Sunday, 15 June 2008

Plumbing, Rwandan style

June 7-8th

Well, this is the weekend of the plumber. Early on Saturday the plumber arrives, has a look at the leak, and tells us that, yes, it’s leaking. It’ll cost us RwF3000 (£3) to fix, plus parts. That’s fine by us, and we agree to pay. We still hope it’s just the washer but really we know it’s more serious. The plumber comes back with a mate, and the night guard, and they clatter and bang in the bathroom. In the process of sorting out the problem they discover that the tap has sheared off from its feeder pipe. I think it was a bodged bit of plumbing in the first place when the building was put up. The workman needs to go and buy a part; it will cost RwF5000. We give him the money up front – that’s the Rwandan way – and off he goes.

Over the rest of Saturday he comes and goes at regular intervals. A tile has to be knocked out of the wall. The supply pipe has to be chiselled and dug out of the wall. The bath and floor end up full of bits of plaster, broken tile fragments and general gunk. The bathroom floor is under a centimetre of water. All the time, the damaged pipe is leaking a stream of water which gurgles its way down the plughole. Fortunately the water is included in our rent, so it’s SORAS rather than Tom and I who will pay for all this wasted h2o

Having the plumbers coming and going means that Tom and I can’t both be out of the flat at the same time. I go out late morning and do some internetting – for once I’m really caught up on both text and picture blogging and feel really happy about that. Also, I’m able to sit down and plan Teresa’s itinerary for when she comes. Several things have fallen into place over the last two days, and the clincher has been Kersti telling me that Nick is prepared to hire out the car he’s importing from Dubai. RwF40000 a day is a reasonable rate by Rwandan standards, and if I’m hiring from an acquaintance then I won’t be robbed. (Kirsty won’t let him!) The main things now, assuming Teresa is happy with what I propose, are to book accommodation. The only dodgy thing is whether Nick’s car will have arrived in time, but even if it doesn’t arrive we can access most of what we need by bus. It’s just that a car makes things faster and much more comfortable.

Suddenly its late afternoon and we haven’t really done anything all day. The night guard comes to tell us that they still haven’t fixed the tap, and will have to leave it for tonight and get a replacement tap on Sunday. It means that we’ve got no water in the flat. However, we’ve filled up our filters so we have clean drinking water, and there’s a tap outside the building so we can get buckets to use for flushing the toilet and for washing up. We’re still a lot better off than most volunteers on a good day!

We go out for a meal at Delta and watch videos all evening.

On Sunday it rains really heavily for hours during the small hours. Everything is cold and damp and all the Rwandans passing the flat on the road looked hunched up and miserable. Tom’s off to Kigali later this morning to pick up an intern from the airport. This lad, Will, will be shadowing Tom all week and Tom’s worried as to how he’s going to find Will enough work to keep him occupied. Tom stays in during the morning to sort out the plumbers, but fortunately the new tap arrives and fits and they soon get the job finished. The tap itself has cost us RwF15000, so the entire job – one and a half days work for two men, plus parts – has cost £23. This is an outrageously large sum for any normal Rwandan family, but fortunately not for us. In any case, we’ve decided we’ll just deduct it from the next quarter’s rent.

I decide to go to church because I haven’t been for a fortnight and won’t be able to for the next fortnight. The service goes on for almost three hours, and I’m well fed-up by the time it eventually grinds to a halt at 12.30. Next time I’m going somewhere different – possibly the Catholic cathedral at Kabgayi, where masses are in French at 9.00, or St Andre where they do a French service at 4p.m. The masses only last an hour. You’re just as shriven, but in half the time!

Today is amazingly cold and grey – it must be colder here on the Equator than it is in England. After sitting I the flat for an hour I have to put on a fleece in the middle of the day! It’s constantly threatening to rain, or comes on a brief shower and then stops again. It’s too wet to venture out for a walk.

I had intended to either do bread making or make flapjacks this afternoon, but we haven’t got enough marge to make flapjacks and we’re well off for shop bread. And I’m feeling too lazy. I decide to catch up on some videos. Karen has given me a copy of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” with Callista Flockhart and Michelle Pfeiffer, and it’s a brilliant production. From that I go on to an old Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn film, and then a thriller. That’s taken care of the rest of the day!

In the evening there’s the usual meal with Karen and co, but tonight there’s only four of us. Tom’s still in Kigali; Christi’s just arrived back from Kigali and is exhausted; Nix and Ulrike are both working at their orphanages. The two deaf girls are really concerned that a teacher at La Misericorde School (for handicapped children) is beating the boarders. Karen has already confiscated a length of rope the man was using, but apparently it’s still going on. Not in school – he doesn’t dare do it when muzungus are around, but in the evenings when children are back in their boarding accommodation. This man is influential and has powerful friends, so it’s not just a problem of threatening to tell the head. I think we’re going to have to alert Claude or even the Mayor if he doesn’t stop.

Best thing about today – getting the plumbing fixed. But they’ve still connected it up so that the red tap is cold and the blue tap is hot water………

Worst thing about today – three hours on a hard seat in church! I’m mutinous.

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