Monday, 11 May 2009

Strawberries from Rutarabana

May 4th

Into the office before seven, and straight away on the internet with our modem. Catch up on blogs and emails, and post pictures and text from the Kibuye weekend. At the moment we can’t get any BBC radio news because the Rwandan authorities are jamming the station in response to something the BBC said about genocide which they took objection to. So the only news we’re getting is via the BBC web site and yahoo. Swine flu seems to rule; if it isn’t people dying from flu then its pirates off Somalia and economic gloom. Right now Rwanda feels the best place to be.

I finally manage to get the Gasave inspection report written up. I seem to be out of practise and these new reports seem to be taking me ages to do. Then I remember that the trick is to get all the factual bits done before I visit the school – you write half the report before you’ve seen the school and slot in the comments and judgements afterwards.

By eleven o’clock I’ve done all I can in terms of tidying up statistics. Claude says he’s going to ring the Kibangu school up in the north of our district and jolly them along. I say I’ll deal with Munyinya; it’s just up the road and one of the schools closest to the office.

There’s no mail for anyone today, which seems strange after a weekend.

Soraya says she’s going to Kigali to the King Faisal hospital. She is worried that she might have an ulcer developing. She seemed very stress free at Kibuye, but she can’t eat more than a few mouthfuls at mealtimes without feeling uncomfortable, and nibbles between meals. We’ve all told her that she’s simply got to get herself diagnosed as soon as possible. And just to make things worse, neither VSO nor the District have paid any of her rent to YWCA since she arrived to stay with Hayley and Charlotte. (The house the girls are living in is owned by YWCA). Soraya’s just the person to worry about this; she says she had a sleepless night wondering if she would be thrown out on the street. As if….. But it isn’t good that she feels stressed about her accommodation, and we need her fit and well.

Claude talks to me; we’ve had details of a new VSO to be Soraya’s replacement, coming in September. But Claude knows that Soraya is an excellent teacher trainer, and wants her to stay on a while longer. Like all the rest of us, Claude is fed up that everyone at VSO programme office seems to be away on leave at the moment; he wants to reject the new replacement for a while and try to persuade Soraya to stay on. Watch this space!

At eleven I take a moto and go out to Munyinya school to see if I can get hold of their copy of the census data. Vérène welcomes me, but the census stuff is with the new tronc commun head, who happens to be off sick today. Curses – a wasted journey! I take a bus back into town; Vérène comes with me on the bus and gets out at the stop closest to where her colleague lives; within an hour and a half she has found the census papers and brought them in to the office.

One thing I do notice at Munyinya is that the new Maths textbooks for years 4-6 in English have arrived in the schools. They are in colour and well presented (they’re almost identical to the Ugandan school textbooks but have been tweaked to suit the Rwandan curriculum). Vérène explains that while the yr 6 books might have arrived they won’t be used until next year because this year many schools have opted to teach in French for just the yr 6 pupils. It’s the last year there will be a public exam at yr 6, and schools will have a choice as to whether to sit it in French or English. Since nobody had English textbooks at the start of the year most schools quite sensibly opted to carry on in French this one last time and hope that new books in English arrived during the year. They got things just right, didn’t they!

By this time I have gone back to the flat and I’m busy preparing for this week’s inspections. Tomorrow I’m doing Rutarabana, just up the road. Others are going to be double handers with Jenny and Becky. It’s a complicated business to plan. Just when I think I’ve got it all fixed and can relax with a cup of tea, the first head rings back to say he’s discovered there’s a secteur meeting that day and can I postpone till Friday. OK but now I need another school to take Becky to see. I decide on Musange, a big primary out in the Mushushiro mountains, but it means two trips up the Mushushiro road in three days. I hope it doesn’t pour with rain.

Now comes the gastronomic highlight of the month. Delphine drops round with 3 kilos of fresh strawberries. They have a glut of them in her family smallholding, and she’s desperate to find a market for them before they rot in the ground. They look and smell absolutely gorgeous. I get on the phone straight away; Charlotte and Hayley want a kilo, and Kerry and Moira another. Tinks and Michael also want a kilo, and with repeat orders I’ll need to ask Delphine to get me another delivery tomorrow. She’d delighted and beams from ear to ear as I give her 3000 francs. That’s about £1.20 a kilo, or 60p a pound for beautiful fresh strawberries!

Kersti rings to say she’s done an interview for one of the Kigali radio stations; it’s on at 5.30. By now Tinks has come to collect her mail and stop by for a chat. By the time she goes I have to rush out to make the market. Then I discover there’s an impromptu umuganda afternoon; all the official market is closed but there are a bunch of women trying to sell furtively around the back of the market before being moved on by local officials. They are only too pleased to sell me produce, and I get very good value for my money.

The umuganda day is because the Prime Minister, no less, is coming to Gitarama on Thursday and nothing must be left lying around to affront his gaze.

By the time I get back to the flat the radio broadcast is in full swing. Kersti comes across well, with just a few too many “amazing”s peppering her words. But she does a good sell for VSO.

Hayley and Charlotte call in to collect their strawberries; Charlotte digs straight into them and eats them complete with the green hulls. The smell of fresh fruit when we open the box lids is truly wonderful. (I’ve put them in Tupperware boxes and in the fridge to preserve them fresh).

Jenny and Priya have texted to say they are spending a second night down south in order to do the genocide museum at Murambi and won’t be home until Tuesday evening. Rebecca is coming down from Kigali also on Tuesday afternoon. They can’t all stay with Tom and I; the best arrangement will be to transfer Jenny and Priya to the girls’ house where they can have a room each instead of having to share my double bed; then Becky can have my room and everyone should be happy. It’s a good thing that volunteers are invariably very accommodating and flexible about where they sleep!

When Tom comes in we have an absolute feast for tea – fresh avocadoes, a second swipe at my mega bean stew with some chorizo sausage added to give it a different bite, and strawbs and sugar for pudding. By the time we get through that lot we’ve got vitamins coming out of our ears…

We’re both feeling tired after the Kibuye weekend, and it doesn’t take long before we’re ready for bed.

Best thing about today – everything. It’s one of those mad, busy days that I really enjoy. We’ve had four visitors to the house (plus Janine who’s come and done the cleaning); I’ve done a whole morning in the office and been out to a school, albeit for only ten minutes. I’ve organised a whole week of visits, and we’ve had strawberries here in Rwanda before any of you folks back in England get to taste this year’s local crop. Rock on Rwanda!

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