Thursday, 11 September 2008

Meeting the new volunteers

September 7th

One of the nice things about sleeping at Kersti’s is that nobody gets up early on a Sunday. Irene, me and the rest of the household surface by degrees and it’s around half past ten before everybody’s finally up and dressed. We have a leisurely breakfast and discuss plans for the week. There’s an “expo” on in Kigali at the moment, and Nick’s manning the MTN telephone stall, trying to flog 3G phones in advance of their release, to the population at large. Kersti has had a hard week at the American School; she’s still finding her feet there, but as she happily points out, she got paid for half of the month of August when she didn’t have to teach a single lesson and was swanning round Europe! She has to teach “earth science” among her other science classes, and will need some help which I’ll be only too willing to give her. We may even join forces to go on a field trip to the volcanoes…

I have to leave promptly at 11 to go to the airport to meet the new VSO arrivals. It’s definitely a moto trip, because I’m running late and I discover I quite like moto rides where we weave through the dense Kigali traffic. At times you just want to shut your eyes and not even think about how close you’re approaching the oncoming traffic, but at the same time with the wind in your hair it’s exhilarating and the drivers are very competent.

Everybody else is already at the airport, but the bad news is that the group’s plane is delayed. There was an engine fault during the refuelling stop in Rome, and again at Addis, and we have at least a two hour wait. So we all go back to the Programme Office. Here I find the nice new pillow Mel has bequeathed me on her departure, and I gather up mail for the Gitarama crowd from their pigeonholes. There’s even time to write Teresa a quick email before we go back up the road to Kanombe and join the crowds in the arrivals lounge. Even better, there’s a very good internet line today and I manage to download the whole of the ipod operating system onto my flash drive. “Se patienter”, as they say here, and you’ll eventually get everything done!

Charlotte has bought bunches of flowers to give to each new arrival – thee are 19 of them in all – and we have fun playing “spot the volunteer” as they trudge through reception. Many are young, but there’s a much higher proportion of more mature volunteers than in the 2008 batch. It feels really good to speak to several people with whom I’ve been in email correspondence over the past few months! What’s a bit scary is to discover that most of them have been reading my blog to find out what Rwanda is like. Now that’s freaky; I write the blog with my family in mind rather than the general public, and most bloggers do so secure in the knowledge that they’ll never meet their readership face to face. Until today….! I’m really not sure whether I’ve become famous or notorious.

We ferry the new arrivals to Amani Guest House, where they’re going to be based for ten days for their in-country training. Neither Soraya nor I can really believe it’s only eight months since we were the new arrivals ourselves – it feels as if we’ve been here for years. And as Soraya points out, the new people are so keen, so clean, so enthusiastic – and so scared to bits of what they’re coming to!

Because they were originally supposed to be arriving mid-morning, Amani has laid on lunch for everybody, so of course we - Soraya and Jane and I – the only three serving volunteers in the arrival party – tank up with a good feed. Then we’re back home to Gitarama just in time for the evening meal at “Nectar”.

Best thing about today – beyond doubt, meeting the new volunteers. At a stroke they’ve almost doubled the (depleted) number of VSOs in the country. And apparently there are even bigger numbers going to Ethiopia this year, so much so that VSO at Birmingham organised training courses just for Ethiopia-bound people!

No comments: