Monday, 21 July 2008

When a woman speaks in public, you answer her with a machete...

July 18th

A good night’s sleep – Byumba is so high up that I have no trouble with mosquitoes despite not having a net. Even at eight o’clock in the morning, though, it’s so hazy you can barely see the hills on the far side of the valley. I’m getting tired of living in all this dust haze and murk!

We spend the morning making more copies of rice sack posters. It means Kersti will have one copy for her, and I’ll have another for me to use. She goes off to the District Office to collect her green card and do the market. (In general the Diocesan offices are far calmer and more civilised than the bearpit that is a District office. However, all the documents they need, like school results and school census sheets, are stored in the Districts and the Diocesan people find it hard to get the info). And for personal things like green cards it’s so much more convenient to be working in the same District office, because the people who do things like green cards usually are only in the office at certain times. It’s really galling, but typically Rwandan, to make the journey all the way to the office only to find that the person you want to see isn’t there, and nobody knows when he’ll return. I put some classical music on my laptop and get some curious glances from Kersti’s colleagues passing in the corridor – they don’t know who I am and I don’t think they’ve often had Bach playing in the background while they work.

By mid morning we’re getting jaded so we go to the diocesan guest house for tea and samosas and a chat with various of Kersti’s colleagues. I’m made to feel welcome.

More slaving away at our drawing until early afternoon when we’ve pretty well finished, and anyway we’ve both had enough. Back to the cottage where I make up yet another fruit salad – about a gallon of it! – and Kersti makes real tomato soup and another batch of coconut biscuits. It’s a rush to get the stuff cooked before we have to get the bus back to Kigali, and we end up hiring motos to take us to the bus park. That’s me bouncing over the bumps with my heavy rucksack dragging me backwards and both hands holding on to a bag full of food which will leak if it isn’t kept flat!

Irene joins us at the bus and it bumps and grinds its way back down the hills to Kigali. Now the plan is for us to have coffees in Bourbon and for Nick to come and collect us in the new car. Except it doesn’t quite work out that way. The coffee and more samosas is fine, but the car is having some spare parts done and a service, so Nick isn’t there to pick us up. And while we’re eating in Bourbon, he’s eating at Karibu. So we trek up the hill to Karibu where we stuff our faces with melange. Irene’s going to meet some friends and go clubbing, so we hire a taxi and go to Nick and Kersti’s place.

Here we meet Janneau, the elusive Épi and her brother Olivier. Olivier’s only been here a week, so he’s still at the shell shocked stage, especially because I think he’s trying to keep up with her hectic schedule. They’ve been to introduce him to the relatives, which must have been just as traumatic for him as it was for Épi back in January.

They go off to do the nightlife. They’ve spent the last few days out in the remoteness of Gishanda; Janneau’s a real city boy and feels completely lost outside Kigali. Cue much ribbing from the rest of us!

Kersti tells me a Rwandan proverb: “when a woman speaks in public, you answer her with a machete”! She once got asked what the English equivalent was…..

We’re feeling decidedly weary, so after finally eating some of the fruit salad and cookies we opt for watching a film on telly for the rest of the evening, and tumble into bed at midnight. The others come back at various hours of the morning, but I’m in the spare room and under a mosquito net, so I’m fine. Boy, but doesn’t Kigali seem hot and stuffy after cool Byumba!

Best thing about today – just enjoying being working in a beautiful place. It’s very relaxing and at the end of the day we’ve got stuff which will be useful to us and highly sought after by our schools. I’m leaving all my materials at Byumba so that Kersti will have more than one copy for the teachers on her course to copy. Provided they don’t walk off with my originals, that is. I’ll collect them sometime when I’m up and down to Kigali during Teresa’s visit.

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