Wednesday, 25 March 2009

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.

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