Monday, 18 May 2009

Newsflash - Shyogwe's missing thousands turn up!

May 12th

Wow – so much to write up today. There’s no work because of a Genocide memorial event at Kabgayi or Nyabisindu or everywhere – nobody tells me the details and I don’t really feel interested. I didn’t sleep well during the night; tossing and turning until all the bedclothes are wrapped round me like a sleeping bag. Then just after three there’s a fair old earthquake; it only lasts about ten seconds but it’s enough to rattle all the metalwork in the house and jerk me wide awake. I’m up at the crack of dawn as usual and on the bus to Kigali by seven o’clock.

By eight o’clock I’m at Nyabugogo and talking to the agent for the bus service from Kigali to Dar es Salaam. Yes folks, the great Zanzi-Tan expedition is really going to happen in July and I’m starting to get to grips with the logistics. The bus leaves Kigali on Saturdays only, at 0600 (so somehow we’ll all have to stay somewhere in Kigali overnight), and takes around 26-28 hours to reach Dar. The point of my talking to the agent is to make sure we can book seats in advance; I’ll never survive without adequate leg room.

Nidhi went on this bus with a friend over the Easter holiday; the friend is nearly as tall as me and the agent at first thinks we are the same person – he can’t understand why I’m asking him about leg room when he thinks I’ve only just done the trip. The fact that I’m about 40 years older than the friend doesn’t seem to register; nor that I have different colour hair, don’t have a beard and dress totally differently…. But then all muzungus look the same, don’t they?

Up to VSO and check emails. Now for the next bit of news – the missing 2200 Euros for the Shyogwe building projects have at last been unearthed. The money never left Holland because it’s not actually 2200 euros but 2137, and someone in VSO Netherlands understandably didn’t make the connection. Hooray – the money is on its way to Kigali, then the Diocese, and finally Shyogwe school. The classrooms will probably be submerged under vegetation by now; it’ll be a case of cutting swathes through the undergrowth to locate them….

Becky comes into the office and we decide she’s going to come with me to an inspection on Thursday. I’ll try to find a good school to visit – either Mushushiro or Rugendabari areas will do nicely.

I get my travel expenses and am grateful for the money – after being robbed on Saturday I’m feeling short of cash. I also manage to find a couple of library books to read and an old guide to Tanzania and Zanzibar. The prices will be out of date but the places to visit don’t change that much.

I have a chat to Charlotte about this and that and confirm some of the arrangements for a meeting this Friday. There’s still a lot of confusion at VSO over my email address; someone absent mindedly put me down as “hotmail” rather than “yahoo” and sent it out to everyone. I’m sure there are loads of messages which aren’t getting through to me.

Jenny has come into Kigali on the next bus after mine, and texts suggesting coffee, so I meet her in “Blues Café” and catch up her successful trip top Nyamasheke and Cyangugu. Joe has done the girls proud, everything including a boat trip on Lake Kivu. They’ve been right down to the Congolese border at Cyangugu and retraced the same places that I visited with Tu Chi a while ago. I have to admire Jenny’s adventurousness – she’s seen nearly as much of Rwanda in a couple of weeks than I have in sixteen months.

I finally get through to Nidhi on the phone and she comes to join us at the cafe. I haven’t seen her for ages, and I want to pick her brains on things to see and do and where to stay in Zanzibar. Within an hour I’ve got reams of information, and we’ve discussed work, a certain school situation, and generally put the world to rights. Jenny remembers Nidhi from the Kibuye weekend; it’s amazing how quickly people get integrated into our little community here in Rwanda. Then we’re swapping notes on where to go in Kigali (Nidhi’s the expert!), and planning weekends on the town.

Jenny leaves us to carry on her Rwandan exploration (she’s off to Nyagatare this afternoon and she’ll have done both Nyamasheke and Nyagatare before I manage to get to either), and Nidhi and I have lunch together. It’s been raining all day and freezing cold – we try to change our seats in Simba to get out of the wind, but we’re only partially successful. It’s really rare to have continuous gentle rain for long periods, and we’ve had a huge amount of rain in the last couple of days. The Nyaborongo river is right up to its banks on the edge of Kigali, and the Nyabugogo river is over its banks in one place. All good things come to an end, and Nidhi has a creative writing class to go to. (I suppose my creative writing exercise consists of compiling this ‘ere blog). I decide it’s time to return to Gitarama.

So back to Gitarama, but because of the genocide memorial events the Kigali to Gitarama buses aren’t running and I have to take a Butare bus. The entire bus park in Gitarama has been closed off; buses can go past the town on the main road but aren’t being allowed to stop in the town centre. The people in the ticket office are kind to me and only charge me the Gitarama fare – another benefit of being a regular customer and known to everyone at both the Git and Kig offices. All I have to do is make sure the driver drops me off outside the flat. Mind you, if the bus had had wings we would have been airborne. It’s a long time since I’ve had such a white knuckle ride on a “Horizon” bus. Today we see two lorries which have lost their brakes and gone over the edge of the road. The bus passengers are like little kids: wherever there’s been an “incident” you can tell in advance because there will be a crowd of local just spending the day standing and gawping. As the bus passes everybody stands up, leans over their neighbours and cranes out of the window to look at the damage. Then there’s lots of animated chatter about what might have happened, and how reckless the lorry drivers are. Meanwhile, our bus driver is behaving as if he’s doing a Grand Prix and as often as not we’re overtaking on ridiculously short stretches of straight road. Now I understand why so many of the drivers have crucifixes or rosary beads wound round their interior mirrors.

A quick flick round the market, much reduced because of the day’s events, and I decide to celebrate a productive day by buying a couple of mouth burning salami sausages to go with the usual mix of veg. We dine in style.

Best thing about today – a huge amount of business got through. No work done at all for the District, but then nobody else would have been working at the office, so there!

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