Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Village life

I've never really posted you pictures to show what life is like in the villages. So here is a picture essay made up of photos from Cathie and Soraya. All these shots are from the southern province, but could come from almost anywhere in Rwanda.

Double click each picture to open it.

One of the biggest problems for villagers is access. This is a typical path to a village. Imagine having to follow these tracks in the rainy season, with a bowl of produce on your head, for four or five miles to get to the market.

Invariably bridges over streams are logs, loosely held together. Desperately slippery in the rain, and with no guard rail. Quite lethal after dark. These pictures help you understand why almost nobody travels after dark if they can avoid it. The African darkness is so total it gets intimidating.

Twenty litre jerrycans of water are incredibly heavy, especially when you are going uphill.

woman off to the fields with hoe and sack. One of the most common sights in all Rwanda

This is a typical village street scene.

Because there is such an acute shortage of farmland in the southern province, cattle have by law to be kept inside, and fodder is cut and brought to them. This sort of slatted enclosure is very common. Almost always there is a roof of thatch to keep the worst of the sun off the animals; this tiled roof is definitely a cut above average.

Three glimpses of side streets in villages.

Bringing home fodder for the family cow. This is usually done by children, often before they are allowed to leave home for school.

In the villages your shopping choice is somewhat limited.

Every means is used for drying beans or sorghum or cassava, often including the road outside your house.

Wash day. Nobody uses washing lines; clothes are draped over fences and hedges.

This is the centre of Gasarenda village, seen from Han and Mans' house

Typical village houses.

Four uses for bicycles in Rwanda

Sacks of grass or rice or potatoes

The water seller

Carrying sacks of charcoal

Fetching firewood

Other uses include carrying pigs, goats or about a dozen chickens on the rear carrier, or delivering enormous loads of plastic pipes, always mounted crossways on the rack so that the pipes are sticking out some five feet each side of the bike. Potentially lethal for us as pedestrians if we are walking along the side of the road, and potentially even more deadly for the cyclist if a bus or lorry passes a shade too close!

How we cook in Rwanda

More photos from Soraya and Cathie. (It's still raining so I'm occupying myself by sorting through some of the thousands of pictures on my laptop and posting these before Claude demands his modem back).

In Rwanda we volunteers have a choice of five ways of cooking - wood, charcoal, paraffin, electricity or gas. These epictures show you what our cooking arrangements are like.

This is Soraya's kitchen area at Mushubi and is very typical of our VSO cooking arrangements. Most people cook in some sort of lean-to so that we're protected from rain, but at the same time the smoke and fumes from our stoves can't poison us.

Most Rwandans cook on wood because it's the cheapest and most widely available source of fuel.

Many people, including many VSOs, cook on charcoal stoves. These are messy and can take a long time to get hot, but are wonderful for cooking things which need a long, slow simmer. Boiling water for filters, and cooking beans or lentils, are the ideal uses for charcoal stoves. You buy your charcoal in the market, a sack at a time, and pay a porter to carry it home for you.

A close-up of a charcoal stove.

VSO gives us all a paraffin stove, and many of us use them. I hate them because of the smell which seems to linger in the house day and night.

We also have the choice of an electric hotplate. These are far quicker and easier than charcoal or wood or paraffin, but electricity is very expensive here.

Tom and I are some of the very few volunteers who have opted to cook on gas. It means we have instant heat, and we can cook indoors. The problem is that when the cylinder runs out (and you can never predict when that's going to happen), we have to commandeer the FHI pick-up truck to collect a replacement from the garage.

Getting about in the rainy season

These are some of Soraya's pictures from last year when she was living in Mushubi and was effectively cut off from the rest of us for days at a time because of the state of the roads.

As I'm writing this blog I'm pinned down in my office because it's been raining all morning. I'm supposed to be going out to Cyeza school along around six miles of earth roads, but I already know the route will be virtually impassible, especially on the hills.

This is an earth road on a dry day. Rutted, bumpy, dusty - but at least you can get about. This is about as good as it gets with earth roads.

The slightest rainfall causes the surface of the earth roads to break up. Any vehicle - lorry, car, moto, even pushbike - ploughs ruts into the earth which rapidly takes on the consistency of porridge. It may not look too bad in this photo, but when the roads are like this the only realistic course of action is to stay put and wait for the weather to dry up.

Today it's been raining steadily since eight o'clock. This is what the earth roads will have turned into. By the time you have slogged a mile through this mud you feel tired. Now just imagine you have to go the fifty odd kilometres up to the far north of Muhanga District. Many of the poorest villages will be walking barefoot through this stuff with heavy loads on their heads, or trying to push bicycles laden down with enormous sacks of goods through the mud. It makes you realise just how much we take paved roads for granted back in England.

Michael's birthday at Gitarama

Tom and I get stylish with our cake making....

Left to right: Sally, Nicole, Ken, Joe, Michael, Tom

Sally and Nicole, who fly home on April 1st after finishing their three month placements

Hayley and Tom arguing about the meaning of life.....

..... while Charlotte and I get close.

My (short) career as a geology teacher in Kigali

March 30th

At last – a working day, of a sort. Up to the American School in Kigali to do a geology revision lesson with Kersti’s class. All six of them. Everyone at the school makes a fuss of me; a lot of the teachers remember me from Kersti’s party at the beginning of March. I seem to be known as “Kersti’sfriendBrucethegeologist”. It’s nice to be facing a class of children once again, but I feel very rusty. I’m not by any means an expert on Rwandan Geology, but I do my best.

I spend a while trying to get caught up on emails while I’m at the school, but the connection’s too slow to be able to post any blogs. Then it’s off to the town centre and the bank. I need to take out a large sum of money to pay for my flight home in the summer and also to have plenty of cash for our Ugandan trip next week. Unfortunately I can only take out a maximum of 1500 dollars, so I’ll need to take out a bit more on Thursday. Never mind, for once the credit card system works without a hitch, and I leave the bank with a stash of dollar bills.

Immediately I go to the forex bureau by the mosque; I now need to change thousands of pounds (literally) into Rwandan francs. The exchange rate is crummy. I manage to lever the man up from 770 to the pound, which is just ridiculous, to 800. Mind you, I only manage that by starting to walk out of the building, and I’m practically out of the door before he says 800. I wouldn’t settle for anything less, and 800 is quite a drop from the 1000 we were getting at this time last year.

Dealing with these amounts of money is a different business altogether from dealing with small sums. I get taken into a back room. Every single one of my bank notes is put through a machine to check it for authenticity. Then through another machine to count them. The manager has to go out somewhere else to get my stash of francs. These are also put through the counting machine, and I’m shown the machine in operation so I’m convinced I have all the money I should. I insist they put it into a sealable envelope so that the money is easy to hide away in my bag.

As I leave the building I’m nervous as a cat. I have well over one and a half million francs on me. In cash, and therefore untraceable if stolen. Plus fifteen hundred dollars, which is about another 850000 francs. And I also have 2000 pounds in sterling which I’ve decided not to change today in the hope that the exchange rate will recover in a few weeks. That’s another one and a half million francs. So I’m sitting on a taxibus back up to Remera with close to four million francs in my rucksack. Mind you, the money’s buried under a wet towel and dirty underwear, so it’s a brave thief who’d dare rifle through my socks to get it….

It takes ages to get to Remera because there’s been an accident on the dual carriageway, right outside the ministry of justice. A four wheel drive has been hit so hard that it has been shunted round to face the way it’s come. I can’t say I’m surprised – the driving in Kigali is getting more and more reckless. Needless to say all the traffic is cutting each other up to try to get past the accident site, and the police aren’t having much joy in controlling it.

At the VSO office I pay for my air tickets home in the summer, and I’m relieved because that’s one lump of cash disposed of safely. Soraya’s in the VSO office. She tells me that Épi’s just come out of hospital suffering from kidney stones. She’s back at home, but on antibiotics. And she’s still expecting to come to Uganda with us. I really hope she’s able to come, even if she isn’t up to doing the white water rafting. It’ll be such a disappointment for her if she has to cancel, and it won’t feel the same for us without her. Els has also asked if she can join us, and that’s fine by me. Els is in training for the Kigali marathon and is fit as a fiddle. She’ll put us all to shame if we have to do any hard physical work during our holiday!

Eventually I decide to get back home to Gitarama in good time. They’ve altered the system for town buses in Kigali centre, with each route being allocated a particular queuing site, and with yellow lines outside which buses simply must not park. They’ve also flooded the centre with traffic police, and the bus drivers are by and large obeying the system. It’s more orderly, but I have to say I have grown to like the old chaos with touts yelling all day long to get people on particular buses. (Their job has been to fill the bus for the driver and convoyeur, who pay them a couple of hundred francs a time just as the bus is about to leave).

Tom’s been in Kigali today, but at best won’t be back till late and may decide to stay over in town. So I cook for me and the guard, watch a film, and opt for a relatively early night.

Best thing about today – getting some of the financial transactions done. I dread having to walk through Kigali’s crowds and chaos with huge amounts of money, especially when it’s not “my” money.

Bruce and Tom's iced bun workshop

March 28th-29th

More idleness. Saturday is umuganda but this time we all decide to give it a miss (even Christi). We get up late and keep the curtains closed all morning. I spend an energetic morning watching videos – I end up watching more videos in three or four days than in the previous three or four months. “The Golden Compass” is particularly good.

Our torpor is only shifted at the end of the afternoon. The evening is both Michael’s 61st birthday, and a farewell to Sally and Nicole who are returning to England at the end of the month after their three month placements. They are not best pleased with VSO’s admin; somehow we seem to have a knack for never getting things quite right. (And it is a bit rich if we receive nit-picking queries over a few hundred francs travelling expenses when we have volunteers here used to handling and accounting for million pound budgets in their schools.

Michael has opted for a meal at the “Hotel Splendide” to mark his birthday; not for him a night of bopping and general excess at Gahini! The food is good. Tom and I decide to make up one of the packets of cake mix I received as a birthday present, and to our great surprise we find it comes out very well. Michael gets twelve buns with “umunsi mwiza Mike” (Happy Birthday Mike) lettered on them. Everyone is suitably impressed, but in truth all we had to do was add a couple of eggs and some water to the dry mixture, which is, and bake it in our oven.

Ken has come up from Nyanza for the occasion, as has Joe from Nyamasheke. It’s nice to see both of them again. Piet is back from Uganda and we catch up on his gossip.

After the meal Hayley, Charlotte, Tom and I are not yet ready for bed (it’s only ten o’clock on a Saturday night – come on folks!), so we go to the “Orion” nightclub. This is a brand new venture, and is underneath the restaurant which hadn’t got its act together when we visited it. The dance hall sounds as if it’s almost completely empty, so we go to the outside bar which is very pleasant under a large thatched canopy, with TV screens showing endless replays of football (no sound), and a sound system competing with the even bigger system in the club itself.

We spend the rest of the night discussing philosophy and getting steadily more tipsy and taking silly photos of each other until, at around half past one, we decide it’s a decent enough time to go back home to sleep.

On the way home I realise that the sound system I can hear from my bedroom is, in fact, coming from “Orion”, which is almost a mile away from our place. I dread what it must be like for those poor people living above town centre shops!

Tom has had a tad too much to drink. I fall into bed and go out like a light. He goes to the kitchen to refill his water bottle, and somehow manages to fall asleep on the kitchen floor and not wake up till after three in the morning.

Needless to say we have a “slow Sunday”. Joe comes round on his way to get the bus back to Nyamasheke and collects a flash from me with loads of pictures on it. Like a clot I’ve forgotten to download a long letter from the US Peace Corps girl who is going to be based at Nyamasheke, but I’ll forward it to him as soon as I get back to my emails.

Geert texts me from Holland to see if I’ve survived the hacking attack on my computer, and says he also has emails for me. Tuesday first thing is going to be email time!

Kersti phones and invites me to Kigali for the evening, and to help her in the American School tomorrow morning for a geology revision session with her pupils. That’s a perfect arrangement because I’m going into Kigali anyway to get money changed.

We eat at Sole Luna with Leah, her mum (who’s a volunteer at Kibuye, working with refugees), and Catherine. Catherine has just landed a job at one of the English speaking private schools in Kigali, and in fact she is teaching one of President Kagame’s children in one of her English classes. She’s also lined up for quite a lucrative job teaching English to civil servants in a scheme due to kick off later in the year, although the funding and arrangements for this are not yet certain.

I know I’ve had a terribly lazy few days, but I feel all the better for it. Monday and Tuesday and Thursday of next week are already mapped out as active days; Wednesday will be a quiet day with some English lessons and Friday will be getting packed for an early start on Saturday to Uganda. So there – and that’s another school term and another three months done in Rwanda!

Slack days

March 26th-27th

Two very quiet days. There’s really no point in going in to the office. I can compile a report on my primary school visits for the whole term at home; that’s only an hour’s work. The census data hasn’t yet come in from more than a couple of schools in the entire District (out of 150), so I can’t get on and analyse it. There’s no money to organise any training days, and in any case the teachers are too busy doing exams and reports to be able to attend trainings. So as far as work goes I’m at a loose end. I’m not worried; there’s going to be a real log-jam of work at the start of next term when I’ve got MINEDUC work, census analysis, and school visits all competing for the same time during May!

So it’s “down time”, or “me time” at the moment, with just enough disruption from other events to give a shape to each day. I’ve got two people to give English lessons to, so I’m able to prepare well for them and it means I can enjoy the lessons. It means I’m going to be rested and ready for the Ugandan adventure next weekend.

I go to see Hayley and Charlotte at the YWCA and we do a low of music swapping. Charlotte discovers my Congolese; I discover Angelique Kidjo and others.

I can do some shopping and experiment with a bit of cooking – for the first time I buy ibijumba (sweet potatoes to the rest of you); they taste different from those we have at home. They’re slightly less sweet. I make them into a soup with spuds and lots of other stuff; it’s OK but not my best effort. At one and the same time its too sweet to be successful as a soup, and also has a slight aftertaste. So next time I’ll stay to my two favourites of potato and onion or tomato and lentil.

We go to Kerry and Moira’s place at Kavumu for a meal and to watch a video; we discover there’s no one video which none of us have seen, so we agree to watch my “Little Miss Sunshine”. It’s a copy that Caroline sent me from Bangkok; unfortunately it jams every twenty minutes and (excruciatingly) right at the very end of the film. Never mind, it whiles away an evening, and K & M make a super vegetable curry!

Tom finally has to go and have a forceful word with the Maire before anybody will pay my rent for the flat – it’s just too bad. The financial arrangements for the District seem absolutely chaotic. On the one hand there seems to be no money left; then we discover that there is plenty of money stashed away, but nobody will release it without the right forms, the right signatures and the right stamps. It’s Kafka-esque bureaucracy. For one thing, you can’t every guarantee that somebody will be in their office to see you. They go off to meetings or whatever at the drop of a hat. There’s no concept of “core time” when everyone is present to ensure administration works efficiently. There’s no delegation, so if someone is away everything waits.

I really feel sorry for people who have come down from the far north of Muhanga to see an official, only to find he’s gone to Kigali on business for a couple of days. “You’ll have to wait”, they’re told, but how can they?

The height of Thursday’s entertainment is when I manage to unblock our wash basin. Months of hair, beard shavings and unmentionable gunk to tip into the rubbish bin….. Ugh!

And that’s about it really. Tiga texts to say she’s going home to France for a few weeks for a minor operation; the doctors have found the problem but she wants to be treated in Europe and I don’t blame her. Charlotte seems to have bad hayfever at the moment.

In the evening we go out for a meal at a bar only a couple of hundred yards from the flat. It confirms our suspicions – this is the place from which the pumping music comes all night. There’s a new owner who has just done the place up and installed video players and a massive amplifier system.

Our brochettes and ibirayi are very good, and it comes as a pleasant end to a relaxing couple of days.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Message to all readers

Yesterday my email account was hijacked by spammers working from Ghana. If you are in my email address book you probably received a message saying I was stuck in Accra and needed money sending. It is not true; please do not send them any money. I think pretty well all of you realised it must have been a scam.

More annoyingly, the scammers have deleted all the addresses in my domestic email address book. Can you send me an empty email message so that I get your addresses back, please?

many thanks

Bruce xx

Scammed - a day to forget!

March 25th

Terrible night last night – really bad sciatica. By morning I can barely lift my head, let alone get out of bed and go to work. Decide to stay at home (the only reason for going into the office would be to see if any more school census returns have arrived) and rest. Spend a very slow morning but do manage to get two important bits of work done. One is a summary for Claude of all the visits I have made to Tronc Commun schools this term. The other is a translation of a financial bid to Kigali for the District (they want to make a statistical database for the District to get more accurate data for planning).

By lunchtime, thanks to a load of diclofenac tablets and endless cups of tea, I’m beginning to feel more mobile. I stumble upon how to make “thê africain” – all you need to do is boil up a mixture of milk and a shake of ginger, then add it to a teabag. It’s not the real thing, but it’s a passable imitation, especially with a spoonful of sugar in it.

Early in the afternoon there’s a massive storm. Within two minutes the temperature drops, and the wind is so strong that even coming through the air holes in our walls it is fierce enough to blow over a birthday card on the far side of the room. The rain comes down like a curtain and all visibility ends under a white fog of torrential water. It comes under the French windows in the lounge, and gallons of water surge across the floor before I can try to plug the gap with a cloth. I spend five minutes sweeping water back under the door. Fortunately we’ve got used to this and we never leave anything near the door which would be ruined if it got wet.

Now the phone rings. Tom tells me that someone appears to have hijacked my email account and sent messages to everybody in my entire email address books (well over 200 people) that I am stuck in Accra (Ghana) and in need of £1800 urgently to get me out of trouble. The money needs to be wired to some “friendly Ghanaian” who, out of pure altruism, will make his bank account available to help me. Yeah, right! This is a very clever variation on the old West African money scam which still manages to hook people time after time. These scammers are driving around in BMWs thanks to the gullibility of people like my friends and relatives.

Fortunately Tom knows he left me at the flat, in bed, at eight this morning so there’s no way I can be stuck in Ghana. Stuck in Gitarama, maybe, but certainly not in Ghana. However, the email is really convincing, and I know that if I were a parent of a gap-year teenager who I knew might be in Ghana, I would be completely taken in. It’s not until you read the message in some detail that you see things in the text which are not the English that an English person uses. And, of course, if you get one of these messages your first reaction is the emotional one of shock and your desire to help a friend in need. It really is very clever.

OK, so what’s to do? The scammer has hijacked my email account and I can’t simply go on line and tell everyone to forget it. Tom and Christi come to the rescue. Tom sends an email to the scammer, pretending to be taken in, and asks the scammer what account to send the money to. Within seconds the scammer has replied, giving his real name. We debate about calling the Ghanaian police but decide that they almost certainly won’t take any action because no crime has been committed in their country. For all we know, they might be in on the scam anyway. We contact Yahoo and tell them what’s happened, giving them the details of the scammer. We have one stroke of luck in that the scammer is in a hurry and has slightly mis-spelt my email address, so it looks as if we can still use the “nuttyuptons” address. Tom goes back into my email account and we change the password, and eventually we find we can re-access the email account, but every name in my address books has been removed by the scammer. Never mind, we can eventually recreate the address book.

But the biggest problem is whether I can do anything to stop people worrying about me and sending money to this bastard in Accra. Within seconds I get a phone call from Geert in Holland asking me if I’m OK; he’s one of the few people outside Rwanda to know my local phone number. So the problem is acute. Charlotte rings me from Kigali to say that every VSO has had the scam message, and we agree that she will email everyone on the VSO list and tell them it’s a scam. But what I’m much more worried about is whether friends or relatives back in England will be taken in. I’m hoping they will check with Teresa before doing anything.

I ring Teresa; she’s inundated with worried friends asking whether I really am in trouble. We agree that she will try to contact by email as many of our contacts as we can remember and reassure them.

By now its late afternoon and we’re getting worn out with all the trouble of trying to undo the damage this idiot is causing.

In conclusion: the scam works like this: you get what appears to be an official email from Yahoo asking you to reconfirm your email account with them or you will lose it. This is the text of the email:
Yahoo! Warning!!! Verify Your Account Now To Avoid It Closed (YV2G99MAQ)
Sunday, March 8, 2009 11:39 AM
"Yahoo! Member Services"
Add sender to Contacts
Dear Account User,
This Email is from Yahoo Account Services and we are sending it to every Yahoo Email User Accounts Owner for safety. we are having congestions due to the anonymous Registration of Yahoo Accounts so we are shutting down some Yahoo Accounts and Your Account was among those to be deleted.We are sending you this email to so that you can verify this Account.If you are still interested please confirm Your Account by filling the space below.Your Username,Password,Date of Birth and your Country information would be needed to verify Your Account.

Due to the congestion in all Yahoo users and removal of all used Yahoo Accounts, Yahoo would be shutting down some Yahoo Accounts, You will have to confirm your E-mail by filling out your Login Information below after clicking the reply button, or your Account will be suspended within 48 hours for security reasons.

* Yahoo ID: .......................
* Password: ......................
* Date of Birth: ..................
* Country Or Territory: ........

After following the instructions in the sheet, Your Account will not be interrupted and will continue as normal. Thanks for your attention to this request. We apologize for any inconveniences.

Warning!!! Account owner that refuses to update his/her Account after two weeks of receiving this warning will lose his or her Account Permanently.

Customer Care
Yahoo! Mail Service.

It’s targeted at people who they know are working or travelling abroad and they know full well that we all rely on email for contacts home. Therefore people won’t want to risk their email being severed and they tend to send the information. Within minutes their account has been hit and their address book stolen.

It’s been a day I want to forget. Well, you can’t win them all!

Money matters....

March 23rd

Into the office today intending to get caught up on internet stuff and then into Kigali. No sign of Claude; his stuff’s there but he’s taken his modem with him. Curses! I spend a hour or so fiddling round in the office, and then get a bus to Kigali. I just manage to miss a bus at Gitarama, and another at Nyabogogo so in all iot takes me a long time. It’s a burning hot day – what a contrast from yesterday! In fact Gitarama turns out to be as hot as Kigali which is the first time I’ve ever been aware of that.

At Nyabogogo I book two seats for Épiphanie and me to go to Kampala in April. You can’t pay for the seats until the day before you travel, but at least I’ve got two seats booked, and on the shadier side of the coach.

At the VSO office I make Josiane go through the air ticket quotes again and we definitely establish that Ethiopian is the cheapest, though prices have risen by nearly 50% since Teresa and co came out last summer. That’s a measure of inflation generally, and the state of the pound at the moment.

Mike sees me and tells me that as from April our VSO allowance is going up by RwF20,000 to RwF170,000 per month. That extra will just about but a bottle of Primus a day….

The computer in the VSO office is at its usual snail-like pace, but I manage to get all my electronic stuff done. So far the day is going well.

Final stop is to the dentist in Nyarutarama. I’m expecting to be handed back my cheque with a “thank you, but we don’t need this – VSO is covering your bill with its insurance policy”. Instead, I get “this cheque has bounced – what are you going to do about it?” Politely, of course – Africans hate confrontations and especially so with an elderly muzungu.

I use the VSO emergency hotline for help – the first time I’ve ever had to do so. Fortunately all is resolved within ten minutes.

I learn that there are two sorts of chequebooks in Rwanda. There’s the “carnet d’écheques”, which works like an ordinary English chequebook. Then there’s the “carnet de reçus” or receipt book, which is apparently what my bank has given me. The two kinds of cheques look almost identical, and they both look like English cheques. But the reçus are only usable for me to draw money from my own account. (And fortunately I’ve only used them for that purpose until now). So there is great confusion over two issues – I’ve used the wrong kind of cheque, and I’ve written a cheque for something which VSO is covering from its insurance. None of the other VSOs in my bunch has come up against this problem, so it’s going to be a learning curve for all of us and I must warn Soraya and Tiga and Épi.

The dentist, Mr Login, comes to see me and I apologise profusely to him. He is charming and asks me if my mouth is OK; I reply that it is and he says words to the effect of “well, that’s the only thing that really matters” and goes off to deal with his patient who he has left in the chair while he comes to me.

VSO tell the receptionist that they’ll sort everything out and I leave with “cheque” in hand and tail between my legs.

I get back to Gitarama quickly because apparently Emmanuelle wants to see me. When I get to the Office I’m cross because what she really wants is to press me as to whether I’ve found anyone to sponsor her university course this year. No I haven’t, and I’m not 100%v sure she’d be my top priority.

I congratulate her on her speech yesterday; tell her I’m proud of her. She’s projected very well indeed; she’s set herself up as the knowledgeable person on the direction avant garde primary schools are going in Rwanda, and has certainly been notice by the men from the Ministry. They’ll definitely remember her name.

Meanwhile, all the secteur reps have been busy today writing the end-of-term exams. We’ve decided to examine at District level, so each rep is going home with papers for all years and all subjects and there’ll be a massive duplicating job in the secteur offices tomorrow. I ask to see the English paper which has been done by Évalde from Rugendabari. There are couple of mistakes which I correct, but otherwise it’s a compendium of bits from previous years’ papers. Not in the slightest interesting or imaginative, but safe, safe, safe.

Back to the flat to find the power’s off. We’re not short of food, but I can’t work out what Tom will cook with it. I’ve got some stale sponge cake, a packet of jelly powder and one last, prized, sachet of instant custard. So I set to and make a trifle.

When Tom comes home we decide to make a “guacaslaw” – something between guacamole and coleslaw, and have it with savoury rice and a sprinkling of cheese. The guacaslaw turns out great – grated onion, cabbage, carrot, pepper and chopped avocado, with dollops of free mayonnaise left over from the FHI visiting American party and a dash of wine vinegar. You couldn’t make it as nicely in England – you need our beautiful, buttery Rwandan avocados to give it texture!

Well, I’m no further forward with water tanks, which is a pity, but I’ve done a lot of other business and all in all its been a good and worthwhile day.

Education Day photos

The Islamic girls' school choir, very fetching in headscarves, teeshirts and trainers

Family drama. Quite why "grandad" had one trouser leg rolled up we never found out. Maybe he was a freemason....?

Presenting awards. Yvonne, our Maire, is in the green teeshirt, next to the "men from the ministry"

The prize winners look ecstatically happy.....

To be given a cow is a huge reward. A fine cow like this would cost RwF200,000 in the markets.

The elderly couple who were given the cow as a reward for their work in raising orphaned children. If you double click on this picture you will see the old man has a superb walking stick. She may look like an old granny buy, by golly, she was a feisty old lady!

The headteachers with their certificates. Prominent in the front is Melchior, the head of Kibanda School. Kibanda is our best performing school this year, yet it is tucked away in a fold of the mountains, remote and almost forgotten!

Monday, 23 March 2009

The best pupil in our District

See March 21-22 blog for details. This is the picture and text which appear in today(March 23rd) "New Times" on its front page. Yay, Muhanga makes the news!

The Imbuto Foundation yesterday, rewarded another group of female students that excelled in last year’s national exams including foster mothers in the Muhanga District, Southern Province.

Minister of State for Primary and Secondary Education, Theoneste Mutsindashyaka, presented the awards to the students and foster mothers on behalf of the First Lady and Patron of the foundation, Jeannette Kagame.

A total of 43 girls who excelled in primary and ordinary level national exams were awarded with certificates, bags, mathematical sets, calculators, books and Rwf 20,000.

Marie Louise Uwiduhaye a student from Groupe Scholaire Notre Dame de Lourdes Byimana was awarded with a laptop for passing all her six papers with distinctions at senior six.

While addressing thousands at the stadium, Mutsindashaka passed on Mrs. Kagame’s message of gratitude to partners who have continued to make the annual rewards a success.

The partners include UNICEF, Cisco Systems, and James Ofwona an individual philanthropist who donates laptops to the best senior six performers.
The Minister hailed the Foundation for playing a significant role in boosting academic success among students by especially encouraging the girl-child education, adding that this will increase their participation in the country’s development process.

“In relation to last year’s national examination statistics, the general performance of female students is getting better each year. Of the 46 percent girls that sat for last year’s exams, 41 percent passed well implying that the Imbuto’s campaign is already producing good results,” Mutsindashyaka noted.

The deputy CEO of RDB in charge of Tourism, Rosette Chantal Rugamba, was called upon by the Foundation to offer guidance, inspiration and a true-life testimony as a woman who has accomplished a lot in the public sector.

As a role model, she would affirm to the girls that high performance is indeed possible and with it remarkable achievements.

Having told her life story to hundreds of girls who attended the ceremony, she encouraged them to do whatever it takes to excel academically as a way of attaining responsible leadership positions and engagement in the development process.

“I faced so many challenges but today I am here because there has never been a time when I thought I could not do what men do. You therefore must be ambitious to partake in all activities with a sense of purpose and love for your country,” she advised.

Aurelia Mujawamariya and Audencire Mukambaraga were each rewarded with a cow under the Imbuto Foundation’s “Malayika Murinzi” programme for being exemplary parents to vulnerable children in society.

Only girls who passed national examinations with a minimum of 60 percent in primary, senior three and senior six qualified to be rewarded under the programme.

Soraya's arty photos from Gahini

As usual, if you double click on each picture it should open full size. All these pictures are courtesy of Soraya. On some of them the compression may be such that they don't enlarge as well as usual...

Little lakeside rondavel at Muhazi, with weaver bird nests in the tree behind it

The tastful concrete giraffes which tell you that you've arrived at Jambo Beach

Weaver birds and their nests

The dirt road up the hill to our upper guesthouse. By Rwandan standards the surface on this road is first class. You almost never get a surface as smooth as this!

Clowns 1

Clowns 2

Lake Muhazi looking mysterious in the evening light

Anyone for fresh Tilapia?

Group shot by the lakeside

The wonky jetty by the lakeside. Our Sunday morning revolved around this spot....

Show off......

Epi is waiting for her prince to rise out of the lake and rescue her.... (Instead she's got Eric splashing around like a big white dolphin).

Waiting for a bus home outside Jambo Beach