Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Beginning to plan for next year

August 17th

Up by seven; I’m thinking I’m the only person in the cabin but it turns out one of the other rooms is occupied by two students. By 6 o’clock one of them is banging about in the toilet, then for the rest of the morning he’s sitting studying in the lounge area. Just when I’m about to get back off to sleep he coughs or shuffles papers or drops something, so I can’t nod off as I intend.

So at seven o’clock I give up and go for a swim with Marisa. The lake is calm; we’ve got the whole place to ourselves. None of the other revellers are up yet. The path to the lake is littered with empty bottles; clearly some of the girls went down to the lake either for a midnight swim or just to chat. By the lakeside there’s a pair of abandoned knickers – looks like skinny dipping was the order of the night!

The lake water is warm and the sun’s just beginning to get a bit of strength. A couple of canoes go past; one young lad in a dugout is so amazed to find swimmers at this time of the morning that he stops paddling and just goggles at us until his fish basket falls off into the water and he has to make a quick manoeuvre to retrieve it.

Els and Susan come down for a swim after a while; they and Marisa go right across the water to the other side and back. I’m feeling my age a bit, and decide the prudent thing is to go half way across and then back. After all, I’ve already done the whole width once when I was here in February. But the water is beautiful; it’s my fourth swim in two days and I feel that at the very least I’m getting some good exercise as well as more than my fair share of eating, drinking and gossiping!

Breakfast on the terrace is a wonderful leisurely affair – every ten minutes someone else materialises from their bedroom, either bleary eyed from too much Waragi or fighting fit and ready to go in the lake. Els and I sit and talk about our forthcoming presentation to the new volunteers in September. I’ve got most of the ideas, so I agree to do a dummy run and let her have it at Marisa’s leaving do for her to amend and comment on.

We also listen to Ken talking about his trip to Uganda – white water rafting, bungee jumping, quad biking. Sounds absolutely wonderful and I think most of who are staying next year have agreed that the River Nile at Jinja will be our high point for the year. Just got to co-ordinate with everyone so we can go as a group and take the place over!

I start talking about flights home in December. Eric, Els and a couple of others are all intending to go at the same time. We agree that we’d prefer to go Ethiopian Airways and enjoy a night in Addis Ababa on the way. (I can’t face a long layover at Nairobi – there’s nothing to do and it’s a thoroughly depressing airport). Els has already started making enquiries about tickets, but she says we need to wait until September before they’ll release the December prices. Watch this space!

Groups of people are disappearing to catch buses; you can almost work out who lives the furthest away by which bus they catch. At Gitarama I’m the closest to Kibuye so I could wait until end of the afternoon, but I want to do some sorting out back at the flat. So by mid-day I’m the solitary muzungu in the big green Onatracom bus as it grinds up the rift valley. Little children sitting around me are fascinated/repelled by the pale vision sitting among them. One little lad wants to play until he accidentally makes contact with my hand, at which point he bursts into tears (much to the amusement of everyone around us). This lad must be at least three and has a full set of teeth. Hi mother’s reaction to his fear is to whip him onto her lap, dig out an enormous breast and nurse him until he falls asleep. She must have nipples of iron!

Gitarama feels refreshingly cooler and busier than Kibuye. I buy sambozas at the alimentation, and bread and mandazis from the bakery. Athanasie asks after Thomas yet again; I explain that I haven’t seen him for days. I think she’s worried he might have left town for good. I’m sure she’s got a crush on him. A man buying bread asks me if I fancy Athanasie; I reply by saying that, of course, everybody fancies her because she’s so beautiful and the whole shop erupts. Clearly it was the tactful and expected thing to say. Fortunately her husband isn’t serving beside her like he usually does.

I feel whacked after lunch and decide on a siesta – well, why not. It’s Sunday after all! Then it’s washing, sorting out umufuca ready for Tuesday’s training, and making sure all my felt pens are working. I burn a CD of family holiday pictures for Teresa and parcel up her birthday present – just as I’m finishing, Tom arrives looking weary. He’s finally finished with his visitors and is ready to collapse in a heap.

We exchange stories about our respective visitors – Tom’s definitely had the journey to hell on his way to Cyangugu with breakdown after breakdown, and much extra expense. Makes me realise just how lucky I’ve been that my arrangements have gone so smoothly.

Evening meal at Nectar is rather subdued; there’s only six of us. Soraya is on her way back from Gisenyi and we have no temporary visitors from the orphanage builders. Christi has made one of her wonderful chocolate cakes because it is Katrina’s birthday this week. We keep the peace with the restaurant by giving our waitress a slice.

Walking Katrina home afterwards, I discover that she’s met Marisa in Kigali that afternoon, and that Tom’s met Martine and a large bunch of VSOs also on their way back from Kibuye while waiting to get his bus here. Sounds as if the centre of Kigali was crawling with our gang at one stage today!

It’s a hot and muggy night (unusual for Gitarama). Although the schools should be back in full swing, there seems to be an unusually large number of teenagers hanging around the streets and it’s noisy outside until well after ten.

Best thing about today – everything. A lovely, lazy day with friends morning and evening. No pressure, and time to get some thing and sorting out done so I feel it’s been productive as well as enjoyable.

Worst thing – nothing. This is how Sundays should be all the time!

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