Friday, 26 June 2009

Yet another major Gacaca here in Gitarama

June 16th

Today I’ve decided not to go to the office but to work at home. I’m going to get the primary school census presentation finished and ready to hand over to Claude, Valérian, Védaste and all and sundry. It’s just as well because I soon discover that today is another one of these major Gacaca events and everything in town is shut down. The baker opposite us is not open; the hairdresser is shut up and silent, and there’s very little movement of people up and down the road.

These major Gacacas are turning out to be a real pain. Unlike the Rwandans who listen to Kinyarwanda radio or have access to the bush telegraph, we never know what’s going on until it actually happens. When I first arrived here in 2008 there were Gacacas every Tuesday, but they only lasted the morning and it just meant you had to put off things like shopping or going to the bank until the afternoon. But this summer they’re something different. We understand that they are trying big fish at the moment, and I can sympathise with the idea that everyone needs to see justice being done so that psychological wounds can start to heal and all that, but to order the whole town to shut down, and expect le tout Gitarama to turn up at the stadium to watch someone being cross examined and trying to wriggle out of his or her responsibility is taking things to the extreme.

Fortunately I’ve got enough vegetables and bread in the house to see me through lunchtime (because even the restaurants in town will be closed at mid day), and we’ll take our chances for the evening. I get down to work by half past six and eventually I’m at the stage where I’m polishing off the fine details and I have a nice power point to show people.

Delphine comes round to do some practise on the computer, and for an English lesson. For the time being we’ve agreed that the best way to accommodate her is for her to arrive here en route to her new job at Becky’s. The system will work fine during the “closed season” when I’m not going out to schools, but we’ll have to think again in August when I want to be out and about.

It’s blissful to be working in complete peace and quiet and without any interruptions most of the morning. I eventually break off and make myself some soup for lunch. What’s in the larder? Plenty of potatoes and onions, most of a cabbage and that’s about it…. Definitely yet another soup day! So I pile in the spices and make a soup so potent it nearly blows my mouth off. Must go easier on the pepper next time! Still, it’s only me who’s eating it!

I carry on working through the afternoon, and eventually Soraya comes round. She’s come to claim a bit of Teresa’s simnel cake before Tom and I gobble the whole thing. We catch up on the girls’ gossip. Apparently Charlotte was sick after the poker night on Monday, but after a long, cold shower this morning and endless drinks of water she’s rehydrated and generally feeling well enough to go on her travels with Sarah. The girls are off to Kenya and Tanzania. Sarah is finishing a degree at Melbourne University specialising in fine art and photography. The University has a link with an Italian institution near Florence, which must be pretty well perfect for any Australian wanting to do fine art. During the poker evening she showed us her pictures of chimps at Nyungwe Forest and I have to admit they’re excellent, even though taken at long range.

In the evening we realise that the Gacaca closure is not only total but it lasting all day. The market will not open at all, nor the baker. So Tom and I decide to eat out. The decision’s made easier because our water keeps going off and coming back on during the day, and during the evening we have two long power cuts just at that time when you would want to be cooking with a decent light to see what you’re doing.

Hayley and Soraya come to join us; with no electricity anywhere there isn’t much to do except talk by candle light and shovel down brochettes and ibirayi. We get talking about our work experience placements when we were at school – Tom sorting shirts back onto their racks at Marks and Spencer, and Hayley working for a local radio station in North Devon. Tom says he was bored to death and got sacked for looking it; Hayley got asked to do voice overs for publicity and got paid well for it. I told them about some of our finest moment at Beaminster with pupils on work placements.

Nothing else to report today – I’ve done a good wodge of work but nothing really exciting has happened at all.

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