Tuesday, 16 September 2008

All in a Saturday

September 13th

Fortunately it’s not actually raining this morning, though the weather is still grey and gloomy. I nip down to just outside the market, and take a picture of an election poster. Then off to Shyogwe on a moto to take pictures of the building project. When I get there the school is deserted, but the building site is in full swing. I’d half expected it to be deserted, too, on a Saturday, but people are so poor that even Sundays after church they start back to work.

I take loads of pictures but the weather’s too dull for them to look really appealing. I must make sure that when I go next time the day is bright and attractive.

The walls are all done up to eaves height, and the quality of brickwork looks pretty good to me. Some mortar courses are much thicker than we would allow children to do on our school building course at Bridport – 10mm is the max we’ll allow our children to get away with; here the bricks are not so evenly sized and some places have a good 30mm of mortar. I’m not worried; it’s a single storey building and the quality is miles better than what it’s going to replace.

Stéphanie’s chasing me for the second half of the Dutch money, so I promise to email them these photos this very weekend and ask them to send out the rest of the funds. That’s going to take a bit of organising because it looks like being a busy weekend.

I pack a bag and go to get a bus to Kigali. I like the SOTRA buses because they’re always in good condition. The manager tells me the bus coming up from Butare is full and sends me off to ATRACO instead. I’m almost at the main atraco site when his lad charges up to me and tells me there is a place on the SOTRA bus after all. We run back to the depot, past startled Rwandans. Muzungus rarely run here; they probably think I’ve either been mugged or that I’m running away from someone.

At Kigali I go to the Amani guesthouse and we join all the new volunteers and some (but not nearly enough) of us existing ones. Chris has organised various bits of drama-type exercise to do some group bonding. Cue various exploits with lengths of rope (you make a circle with the rope, everyone holding it to tension it, and then we all have to sit down and stand up while keeping tension on the rope. Not as easy as it sounds, and the tall ones like me end up pulling the little ones to the feet by bodily force!

Eventually this fun finishes and we breeze up to Luna d’Or restaurant for a massive meal and to be entertained by Rwandan dancers. The food is good and quantities enormous. The dancers are excellent; it’s the same troupe who came to our family dinner back in February. We just about manage to get everybody’s phone numbers swapped. It’s nice to meet up with Épi again, but there are too many established volunteers not present. Tiga, Marion, Ken and Karen have got friends or family visiting. Soraya’s feeling very tired and is getting her stuff settled in her new house. The recently departed vols like Giudhi and Kersti who are still in Rwanda haven’t been invited; this is a shame because they’re experienced people and could useful to the newbies, especially those who will be living here in Kigali. I suppose it also reflects how few we are down to now that so many have left this summer.

After the meal we dither for ages as to where to go next. Some want to go clubbing; others want a quiet drink and then to bed. We end up at a bay on the cobbled road to Remera; it’s a nice place which I’ve never discovered before. At the bar there’s a TV showing the “Life on Erath” programme; it feels odd to be drinking on the equator and watching CGI dinosaurs on TV!

I’m up for clubbing but my plans are thwarted by accommodation. Lydia’s billeted me with Loona, but it turns out nobody told Loona and he’s gone to Tanzania for the weekend. So Charlotte invites me to her place. However, mid-evening Teresa phones me; I go into the garden for quiet to speak to her on the phone, and by the time I return Charlotte’s left without me. That leaves Mike, the Country boss, and he offers beds to Eric and me. It’s not polite to tell a host that yes, you’d like to take advantage of his offer of accommodation but no, you’re going clubbing till about 4 in the morning and will he get up and let you in when you arrive back…..

So at Midnight it’s off to bed for me while some of the young ones go off to Cadillac. Els is turning into a party animal since Marisa left; she’s dancing the night away till about four o’clock for the second Saturday in a row. Me, I’m just old and crabby and jealous! What a contrast from our first family dinner when I danced the night away myself…..

Best thing about today – socialising with everyone
Worst thing – nothing. It’s been a good day.

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