Saturday, 12 July 2008

odd jobs in Gitarama

July 10th

It’s a funny sort of day today – I’ve managed to get a lot of things done but without feeling that I’ve got much “proper” work accomplished.

I start off at the internet café. With a virus free laptop I get a good connection straight away so I can blog to my heart’s content and catch up on emails. That’s a good start.

Back at the flat (and it still feels odd to be working at home mid-morning) I ring and fix the guide and vehicle for Teresa’s trip to Akagera; that’s one of the last pieces in the logistics jigsaw finished. I also text Samira to check again on whether we’ll be able to use her house for an overnight when we come down south, but she texts back to say that we possibly can use hers and probably can use Tiga’s but nothing’s definite yet. I must get hold of Tiga before she goes off at the end of term (tomorrow) because I want to know the date she returns to Gikongoro after her assorted travels!

I text Soraya to find out what’s happening about her transfer to Muhanga; she eventually texts back to say she’s been in Kigali to sort things out with Charlotte; clearly things are moving but whether they’re going to move fast enough about issues such as accommodation is another matter altogether.

I text Stéphanie at Shyogwe school; its high time I went back out to take some more photos and make sure the Dutch money has definitely arrived. She takes ages to get back to me and puts me off till tomorrow because she’s in a meeting at another school today.

Kersti texts me to ask if she can stay Sunday night – that reminds me that we have our first resource making workshop at Nyanza next Monday, and I’ve got some preparation to do for it. So I spend the rest of the morning making maps and posters on rice sacks to use as exemplars for the primary schools – a big map of Rwanda without too much detail; a map of Muhanga District to show the secteurs; a history time line of Rwanda since the 1850s to show how you can use a simple diagram to get across dates and relative lengths of time. (When you do this, what strikes me is how little time has elapsed since the genocide. No wonder the fabric of society is still so scarred). In the process of making these I discover that the permanent marker pens leach through the rice sacks and onto the varnish of our dining table. No problem, says I, I’ll scrub it off with Vim. A quarter of an hour later I have to admit defeat. The blue ink has somehow mixed itself with the varnish and short of sanding down the table and re-varnishing it I can’t shift it. Oh well, at least its honourable damage and shows I’ve been trying to get some work done!

I compose formal letters to the Mayor and to the Nyamabuye secteur schools about my first Muhanga training session on August 19th; the letter to the mayor is in English but I’ll need to get someone in the office to go through my execrable written French in the letter to schools. Also, I’ve got to arrange a venue. The best way to do that is to get Florent, the secteur rep, to fix things, but he may well leave it to the last minute to get back to me.

After lunch I breeze up to the District Office. Only Innocent is there; Claude and co have gone off to some award ceremony in Kigali. But Innocent and a colleague go through my school letter and I’m gratified how few changes I need to make.

After that, things start grinding to a halt. There’s no academic work which is urgent. I fiddle around writing a couple of letters to people, then go back home. It’s a beautiful afternoon and the weather is simply perfect. It’s warm enough without being too hot at all, and there’s a slight breeze blowing, but not enough to make you feel cold. The sky is blue; people are saying hello to me as I pass, and all’s well with the world. I go to the market to buy some onions; as I pass the gates the wind picks up and a massive dust devil eddies round and round just in front of me. Bits of plastic bag and paper whirl up into the air and around and around and anyone in its path gets plastered with fine dust.

Tom texts to say he’s going to be late, so I wait before starting cooking. Eventually he texts again to say he won’t be eating at home at all. In the freezer there’s a box of cooked vegetables from a couple of months ago; one of my first and truly un-memorable forays into cooking. I thaw it out with hot water, reheat it, and liquidise it with our new gadget. I add a tin of tomato paste to give it more body, and make a rich peanut sauce to go on top, and hey presto the whole dish is transformed into a thick and very tasty soup. I take some down for the guard; he absolutely falls on it. Isn’t it nice when you manage to get something right! And it’s nice also to have a meal when I’m not relying on either eggs or cheese for protein. Épi’s been telling me to get green lentils because they cook a lot quicker than beans, but I couldn’t find any in Kigali and I haven’t looked all round Gitarama market yet. I’m sure I’ll find them. Tom still pulls faces when I talk about lentils, but they keep forever and I can always use them on the occasions when I’m cooking for myself.

In the evening I read my paper and listen to more lovely music. I’ve at last gone through all the Congolese music from Elson – all twelve hours or so of it!

Best thing about today – getting a lot of little things done.

Worst thing – trying to cope with “down time” when the schools are not available and I can’t find anything serious to do in the work line.

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