Saturday, 20 September 2008

A doughnut day

September 16th

A doughnut day today. I’ve got stuff to do first thing in the morning and last thing in the afternoon, but a gaping gap in the middle.

Up to the District Office to see Claude; he’s in the office, relaxed, with only a minimal queue, and he wants to chat. I give him the wedding present Teresa and co brought out with them. He tells me to my face how pleased he is with what I’m doing, and that he’s delighted I’m going to stay a second year. He particularly likes the amount of detail I’m putting in my inspection reports. We talk about Soraya’s role, and I ask him to make time to sit down with her and talk about her job this week before she gets depressed about being kept in limbo.

Then Claude asks me to help him write a letter in English to VSO about Soraya’s rent. The rent for her house is enormous, about RwF200,000 a month. (Well, what do you expect – it’s a 5 bedroom mansion!). The District only pay RwF32500 for me – I’m cheap and cheerful. It’s been decided at top level that the District will pay 30,000 for Soraya; the rest must come from other sources like VSO or YWCA (who own the building). It’s not for me to quibble over the amounts, so we load a sheet of official headed paper onto the computer screen and I write a formal letter for the Chief Executive to sign. I must say, it looks pretty cool. I quite enjoy committing other people to spending large amounts of money! I can’t take the letter to VSO with me even though I’ll be in Kigali in an hour. The Chief Executive has to sign and stamp it, and no doubt that will take several days….. C’est le lenteur administratif.

Off to Kigali straight away on the first available bus (a stopper, but thank God a very fast one), and straight to the Brussels Airways office in the Mille Collines hotel. Eric has told me there’s a ticket sale on, and we all want to know whether it’ll be applicable to our going home at Christmas. But, of course, the sale ends at the end of November. December and early January is another blasted “peak season”. So after five minutes our hopes of a cheap and comfortable flight to Gatwick are dashed. Brussels Airways is easily the most expensive option.

Next I go up to the VSO office and spend hours on the internet, catching up with all manner of stuff and even finding time to look at what people have sent to me via facebook. Now that is something – the first time since I arrived in Rwanda that I’ve had the luxury of being able to waste hours online. There’s also various bits of VSO business to sort out with Mike.

People drift in and out of the Office, but by and large it’s quiet. Late in the afternoon Kersti drops in on her way home from school. We’ve arranged to talk about the Earth Science module she’s teaching; she’s getting hung up on the geology aspects and, of course, they’re just up my street. She lends me a copy of the course textbook (very up to date, beautifully illustrated, quite an advanced level, and just about every single example used in it comes from the USA). We start off looking at plate tectonics and I describe to her how I used to teach it (“imagine the earth spinning in space as a football sized sphere of custard. The custard has a skin on it. That thickness of custard skin matches the thickness of the earth’s crust…..”)

We run out of time quickly, because I need to catch the last bus home. We agree that Kersti will do a division of time for her course to give me an idea of how many lessons to devote to each topic, and that I will do her a load of lesson notes based on the textbook. I don’t mind; it’ll be nice to be doing some geology again after nine months of broader curriculum stuff, (or even English teaching methodology which I’ve discovered is definitely not my strong point).

It’s a long time since I left it this late to come home to Gitarama, but I know the road so well now that even in the pitch dark I can tell which of the seven hills we’re grinding up or skittling down. Even in the pitch dark there are still women at Rugobagoba waiting to sell pineapples and jars of honey to passing traffic.

While Tom and I are eating there are lots of text messages flying back and forth between me, Els and Eric about flights. Eric may be able to book something on behalf of all of us on Friday; I’ll need to text him on Saturday to check. I never thought that arranging a flight home could be such a palaver.

It’s been a funny day but a good one. Compliments from Claude, disappointment with flights (we’re none of us any further forward), success on the internet and repaying some of Kersti’s hospitality to me by assisting her with her teaching preparation.

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