Monday, 19 January 2009

Being lazy for the weekend in Gitarama

January 17th-18th

A nice, quiet weekend – well, almost.

On both days I lie in until eight o’clock, which feels almost like mid-day out here. Mind you, it’s not too easy to sleep in that late – the guards outside the flat are up and about from just after six, chopping branches off the tree in the back garden and generally making as much noise as if it were mid morning.

I manage to spill what little sugar we have left all over the kitchen floor and in the food cupboard, so I have to spend nearly half an hour mopping it all up before we get invaded by ants and cockroaches. Then I head off down to the shops and buy more sugar and other things. I’m intending to go to the internet café, but there is no internet connection at the moment. Outside it’s really hot after a chilly night. I decide to wander up to the post office and see if our Boite Postale needs renewing (it must do and it’s in my name so I’m the person responsible for renewing the subscription). On the way I meet first Christine, headmistress of Kabgayi B school, and then one of the teachers from Shyogwe. They confirm my worst fears that primary schools are really struggling to adjust to the new curriculum, with hundreds of children essentially marking time while teachers get to grips with new timetables and new roles. While I’m talking to the Shyogwe teacher a car beeps at me, and inside is Raima from Ahazaza primary school. She wants to talk to me and commands me to come up to her house, just a few yards up the road.

For an hour and a half I’m explaining the new system to Raima and trying to help her with her staffing problems. As usual she’s been left out of the loop by the District authorities, and neither Claude nor Florent at Nyabisindu school (her official secteur rep) have been keeping her in touch with developments (at last, according to Raima they haven’t). If what she says is true then the District has been very naughty towards her.

By the time I leave Raima’s it’s too late to go to the post office, and the district office will probably be locked too, so I drift home via the market and buy some food. I have one of my green soups for lunch and beef it up with whole cooked peanuts, boiled pasta and hot chilli spices. It transforms it from a bland nothing to a dish with an interesting texture and a kick like a mule!

Tom’s out trying to get the FHI truck fixed and doing battle with garages in Gitarama who bump up their prices at the sight of a muzungu. These people really never learn that we know we’re being overcharged. Tom threatens to show the bill to a Rwandan colleague and that if he’s been overcharged he’ll never use the garage for FHI business again. Suddenly there seems to have been a mistake with the labour charge, which is promptly halved.

In the afternoon we generally chill out and doss, playing on computers, reading; Tom has a games machine and is busy building a city or some such activity.

In the evening we realise we haven’t got much food in, but we’re too lazy to rush to catch the end of the market, and in any case it rains hard and long during the late afternoon so most of the market traders have given up and gone home.

We eat out at “Le Petit Jardin” and have good brochettes and spicy potatoes. I really think that’s one of the best Rwandan meals you can get – I prefer the ibirai to chips.

Sunday’s much the same; we decide not to go to church in the morning but to go to St Andre for the 4.30 mass in the afternoon. (St André is Janine’s church and is where Chantal’s wedding took place). We do the market in the morning and load up with vegetables, and experiment for lunch – Tom buys tortillas and makes cheesy quésdillas; I make one of my fresh salsas to go with it. That’s loads of fresh veg and a good meal – we can neither face anything for pudding!

I go to the internet café and eventually manage to post some blogs and pictures. It’s fiddly getting a new computer adjusted to different local settings every time. I want to try the “wireless” application at District Office tomorrow, but I’ll need to get our ICT girl to help me.

More chilling in the afternoon; I’m still trying to understand how to use the Vista system on my new laptop. I don’t seem to have “Publisher”; my iPod software seems to have reverted to the original version which is too old fashioned to support my new iPod, and I can’t get a “filter” function on my spreadsheets. I wish I’d spent more time on all this while I was back in England, but somehow there never seemed to be enough time. Tom has the FHI pick up truck at the flat so we drive to his office and walk the half mile to St André. The mass lasts an hour, is in French, and while Tom can’t understand a word of it I can get the gist and translate some of the main bits for him. There’s no sign of Janine in the choir, so we’re going to pull her leg tomorrow.

After church we walk through town to Nectar for the muzungu meal. On the way we’re mobbed by little children who all want to be lifted up and swung; they squeal with delight and it’s really nice to see children still very innocent and completely unafraid of the muzungus. Not one of them – not one – even thinks to ask us for money, either.

At Nectar there are the usual suspects: me, Tom, Hayley, Soraya, Michael; Piet is there with his Austrian girlfriend who is a paediatrician just out of training. She’s very nice, and is here for ten weeks, no less. That’s the same amount of time as a three month VSO placement! I offer to take her with me on a school visit. She says if they can fund her a placement at Kabgayi hospital she’ll stay and get the experience, so she’s up for a challenge if it all comes to pass!

I escort the girls home and then return for a quick cup of tea and bed. On the way back the stars look lovely; there’s one section of the dirt road where there are no lights at all and it’s pitch black all around you. A nuisance as a pedestrian but ideal if you ignore the ruts in the road and look up to the heavens. Orion is clear, but upside down. I keep forgetting to go out onto the balcony with my laptop stellarium programme when all the lights around us are switched off. A power cut would be the ideal time. Tonight there’s too much light to do it from the flat, and the odd flash of distant lightning ruins your night vision as well.

I must get up early tomorrow if I’m to have a chance of seeing Claude before he gets besieged by callers, so I need my sleep.

1 comment:

Elizabeth Leighton said...

Hi Bruce!
Is that Tom MacGregor? I'm Liz with FHUSA and I'll be in Gisanga March 3-7th. I ran across your blog when I was trolling for internet cafes in Gitarama & what cords to bring to the task. Anyway, I'm working with Tom MacGregor and wondered if we share the same Tom?! We leave tomorrow -but maybe our paths will cross? Elizabeth Jones