Wednesday, 29 October 2008

I'm glad I'm not based in Gisenyi at the moment

October 28th

Up at the crack of dawn (well, 5.30 anyway. Before the hairdresser starts playing his music). Into town to catch the 7.00 bus to Kigali. The “Horizon” buses have started a Kigali – Gitarama service; it only began last Friday and is in direct competition with Atraco, Sotra and all the dozens of non-affiliated matatas. It’s certainly keeping the prices down – the fare to Kigali has remained at RwF800 ever since I arrived here and is about the only thing which hasn’t gone up!

Soraya’s coming with me for the day; we agree to meet at the bus. I’m there in good time; she arrives with about 30 seconds to spare. Talk about cutting things fine! Because of the early hour we have a really fast trip; we’re in Kigali city centre by 8.00, and have changed buses and are at VSO office by 8.30. They haven’t even unlocked all the rooms when we arrive.

The purpose of all this effort is to ransack the VSO library for English teaching materials, and try to do some planning for all this teaching we’re being roped in to do. Soraya’s been in contact with Els at Nyamata overnight, and her Director has made pretty well the same requests on her and Alain. So we agree they will come in and we’ll all try to think things through together.

First of all, though, I’m able to get all my blogging and emailing done, which is a relief. Next we make copies of some papers which we’ve found in the last couple of days. Then we go systematically through all the English materials in the library – dozens of books and folders, and end up with a (heavy) stack which we are taking home with us for further work.

We agree that for the two-day training courses next week Soraya will be the lead trainer and I will act as her assistant for the first two days so that I can see what she wants to do and how she does it; then I will do more of a 50-50 role for the second two days. We still haven’t heard from Sylvain about accommodation up in Nyabinoni so even this bit of training is going to be a down-to-the-wire event.

I’m beginning to feel more confident about the training sessions for the District Office staff; the only issue with these is that we’ll need a lot of copies of material (at least 15 copies for 30 people), and I’ve got to check with Claude that the District will pay. If he thinks that VSO will foot the bill then we’re in trouble.

We spend a lot of the rest of the day thinking about the fortnight long courses. I have a word with Charlotte and she thinks it’s an imposition and not what we were sent out here as VSOs to do. Also, she thinks that MINEDUC will have to put on some sort of long English course for all primary teachers, not just the 2√®me cycle ones that Claude has in mind. So I think we’ll go along with Claude till Christmas and see what’s emerging on the national scene by then. Of course, there are also funding issues – major ones – for the fortnight course. The teachers will expect per diems. They’ll expect to have lunches provided. They’ll expect freebies like biros and notebooks, too.

While all this is going on, Els and Alain are meeting with Ruth to try and resolve some conflicts in their roles. Els is also moving out of her accommodation which she’s been sharing with Alain and into a house with two Korean volunteers, still in Nyamata, but at least she’ll be in an all-girls place which is fair enough for her. After all our attempts to arrange flights home together, Els has lost her place on the same flight as me and is going a day earlier on Kenya Airlines. I’ll be sharing with Tinks. That means that virtually every day from December 4th to 9th there’s a VSO on a flight home to Britain.

Tina from Kibungo comes into the office during the morning. She’s still not well after three weeks, which is worrying. She has low blood pressure and feels very weak, so much so that after walking to the Programme Office she needs a long sit down to rest. That must feel awful to be unwell for so long, and unable to get on with the work you came out here to do. I hope to goodness that they can find some treatment for her soon and get her back on form.

While we eat tonight (hot sardine curry with cabbage/carrot medley and mashed spuds, followed by orange and banana smoothie topped with dark chocolate and finished off with a snickers bar – haute cuisine if ever you saw it), we listen to the BBC world service. The fighting in DRC is getting very much closer to Goma and almost certainly will engulf it. Those of you reading this who know Rwanda will remember that Goma’s built up area joins directly onto that of Gisenyi in Rwanda, and the fighting will eventually reach the border. We’re expecting any day now to get stern warnings from Kigali not to go to Gisenyi for the foreseeable future. If the fighting enters Rwanda, itself, which is certainly a possibility, we might be pulled up to Kigali or even evacuated home. Now that would make a dent in Claude’s ambitious English teaching plans, wouldn’t it!

I can’t emphasize enough that we are not in the slightest danger at the moment from the fighting; we are much more likely to go through a traffic accident via a crazy matata driver or a dozy moto driver pulling off in one direction while ogling a girl behind him.

It’s a wretched time for the Congolese people, though. Thousands are on the road as refugees. They’re being looted by soldiers from just about every force in the area. They’re being drenched by these tremendous rainstorms, and squelching through ankle deep mud on what are jokingly called “roads”. The UN force (MONUC) seems to be as ineffective as ever. All we need now is a major eruption from Nyiragongo volcano and their misery will be complete. They can choose to die from shooting, molten lava, drowning in mud, exposure from cold rain, disease from filthy water, rats and bad food….. Why is it that we can’t get this part of the world organized a little better? Goma and Gisenyi, beside Lake Kivu, should be a paradise of brilliant flowers, mild climate and fertile soil. Now it’s a bloody battlefield.

Best thing about today – feeling that I’m getting my head round the English training.

Worst thing – realizing the sheer scope and scale of what we’re being asked to do.

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