Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Catherine arrives

May 27th

Into Kigali early and straight up to the old town to change money. I’m able to lever up the exchange rate a tad and walk away with over one and a half million francs in my bag, feeling very vulnerable and conspicuous. The money is for water tanks at Cyeza and some other school still to be decided.

A bit of shopping in the town centre, then up to Remera and into the VSO office. I manage to get a little done on the internet before its time to head off to the airport. Catherine’s flight is nice and punctual, and I’m really happy to see she’s carrying two rucksacks instead of a big suitcase.

The airport taxis are demanding RwF 10,000 to go into the town centre. That’s a total rip off. Last year it was 5000 tops, and you could negotiate down to four. This time they won’t budge. I tell them where they can stick their ten thousand francs and Cat and I shoulder the rucksacks and walk off into the heat of the day towards Remera bus station. After hours in an aircraft seat at least she can stretch her legs and get some exercise, and of course it’s immersion straight into “real” Africa instead of seeing it through a window. By the time we reach Remera we realise that it’s an extremely hot day, and Catherine is feeling the heat and altitude after a long flight.

Never mind; we take a town bus into the centre and flop into “Simba” for a dink to rehydrate. Then we come back to Gitarama on the Horizon bus. Rwanda looks green and fertile, but the views are not as sharp as they have been in the past few weeks.

At the flat we just drop our bags and go for something to eat at the “Plateau”. I introduce Catherine to ibirayi (jacket potatoes Rwandan style), and the place does us proud. Massive goat brochettes for me, and some of the best ibirayi I’ve ever had in Rwanda. We have to wait a while for our food to arrive, but it’s nice just to sit and chat and not feel guilty about being away from work.

Back at the flat we unpack a never ending stream of goodies – an enormous fruit cake, chocolate, cake mixes, muesli bars, Marmite, soups and sauces, video, books. There are presents for Tom, Christi and little Bruno. And new umbrellas for Tom and I.

Catherine has a doze to try to catch up on a bit of sleep, and I prepare for tomorrow. I’ve managed to organise two school visits for the next few days; to Nyarutovu in the wilds of Mushishiro tomorrow, and to Bishike in Cyeza on Monday. By the time we’re ready for evening meal I’ve done all the statistics section for the Nyarutovu report, and I know exactly what things I want to ask them at the school when we visit.

Cat has never been on a moto, so I decide that we’ll use motos to go to “Hotel Splendide” for our evening meal. The bone-headed driver not only doesn’t seem to know where “Spendide” is; he doesn’t even seem to know where to find the little stadium which is next to it and has been a Gitarama landmark for about forty years. Just my luck. Our night guard has to come and explain it to the man. Catherine survives her moto ride, and at “Splendide” we meet virtually the entire Gitarama gang – Michael and Tinks, Soraya, Hayley and Charlotte, Moira and Kerry, Becky, Tom, Nathan and Christi, and Piet. We have an excellent meal and everyone’s talking nineteen to the dozen. Becky seems to have managed to get rid of her lingering lodger; Soraya’s Mineduc training has been put back yet again and I don’t think she’ll start until Monday.

After the meal Piet gives us a lift back to the flat en route for Shyogwe, and we say farewell to Tinks. Catherine’s dead on her feet, so we’re into bed almost straight away

It’s been a good day, and Catherine couldn’t possibly have expected such a warm welcome from all our colleagues.

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