Sunday, 4 May 2008

Saturday by the T V in Kigali

April 26th

Sleep really badly despite having a mattress. The room is unbearably hot and stuffy and I’ve definitely had too much to eat and drink last night. A case of a brochette too far!

It’s Umuganda day so we need to be discreet about being seen in public. After Kersti and I have breakfast I take Buffet the Labrador for his walkies and go to meet Soraya who’s on her way down from her hotel but hasn’t a clue where Kersti’s place is. Buffet is half trained, enormously strong and full of energy, so he’s pulling me all over the place. And the few Rwandans we pass are terrified at such a big dog, even on a lead, and we get given a wide berth whether it’s Umuganda or not.

We’ve just about got Soraya fed when Marisa rolls up from her hotel, so we decide to have a running breakfast all morning and flop out watching videos or BBC world TV.

Then Épi rings from her hotel; she’s uneasy at being seen out on the streets in case she gets press-ganged into Umuganda, so once again I go out and escort her along the back road so we’re less prominent. At Kersti’s I dig out some of the cheesy old videos that Teresa has just sent me, and we try “Allo Allo” and “One Foot in the Grave” on this international audience (2 Canadian, 1 Philippina, 2 English). But really everyone’s feeling tired and just wants to sleep. Épi’s been clubbing till about 4 in the morning and is barely awake. In Kersti’s place the living room is simply enormous with four sofas, so we take one each and sprawl; the one I’m on is actually more comfortable than the mattress I used last night. One of Nick’s younger brothers eventually breezes in around mid-day looking suitably cleaned up (see yesterday’s blog for explanation). He was dancing with Épi at Cadillac all night, and I think he stayed on at the Club when she eventually left. He’s supposed to be going to Akagera but seems remarkably detached from the whole exercise. There’s no sign of the other two brothers.

Soraya uses my mattress from last night and goes sound asleep until her parents ring from Manila. It’s the first time they’ve been able to speak to each other for ages because she’s out of contact when she’s in Mushubi, and it really gives her a lift. She speaks six languages if you count Kinyarwanda, and it’s fascinating to hear her in full flow in her native tongue.

We ransack Nick’s computer in search of Congolese music to download (one of my little projects for this weekend), but all he seems to have on it is Rwandan rap. Now I’m not really a fan of rap at the best of times, and I assure you that rap in Kinyarwanda is an entirely missable experience. Nevertheless I download a whole lot to listen to at my leisure (whenever that’s going to be); if I don’t like it I can simply erase it. I’ll have to wait until Nick is there in person to find his promised Congolese stuff.

Eventually we decide that Umuganda is more or less over, so Soraya and I take our leave and head for the bus station and home to Gitarama. Back at the flat we buy up bread and sambosas and mandazis at the bakery and have a late lunch at nearly 4 in the afternoon. Tom arrives from Kigali while we’re in the middle of it. He’s now met my entire little bunch of volunteers, and all the outlying ones have now stayed over with us, which I think is lovely.

I take Soraya round the market at Gitarama; it’s vastly bigger than those at Gikongoro or Mushubi. We stock up on veg for us at Gitarama; Soraya buys loads of stuff she can’t get easily in Mushubi (even her diet is very restricted because of the lack of things on sale in the local market there). I show her round the material section of the market and we weigh up various cloths for shirt making for me. I’ll get Cathie to give a second opinion and help me barter for the price next week.

In the evening we make another of our “omelettes spéciales”; it turns out to be so huge that we can’t finish it all, and we leave a chunk for Soraya’s breakfast. We know she won’t bother to eat while she’s travelling so we’re doing the “parent” thing and trying to feed her up before she leaves! We also introduce Soraya to our fruit salad – with English custard. (Thank you Teresa!)

We’re all dead on our feet by ten o’clock!

Best thing about today – everything. A wacky Umuganda, but a thoroughly enjoyable day

Worst thing – not being able to do my internetting. VSO has got wind that I (and a few others) have sneaked into the office on Umuganda Days; they’ve come over all legalistic and said we’re breaking the law and putting them and the Rwandan gate guard at risk, and the place has to be locked all day.

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