Wednesday, 28 January 2009

bop till you drop at Cadillac

January 24th and 25th

A lazy morning, and very welcome after a hard week at work. Kersti’s off to the home of one of the parents at her American school for a “Jane Austen” lunch party. She’s trying to find a dress which has an empire waist, but out here our wardrobes don’t really run to fancy dress in any style. Anyway, she eventually looks the part and braids her hair just like Keira Knightly in the P & P film.

I mooch up to the VSO office and have a long session on the computer catching up with emails and other electronica. The place is completely deserted; most of the younger volunteers are going to Amahoro stadium to see the Rwanda youth team play Ghana in the African youth championships. I could have gone with them but opt for peace and quiet instead.

In the evening I go to Amani and finally meet the two primary head teachers who will be working with me in Muhanga this term. One of them, Nicole, came out last spring and worked in Kirehe in the far south east; the other, Sally is on her first visit to Africa. Nicole knows the ropes here well and will hit the deck running; Sally will need longer and more support. Nicole is allocated to the Kabgayi and Mbare schools; Sally is out in the banana fields of Cyeza. They finally leave Kigali and arrive in Gitarama on Wednesday, ready to start work on Thursday. I arrange to come over tomorrow afternoon and give them a briefing on their schools before I return to Gitarama.

We set off for the “family meal” and eat vast amounts of beautiful food. The sheer size of the VSO contingent is amazing – there are over 60 people at this do (including our office staff), but there are at least four volunteers not yet returned, so our total numbers as volunteers must be at least 55. I think that’s the largest it’s ever been.

The new arrivals are a varied lot both in terms of age and nationality; several Dutch girls, Canadians; at least two married couples with one person as the volunteer and the other as a non-volunteering spouse.

Gerrit introduces himself to me; he’s the Dutch-Canadian who I’ve been in correspondence with, and he has brought an envelope of cash from Geert in Groningen.

As usual at these events we have the traditional dancers; the same bunch as every previous time but they’re still very, very good and a joy to watch.

Hayley’s mother is over for a week, and Hayley has been allowed to bring to the meal, so Mrs Pert gets a chance to meet our entire bunch of volunteers.

After the meal we go clubbing and dancing, first of all at One Love (including Hayley’s mum), and then I go on to Cadillac with Paula and Sonya, The Rwandan men really don’t know what to make of me; an old man with two beautiful young Western women in tow. Even better, when they try to cut in on the girls they both make it clear they’re not interested, and we dance our feet off until about four in the morning. It’s the best workout I’ve had in years! By four o’clock I’m up for carrying on till dawn, but Sonya’s finding the waragi (gin) is catching up with her, so we pile onto motos and head off home. The girls are staying in Amani, and I’m back to Kersti’s.

On the way home the wind catches on my helmet visor, and the whole helmet blows off my head into the road. We retrieve it, but the plastic transparent visor is cracked and the moto driver wants me to pay him for it. No way, José; if you were that concerned you should have checked that I had the visor down and the helmet strapped in place. He’s a very unhappy little driver, but I’m not giving in and I’m not about to get into an argument. He decides I’m too big to fight and I walk off leaving him swearing at me in Kinyarwanda.

As you can imagine, Sunday morning really doesn’t exist for me after my excesses, and Kersti’s off doing some private coaching in the town. I have a chat with Nick about his job prospects; he’s being courted by an American company and the possibility of living in Los Angeles for a while is very appealing…..

I finally say goodbye and leave in the early afternoon and walk off my hangover en route Amani, and there spend a good hour giving Nicole and Sally the lowdown on all the schools thy will be working with. It’s the sort of things you can’t put in writing but that they need to know. How to approach people; who’s your friend; who wants a kick up the backside and who you need to listen to. I think both these head teachers will do a fab job when they get to know their schools, and it will take some more of the load off me.

Back in Gitarama I find Tom has been doing a marathon cook-up, and the flat is filled with the aroma of carrot and coriander soup which is cooling before we liquidise it and freeze it. I put my feet up for an hour (the clubbing is now really catching up with me), and then we head off to “Nectar” for our muzungu meal. It’s a small gathering (just this time). Hayley and her mum have gone up to Ruhengeri to watch gorillas. Piet is off to Kigali with his girlfriend; she’s been offered a job in a hospital there. Christi’s back, though, so we catch up on all her news. Next week we could be up to our full strength of around twelve people minimum. Gitarama’s not going to know what’s hit it!

Best thing about the weekend – dancing through the night.

Worst thing – I find I haven’t got a single name and phone number for any of the new volunteers. I’ve been too busy chatting to others, and trying to finalise dates for our forthcoming Ugandan trip with Épi. Never mind. Our group of 55 is far too big to be able to associate with everyone all the time. What a contrast to late August when the whole country seemed to be emptying of VSOs and we felt like the last remaining people on a sinking ship!

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