Monday, 18 May 2009

A day in the office

May 11th

Feeling much better today. Into the office for seven. Claude has the modem. There’s no census form from Musambagiro, so I can’t sit down and get on with the big analysis. OK, that’s not my fault; I’ll do things that I need to do for my own benefit. I spend the whole morning pottering around on the internet. President Kagame has made an interesting speech on Aid and its effects on developing countries like Rwanda; I put it onto the blog. The BBC reports that the Goma volcanoes are getting ready to erupt. That goes into the blog. I read in Marion’s blog about a volcanic eruption in Chile and the photos that come with this piece are so stunning I put a link to them on the blog as well.

I print off all six inspection reports from the last fortnight and slap them on Claude’s desk. He’s suitably impressed. I know he wants the census stuff doing a.s.a.p. but he also knows I can’t do it until I’ve got all the information, and we’re both waiting for this one blessed school to get its act together. In the meantime I’ll get out and about and do some more visits. By my calculations I have done 63 formal visits to 47 schools since I arrived in Rwanda, plus taking part in 2 mass inspections and lots of training visits to schools. I’m setting myself a target of at least 100 visits during my two years, and to at least 75 schools, including all the schools in the seven secteurs most easily accessible (Cyeza, Shyogwe, Nyamabuye, Nyarusange, Muhanga, Mushushiro, Rugendabari). I’ll be pretty chuffed if I do all those. I can remember my first couple of weeks here and seeing an endless list of strange-sounding names of secteurs and places. Now, a year and a half later, all the secteurs and most of these places mean something to me, and I’m beginning to understand the geography of this difficult terrain.

Outside its thundering and hammering down with rain; miraculously the power stays on. I take Valérian to task over the three teachers I met at Nyabitare who haven’t been paid since February. He passes me on to Solange, who deals with everyone’s pay; she says the head of the school hasn’t sent the teachers’ dossiers and without their details she can’t add them to the payroll. And the new head of the school has done a runner, so I’ll have to get back to the former primary head and ask him to deal with it. Honestly, how come I’m now sorting out people’s salaries?

Soraya stuns me by telling me that she and Claude have had a long talk and that she’s agreed to stay for another whole year. That’s wonderful because she’ll be able to show my successor the ropes when I leave at the end of the year. VSO aren’t happy because there’s this Canadian vol they’ve offered Soraya’s job to, but, as we point out, Tinks is finishing at Shyogwe in a few weeks’ time, so why can’t they offer her the Shyogwe post? It’s an identical job but with the Diocese rather than the District.

I find Priya’s blog; it turns out she’s a devout Baptist and is writing newsletters for her church near Tunbridge Wells. I wonder just what proportion of English volunteers, VSO like me or otherwise like her, are being supported by churches back home? I think everyone back in England is getting the same idea – that it’s better to send aid to one particular country through someone you know and trust, rather than send it to a big anonymous organisation where it can’t be traced and you don’t get any direct feedback.

Kersti sends an email; there are major upheavals in her Kigali school and the fundamentalists have made a coup. The head has resigned. We live in interesting times. Just as this is happening there is a group trying to set up a non-religious based international school in Kigali; if they are looking for a secondary science teacher they’ll be hard pressed to find a better one than Kersti. There are all sorts of issues in the KICS school she’s been teaching in, including access to school fees for paying off building loans, and even issues of permission to remain in Rwanda as a church. (Religious organisations coming in from out of the country have to show they are doing something to benefit Rwandan socially; creating a school or an orphanage alongside your church is the surest way of getting official approval). To me it’s the murky end of religion where profit crunches into altruism, and I’m very happy I’m working for a straightforward NGO without any religious ties.

Back at the flat I find Janine’s mum doing the cleaning today – Janine is in Butare with Christi on an FHI mission. I heat up some soup (it’s nice to feel well enough to eat properly and to have a big appetite) and start planning visits for the next few days. I want to keep some particular schools available for Catherine to visit when she comes out to see me – not too far away but ones I know are out in the countryside. Outside it’s pouring with rain again; the second storm of the day. I’m just getting ready to start phoning when there’s a knock on the door and Delphine comes in, dripping water from every piece of clothing. She’s soaked. Also she’s slipped over on one of the muddy tracks and she’s got mud all over her skirt. The reason she’s come is to bring me another bucket of strawberries, this time a present from her mum for my looking after her when she was mugged last week. She’s also heard that someone in town has found her identity card and is holding it for her, pending a reward. (This is the way things are done in Rwanda. People are often too poor to be able to do things out of altruism, and Delphine’s loss, however regrettable, is a golden opportunity for someone else to multiply their daily income). So she wants to find this person and start negotiations, but can’t do so because of the storm and therefore she has come to me to take shelter.

I get her cleaned up and make her tea to warm her up. She’s marooned in the flat until the rain stops. Eventually, while she’s here, Soraya calls round; she’s been up to Gasovu primary to do some training. Gasovu’s a long way up the valley and Soraya’s also got wet through on her way back on a moto, but at least she’s been home and changed before she comes round to see me. But for a while I’ve got two soggy, cold girls chattering in the armchairs.

I put out a tub of strawberries for Soraya and the girls in her house to eat tonight, and after Delphine’s gone I hull and freeze the best ones and make the rest into puree. There’s a lot of waste with this batch; as you all know, strawberries picked in wet weather go mushy within five minutes and this batch have also been shaken about on the three or four mile walk from Rutarabana to Gitarama. But it means that we volunteers have had nine kilos of strawberries between us within the past week or so! We’ll be oozing pips soon!

I cook up a big vegetable stew for myself and the guard, but we’ve barely begun to eat it when Tom returns, and it does all three of us and there’s some left for lunch another day.

Tom’s been in Kigali and even he has some big news when he returns – his boss has accepted that he’s trying to do too much with both his mini enterprise and the logistics job, and so he’s going to give up the logistics position. Hooray, I say – he’s been working crazy hours and getting stressed.

Our electricity meter’s running very low, and I don’t want to run out of power with all this rain, so I plod down the town to Emmanuel’s shop and buy another 40,000 francs worth. That’ll last us a good three months. When I get back it starts raining for the third storm of the day.

So it’s a quick relax on the computer and then off to bed.

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