Friday, 31 October 2008

At last, a really good day!

October 30th

A really good day today, the first time I’ve felt like this since returning to Gitarama. I’m up very early, half past 5 (that’s half past three to you folks back in England, by the way), and a beautiful clear morning. By six I’m sat shovelling down my porridge with a clear view across to Muhabura volcano. Beat that if you can!

At seven I meet Soraya at the office and we wait a few minutes for Claude to arrive, then go in and talk to him about the trainings.

Firstly I can give him the school-by-school analysis he wanted from my inspections. He’s pleased with that and on the spot he rings the mayor and arranges a meeting with himself, her and me to discuss the results tomorrow morning.

Then we give our reasons why we don’t think we can do these long fortnight courses, at least for the time being. We need to talk to our other VSO colleagues about materials. We need to see what MINEDUC is going to do so that we don’t cross purposes with them. It’ll mean all our other work, including the twilight sessions for District Office staff, grind to a halt. Also there are a lot of dates when I’m not available because of other commitments. Finally, we need copies of all the curriculum documents for primary school, something we’ve never had access to. Claude simply rings up Florent, the head at Nyabisindu, and tells him to get them down to the office immediately. (Even Claude seems embarrassed that he hasn’t got copies of any of the curriculum papers in the Office itself). Claude capitulates remarkably quickly, and we agree that we’ll certainly get started on twilight and early morning sessions for the District staff a.s.a.p. He’s very happy with that, and both Soraya and I feel that it’s manageable. The District will pay our photocopying costs, too.

We suggest that perhaps either Soraya or I should go to the MINEDUC training course when it happens so that we’re au fait with what is being taught and that we can get the materials. He immediately thinks it’s a good idea and rings his contact in Kigali. The contact can’t give him a direct answer but neither does he give the idea the brush off.

What we like about Claude is that when you can pin him down he makes quick decisions and sees the whole picture.

Soraya and I heave a huge sign of relief and spend most of the rest of the morning going through TEFL books seeing what materials we can select to use. I find it frustrating; we have teachers’ guides but not the pupils’ books, so I only have half the picture.

Soraya gets bored and goes to the post office; at last I have a couple more newspapers arrived so we take half an hour off and read them. Would you believe it, the article in the Guardian about Rwandan schools working in English hasn’t made it into the weekly edition! Never mind, I have the cutting from back home and I’ve taped it to the office door. It’s already getting a lot of attention.

Every single time somebody comes into the office now we greet them in English, and only relapse into French or Kinya if they’re struggling hard. They squirm and wriggle with their vocabulary, but we’re getting our first message across – you all have at least some English and what you need, more than anything else, is conversation practise and self-belief that you can speak English.

We end the morning with last minute planning for our Nyabinoni course next week. It’s going to be a busy weekend – down to Gasarenda on Saturday, staying over at Kigeme on Sat night, then both back to Gitarama and on to Nyabinoni on Sunday. We’re staying somewhere in Nyabinoni on Sunday night, (presumably in one of the secondary schools now that the children will have all gone home) and we’re on the go for 8am on Monday.

We dine in “Tranquillité” because we’re both starving. I finish my mélange, it’s a good one today with proper meat you can eat ant not the usual mix of gristle and fat. Soraya gets most of the way through hers and then squeaks. There’s a little white worm half in and half out of one of her beans. On closer examination there are several more beans with worms in them. I, on the other hand, have eaten all my beans. Oh well, at least the worms are cooked, and they haven’t charges us for this extra protein. Perhaps we’ll have to review whether we continue using Tranquillité.

Afterwards we dive into the internet café. I’m trying to find out what’s happening in Goma (see photos below). Kersti emails to warn me that the Americans are getting worried about the security of a school group on the volcano, but as of today we’re still going.

VSO texts to confirm details of my motor bike training course, but at the same time want to bring some visiting people down to Gitarama so that I’d have to miss the first day because they’d want to visit a school with me. As I write I’m still trying to work out how I can fit all the bits together.

It’s a funny thing. We bang on and on about how slow the pace of things is here in Rwanda, and how you never seem to get much actually done, but at the same time I’m miles “busier” than I would ever be back home in Dorset. (Oh dear, does that suggest something about sleepy Darzet?).

Tom’s gone to Kigali today to meet a couple who are coming out to visit us in Gitarama, so Janine’s been round to clean and I’m desperately trying not to make any messes. As I’m writing this (mid afternoon) there’s a storm coming in over the mountains to the north of us, and strong gusts of wind are rattling the doors and sending up dust devils on the dirt road alongside the flat. There’s very, very low cloud boiling up from the valleys on both sides of us, and the rumbles of thunder are getting almost continuous. How long, I wonder, before the power goes off? People are finding it difficult even to walk into the wind, it’s so strong, and those heading into it are wrapping scarves around their faces to protect themselves from the dust and grit.

When Tom’s visitors come they are tired out but it’s too early to go to bed straight away. One of their suitcases has gone missing on the flight, too, so they’re not best pleased. I’ll only see them for this one evening; between us all we’re doing a lot of travelling over the next week or so.

I’m so tired myself that I find it difficult to stay awake for as long as nine o’clock; I’m trying to transcribe some more of dad’s diary. I’m down to the last twenty or so pages. In the internet café this morning I was able to look up some on-line maps and I can now place the route he took. The tiny little huts in hamlets where he stayed are, of course, too small to be shown on any but the largest scale maps, but the bigger places and the Himalayan passes are all there.

Best thing about today – everything really – a thoroughly good and productive day.

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