Wednesday, 20 August 2008

The family arrives!

July 29th

With such a serious shortage of water at Nyamata it’s time for a minimal shower – you use a quart of water and a big bowl and work from your hair down, using the same water over and over again, scooping it up with a small cup. Not the most efficient way, but possible. You can forget shaving, though!

The training is in a primary school right in the centre of Nyamata; it’s one I’ve seen before and has educational pictures painted all over its outside walls (skeleton, human eye and ear, map of Africa etc). Very effective and certainly eye-catching. In the playground there are various posters on little notice boards. One is intended to say “be polite”, but actually says “be police”, which puts a whole new twist on the message. And the best one of all says (in French) “be proud of your virginity”. Can you just imagine parents’ reaction if we put something like that in an English primary school? I take a picture of this sign but for some reason none of the girls wants to pose alongside it for me……

Today’s training is on resources for English, so I’m not able to show off with all my maps and science rice sacks. But I manage to raise a laugh when I show them how you can use the lump of foam rubber which serves as blackboard duster, and the cane which is present in every classroom, to make a dummy to use as a partner in dialogues. Teaching is very close to acting at the best of times, and demonstrations such as this make the point very emphatically.

We do a mixture of songs, games, visual resources – Els and Marisa have everything well thought-out, and time passes quickly. Paula and Soraya are here mainly as observers, and it’s me, Els and Marisa who are doing most of the work. The Nyamata teachers haven’t done “what’s the time Mr Lion?” yet, so it makes a convenient practical activity after an hour or so of sitting listening to us spout. Fortunately it’s not such a hot day as when I was last in Nyamata, so we don’t get too overdone while we’re chasing up and down the school yard! There’s a whole bunch of pupils in the school, despite it being the middle of the holidays. I’m pretty sure they’re yr 6 children doing revision and cramming sessions ahead of their exams. My “Mr Lion” game comes during their break time, se we have an appreciative audience – doesn’t this always seem to happen. And, of course, the usual bystanders for whom watching muzungus and teachers playing games is far more interesting than wandering to and fro with bowls of vegetables or bundles of firewood or cans of water on their heads.

The afternoon is spent in a frenzy of teachers copying rice sacks to make wall posters and teaching aids for their classrooms, so we don’t have too strenuous a time of it. I need to get back promptly to Kigali, so I take my leave just before the day finishes and leave the girls to see to the tidying up.

During the day I’ve had a whole series of phone calls from a number I don’t recognise. I’ve been having trouble with random callers, and my policy has been to ignorercalls unless my phone tells me that it’s someone I know trying to get me. But this caller is so persistent I eventually have to give in and answer. And it’s a good job I do, because it’s the Beau Séjour Guest House where we’re all staying tonight, ringing me to confirm the booking and telling me that unless I arrive before seven they’ll give my rooms to somebody else. Cue profuse apologies (in French) and a promise to arrive punctually!

In Kigali I hot-foot it up to Beau Séjour and book in, and have time for a shower and a short break before I need to go to the airport. Just as I’m leaving to get a moto to the airport I see familiar figures in front of me. Mans and Han are staying in the same Guest House tonight; Mans’ parents (in their eighties!) have just finished their holiday in Rwanda and are catching home the same plane that my family is arriving on. Even better, Mans has a car to take them to the airport, so I get a lift.

Mans’ parents are lovely – she speaks pretty good English, and Mans’ dad is a real character. He’s bought the most gorgeous carved staff while he’s been here, and is using it as a walking stick across the slippery polished floors of the terminal.

I say goodbye to them and spend a couple of hours waiting for Teresa’s flight to arrive and for the everlasting wait while people clear customs and immigration formalities. By now there’s a huge crowds blocking the reception gates; this is about as busy as the airport ever gets. After a while I see Teresa emerge. She gives me one horrified look – is it because I’m beardless, or because I’ve lost so much weight? Rachel and Andy quickly follow, and we bundle into an overpriced taxi to Beau Séjour. They’re tired and jaded after being on the road, as it were, for about 24 hours, and with the usual thrills on the way such as coping with Gatwick airport long-term parking….

Just down the road from Beau Séjour is Sole Luna Italian restaurant, doing the best pizzas in Rwanda, and we go there for supper. With a western setting, good food and drink and all the lights of “civilised” Kigali twinkling around us, it makes what most of us think is the best introduction to a holiday in Rwanda.

Best thing about today – at last, after seven months, I’ve seen my family again. And I’ve got a whole fortnight to show them round this little country. I’m no longer “Mister Breece” the muzungu adviser, but just Bruce on holiday with my loved ones!

Worst thing about today – Beau Séjour has plastic sheets sewn onto the top of its mattresses (I assume as a precaution against bed bugs). We don’t discover this until we’ve gone to bed, and we’re too tired to turn the mattresses upside down and remake the bed. So it’s a “boil in the bag” night”

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