Saturday, 10 May 2008

Moto drivers - the rascally variety

May 9th

Another training day, this time at Cyeza. Cyeza is one of the secteurs closest to Gitarama town, so I make sure I’ve got some small notes ready for my moto fare. I call at the Post Office and District office on my way in; Innocent tells me that the Centre de la Paroisse where the training is happening is, in fact, right deep into Cyeza and will be at least 1200 – 1500 Francs for the fare. Blast! There’s no time to go to a shop and get some change, so I get a moped and off we go. As usual, it’s one of the low powered jobs and I end up walking up all the hills and moped-ing down them. When we eventually reach Cyeza Paroisse we’re nearly half an hour late, but at least a third of the teachers haven’t yet made it either. Unfortunately the dozy moped driver doesn’t have any change so I have to give him a big 5000 note and tell him to come and pick me up at two o’clock.

The day is very, very hot and we’re in a tin-roofed lean-to which doubles as a science lab for Elena Guerra secondary school next door. Cathie’s feeling fragile to begin with, and by 12 o’clock everybody’s wilting. We do our songs and games outside under the shade of an enormous flame tree, whereupon I get bombed by a bird sitting on a branch above me. A direct hit with bird poo, right into my shirt pocket.

The competence level of this group is much, much lower than yesterday’s Shyogwe group, and the average age is much lower. Two of the women are only twenty and one in particular looks only about sixteen! She’s a beautiful girl and I’ve no doubt her reception class children absolutely idolise her, but she looks far too young to be a teacher!

We leave out one of the listening exercises because everyone’s too tired to concentrate properly, and pack up round about one o’clock. Cathie’s told her moto driver to come at one, and she’s got properly organised with a powerful motorbike man. He’s twice the price but at least she won’t have to get off and walk anywhere!

I wait under a tree for my moto, during which time I’m chatted up by the sixth form girls of Elena Guerra. “Come in and see our school” they tell me. Yes, I’d love to, but I mustn’t go on site without the knowledge or permission of the Directrice, and she’s away for the day. So we chat through the fence. The girls are mostly hoping to leave Rwanda at Christmas after their final exams, and go to Uganda or the USA to take university degrees. That would be terrible for Rwanda, because experience shows that young people who leave at that age rarely come back – the countries in which they study are far more attractive to them to live and work in. The ultimate insult to Rwanda will be if its schools improve to the point where there is a “brain drain” out of the country.

And I wait and wait for my moto. It becomes clear that I’ve been stitched up by my driver; he’s got 5000 for a 1500 fare and he’s sitting pretty. It’s the first time I’ve been seriously swindled since I got here, and I’m furious even though VSO refunds my travel costs and I’ve only really lost 2000 (£2).

Just as I’m deciding to walk towards Gitarama (not a single motor vehicle has passed me in 45 minutes), an ancient lorry loaded with firewood eases down the hill. The driver stops for me (the novelty of having a muzungu as a passenger comes in really useful) and off we go.

Just before we reach the main road he drops me off because he’s going towards Kigali, and I have a long walk (6km) though the heat of the day home. I could have got another moto from the road junction, but I’m so cross that I decide to punish them by denying them my fare, even though it’s really me I’m punishing by making myself walk a long way in all the sun!

Back at the flat I nip across to the bakers and they have hot sambosas just out of the fryer! Three sambosas later the top of my mouth has been blown off by the amount of piri-piri in the meat, and after a gallon of water I’m feeling a tad more composed. A quick trip to the bank and the market and I flake out in the armchair.

I’ve made up a little packet with 5000 Francs in small denomination notes and hidden it in my rucksack. I’m not going to be caught by a moto driver ever again!

When Tom comes home I’m chopping veg, but we’re both really tired so we ponder whether to go for a beer and eat out tonight. The lights are flickering like mad, and for a couple of minutes there’s an alarming power surge. Thank God I’ve unplugged the computer. Then there’s a power cut and immediately there’s no more debate about whether we’re eating in or out. We sling the veg into the fridge for tomorrow and amble down to Delta for a couple of beers and an omelette spéciale. We text Ward to see if he’s around and at a loose end, and he not only joins us for a drink but brings one of a posse of young American teenagers who are spending a month here building an extension to an orphanage somewhere in Ruhango district. This lad comes from Florida and it’s interesting to listen to different opinions, not least on the Presidential election marathon going on back in the states.

We return to the flat and I watch the final part of a TV series on DVD. Meanwhile Tom is so tired that he lies on his bed and goes to sleep fully clothed. There’s lightning and thunder around, but no rain to speak of, and no big tropical storm, which is what we need now to clear the air.

Best thing about today – the views from our room at Elena Guerra and the Paroisse: an absolutely perfect vista of Rwanda’s green and fertile hills. When I eventually come back home I’m going to miss these views so much!
Worst thing – if I find that moto driver I’ll put sugar in his tank!

1 comment:

cath said...

Oh I remember that day! What bad luck!