Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Ups and Downs; Downs and Ups

July 6th

Into the office early. It’s one of those days when there are lots of little things to do and knowing how long everything seems to take here in Rwanda I want to feel in charge of my life. Claude isn’t in the office, so one of my main goals, to get a lot of internetting and blogging done, is thrown out of gear straight away.
But waiting for me under the door are four census returns from my errant secondary schools, so while I wait for the Monday morning team meeting I get cracking on transcribing them. The team meeting never materialises; Innocent, Béatrice and Valérian are all in the office but nobody deputises for Claude. So I don’t know, for example, whether there is another full day of Gacaca tomorrow, and nobody among them has a clue what I’m going to be spending my time doing this week. (Mind you, after Wednesday morning, neither do I).
I spend nearly two hours sorting out the census forms. Each of the four schools has sent the information in a different format. Each has left out chunks of statistics that I’m supposed to collect; each has added other things I don’t need. The secondary figures are a nightmare. There’s almost no point of commonality between all the schools. In some cases they don’t even tell me what their specialisms are in the sixth form – whether, for example, they are teaching humanities, or science or accountancy. I’m just supposed to know. But all the specialisms changed last January and even if I refer back to last year’s forms I can’t be sure I’m accurate. Védaste comes to see if I have the modem and I show him the stupid sheets I’m trying to collate. He laughs, shrugs his shoulders and says, well, we’ll just have to do the best with what we’ve got and tell Claude the problem. We never had so much bother last year; I wonder if they’re messing about because they know they’ve got a muzungu looking at all their figures?
I have a book to give to Raima at Ahazaza and I go to drop it at her house only to find she’s down at the school. Fortunately the school is on my way back home so I go to the school. She receives me like manna from heaven and pours me out her tale of woe about her deputy, whom she has just sacked and she is wondering whether to take court action over some discrepancies of his. She introduces me to a lovely Belgian girl who is spending a month at Ahazaza doing English language teaching with their primary pupils. It is nice to hear a foreigner speaking English with an English accent, as opposed to always hearing American twangs around the place.
Raima is in the middle of a huge building programme, with six classrooms being built for her primary section and a big multi-purpose hall. We go on a tour of the site. The hall will be impressive when it’s finished, and will certainly be in demand for weddings and the like. And, knowing Raima, when it is finished it will be kept in pristine condition and not allowed to gradually deteriorate and fall apart for want of maintenance as is the case with almost every other building here as soon as the builders have left. She shows me a lovely spacious foyer under construction just outside the hall, and I tell her it would make a wonderful place to display pupils’ artwork or the very best schoolwork they can manage.
Raima has an application form for a replacement for the man she’s sacking, and we go through both the job description and his application. He sounds the ideal person for the job, and I agree to come back to the school on Wednesday morning and help her do the formal interview. The ability to speak fluent and correct English is one of the skills she needs, and to have a native English speaker to help on the interview is simply good professional practise. This will be the first time I’ve interviewed someone for a job since I came here. (And isn’t it typical that at the same time as all my colleagues are applying for and being interviewed for jobs for themselves, I’m offering to help do an interview for someone else!).
I realise that the biggest single task for today – changing another big sum of money for Gatenzi’s water tanks – isn’t going to happen unless I pick up all my dollars which I’ve left in the flat. So I have to plod back to the flat (via the bank to order another cheque book – they say it’ll be there in a week but I live in hope. As long as it’s waiting for me when I return from England.).
Just as bad luck will have it I have a long wait for a bus, and then have the slowest drive into Kigali ever. I think the driver is a real “steady Eddy” and either he’s terrified of losing his licence, or he’s on a one-man crusade against the kamikaze driving of every other Atraco driver. The quickest runs into Kigali town centre take just over an hour; this time we take a shade under an hour and a half. And it would happen on a day when I want to get a lot done!
Up to the money changers under the mosque. Here they look askance at my low-denomination dollar bills, despite their being in pristine condition. The exchange rate for bills of under $50 is considerably less than for $100 and $50 notes. (Prospective volunteers please note: if you go to a bank and ask for large sums of dollars, insist on $50 or bigger notes, and don’t accept the ready made-up packs they issue to tourists which have a mixture of values in them. These packs are ideal if you are going to the USA on holiday but they’re not welcomes in East Africa).
I come out of the forex with just under a million dollars hidden in the depths of my bag. It’s a lot less than I’ve changed in the past, but it’s enough to worry me. I go to Simba and meet up with Steve and T. T’s come in to see the hospital and get tests done. She still has raging headaches and is worried in case it is the onset of another bout of malaria. At least she has managed to get her flight changed and is now going home on Thursday, so she’ll be able to get herself checked out in England within a week.
It feels as though we take an age to get served in Simba, but that might just be because I’m feeling a bit under pressure. The Simba salads we order seem to be around 50% slices of onion, and are not as good as in the past. I know I can do better! And it’s time to have a change of venue for eating out with friends in Kigali.
Up to Kimironko and the VSO office on a town bus. At the office I need to use the internet, but the VSO system is down and under repair so once again I’m frustrated. The only option now is to use an internet café in Gitarama, but that will have to wait till Wednesday because tomorrow’s Gacaca and I won’t be home until late tonight. I also want to see Jean-Claude, but he’s not in. I manage to get a new VSO identity card filled out, and leave it on his desk with a message and hope it will be ready the next time I come into town. Tina also needs a replacement ID card because hers has been stolen. However, she needs to sign it and give things like her passport number and expiry date and I can’t do any of that for her. Maybe she can do that before she flies home. I need to see Charlotte to talk about my end of service dates. She’s not in either, but at least I can leave my intentions with Ruth and get her to brief Charlotte when she comes back into the office.
Becky has texted to say she’s got a dodgy stomach today and can’t go to work, and asks me if I’m feeling OK after our meal at Delphine’s yesterday. I’m fine, so either my stomach has become cast iron during the past eighteen months or else it’s something Becky has eaten which has nothing to do with yesterday’s outing. I buy her some crackers and start making tracks home. Once again, I just miss the five o’clock “Horizon” bus and have to hang around in town. I’ve taken a “Jeeves and Wooster” book out of the VSO library and it whiles away the wait for the next bus.
While I’m waiting for the bus I get a text from Soraya. Claude’s brother has died, and she’s with Claude at the reception after the funeral. The brother can’t have been very old – Claude himself is only thirty and even if he’s one of the youngest in the family, his brother can’t have been much more than forty. When Soraya and I went round to his house last week to name Keza we met one of the brothers – working as a children’s rights and women’s rights lawyer at Kibuye. I hope to goodness it wasn’t him, because quite apart from the personal tragedy, Rwandan human rights lawyers are decidedly thin on the ground out here. I send a text condolence to Claude; fortunately I still have on my phone the text he sent me when my dad died last September so I can adapt the language and send him something appropriate in good French.
Back at Gitarama I go to see Becky and give her the crackers. She’s feeling brighter, and Matteo has been out buying vegetables and is preparing the evening meal for them. Even better news is that Leonie has been accepted by Kamonyi District as Education Management Adviser and will be coming in September. Leonie will be doing the same job as me, but in Kamonyi District. She will almost he will almost certainly be living with Becky in her house, so will become part of the Gitarama gang. That’s good news. For one thing, it means she will have a three month overlap with me to help her learn the job, and also an overlap of some weeks with all the Gitarama gang before we start to finish our service here in Rwandan and go back home. There’s going to be an almighty clearout of volunteers at the end of the year, with long-term people like me going home after two years, and one year placements like Hayley finishing as well. It’s going to be even worse than at times last year when I felt as though I was going to be the only VSO left in the area!
Tom’s going to be very late back; he’s been doing training in Kigali and has had to wait for the seven o’clock bus, so won’t be back until well after eight. We have food in the fridge, but I decide to eat out and save the meal we’re prepared until we’re both there to eat it. I nip up to “Green Garden” and I’m just finishing my brochettes when Tom arrives, having taken a moto from the town centre.
It’s been a long and tiring day for both of us, but between us we’ve managed to get a lot done. I’ve failed in everything relating to using the internet, but everything else has gone to plan.
Back at the flat we suddenly realise we’re bone tired, and pile into our beds straight away. We don’t have any bread for tomorrow, and we’re short of vegetables, and tomorrow is Gacaca and everything will be closed after eight o’clock in the morning, but we’ll cope.
That’s the nice thing about being here a long time. You know that you’ll cope, and that there are ways round every problem. And there’ll always be tomorrow, in Africa. What’s the Kinyarwanda for “mañana”?

No comments: