Manchester wins; the fans in the hall erupt, and everybody makes for the exits. Janine’s beside herself with excitement and gives me a huge smacker of a kiss because I said I didn’t like Chelsea. (Well, I don’t. I didn’t have the heart to also tell her I couldn’t care tuppence for either team. I’ll do anything for a kiss from a pretty girl…).

Unbelievable chaos in the car park; everyone’s impatient; nobody makes way for anyone and the only thing which saves us from accidents is that they’re all so gridlocked that nobody can move at more than a shuffle whether they’re on foot, motos or in cars or taxibuses.

It’s the first time I’ve been on a moto at night. With my glasses in my pocket it makes the whole town seem like a fairground ride – bright lights whizzing past and no concrete feeling of where you are.

By the time we throw ourselves into bed it’s gone midnight – unheard of debauchery on a weekday night – and I have an early start the next day!

Best thing about today – the footie. Rwandan men at their best. No fighting; no nastiness, but real passion about the game and their teams. Supporters of both teams sitting in amongst each other and chatting together. No alcohol, all the macho Africans downing bottle after bottle of coke and sprite! If only Man Utd and Chelsea could see the depth of loyalty they’ve inspired here in Rwanda!

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