Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Redecorating the kitchen with soup

July 27th

Tom’s off to church early. I spend a couple of hours sitting around in pyjamas finishing off my analysis of the maternelle data. I’ve got information from 92 nurseries; I reckon there’s at least 10-12 unaccounted for.

Mid-morning I go down to the internet café and catch up on everything, including posting a lot of pictures from Cyangugu. Elson comes in while I’m working; he’s back in town for a few days before he leaves for Canada next weekend, and he’s selling Tom his pushbike. Cathie’s safely back home in Canada; she’s emailed a picture of her with her mom. She had an eventful flight home via London; apparently Air Canada managed to electronically mislay her electronic ticket for the journey segment from London to Toronto. Caused her some minor heart attacks while they sorted things out!

At one o’clock we go to eat at “Nectar” for the farewell meal for Jodie and Janine, the two deaf women. I get there at the same time as Tu Chi; nobody else is in sight. Eventually they all arrive. What I haven’t realised is that the girls have invited all the deaf adults they work with in Rwanda, so we have a group of around two dozen people of whom nearly two thirds are deaf. Everyone is signing like mad. The restaurant staff have never seen anything like this; they’ve just about got used to our two girls and Karen and Christi doing signing, but to see so many people doing it, and so fast at it, leaves everyone just gaping! The waitresses are completely cowed; they don’t know how to approach the deaf people to get their orders and there’s so much “I’ll have whatever you’re having” signing going round that its sheer mayhem. I never believed there could be such a thing as “silent pandemonium”, but today I’ve seen a pretty good stab at it!

So it takes forever to order, but eventually we get everyone seated. There’s so many of us that we can’t all fit together, so we have a “hearing” table and a “non hearing” one.

When we eventually finish its late afternoon. Tu Chi wants to copy some more of my pictures, so we go back to the flat. Tom has been landed with a last-minute flap to sort out as a result of one of his FHI colleagues booking leave in the middle of a big survey. He cycles off to the FHI office. We think the bike may have a slow puncture or a faulty valve – the front tyre is going soft. The brakes are iffy at the front, too, and the tread on the tyres is all but completely worn away. In other words, the bike is in pretty good nick for Rwanda!

I iron the kitchen curtain and fortunately all the soup stain from yesterday has gone. The curtain looks as good as new. That’s the lot as far as domestic arrangements go. By half past six we’re all back at the restaurant for our evening meal, this time with a different set of people. The young Americans working in a Ruhango orphanage but living in Gitarama are all there in force; every week someone has gone back home and a new person arrived. It’s crazy; they just about get their bearings here and feel at home and then they’re sent back stateside. This time the newbie is a young woman teacher who has become disillusioned with teaching in what sounds like a pretty tough immigrant neighbourhood in Philadelphia, and has come out to Rwanda to think over her options. What a shame it’s the school holidays, otherwise I could take her with me into local schools and let her see things from a radically different perspective!

Memo to self: don’t have brochettes at “Nectar” again – they’re so tough as to be barely edible. Tu Chi experiments with a bottle of banana wine and wants me to share it with her so she doesn’t have to drink the lot and risk getting smashed. Its sherry strength and tastes like vinegar. I had some at Nyamata with Els and Marisa and wondered if the bottle was “off”; now I know that it wasn’t and that banana wine just tastes foul. (But Tu Chi and I both agree the pineapple wine at Cyangugu was OK).

Back at the flat Tom and I just sit around for half an hour before we agree it’s time for bed. There’s a busy week ahead for both of us. Teresa rings late; it’s a funny conversation this time because she’ll be here in two days and at the moment her arrival just feels unreal. She’s in England and I’m here in Africa, and I’ve got so used to the dislocation that it now feels perfectly normal to be living apart! On the other hand, I can’t wait for her to get here and show her around this super little country.

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