Saturday, 7 June 2008

A pretty good day in Kigali: typhoid, visas, and an invite from the Queen

dJune 6th

Into Kigali on a fast bus, and good connections up to Kimironko and the VSO office. So far so good. Then I discover I’ve left a library book behind that I wanted to return, and also left a textbook I needed to photocopy from and my “things to do” list.

Firstly some very good news. Soraya is not only better but out of hospital and right in front of me in the flesh (well,not literally) in the VSO office. She is still very groggy and pumped full of medicines, and she has a horrible hacking cough. But she’s on the mend. She’s had a long talk with Mike, the new Rwanda Director, and Charlotte and at last everyone has agreed that she’s got to be pulled out of Mushubi. I don’t know when, but sooner rather than later! She’s been given the option of packing up altogether and going home to the Philippines, but she wants to carry on here. So they’ve given her three of the upcoming September placements to have a look at, and a week to decide where she wants to go. Two of the placements are in Kigali, and the third is in a place called Gitarama – she would be picking up where Cathie finishes. It means she would be working with me. We have a laugh about this. I think she’ll go for one of the Kigali placements, but it would be lovely to have her here and working with me. Soraya doesn’t speak any French, but her Kinyarwanda is pretty good and I’m sure we’d manage.

I pick up my VSO mail and some stuff for Cathie and for Karen. I’m the Gitarama postman once again.

In the conference room is Épi, having her hair braided and extensions put in. She’s been there since eight o’clock this morning (and is still there and nowhere near finished when I leave at 4 in the afternoon). It’s nice to see her; she was at Cathryn’s party last weekend but we didn’t really talk to each other. We talk about going up to look at Gisenyi on the first weekend in July. Her family lived there at one time, so she’s definitely interested. Giudi might come with her, and I’m still hoping Soraya will come as well if she’s not in the middle of moving house and placement at that time.

I manage to get all my stuff done on the internet, which is good news, and also some shopping – flour (I’m going to have another go at breadmaking), honey and porridge oats (so that I can have a bash at flapjack), and local peanut butter.

In my pigeonhole is my official invitation from the British Embassy to the Queen’s Birthday bash on Friday evening. The invitation is all fancy lettering, with gold royal coat of arms on the envelope, but some clown has spelt the monarch as “Queen Elizaberth”. Everyone has invites; because VSO England is the “lead” body for VSO, everybody is included. So Épi as a Canadian, Soraya as a Philippina and the Irish and Dutch volunteers will all be there. I have to RSVP by phone on Monday.

Kersti’s in the office, so I quickly bag a mattress space for Friday night at Nick’s place. Then on Saturday there’s Han’s science fair down at the secondary school at Gasarenda, so I’ll travel down there with Kersti and Épi next Saturday morning. I’ll sleep on somebody’s floor at either Gasarenda or Kigeme, and I can talk to some of the gang about accommodation in that area for when Teresa comes in July.

I have a lot of travel expenses to claim – RwF37000 for moto journeys to schools, and 22000 for a planning meal for the English group at Butare. That last isn’t my money; I’ll have to distribute it at the English training sessions. The amount is so much that they won’t give me cash; they’ll do a direct transfer to my bank account. Eventually. Good job I took out a lot of money last week!

By early afternoon I’ve had time to do some looking up on line for the “brain gym” and VAK work I’m doing at the English training sessions in mid June, and it’s turning into a good day. Outside it’s pouring with rain again, and quite chilly. Verily, the rainy and dry seasons are all to pot!

Josianne in the office has a CD of Rwandan music; it turns out to be religious music by an up-and-coming young woman who is only 20. One of the other women in the office introduces herself and tells me she wrote one of the songs on the album. I get Josianne to put a copy of the CD on my flash drive; I’ll listen to it during the week and see if it’s any good.

In the afternoon we’re supposed to be having a Capacity Working Group meeting, but only two other people besides me turn up. I think there’s a lot of confusion because of a change of date (my fault, by the way), and because VSO have said we have no budget left for these meetings. The three of us decide what we’re going to do next – plan one further meeting, email everyone to say it’s going ahead and either they turn up or we reluctantly wind up the forum) – and then it’s time to gather up all my stuff and leave. Épi’s still sitting on a cushion on the floor; she’s about two thirds finished and is going to look sensational when it’s all done. The extensions she’s having put in are a reddish-brown colour, and they’re giving her hair highlights because her natural colour is absolutely jet black. (She’s got the blackest long hair I’ve ever seen).

Back to Gitarama with a moslem driver, the most aggressive and impatient bus driver I’ve experienced. Hooting at everything and making no allowances for anyone. How we didn’t get shunted around the Kigali roundabouts is a mystery. And I’m sitting in the front middle seat which means I don’t have the luxury of even a frayed seatbelt, either.

Back home I distribute the mail to Karen and Cathie. One of the letters for Cathie and Elson turns out to be from the Canadian Embassy in Nairobi, and is asking for Elson’s passport and for proof that Cathie has been applying for jobs in Canada. Cathie can trump that – she’s got documentary proof of an actual job offer! So it means that Elson will have a visa very shortly and hopefully both of them will be able to leave for Canada together. It’s nice to be the bringer of good news.

The leak from our hot tap has been getting really serious, so we ask the night guard to speak to the SORAS manager (he’s the representative of the people who own the flat) and we need to get it repaired. The SORAS man comes up with the guard and both peer at the leak for 5 minutes. It’s agreed that we’ll have to pay for the repair; I’m not 100% sure whether we can knock it off the next lot of rent or how it’s all going to work, but we discover the cold tap is leaking as well. It’s probably not the washer; it looks as though one of the joins in the pipe work is leaking, just where the pipes are embedded in mortar into the outside wall. Oh well, the job must be done and while parts are pricey in Rwanda, labour is dirt cheap by Western standards. The guard says he’ll get a plumber to come in tomorrow (Saturday).

Best thing about today – lots of things! Soraya’s better and being got out of Mushubi; Elson’s going to get his visa for Canada. I’ve caught up with internet and downloaded stuff for my training course. I’m all sorted out for next weekend.

Worst thing about today – nothing really – even the stuff I left behind when I set off for Kigali doesn’t matter because I’m coming in again next Friday for Her Majesty’s booze up! I’ll hit the photocopier in the VSO office (before going to the Embassy….)

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