Friday, 26 June 2009

Wierd people in Kigali

June 18th

A bit of a non-day today. At the St Jean centre there is an Asiatic man, either Japanese or Korean, I think, who beyond any shadow of a doubt has mental health problems. He seems to be a permanent resident in the place. He is always up and about, bare chested, outside his room, trying to engage the other residents in conversation. He is not physically aggressive but verbally confrontational. He intrudes into other people’s conversations and has no sense of when his presence isn’t wanted. This morning he got it into his head that one of our girls, in the room next to mine, wanted waking up early. So at soon after five o’clock this man is outside our rooms, banging on the doors, making cockerel noises, and shouting at everyone in general and this girl in particular to get up. We know he’s got problems, so we try to ignore him and hope he’ll take himself off. But he doesn’t.

The girl in question is sharing a room with Ken (the rooms are partitioned into two separate halves, ideal for a male and female volunteer to share). This Asian man, getting no response from the girl, next opens the door of her room and starts to come into the room. Ken leaps out of bed, absolutely furious, and chases him away, threatening to bring in the police etc. I also go to my door to give Ken support if he needs it, but the unwanted visitor is backing off fast. I don’t blame him – Ken in full fury is an impressive sight!

When we leave the centre later that morning we say to the management that, much as we like the centre, this guy’s presence means that many of us will not use it in future if he is still there. The management know only too well of his problems, but it is a Christian organisation and I think they feel that they can’t abandon him on to the streets or worse. It’s the down side of using religious hotels as cheap accommodation, and I’m surprised it’s the first time we’ve encountered this issue in Rwanda because almost all the cheap hostels we use are church run.

I go up to “Simba” supermarket for breakfast and bump into another group of English volunteers who were at the Queen’s do last night. They are three girls working with street children at Kayonza, near Gahini, and a young man teaching in the same area. I can’t remember the name of their organisation. Everyone is hung over from the party. Some of our VSO volunteers have had to be up and away very early because they have teaching or training commitments; others like me are on their slack periods at the moment and can afford to effectively take the day off to recover! Bridget in particular has had to be up and away by ten to six in the morning; she’s got a class at Gahini teacher training college at about ten o’clock.

I go up to the VSO office and sort out a lot of business there. Unfortunately I discover it will cost me a very large amount of money to change my flight date to England in July, so I’m deciding to stick with July 18th and hope that Ethiopian airlines runs to schedule.

Tina comes into the office and we have a long conversation about things in general, and go back into town for lunch. Afterwards we split up, and I come back to Gitarama on the bus. The fellow sitting next to me turns out to be the new head teacher of Nyabitare tronc commun (replacing the man who lasted the spring term and then ran away, not returning for the summer). Nyabitare is one of the black marked schools which haven’t returned their census forms, so when we reach Gitarama we both get off at the district office and we try to find him a blank form. Can we find one? – no way. No sign of Claude or ValĂ©rian; their office is locked, and I don’t have spares in my office or the main office. It is just so frustrating. Of my 4 phone calls yesterday afternoon all I have is one completed census form pushed under my door! I will do more phone calls tomorrow.

Raima buttonholed me at the Queen’s do and said she wanted to speak to me urgently. While I’m in the District Office she rings again, so I go round to see her at her house. There’s no work for me to do in the office. I’m there at Raima’s for two and a half hours; we’re trying to sort out what is happening about some training sessions which are supposed to be taking place in Nyamabuye Secteur. Training at the moment seems a hopelessly confused mess of conflicting initiatives. There is training organised at District, secteur and Government level, plus that which we’re doing as VSO volunteers. Courses of training are started, and then abandoned part way through. The “cascade” model of training, which the Government sees as its preferred model, is creaking at the seams before it has really started. Most training sessions are on Saturdays, to avoid disrupting classes, and teachers are paid per diems to reward them for giving up their free time. This Saturday there is supposed to be an all day session for the trainers – teachers who attended last December’s government course at Butare – to familiarise themselves with the printed materials in preparation for a long series of session running through the summer. But the trainers are already having big problems with the materials, and have asked one of Raima’s teachers to come and help them. Raima has gone through the materials and found many problems. For one thing, some of the exercises don’t make good grammatical English. The materials come from an American source, and the English in them is American English and not “English English”. It has also come from an evangelical Christian foundation in the states; you get sentences such as “Every morning I get up at seven. First I pray and then I…..” It’s indicative of the evangelical church’s wishful thinking that they are trying to impose their beliefs on everybody here. It’s insidious. There is another series of sessions for which there has been a budget of close to four million francs, the money coming from school capitation grants. But after three of the planned six sessions the training was abandoned (the official reason is that too many sessions were coinciding with Saturday umugandas and teachers were afraid of losing the good citizen credentials by not turning up for umuganda). The real reason is more likely to be that the trainers were so weak in English themselves that the trainees lost confidence in them and stayed away. Raima is interested to know if all the money was paid up front, and if so who is sitting on a big pile of cash….. It doesn’t bode well for the amount of English language training this little country needs as urgently as possible!

Back at the flat I’m relieved to find Tom already there and starting to cook. Hayley comes round and we invite her to stay for dinner. Soraya is not well, and Charlotte and Sarah have gone off on their travels. We cook up a storm. Fresh chicken breasts from one of momma’s birds, with rice and two side dishes. Tom makes an aubergine, marrow and tomato thing, with a packet of cuppa soup to thicken it, and I make up a juicy salad with things we have left lying around – cabbage, some marrow, onion, raisins, juiced oranges and mayonnaise. For pud we have some of Teresa’s simnel cake and instant custard. It’s a huge meal and by the time we’ve finished we’re absolutely stuffed. It feels just like the end of an enormous Sunday lunch when all you want to do is flop out in an armchair and watch telly. Or in our case (we revert to type), Tom watches a DVD on his computer and I listen to music from mine.

Best thing about today – the evening meal.

Worst thing – trying to maintain some semblance of sweet reason and Christian charity when you’re dehydrated and hung over at five in the morning and some idiot is shouting at you inches from your window…..

Apparently he is quite notorious in Kigali; we hear stories that he stripped naked on the dance floor at KBC one evening and had to be thrown out of the club. Strange guy!

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