Thursday, 11 September 2008

Committees and partying

September 6th

A frustrating morning. Down to the internet café and spend the best part of three hours trying to download the operating system for my new ipod. It’s a slow line but worth persevering. I get 90% of the stuff downloaded and then lose the connection – which means all the stuff I have managed to download is useless. Sometimes you want to punch the wall!

Then I get a matata into Kigali with Karen and go up Karibu for my first Volunteer Committee meeting. It’s at Karibu, a nice restaurant. The meeting is good tempered and constructive, and there are some interesting insights as to what VSO staff have been doing over the past few months. It’s not earth shattering stuff, but things that irritate us. Printers or photocopiers that aren’t working when we come all the way into Kigali to use them. The need for another computer in the office for us to use. Questions about security in the office, and about the new security guard who’s suddenly appeared on the door.

The Military Police have left the building for a new home elsewhere in Kigali, so it’ll be good not to have men with guns escorting prisoners up and down the stairs past where we’re meeting.

After the meeting I go up to the Programme Office and meet various people including Épi and Janneau, who I haven’t seen since mid August. Even Kersti comes into the P. O. to collect mail. I manage to have to fiddle around on the internet and discover and download a whole group of maps including geology maps. It’s taken me eight months to find these! Unfortunately I can’t locate the map of my Gitarama area, but the volcanics in the north, and the whole of the east including Akagera are completely covered. They’d make good wall decorations, too. Even without trying to study them I can see how complicated the geology of this country is, especially the bits around Kigali.

We drift back to Kersti’s place and dump my kit, then take Buffet the dog for his second walk of the day. Kersti wants to go to the bank and buy bread, so we take the long route to KBC and I discover some bits of Kigali I’ve never explored before.

We pass the wedding roundabout which this afternoon is certainly living up to its name. There must be at least four separate wedding groups gathered round different sections of this huge roundabout to have their pictures taken. Funnily enough, the Rwandans always seem to take their wedding pictures at the ends of the afternoons when light is fading. Buffet is a very big dog, and Rwandans are absolutely terrified of dogs, so we have to keep him on a tight leash. I don’t even want to think about what would happen if he broke free and raced over to the brides and grooms to say hello….. It certainly tends to damped down the men’s tendency to make fatuous comments at English girls as they pass! The women among the wedding parties look elegant in their formal Rwandan robes; the men just look hot and bothered. But the funniest thing is that wherever you look, there’s yet another bride in her long dress. Weddings are supposed to only have one bride, and it’s surreal to see so many. It reminds me of pictures I’ve seen of Moonie sect mass weddings!

In the evening we wash and scrub up and go to Mike’s party. Mike is the new VSO boss, and his house is absolutely gorgeous – airy, spacious, in a quiet neighbourhood. There’s loads of food and drink, and we party away merrily till well after midnight. There’s good music and most of us are in a dancing mood, so we boogie the night away until our feet are sore. We’re saying farewell to Hannah and Mel as well as housewarming for Mike. It’s a warm night and everyone’s in a good mood.

Nick and Kersti and I walk through the streets to their house, past assorted night life at various levels! This part of Kigali is an odd mixture of upmarket restaurants like the Ethiopian “Lallibella”, downmarket drinking dives, and just about every sort of nightlife activity in between.

Irene’s having (yet another) night on the town and doesn’t come in until well after one. OK, but that’s an early weekend night for this party animal – her Friday night celebrations lasted until about 9 in the morning! I don’t know what keeps her going, but whatever it is, she seems to thrive on it!

Best thing about today – coming in to Kigali and catching up on the gossip with some volunteers who have just finished with VSO but are staying on in Rwanda with their boyfriends – Kersti and Ghiudi in particular.

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