Tuesday, 31 March 2009

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.

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