Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Looney Tuesday

May 26th

OK, I’ve decided not to go out to a school today despite the weather being reasonable. There’s too much else to do. I’m going to work at home all morning, and go into town in the afternoon.

That plan lasts for all of 30 minutes. At half past seven Delphine is at the door. She’s been rejected from the job interview she had yesterday because her computer keyboard skills aren’t good enough. She’s too slow. She’s spent the night at an aunt’s place in Gitarama and has come to talk to me before going home to Rutarabana, because I’m the muzungu who knows all the answers and can do anything…... And she’s full of cold, too. I give her an hour on my laptop and it’s clear that all she needs is plenty of time to get used to where the keys are. (It’s not quite as simple as that; there are differences in the keyboard layout between English and continental computers, and differences again with American and Arabic ones. Also, she’s typing in English with many unfamiliar words, and it would be like you or I trying to word process up to speed but in Kinyarwanda or some other obscure African language). After forty minutes or so she’s had enough, and so have I – I’ve got things I need to do. Then I discover she’s running a temperature so I dose her up with paracetamol and give her a couple of strepsils and send her on her way back home to get some rest.

Up to work via the post office (no mail for anyone, which is rare these days). While I’m walking I get a phone call from Michael asking me if I know whether Jan, Geert’s friend, is coming on today’s flight from Brussels. The answer is no – I haven’t got a clue. All I got was the message that he’d missed his flight on Saturday and would come as and when he could.

Claude’s in the office despite being officially on leave, and I decide to stay there and work till lunchtime. Claude seems to be working from home and only coming in to the office for unavoidable emergencies. He won’t be able to afford to go away for a holiday in the same way that you and I would, and it isn’t in Rwandan culture to do that. (It would be tantamount to signalling to all his extended family that he had plenty of cash to spare and was ripe to tap for a massive loan). By lunchtime I’ve got the analysis done for all the nursery schools that have sent their census sheets in – there are around twelve who are remiss. I prise the internet modem from Védaste and along the way I get asked to help solve a problem on his laptop. The machine won’t recognise his flash drive, and the whole computer is running so slowly you could make a cup of tea between each key stroke. The answer is obvious – the thing needs defragging and he needs to get rid of a lot of the junk he’s put on the hard drive. Unfortunately there’s a fault on the screen which means that only about two thirds of the screen is visible, and neither he nor I can get the defragging icon in the right place on the screen to set it going. I know exactly what he needs to do, but it’ll take someone more patient or savvy than me to actually do it. I get some of my own internetting done, but then the network goes down and everything comes to a halt. Next there’s a power cut at the District Office, so they all go off for lunch early. I’m using my laptop, and I have a couple of hours’ battery life in it so I carry on till I’ve finished the census work I set myself.

Soraya’s been waiting a day and a half for the executive secretary to sign and stamp her “order de mission” – the permission slip from our District which gives her permission to be away for a fortnight to do this Mineduc training. Trying to pin down the Exec Sec is like nailing jelly to the wall. While we’re thinking what to do next Charlotte comes in from Kigali; she’s come to see Becky and get her installed in her house, and then go on to see other volunteers. Solange tells us her baby is due in October, and that Claudine has had a little boy and all’s well with mother and baby. Solange has been to see her. I haven’t the heart to tell her today that I’m on the warpath because I discovered yesterday at Rugendabari that most of the teachers haven’t been paid for April. That little muddle will wait until Thursday.

Back to the flat for lunch. On the way there’s almost a tragedy. A little girl who goes to the Ahazaza nursery has adopted me as her “muzungu uncle” and whenever we pass in the street she runs to me for a hug and a cuddle. I don’t normally see her other than early in the mornings, but today, just by chance, she’s on her way home with the domestique at the same time as I’m walking into town. If I see her in the distance I always cross to her side of the road for safety’s sake. Today I’m not expecting her and so I don’t notice her until the last minute. But she’s certainly seen me. She breaks free from the domestique and launches herself across the road, straight into the path of a moto. The moto is haring along, doing the usual Rwandan thing of squirting his horn at anyone and everyone and assuming they’ll all hear him and get out of the way. Unfortunately using your horn isn’t effective here. Everyone is hooting all the time, so it’s a continuous noise and everyone ignores it. Happily she is hit by the footrest of the moto rather than being smacked full on. The latter would certainly have killed her. As it is she’s flipped up into the air and lands straight onto the tarmac with a horrible crack on her head. She has a cut on her forehead, scrapes all down her leg, and within seconds she has an enormous swelling above her eye. The moto driver flees. He probably doesn’t have a licence. His passenger comes across and shouts at the domestique for letting the child free. Within ten seconds we have about fifteen people around us. Nobody is actually helping; they’re all standing around watching. In my rucksack I keep an antiseptic wipe, so I clean up the little girl. So far as I can see she’s been amazingly lucky; she’s got a scraped leg, a small cut on her forehead, and she’ll have the granddaddy of all black eyes tomorrow. But it would have been absolutely horrible if she’d been killed while running across the road to see me.

As I get close to the flat I’m overtaken by Hayley on her moto. I invite her and Charlotte for lunch and we warm up a batch of homemade soup. Charlotte rummages through our VSO cookbook and finds recipes using tofu, which she quickly scribbles down to use tonight.

In the afternoon I get my two inspection reports done, for Nyabisindu and Rugendabari. Then it’s down to the bank to get money for Catherine’s visit, and all round the market. Carrots are very feeble at the moment; I think it’s the beginning of the new season and they’re small and expensive (but tasty). Tomatoes are good value at the moment, and I get three ridiculously big avocadoes for RwF100 (12p). Also a kilo of dried beans for 24p.

While I’m doing my rounds a moto comes to a halt besides me. On it is Emmanuel, the new education chargé from Shyogwe Diocese. I don’t know how he knows me, but clearly he does. And it’s very confusing because the man he’s replaced is another Emmanuel…. This Emmanuel-the-Chargé also wants to know whether Jan is flying in from Brussels today; the Diocese will pick him up from the airport if he’s on today’s plane. I’ve left my phone at home charging, so I say I’ll have to ring Geert to see if he knows, and then ring Emmanuel at the Diocese office.

As luck would happen I manage to get through to Geert easily, and yes, Jan is on today’s plane. So I quickly phone Shyogwe and tell them to get up to the airport before Jan decides nobody’s meeting him and hires a taxi. Honestly; everybody seems to expect me to know everything these days!

Just as I’m thinking about peeling veg (Tom’s working late again) there’s another knock on the door, and it’s Becky, who has come to use our shower. She’s been moving her things into her new house all day and its hot work. There’s still no water at Soraya’s place, and after three days without rain there are big puddles a hundred yards up the road from the girls’ house, so it looks like a pipe has broken under the weight of overladen lorries. The roof work on Becky’s house isn’t finished, but the place is just about habitable. The roof isn’t today’s problem. The previous tenant hasn’t moved out yet. His stuff is all in one room, and he works in Kigali so won’t be back until after dark. Becky’s not prepared to stay overnight in a house with a strange bloke, so she’s spending tonight with Soraya and co. She’s locked all her stuff away and we just have to hope it’ll stay secure until this bloke can be removed. (It’s very Rwandan to stay until you’re absolutely forced out; that way you save a few night’s accommodation fees and there’s always the chance you can persuade or force the new tenant to accept you as a lodger). But wouldn’t you think that the owner’s agent would have made sure this man had removed himself?

We learn some more interesting things. The front door has a lock on it, but there’s a side door which doesn’t have any means of securing it. It needs a good bolt. The hole in one room’s ceiling is not water damage, but the result of a break in where somebody actually smashed their way through the roof tiles and then down through the plasterboard ceiling to try to steal stuff from inside the house. Just in case it happens again we decide that that particular room will only be used as a last resort, and the door locked when it’s not in use. I like that – if someone breaks in they’ll be trapped in the room and unable to escape. Becky will certainly need a guard to look after the house because it’s right in the middle of town, and a muzungu woman living on her own will make a tempting target for our local thieves. I don’t think for one minute she’ll be in any physical danger, but the frequency of theft and muggings is very much on the increase.

I walk Becky back to the girls’ house and collect a flash drive from Hayley. Michael’s still got my big drive, and Védaste, god bless him, borrowed my other one this morning for ten minutes but still hasn’t returned it.

Our evening meal is another really huge and tasty treat. I’ve bought sausage to add to the remains of last night’s chicken dinner; we pile in more veg and heat the thing thoroughly. We eat so much we can barely move afterwards!

Best thing about today – well, like I said, I haven’t been out to a school but I’ve certainly got a lot of stuff done.

Worst thing – everyone seems to be in the wars – not getting jobs, full of cold and temperature, not knowing whether someone’s arriving; seeing someone getting run over right in front of your eyes; problems with Becky’s house and its security. Oh and, to cap the lot, Hayley’s covered in flea bites and she thinks we might have fleas in our chairs. Tom and I aren’t getting bitten, and the seat covers are PVC so I can’t think any self respecting flea would find anywhere to live on plastic, but you never know here. It’s a case of sort of look to see if the chairs are jumping at you before you yourself jump on the chair….

Oh God, it’s time for bed!

1 comment:

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