Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Sunday a la maison in Gitarama

February 22nd

I decide today’s going to be a domestic day. Tom’s off to church and I’m staying at home as a heathen.

Firstly I’ve got some washing to do, and then we decide that the answer to our mosquito problems is to impregnate our bed nets with Permithrin. Permithrin has a dodgy reputation here; many of the girls say they have had skin rashes from contact with nets once they’ve been treated, but Tom and I reckon that in both cases our nets are well above face level so we can safely use the treatment.

The bottle comes with dire warnings about the need to use rubber gloves etc, but doesn’t actually include any rubber gloves. Fortunately we’ve got a pair between us. Our intention is to make the bottle do both his and my net, but we discover that his net absorbs virtually all the stuff. No matter, it’s Tom’s bottle of Permithrin and I can easily get another one at a chemist in town.

So by mid morning there’s both our nets, his well treated and mine with a token smear of the stuff, drying on the washing line.

Now it’s cooking time. I cook up a kilo of dried beans to eventually freeze and use as and when we need them. The secret of cooking these beans is to do it in stages. They’re notorious for needing a long cooking time which costs a bomb in gas or charcoal or kerosene, depending on what kind of stove you use. But we’ve learnt that if you boil them for ten minutes and let them gradually cool, and then boil them again for twenty minutes and let them cool; by then they’re nearly soft and it takes very little extra cooking to get them completely tender.

I also experiment with yet another batch of soup. This time its potato and onion with loads of herbs in. By sheer good fortune I discover that when I try to liquidise it the potatoes are just cooked and stay as lumps; the onion and all the rest whizzes into a lovely sauce. So when I box it up and put it in the freezer we know we can either use it as ready cooked spuds in a sauce, or add some water, cook a bit more and whizz it into proper soup. Cool, eh?!! I’m feeling pretty chuffed with myself. (Ok for most of you reading this rubbish it just proves to you what a useless cook I am).

In the early evening it rains and rains and rains. Tom and I brave it to “Nectar” in a gap between the deluges, but most of the girls don’t make it for the meal. We have two gap year students with FHI for a couple of weeks so we have some new faces to talk to. One of them might come out with me for a school visit later in the week. Michael says the Bishop of Shyogwe is blowing colder and colder about us borrowing his car to go and do the Nyabinoni schools. I think it’s a case of this Rwandan trait of not wanting to cause offence by saying “no” outright, so you put off and find reasons for not agreeing to something and hope that eventually it will go away of its own accord. I know that if even we don’t go to Nyabinoni I’ve still got more schools to do this term than there are days to do them in. Tinks is feeling very down that the Shyogwe people are not getting any firm direction from the Diocese and she in particular isn’t getting out to schools to visit them and work with the teachers. She’s feeling under-employed and is considering packing it all in and leaving early. All the people in Diocesan placements, too, are plagued by having schools scattered far and wide so that transport is an even bigger issue than for me. (At least I have around twenty schools within a five mile walking distance and another twenty or so within cheap moto range). I know that Tiga has still not properly started on her teacher training job and it’s a good month and a half since the start of term. It’s all very well the Diocese pleading poverty, but they wanted to have teacher trainers in the first place….

We squelch home through the mud and puddles up the main road. It’s raining as opposed to pouring; the storm drains are a foot deep in water and everywhere you go there’s the sound of dripping or cascading streams in gutters, down drainpipes, and pinging off corrugated iron.

Back at the flat after the meal I read – I’m reading a book called “Suite Française” by Irène Nemirovsky; it’s a beautifully written account of life during the fall of France in 1940. Rivetting stuff. She died in Auschwitz in 1942, so having been to the camp I feel a kind of empathy.

By the time Teresa rings I’m already more than half asleep. There are mosquitoes in the room but they seem so far to be keeping well away from my bed net. That’s good news.

Best thing about today – NOT rushing off to Kigali; NOT waking up dehydrated or worse, NOT staggering around after three hours’ sleep. Oh dear, I’m turning into an old fogey. I’m already wearing carpet slippers inside the flat. Before you know it I’ll be in woolly cardigans and toting a hot water bottle.

Actually I know of at least one female volunteer in her twenties who has a hwb which she uses on cold nights………….

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