Friday, 7 November 2008

Interview with the mayor

October 31st

Another early start. I must say I’ve forgotten how nice it is to be up and about really early in the mornings. The air is fresher, the roads are less busy, and you feel somehow more energised and ready to work. It’s just that the rest of the day stretches so far ahead…..

At work Claude and I go to talk to the mayor and vice mayor about my school inspections. They listen politely; I have to speak in French to them because the mayor in particular is a poor English speaker. (After all, she will be in Soraya’s beginners’ group for our twilight sessions).

I’m not quite sure what we are trying to achieve in this meeting other than showing the mayor that I have been busy and that she is getting value for money from me. I emphasize the little suggestions I have made for ways to improve the education system without spending huge amounts of money and she listens well and seems receptive. It also gives me the opportunity to explain things like “minor works” grants to Claude. I’m not sure whether they’ll take up any of these ideas, but they certainly take them on board.

After the meeting Claude and I are talking and he shows me his new toy from the District. It’s a lovely modern laptop, very powerful and much lighter than mine. Best of all, it comes with a wireless modem and he makes me bring my laptop into his office. Then we get the ICT technician girl to set up both our machines so that I can use the modem as well as Claude. It’s brilliant. At last I’ve got good quality and reasonably fast internet reception in the education department.

We’re both like a couple of schoolboys for a few minutes. Then Claude has a huge page of mail to read and sign, so he leaves me to play with our modem. He’s very insistent it’s not just for him but for all four of us in the education department; all I’ve got to do is ask for the keys to his office and we agree we’ll always keep it in the same place. It’s going to be so useful for downloading material quickly to use with the District Office English classes in a couple of weeks’ time.

I make full use of the device to check email, load stuff onto the blog and check what’s happening in DRC. Wednesday night’s ceasefire seems to be holding but I think that’s just a convenient device to let the rebels regroup and have a rest before their next offensive. The regular Congolese army seems all over the place with soldiers deserting, looting and worse.

There’s no sign of Soraya today; I’ll give her till lunchtime and then text her to see if she’s all right.

The English curriculum stuff has arrived from Nyabisindu school and I go to get it photocopied.

Even better, I see my missing flash drive in Claude’s desk. It’s been gone a month. When I check it (only 3 viruses which isn’t bad for Rwanda), it is absolutely full with work and presentations from lots of separate people. The darned thing’s been well and truly doing the rounds of the District Office. There are agricultural power points, education letters to individual people, contracts, application forms – you name it. Some things are useful – the “Vision 2020” document that sets out Rwanda’s national aims for the next few years. And a very details set of costings for rebuilding Rugendabari primary school, including detailed amounts for the purchase and installation of three big Afritanks. A 5 cubic metre tanks is costed at £1600 for supply, installation, and all the necessary guttering, taps etc. That’s more or less what we had estimated and absolutely within Holy Trinity Bradpole’s fund raising achievement.

Just before lunchtime one of the Franciscans from Kivumu comes in to see Claude. He’s not sure where the office is, and during our conversation I discover that Camilla is waiting in the car. Camilla’s one of the two Italian gap-year students working at Kivumu; she’s been to our Sunday night get togethers). So I go and have a chat to her. Even she’s in demand from the primary schools to help them with their English speaking, and Camilla’s English is grammatically correct but spoken in a beautiful Italian accent. The Franciscan monk(none of them ever seem to wear either clerical or monkish clothes; this one’s in scruffy jeans and tee shirt and hasn’t shaved for a couple of days - a real working priest!) turns out to be Croatian, and invites me out to the friary one Sunday afternoon. I’ll take them up on that because this group of Franciscans is doing so much good work in Kivumu and Cyeza.

The morning has gone very quickly. At lunchtime I nip up to the Coparwa craft shop to buy a birthday present for Han. While I’m there it starts thundering and pouring (can’t do that – it shouldn’t rain until about four in the afternoon!), so I’m holed up in the craft shop and adjacent “sale polyvalente” for half an hour.

There’s a constant procession of matatas coming past, all of them packed with young people. Today’s the last day of the school year and I’m so glad I’m not travelling anywhere by bus!

Back at the flat I’ve got the place to myself – Tom and his visitors have gone to Kibuye. Late in the afternoon I have a university student come round for an English lesson. This is one of Karen’s “good deeds” which she’s unloaded onto me in preparation for her departure. I can’t say I’m overjoyed at the thought of a regular weekly commitment of an hour, but we’ll see how it goes. Soon anyway it’ll be interrupted by moto training, then the volcanoes trip, and then me going home, so he won’t get more than about 4 sessions before Christmas at most!

By the end of the evening I’ve finished transcribing dad’s diary, read my newspapers, listened to music, fed myself and the guard and I’m more than ready for bed. Once again I’m really tired by about half past eight.

The evening BBC news sounds marginally more hopeful on Goma; politicians seem to be converging from all over the world to talk and talk; more importantly the refugees - now around the 200,000 mark – seem to have discovered there’s no food or shelter left in Goma itself, and that they would be better off going back to their villages.

But meanwhile some of the refugee camps have been systematically destroyed and looted by one or other of the gangs of armed idiots rampaging around. Can you imagine trying to loot a refugee camp – trying to steal from people who have absolutely nothing in the first place?

Best things about today – wireless connection in the education office! Coooooool!!

Worst thing about today – the sheer scale of stupidity in Goma. Like the young prostitutes there who didn’t feel inclined to offer their services for free to one or other of the gangs of “heroes” who had come into the town to “protect” them, so they were all shot.

No comments: