Friday, 22 May 2009

Becky's traumas over housing

May 18th

Into Kigali o the seven o’clock bus. And wouldn’t you believe it – just when I don’t need a good day to go into the VSO office we get an absolute stunner. It’s warm, dry, sunny; I can see Karisimbi volcano for most of the way in to the capital. And for the whole of the rest of the day there’s never a remote threat of rain.

Grrrr! Just you watch – as soon as I arrange to go out to a school it’ll pour again!

On the outskirts of Kigali they’ve cut down a lot of the banana groves. Not sure what’s happening but it smacks of one of the draconian planning decisions they so love to do here; I expect the land will be left fallow for a year or so until the next stage of whatever redevelopment they’ve got in mind gets going. In the meantime the ibitoke they’ve lost would feed hundreds….

In Kigali I do a quick whip round some shops – we need drinking glasses to replace those we’ve smashed in the past few weeks, and things like wine vinegar which I can’t get in Gitarama. I also nip into the travel agents to find out prices for a flight home from Dar es Salaam to Kigali in July. It turns out to be expensive; it is peak season and Kenyan Airways is the only operator so they’ve got a monopoly and can charge what they like. I’ll need to draw some dollars out from England to confirm and pay for the ticket; in the meantime I might see if the VSO travel agents can get it cheaper for me.

We have a small meeting – just me, Els, Tiga and Joe, with Joe O’Toole stuck somewhere on the road up from Rusumo. This is the Education Steering group; and its role is much more nebulous than the others I serve on. We rack our brains for issues and Tiga takes notes and holds us together until we think we’re done. Meanwhile the VSO office staff are having their weekly meeting downstairs. Just as we’re about to pack up and leave early, Ruth and Charlotte waylay us with other things they want us to talk about. We go back into session until lunchtime, so my plans to rush back home and visit a tronc commun school this afternoon are dashed. But at least we get a decent meal in the VSO office!

After some internetting in the afternoon (at last the VSO office computer connection seems to be back up and running) I catch a mid afternoon bus home.

Becky has been down with some of the VSO office staff to look at some more houses in Gitarama, including the ex-FHI guest house, with Nathan. I really hope they all decide on that place; it has at the very least six good bedrooms and can take almost an infinite number of guests in the event of a party. It’s a question of the rent and how much they can negotiate their way down to a reasonable level.

By the end of the afternoon she’s in our flat and almost in tears of frustration and anger. They’ve seen five houses. There’s one she likes, and Nathan likes also, but VSO won’t budge on the rent which they say is too high. Meanwhile they’re paying a fortune for her to stay in “Beau Séjour” in Kigali, and the cost of one night at B S would make up the different in a whole month’s rent between the actual cost and what VSO will pay. We tell Becky to stay with us overnight and feed her, and she goes out for a drink with Moira and Kerry to escape from all the frustration.

I’m supposed to be finishing writing up the “How To….” Guide tonight but after all the traumas and constant phone calls involving Tom, Nathan, Becky, Charlotte and Mike over the housing issue we all feel pretty washed out.

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