Monday, 7 July 2008

Live Music in Gitarama - or not!

June 28-29th

A slow weekend in Gitarama. I’m pleased I’m not travelling anywhere, and for once it’s rather nice to slob around Gitarama all the time. In fact, it turns out I rarely go out of the flat all weekend except to eat in the evenings.

The bands which were supposed to be playing on Friday night didn’t – apparently there was some trouble over work permits and the local police refused them permission to perform. So they postponed a day to Saturday. And on Saturday night a whole gang of us, plus some of the young Americans building the orphanage, all turn up to see them.

Bands – what bands? It turns out to be dire. Just a few wannabees lip-synching to records, played at such deafening volume that I was sticking tissues in my ears to reduce the damage. The Gitarama “nightclub” is a concrete and brick box within which the sounds just echoes and reverberates. It’s like sitting inside a large amplifier. The best thing about the whole evening is when some of the Rwandans gate crash the stage and do their own dancing – some of the men are far, far better than the “acts”. And it isn’t cheap either – RwF1500 is half a week’s wages for most people here.

On Saturday afternoon I try my hand at making flapjack in our makeshift oven. I haven’t got the quantities quite right – too much oats and too little honey, but it’s certainly edible and we’ll be back for more.

Tom’s got another young FHI intern with him, a stunningly beautiful Vietnamese-American. She’s bright as a button, educated at Harvard, and fun to be around. She comes to the usual Sunday night muzungu supper with us; and there’s a couple who were here as FHI workers seven years ago, but are back for he girl to do her Master’s Degree research. They’re working in Cyeza secteur, so are interested in what’s happening in the Cyeza schools at the moment.

Not much else to report. I’ve done some work on last year’s primary results to justify my idleness this week, and will try to get to grips with the arcane maze that is the Tronc Commun scoring system next week. Otherwise I’ve got a long spell of “down time” in front of me. I’m doing a lot of reading and getting caught up on some of the videos waiting in my bedroom. “Fawlty Towers” seems even more surreal when there’s the whole Africa walking past our window while I watch it…

The momentum is really building up for the President’s visit next Friday fro Liberation day. Each morning there’s about ten lorry-loads of soldiers clattering past our flat on their way to the stadium to rehearse. There’s also a big police presence. Both police and army have their marching bands, playing that martial music in ridiculously fast double-time that’s almost impossible to march to except for one goose-stepping circuit of an area. Outside the big stadium (where, as usual, it’s all going to happen) they’ve put up lots of army tents. The soldiers sprawl in the dust and leer at all the women walking past, but they’re pleasant and respectful by and large to the muzungus.

Poor old Tom – he was taking somebody to the flat area behind the stadium where everyone goes to learn how to ride a moped. Unfortunately there were so many police present that it wasn’t exactly the best place in Rwanda to be cavorting around with learner drivers on mopeds, so he had to cancel rather hurriedly!

All the buildings under construction are shielded behind corrugated iron or canvas, and the iron is plastered with banners celebrating everything from savings banks to boy scouts. (I’ve never seen a single boy scout here in 6 months. I only know they exist in Rwanda because a couple of the catholic schools list them in their clubs and societies).

It’s getting very hot now around mid day. The sky is that intense pale blue which indicates real heat. The ground is parched, and we desperately need a good storm to dampen down all the dust. Everything is turning browny-orange as it gets covered with a layer of dust as fine as talc. The plant leaves are going brown; so are the buildings, the cars, and especially our feet when we walk up the earth roads. Even the hills just behind Gitarama and half hidden in a dust haze by mid-day, and I can’t remember when I last saw any of the distant horizons.

Best this about this weekend – just resting and not feeling under pressure

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