Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Claude's a daddy today!

November 17th

High point of today – we get a text from Claude saying that Immaculee has had the baby, and that it’s a girl. I don’t know any more details – names, weight; I assume everything’s OK. Claude, of course, isn’t in the office today. I imagine Immaculee must have gone into labour sometime on Saturday night – Claude would only just have got back from Chantal’s wedding!

Into the office early; I’m putting off arranging my training days and suddenly things are getting very busy. I only have eight working days to do some resource-making trainings, and if I get my act together and use all off them I’ll have done three quarters of all the District within ten days, which ain’t bad going!

So I plan dates and places and compose a long text message (in French) to send to the secteur reps. That’s the easy bit. Will they come back to me and confirm all the arrangements or will I have to phone and chase them at the end of this week?

I’m very frustrated with other things. The big photocopier in the Office is broken, so nobody can do any bulk copying (and I need some bulk copies both for my twilight English lessons and for the resource training sessions). And the little computer printer in our office is out of toner yet again and is only usable if you’re desperate. I’ve got loads of stuff ready to print off, but nowhere to print it. All the other printers in the buildings are being used and I’ll only get anything done if I can sneak in at the start of lunchtime!

With Claude off because of the baby, his computer modem is safely locked in the office so I can’t do anything on line either. It’s just one of those days!

The week is getting complicated and its only Monday morning. Tomorrow I have my little English lesson with John-Robert at 4; then as soon as I finish with him I’m off to Kigali to stay at Kersti’s and talk through with her what we’re going to do up at the volcanoes. All day Wednesday I stay in Kigali for the last day of motor bike training. Let’s just hope I get my balancing and cone exercise better than it was last Thursday!

Then on Thursday morning there’s the actual moto exam, and immediately I finish it I’m off to the volcanoes with the American School. I come back some time on Saturday to Kigali; I’m not sure whether to stay over with Kersti and Nick again or to come straight on home. I suppose it’ll depend on what’s happening in Kigali and who else is around. I haven’t seen Irene for ages and it’d be nice to catch up on the gossip from Byumba.

News from the warring tribes around Goma is mixed. The various rebel groups are going into schools and taking pupils and teachers at gunpoint. They say they’re taking them to act as “porters” for the soldiers’ luggage, but in reality as soon as they’re out in the bush these children get given a gun and told they’re soldiers. If they try to run away they’re shot. All this means that in the few schools still working, children are not coming to school because they don’t want to be press ganged into fighting a war they don’t support. Instead of doing their lessons they’re hiding in the elephant grass all day, getting bored.

On the other hand, the UN presence seems to have stopped anyone making a serious move to take the town, and the airport is staying open which means that aid can be flown in. The Uruguayan soldiers I saw driving through Gitarama a couple of weeks ago have been drafted in to Goma to reinforce the Indian and Pakistani troops.

Beate has finished her VSO stint at Kibeho and is flying home tomorrow; she’s staying with Soraya so as to be closer to Kigali. Kibeho is so isolated; it’s about an hour’s moto ride south of Butare and is close to the Burundi border. There’s very little there in the village except for a massive church. Kibeho is where some children saw visions of the Virgin Mary and the place is being built up into a pilgrimage centre. More lucrative for the villagers than growing bananas and manioc, no doubt! Beate came to our Sunday night muzungu meal yesterday; she’s glad to be going from such a quiet and remote place. She won’t be replaced there.

This weekend we’ve had a MTN (phone company) disco lorry in Gitarama. It’s been parked in the top of the market and blazing out loud music all day long. All the underemployed and bored for miles around have come into town to listen. There are dancers doing routines on a little stage, and every now and then they hand out phone credit vouchers to keep the crowds coming. At night it has been parked in front of our flat, in the little yard between the main road and our building.

Another lighter note – there’s an article in the “New Times” saying that a moto driving test has been cancelled in Butare because the examiners were demanding bribes from candidates. The paper’s doing its indignant wrath act, as it has almost daily for a couple of weeks since the arrest in Germany of Kagame’s aide. Now if it had been us awaiting our test on Thursday at Kigali I think we would have happily paid any amount to make sure we got through…..

We seem to have a price war among the big matatas running to Kigali. This morning the “Horizon” bus has a poster in its window saying fares are RwF700 instead of the usual 800. I bet the other operators are furious! It’s the first time since I’ve arrived here that a price has come down. The exchange rate between the pound and the Rwandan Franc has deteriorated hugely. When I arrived in January you got roughly 1000 Francs to the pound; now its not much more than 800. That’s a 20% cut. It means that our VSO organisation has in effect had a 20% budget cut, but Mike says he thinks we’ll be all right at least for this financial year because there is a cushion of money left over from 2007.

Agnes texts during the evening – she’s out of the country and to organise the training for Cyeza secteur I have to liaise with the head of Bwirika school. I’m spending a fortune on texts at the moment!

Tom and I buy some eggs and then make a good meal out of leftovers – fried potatoes with herby coating, carrots, cabbage, French beans, tomatoes, onions and garlic. All that with omelette and a thick peanut sauce. Sounds odd but tastes OK. I wish soy sauce (I use it to make the peanut sauce) wasn’t so salty!

Best thing about today – starting to get my trainings planned for next week. But it’s like drawing blood from a stone to get unambiguous confirmation from each secteur!

No comments: