Tuesday, 28 October 2008

more slow days in Gitarama

October 22nd-24th

Three days of essentially down time. I delivered some maths textbooks and past concours exam papers to Raima at Ahazaza primary school. I had a whole morning meeting with Michael and Tinks to work out which of my primary schools, were also his church ones (about ten as it happens), and to decide how we would go about things together. Interestingly, many of Michael’s schools are in remote Nyabinoni in the far north of our district, and therefore very inaccessible. But the Diocese has a car, and we are hatching plans to go there together in the Bishop’s car, him to do the Anglican schools and me to do the others. There are only seven primaries in Nyabinoni, so I reckon he could do his three and me my four schools conformably in a week.

Still no word from St├ęphanie on a meeting with the Bishop’s representative to talk about the Shyogwe building project.

So what am I doing with myself at the moment? Staying in theflat most of the time, that’s what. I’m in danger of getting housebound! I’m getting on with writing up Dad’s Tibetan diary; at the moment I have done about a third of it. It’s frustrating – there’s a need for maps to show where he went, but until I can get somewhere with a good internet connection we’ll have to wait. That’s a Christmas Holidays job!

At last one of my English newspapers has arrived, but it’s dated September 26th-Oct 3rd – that’s before I went home. There are at least two more in the system lost somewhere between Kigali and Gitarama.

On Wednesday I went to the Office and collected a whole lot of statistical data to enter on my laptop; it’s not vital work but it gives me a complete breakdown on last year’s results. All this work has taken me hours, and of course I’ll soon have the 2008 results o do al over again. But at least I can say I spent an entire morning working flat out on District work. I called at the post office – a huge parcel for Hayley and a small one for Karen. Karen invited me for tea, and we had a good natter. She’s just got her flight home sorted for November 13th, which is a lot sooner than we had all expected. Tom and I absolutely must have Karen and Christi over for a meal before she goes. Karen wants me to take over conversation sessions with a young Rwandan student on Thursday tea-times, and I feel I can’t refuse her. We met the man; he’s very pleasant, a young student at the local university. His English is reasonable but could be a lot better. I don’t know how good I’ll be at managing a regular appointment; my schedule at the moment seems pretty chaotic. We’ll see. And having agreed to do one session a week, the student immediately asks if we can do three sessions a week…… That’s an example of typical Rwandan thinking.

On Thursday I was woken up at just before five by a series of gunshots, very close, between our flat and the market. I resisted the temptation to go to the window and see what was happening – if someone was taking pot shots in our direction it would be the worst thing I could have done! So I lay in bed and waited, and there were two more shots just after five. Nobody has said anything about them since, but they were definitely gunshots and at that time of the morning they couldn’t have been fireworks or workmen dropping lumps of metal etc. Gitarama seems to be going through an episode of gun-related violence at the moment; a shop was broken into the other night and shots fired, and someone was murdered up by the bus park a week ago.

I think we’re quite safe – the violence is all about Rwandans after other Rwandans. I’m guessing it’s where somebody has got one over on somebody else in a business deal, and the loser is taking it out on the dealer. Some Rwandan thinking is amazingly short term, and you can see it in the way market women deal with you. They are only too happy to swindle you at every opportunity, and think they’re so clever if they do. It never seems to occur to them if that if they swindle you, they’ll lose any subsequent trade from you. I suppose life is so precarious for these people that they just have to live for the day…. Anyway, life is cheap and there’s plenty of people here, so we muzungus just have to adapt to the way of life.

Yesterday I had a really nasty case of Giardia again. Couldn’t sleep much on Thursday night – acute tummy ache, feeling sick without being able to bring anything up, and nasty headache. By breakfast time I was burping rotten eggs and knew what I was going down with. Unfortunately we’d run out of medicine (Tom had the same thing just before I went home at the start of October and used up the last of the tablets we had in stock here). I was due to go down to Butare for an English planning meeting, and it would have been nice to get out of the flat for a day and meet Tiga and some of the others, but there was no way I could travel, let alone make any sensible contribution to the meeting. So I spent all day Friday in bed feeling miserable and sorry for myself, and it wasn’t until evening and Tom came home with some more medicine that things started to look up. As I’m writing this diary it’s Saturday morning and umuganda day, but I’m not well enough to be out there doing heavy manual labour so I’m keeping a low profile, and once again I’m staying indoors all the time. I’ve finished the course of tablets and it certainly seems to be clearing things up, but I won’t be “right” till this evening. At least I can say that yesterday was a pretty cheap day – I didn’t go anywhere, or eat anything, or spend any money at all. Whoopee!

Yesterday afternoon we had a really spectacular thunderstorm, the first really true tropical storm for ages. The lightning was almost continuous, and a lot of it right overhead. Tom was walking home in part of it with his umbrella up, and after one overhead flash he caught a nasty static shock off his umbrella handle. It put the wind up him, I can tell you! The rain was so heavy you could barely see across our road at one point. It flooded in under the front door right up to the lounge, and it worked its way through the metal window frame in my bedroom and pooled on the floor next to my bed. I had to get our squeegee broom and sweep water back out of the front door, but the gutter in our balcony couldn’t absorb it all, and as fast as I swept water out, the stuff came back in again. You could see that the storm was even heavier up in the mountains behind us; I dread to think what conditions would have been like in some of the mud houses low down next to the rivers. I fully expect we’re going to hear of people drowned in their own homes, or of loads of houses destroyed.

The funny thing was that Michael had left his motor bike here at the flat before catching the bus down to Butare, and when he arrived back to collect it the storm was just approaching. “Do you think this lot is coming our way?” he asks me. So I go out onto both balconies and scan the skies. The active storm cell seems to be some way away and it looks as if it’s going to miss us. “No, get going straight away”, I tell him.
I don’t think he would have been all the way home before all hell broke loose; I expect he got absolutely soaked. Poor Michael; I’m so sorry mate. The storm was coming from the south this time (usually they come from the north), and I couldn’t see the horizon far enough to see what was lurking in the skies over the hill behind us.

Tom’s boss has just been in Burundi for three days and says it’s been raining almost continuously there, so perhaps we’ve got the Burundi weather catching up with us.

As soon as the storm broke the sky went so dark we had to have lights on (at barely four in the afternoon), and as usual after the first few lightning strikes the power went off. It then went on and off at intervals for the rest of the night. All this week we’ve had water shortages, either an absolute lack of water or just a dribble coming out of the taps It’s been a game of chance whether we can have a shower in the morning. The only saving grace is that it’s our first-floor water supply which is affected; the tap in the backyard seems to work all the time even if the pressure is low at times. So as long as we keep our jerry cans filled at every opportunity there’s no serious problem; it’s just annoying.

We’ve just had a UN convoy drive past, Argentinean soldiers this time. They’re heading south (i.e. not towards Goma) so I assume they’re either en route to Burundi or they’re going through to Cyangugu and the border down by Bukavu.

Beat thing about these past few days – not a lot. I feel as though I’m marking time. My resource training stuff is at Nyanza and until I can either go and collect it, or get someone to deliver it, I can’t get started. Soraya’s been up in Kigali all week so I’m still not sure whether she wants me to help her with English training and whether she’s got dates all organised. Claude hasn’t said anything definite to either of us about what he wants us to do in terms of English training. And time’s ticking by. Soraya’s back in Gitarama so I can talk to her today or tomorrow. We have to discount Claude for the time being and assume that anything he requires will be in December or January. So I really must shirt myself down to Nyanza and collect the stuff from Ken… Why can’t I summon up any energy for all this?

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