Friday, 17 April 2009

Mad Friday in GItarama

April 3rd

Well, after all these days of inactivity, suddenly it’s all hell let loose today. Too much to do and not enough time to do it in. At least I get a hearty breakfast at Amani, and enough strong coffee to get my nerves twanging!

All along I’ve assumed that it would be just Épi and I on the coach to Uganda tomorrow, but now I discover there are at least six more VSOs on the same bus as us, and various other VSOs going on other buses. The girls give me money to go and collect their tickets (you can book many days in advance, but you can only pay and collect the tickets 24 hours before you travel). The Ugandan man at the jaguar office thinks it’s a real hoot that he’s going to have 8 muzungus on the bus tomorrow, and even more so when I tell him I’m the only man with an entourage of seven young girls…..

I have to go to the VSO office to sort out problems with my bill from the dentist. Yes, I, too, thought it was all settled, and I’m mortified to get a phone call from the clinic saying what’s happening about their money? At the VSO office there’s great confusion; Jean-Claude puts me on the Rachel; Rachel sends me to Charlotte via Josiane; Charlotte send me to Flavia; then back to Charlotte and Rachel until new eventually solve the dilemma. You get the picture!

What has happened is that VSO have agreed to pay, but they have paid the money into my bank account instead of paying it to the clinic. Hence it hasn’t reached the dentist. This is getting seriously embarrassing; I don’t want to get a credit blacklist in Rwanda; there could be implications when I want to leave the country in December. Likewise, I don’t want VSO as an organisation to be blacklisted so that no other volunteer ever gets treatment at this clinic (because the clinic really is very good).

I want to get everything sorted out today before the country shuts down for Genocide Week, and before I go to Uganda. So we agree that VSO will give me an emergency cash loan to pay for the treatment, and I’ll repay VSO as soon as I come back from Kampala. VSO will get the money to the clinic today.

It’s quite funny. It means that since last Autumn I’ve tapped all three “emergency funds” VSO runs – emergency repatriation when Dad died; emergency medical treatment for my teeth, and an emergency loan to pay the dentist….. I’m becoming notorious!

I have a chat with Charlotte about various VSO committees, and then leave the office, mission accomplished.

Back to Gitarama on a small matata, jammed in with a wheezy woman and a young man with an acute scalp condition. Not good, but at least the bus runs virtually non-stop.

While I’m on the bus Claude rings and wants me to come to the office; they need help sorting out some of my statistics results for their termly report to MINEDUC. Also Raima rings; there’s something cropped up which needs my attention.

At this point I realise I must abandon any idea of going out to Cyeza School about water tanks today. I’ll ring the school during the holidays after I come home from Uganda; I’ll probably be able to see at least one of the head teachers and get things moving.

I persuade the bus to drop me at the District Office and breeze in to find everything in full swing. It’s the last day of term, so there’s loads of admin to get through. It’s also a Friday which means nobody wants to work in the afternoon. Claude is having a meeting with all the secteur reps, so puts me on to Béatrice, and we run through my statistics. There’s been no change since I first tried to compile them; things are messy. With the upper secondary (“A” level) results, things are not complete because there’s a whole page of results missing on the official sheets. One school’s results are incomplete and we can’t make fair comparisons with the others. I’ve reported this to Claude back in February; he hasn’t done anything about it and now he’s panicking because he’s up against his MINEDUC deadline. Also, I’ve had the constant problem of trying to sort out whether students are male or female. It’s really too bad that they set such store on gender variance in results and yet they don’t indicate gender on the results sheets (how much extra time would that have taken?).

Then with the lower secondary (tronc commun) results we have two schools where our entire District Office copy of their results has vanished, and I can’t so any gender analysis for two out of twenty two schools. Also I think that for some of the schools where we have tried to identify boys and girls the results aren’t as accurate as they could be. I tell Béatrice that as long as she keeps results at a whole District level they’ll probably be relatively accurate, and that for the missing information we’ll assign boys and girls in the same proportion as for those we have identified. Accurate it ain’t but it’ll have to do!

Finally we have primary school information and again I know that some of the boy/girl allocations are wrong, even though they have been done by Rwandans and not by me!

We print all the stuff off, and I make my escape from the Office. I’ve told everyone where I’m going, and that I’ll be back at work on the 13th, and everyone is envious. They all agree that it’s a damned good idea to get away from Rwanda next week and I’m sure all of them would come with us if they could.

Next I walk to the post office; surprise, surprise there are no newspapers (again) – we’ll probably get three all coming together after Genocide Week. There’s a parcel for Kerry which says its shoes, so I text her to see if the wants me to bring them with me tomorrow. (Everyone except Épi and I are going to be in Kigali tonight).

Épi isn’t answering her phone; at intervals during the morning I’ve tried to call her, and so has Tina, to check that she’s OK and that she’s definitely coming with us. I’ve paid for her bus ticket, too, so I’ll be cross if she doesn’t appear, and even crosser if I’m not able to re-sell her ticket at the last moment!

On to Ahazaza School and a wait for Raima to arrive. She’s in high dudgeon because there’s been some stupid messing around with her school and an allocation of new Maths books for year 4. Claude says she’s entitled to her proportion of them; the person issuing them at Nyabisindu School says her schools isn’t on the list and can’t be given any. We try to ring Claude; we know he’s in a meeting with the secteur reps; all we get is the “number unobtainable, please try later” message. I don’t know whether it means he’s switched off his phone or whether the system’s playing up yet again. I suspect the former because Épi’s terracom phone rings, but she doesn’t answer it. I can’t do anything more than make sympathetic noises. Claude and all the others will be off doing sport in a half hour’s time, and I think I need to leave the problem until I return to work on the 13th. I can’t help feeling that Raima has got it right and that people really are ganging up against her because they know her school’s wealthy compared to all the others. What makes it all the more intractable is that Raima is going to Europe next week until the end of May, so ultimately it probably means muggins will need to collect the books for her and store them until she re-appears.

Just as I’m leaving a minibus pulls up at Ahazaza and out come a Belgian teacher and six teenage Belgian girls, on a study trip to Rwanda. They’re somehow linked to Raima and have come toi see her school. Unfortunately they have arrived late, just as the maternelle children are being collected by their parents. I introduce myself and we make small talk. You can tell this group have only just got into the country – lily white legs in shorts (no Rwanda women or long term muzungus normally wear shorts except around the house), and faces already going pink in the sun.

By now it’s well after mid-day and steamy hot; clouds are building up and there’s an afternoon storm on its way. Isn’t that just typical – if it had been weather like this on Tuesday it would have been the perfect occasion o go out to Cyeza School and get the water tanks sorted. Instead, on this lovely day, I’m running around sorting out everyone else’s problems except my own….

I call in at the “Horizon” bus depot and book two seats for the seven o’clock bus tomorrow morning. If Épi doesn’t show up I know there’ll be no problem finding someone else to see the extra ticket to. Today is the end of term for many schools; every bus place is getting besieged with teenagers and loads of baggage and bedding rolls, all looking to go home. Tomorrow will be just as bad, and if I don’t book I could have a disaster on my hands – not only that I myself might not make Kigali in time for the Kampala bus, but because I have everyone else’s tickets in my sweaty hand!

Whew! At this point I’m feeling hungry and worn out, so I flop into “Tranquillité” for a mélange and a drink. Just as I’m leaving the Belgian party arrives so I scuttle off up to the flat and start laying out kit ready to pack.

Soon after three Delphine comes to see me; there isn’t time for an English lesson but she’s come into Gitarama to the market and wants to say goodbye to her English teacher before he ventures into Uganda. I think she’s worried I might get eaten by a crocodile and never return! She’s bought me a bunch of little sweet bananas which is very touching of her; I’ll take them with me on the bus tomorrow (it’s a twelve hour journey and I’m not sure whether we are supposed to take a picnic or not. I’ve got biscuits, peanuts, a big bottle of water and now bananas so I won’t starve).

When she leaves I go with her as far as the corner of the market, then loop back and buy a few bits of vegetables for tonight’s meal. I’ve decided that Épi must be staying with Janneau in Kigali tonight; I’m sure if she was coming here she would have said by now. I try and try to ring her; her phone rings but she doesn’t answer.

I’m just thinking about starting the evening meal when John-0Robert arrives for his English lesson. He always seems to get here very late; after an hour’s working through grammar and pronunciation (collective nouns, conditional future etc) its dark outside and I’ve missed the evening news on the radio. Never mind, I’ve given him good measure and we won’t be having a lesson for the next three weeks, and not for the next fortnight after that.

So eventually I’m cooking for myself and the guard – Tom’s texted to say he’s being kept late in Kigali and he’ll get his own food there. So its pasta in a very rich Italian style sauce, and avocado with garlic, salt and mayonnaise dressing. Just as I’m serving up Tom arrives, but he’s stuffed himself with pizza from Sola Luna and, what’s more, he’s bought another pizza to have tomorrow!

After tea there’s constant coming and going on the phone. Soraya manages to get through to Épi, who finally contacts me. She’s decided she’s not going on the family pilgrimage to Kibuye after all, so she doesn’t need to stay with us tonight in Gitarama. She has left her phone with a friend in Kigali and only just reclaimed it this evening. She’s definitely coming to Uganda tomorrow, so all’s well.

Teresa rings to wish me Bon Voyage and Happy Easter. If Épi’s not going to Kibuye we don’t have to be back here quite so early, and could stay an extra day or two in Uganda. However, the Genocide Week commemorations here are going into overtime. Tom explains that it’s been ordained by Kigali that the period of mourning must extend for seven days from April 7th. The upshot of all this is that Easter Day is officially cancelled. We understand that churches have been told to stay shut, and this year Easter Day will not be celebrated in Rwanda. And all this in a devoutly religious country! Honestly, the situation is so extreme and weird that I believe it’s almost certainly true!

There are implications for our travel. If Easter Day is a complete shutdown across the whole country, we mustn’t make any arrangements to come back from Kampala on that day. (The international buses will probably be operating, albeit grudgingly on the part of the Rwandan authorities, but even the international traffic will be halted if they close all the border crossings).

Finally a few rounds of computer games; I manage get as much of my rucksack packed as I can, and I’moff to bed. Kampala here we come tomorrow.

Best thing about today – just being busy, and getting almost everything done.

Worst thing – well, I didn’t make it to Cyeza School, and the weather would have been perfect to go. It can wait till after the Easter Day that isn’t………

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