Monday, 23 March 2009

Holding the baby in Gitarama

March 20th
Well, I wasn’t going to bore you all with a blog entry today, until things in the evening turned interesting. Let’s just say that the navel gazing that is “Programme Assessment Planning” ground its way through the day. Sorry VSO, I know these things have to be done and I’m not really complaining, but at the same time there are vastly more exciting ways of spending two days in Kigali….

I’m somewhat surprised to get a phone call from Claude early in the afternoon asking where I am. I explain. He says he needs to see me a.s.a.p. to discuss things in advance of Sunday’s “Education Day”. So I change my plans – booking flights with Josiane, booking coaches to Kampala, collecting money from the dentist – they’ll all have to wait until Monday, and I’ll take Monday off and spend it in Kigali.

I get the earliest possible bus back home and by half past four I’m phoning Claude to say I’m practically at the door of the Office. He replies that he’s at home; he’s ill, and we end up with a misunderstanding where I think he’s going to come to the flat and he thinks I’m coming to his house. (I haven’t got a clue where he lives).

I rush home to the flat and spend a frantic hour getting the place tidy. No sign of Claude. Tom comes in and we cook supper. Still no sign of Claude.

Then a text message asking me whether I’m coming. The following half hour flows like a pantomime sketch. I tell Claude I’ll come to his place straight away. Where is it? Claude replies it’s by the church, and do I remember it from his wedding? Answer, yes, of course I do.

I get a moto and we chase off through the dark night to Mount Sion, at the extreme far end of Gitarama, to where he got married. There’s no sign of him. I try to look for a Claude-sized house in the total African darkness, fall in a ditch and get rescued by the night watchman of a biggish house nearby. He can’t speak French so he goes to find someone who can. No, they’ve never heard of a Claude who works in the District Office. By now I know I must have got things wrong (again). I phone Claude and get him to talk in Kinya to these people so they can redirect me.

It turns out that the church Claude meant was St André, the Catholic Church, which is within walking distance of our flat. I get another moto back to St André. Still no sign of Claude. I’m beginning to get fed up. Claude got married in the Anglican Church at Mount Sion, so why should he expect me to go to the Catholic church?

Eventually he comes up the lane to meet me, and apologises. He said about the church because it’s the nearest landmark to the little street where he lives. He thought I had come to his house for the final part of the wedding ceremony, and so I would know how to find it from the church. But I didn’t go to his house, and in the darkness there’s not a hope in hell of locating it unless he comes out to meet me. He thought I already knew where he lived….. He’s got a stinking cold and badly needs an early night.

In the house Immaculée is feeding the baby, who at four months is just gorgeous. So I get a cuddle with (as yet un-named) Sebashi junior. She is round, content, and very attentive.

Claude wants to clarify some details ahead of Sunday, and wants me to make a few more certificates for the best managed schools. That’s contentious – I’ve only been to about a third of all the primaries, so how can I judge those I’ve never been to? He says don’t worry, just choose one which has been well managed and it’ll encourage the others. I promise to get things seen to in the morning.

If you are invited to a Rwandan family in the evening it means you always get fed, so despite my having eaten with Tom, we eat again. This time its African style. We have chips, rice, beans and a carrot and tomato sauce (the usual), but what is new to me is sambasa in a spicy sauce. Sambasa are the tiny fish you find in Lake Kivu. I have had them fresh and fried (like whitebait) when Épi and I went to Gisenyi last July. But these are the dried one which you can smell from ten paces in the market. I’m a bit timid at first, but I have to say that Immaculée (or more likely their housegirl) has done a good job and they’re really tasty (and not in the slightest smelly). Perhaps we ought to try them at the flat..

When we finish eating its time for the little girl to be put down for the night, so I get to give her a second good-night cuddle while Immaculée sorts out her cot. Then Claude and I walk up to the main road.

I think Claude is having a new house built close by to where he lives, and certainly I get the feeling that his present place is temporary. It is not only just behind St André church but also close to the prison, and a certain smell lingers in the air…. But he’s a lucky man – a secure, well paid job; a beautiful wife; a lovely little daughter, cute and healthy. That puts him far, far ahead of most Rwandan men!

He’s hoping at some time in the future to come to England for a year and take a Master’s Degree in Education Management. I hope so; it would be lovely to show him round my part of England. But it would probably mean leaving his family behind for a year, which is tough for all of them.

It is a clear night and away from shop and street lights the stars are super. The Milky Way arcs across Gitarama like a rainbow. It’s cool and I feel uplifted, so I walk home to the flat. By the time I arrive, once again, I’m dead on my feet and it’s straight to bed.

Best thing about today – being invited to Claude’s.

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