Monday, 23 March 2009

Sunday by the Lake at Gahini

March 15th

After all the rain of yesterday, Sunday is bright. Blue skies, calm, hot and sunny. The few clouds that float by are reflected in the lake, which is also blue and inviting and not the dull grey it was all day for my birthday!

People are getting up piecemeal; my main job this morning is to make sure they’ve all paid for their rooms. The total cost of rooms and meals and drink for the weekend is around half a million francs (between 40+ people), and I don’t want to have to foot the bill for anyone who “forgets” to pay.

But hey, they’re my friends and in the end everything adds up and we’re home and dry. The Bishop’s guest house tries it on as usual, asking 15000 for a room instead of 10,000. Fifteen is the usual rate, but Paula had negotiated ten thousand with James, the manager. As usual, James either isn’t here or has his phone switched off, so after ten minutes of arguing they capitulate and accept ten thousand per room.

After I went to bed last night we apparently had a casualty. One volunteer collapsed unconscious; perhaps the waragi had caught up with them or perhaps someone put something in their drink (though we’ve never heard of that happening here in Rwanda yet). The others who were still there had to carry this person to the hospital up the hill past my guesthouse, and they were kept in overnight for observation. By this morning they are ready to be discharged, and one very chastened and embarrassed volunteer comes back to join us. Never mind; it could have happened to any of us, and well might at some do in the future!

We all have a leisurely breakfast at “Seeds of Peace”; in typical Rwandan fashion the waitresses just shrug at us when we say we’d like omelettes and tea and tell us they’re out of eggs. So we ask for bread instead. Then, later on, the manager arrives and sends someone off with a flea in their ear to buy eggs nearby. So the final few to wake up do have their omelettes after all. That’s a lovely little illustration of the lack of customer service mentality here!

Me, Soraya, Tom, Épi, Eric and Janine stroll down to the lakeside and pootle around for an hour. The sun is burning hot – even Janine is feeling the heat through her hair. There’s a rickety old jetty which looks as though it would collapse with a single foot on it, but turns out strong enough to support our weight and makes an ideal prop for photos.

The weaver birds are chirping; the pied kingfishers are darting up and down the lake, and two big water birds are fishing within fifty yards of us. Across the water, on the President’s ranch, all is quiet and peaceful.

Tom Lee and I are nursing bites; either we had fleas in our bedding last night or else they’ve adopted us from the taxibuses we used to get here. I’d like to strip off and go for a swim to get clean (the wash rooms at the guesthouse aren’t its main selling point), but somehow we all feel too tired and droopy to make the effort to change. Someone says that swimming in Muhazi is discouraged because there are bilharzias snails in the water. We don’t see any live ones, but Épi, always the biologist, fishes out a dozen or so empty snail shells to use with one of her classes next week.

We decide to leave at lunchtime; Janine is due to sing in the church choir for 4.30 Mass and we have promised to get her back in time. The English family who have been camping at “Seeds of Peace” are just leaving, and offer to take a couple of us to Kayonza to get an express bus back to Kigali. Tom and Janine have the most urgent business, so they go in with the English family. Tom is entertained by the young girl in the car who tells him in graphic detail how her very little brother is always picking his nose….

The rest of us are picked up within five minutes by a taxibus and decanted at Kayonza. As we turn the corner into the main Kigali road an express bus is just pulling away, so I wave and shout and run and make it stop for us. (After all, who is going to turn down three muzungu fares if they have empty seats in the bus). The run to Kigali is fast and hot and cramped and uneventful, but when we reach Kigali (Remera bus station) it is absolutely scorching hot. We are rendezvousing with Tom and Janine; she finds us first and we try to keep still and look for shade until Tom finishes his FHI business and joins us.

Then comes the really nice surprise – Tom has an FHI car which he needs to take back to Gitarama. So we drive the final leg home in comfort. It makes a very nice end to a successful but tiring birthday weekend.

Back at the flat Tom and I crash out and doze for an hour or so, and then it’s time for evening meal. Very few have the stamina to turn up! Piet has flu (why did I waste time washing up his cake tin for him…); most of the others are just too tired to come.

By the time we get back to the flat I’m intending to do all sorts – ironing, blogs, thank you letters, and sort out my photos of the weekend. In the event I only manage the photos. By nine o’clock I’m in bed, and when Teresa rings I’m deep asleep.

Best thing about today – the weather. Gahini looks so gorgeous when its fine, and for the many volunteers who have never been to Gahini before I’m so pleased that in the end they saw it at its best.

Worst thing – birthdays are so tiring!


Anonymous said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


miss ping said...

Nice to see the jetty's still there. There was a little 2 room cottage, a boat house and the jetty when I was a kid, back in the mists of time in the 1950s & 60s. We spent hours down by the lake swimming, sailing, etc. The surviving jetty is probably the one we rebuilt with my father in 1985.

mike_sisley said...

The jetty sounds very familiar, who is miss ping - I feel I ought to know her. Could it be a pseudonym for Bertha Mason