Wednesday, 3 December 2008

a wonderful day at Nsanga

December 1st

Up at barely light this morning. The power’s still off, so it’s a cold shower for at least the fifth day in a row, and I have to boil water for tea in a saucepan. No matter, I’m out on the road again for training at Nsanga. This is one of my favourite schools, if nothing else for the view across the hills from its yard.

I’m in the office by 6.45, hoping to borrow Claude’s modem and see if Teresa has been able to send me an email coach ticket from Heathrow to Dorchester. But Claude’s off on some training day at Rwamagana and has taken the modem with him.

Innocent is in the office, though, and I get him to translate the words of a Kinya-rwanda hymn for me. He translates from Kinya into French, and then I re-translate from French to English, so no doubt the words have lost a lot of their vigour in the process. But my local church is definitely going to end up singing in Kinyarwanda this Christmas!

Then I’m queuing outside the bank ay 8.00, waiting for it to open. Michael’s with me, he’s got nothing urgent to do at Shyogwe today and he’s coming to Nsanga with me to help and see how I do my resource making training days. Of course, just because we’re in a hurry the bank is ten minutes late opening, and then there’s a big problem with the computers – they can’t get them to boot. By 8.30 there’s a string of angry customers waiting, and the manager at last shifts himself out of his office, gathers a handful of cheques including mine, and rings the Kigali head office to veryfy on their machines that each of us has sufficient money in their account to honour the cheques. By the time I finally get my money it’s 8.45.

I was supposed to be at Nsanga by 8.30. I hurriedly text Evalde to tell him I’m delayed; that I’m now on my way and to wait for me. Michael and I rush up to the bus park to hire big motos and at last we set off on our way. It’s a beautiful morning with clear skies and with the promise of heat. The mist has already risen from the valleys around Mata, but its Michael’s first experience of the Ndiza mountains and their spectacular views, and he’s just as entranced as I was when I first saw them.

We arrive at Nsanga at just after 9.15; I deliberately don’t ask the motos to take us up the last kilometre off the main road because it’s very rough and I don’t want all my stuff spilling from the bike down the mountainside. All the teachers are there waiting for us, so I apologise profusely and off we go.

The whole day today is in French with barely a word of English. Because I’ve had a three day break from training courses I’m that much fresher and my French is so much better than last Thursday; also I discover that Michael’s French is excellent and complements mine – the vocabulary I don’t know, he does, and vice versa. We work well together as a team.

The training goes even better than last Thursday’s; I can relax because I’m sure of my timings and every time I do this presentation I learn a little bit more about the material which makes it more relevant and useful to the Rwandans. They absolutely love the games and the first hour especially is full of laughter – I can’t imagine anything more different from the dreadful INSET days I’ve endured in England on various occasions.

Evalde is efficient and has organised lunch – fiery hot sambozas and stodgy mandazis, with a huge supply of fantas to wash them down. During a pause I take Michael over to the primary school section so he can take photos of the view across the river Nyaborongo into the Western Province and beyond. The sky is clouding up fast, but that only serves to make the patterns of light and shade on the endless hills all the more interesting.

The teachers have remembered from a previous visit that I’m interested in geology and we have a short discussion about the mica which litters the site, and I ask them about tungsten ore which is mined near here. (Tungsten ore is a bright yellow colour and very distinctive, though I haven’t seen any yet. Next year, perhaps….)

Some of the teachers are the same ones that Cathie and I trained in English methodology in the spring, and whom Soraya trained a couple of weeks ago, so a lot of them know me. I think that’s why they’re pretty relaxed about our visit.

We have arranged with our motos to pick us up at 3.30, and true to form by 4.00 two bikes come clattering down the main road. We could just as easily (and more cheaply) have returned on matatas – two pass us while we’re waiting and they have plenty of empty seats. But we’re a long way out here and you can never be sure just what transport is available. And at Gisiza on the way out there’s been yet another bad accident; a matata has rolled and the roof is smashed in; not a pane of glass is left and there are enormous score marks across the new road for many yards before the impact site. The bus must have been travelling at some speed. I don’t know whether a tyre burst, or the brakes failed or whether it was doing some dodgy overtaking, or just driving too fast. The police were already there and anyone injured or worse had already been removed. But it is a reminder that safety in a country as poor as Rwanda is always relative, and sooner or later, if we use matatas every day, we will be involved in an accident.

Back at the District Office I quickly prepare my stuff for tomorrow and arrange with the moto driver to pick me up. He has driven back from Nsanga at a furious pace and I could feel the rear wheel sliding sideways on the wilder bends. But tomorrow I think we’ll be on the mountain road, so he’ll have to take it easy along the ridge. I just hope it’s going to be as clear as today so that I can take some pictures along the way.

While Tom and I are in full swing cooking supper the gas runs out. That’s a real drag. We have a lovely boeuf bourguignon almost cooked, and cabbage pretty well done. We have a quick council of war and decide that almost cooked is preferable to cold food, so we get on with it. It’s not perfect – and we were really looking forward to a gourmet meal from this food – but it’s just one of those things and there’s no way of knowing exactly when your gas cylinder is going to give out.

Then we have a long power cut –again – we’ve just got used to the power being restored after last night. Eventually the lights come back on; we’re both of us at the point of abandoning the day and getting into bed, so it feels quite a reprieve to have a second chance at getting things done in the evening.

Best thing about today – the scenery, and knowing we’ve done a good training which has been appreciated by the teachers.

Worst thing – power cuts. Lack of gas. I’m still not sure whether I’ve finally managed to get rid of my fleas. When you’ve had fleas you get this horrible feeling in your skin where you’re convinced that something’s crawling across you and biting you even when there’s patently nothing there!

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