Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Why it's important always to have a book to read in Rwanda

July 7th

An almost completely wasted day today. It’s Gacaca; I go to the office but Claude isn’t there, there are no census forms waiting for me, and so there’s nothing to do but write up yesterday’s blog! By the way, I have now been in Rwandan exactly a year and a half!
Back to the flat, because it’s boring at the office with nothing to do, and manage to do a bit of shopping before everything shuts around 8.30. We are having another total shut down, and even the power goes off from about 9.30 until 5 in the afternoon. I think the power cut is deliberate, to discourage people from staying at home and working on their computers, or working behind closed doors. The effect is that I simply can’t get anything done at all. There’s no work to do; I can’t do internetting; I can’t shop for vegetables.
I go up to Tom’s FHI office and buy a load of craft items to bring back home, but that’s about the sum of my productive work today. A few ageseke baskets, some carved wooden ornaments and knick-knack containers, pottery candleholders, beadwork bracelets, and a woven grass bowl. All of these purchases are supporting Tom and Christi’s groups of rural workers, and many of them come from the Cyeza and Shyogwe secteurs within my school district. I also buy three little igitondos. These are the famous traditional Rwandan paintings made of cow dung on a wooden frame, and then painted. They are abstract swirling patterns, or dazzling geometrical shapes. Very simple, but effective. Like a Bridget Reilly painting, but in manure! Most of them are in black and white, but I’ve managed to get three of the more unusual ones in black, white and a reddish brown colour. They’ll make unusual and interesting wall ornaments at home. Usually the igitondo that you see for sale are big – around two feet square – and are very difficult indeed to transport without the edges chipping off the items. But the ones I have bought are much smaller miniatures, yet the craftsmanship and creative ideas are still there.
In the evening the pace of life increases. Tom comes home with not just Nathan, Christi and Beth but also Karen, the new long-term FHI volunteer, Wes, a short term volunteer based in Kigali, and Becky, who is a Kigali based volunteer just coming to the end of her placement in Rwanda. In addition we have young Bruno and his mum, and we feed all of them. We spend a good two hours frantically preparing a feast – a meat stew using beef, sausage and one of our tomato sauces, padded out with a packet taco sauce. If that sounds an odd mix, then I assure you it tastes delicious. Tom fills the biggest pan we have full of rice – and it all gets eaten. I do a big guacamole and a giant coleslaw. We feed Bruno plus ten adults (including the guard). While we’re finishing off the food Soraya, Charlotte and Hayley all pop round to meet everyone, so we end up with the biggest collection of people we’ve ever had in the flat.
It’s been such a frustrating day. I started off with a list of things to do: take a million francs to Gatenzi (couldn’t do that because there were no motos around, even though I walked all the way out to Cyakabiri, around two miles from home, in the mid day heat, trying to find one. And even if I had delivered the money, Imelda wouldn’t have been able to get it into a bank and to safety yesterday and she would have been worried sick at the prospect of all that money in her hands); buy craft items at COPARWA to take home (couldn’t because the co-operative shop closed, but at least was able to do the FHI collection); go vegetable shopping and buy stuff like tea to bring home (limited success because too many shops shut); update the blog (couldn’t because power off all day).
Anyone reading this blog who is thinking of coming to Rwanda, take note: – you will all get days like this which are SO annoying. Last year I used to think Gacaca was a bit of a laugh; that it was nice to have a day when there was a genuine excuse not to work. This year it’s just become a bloody nuisance, and it means that the other days of the week get busier and more stressy.
Sometimes you just have to take the day off and curl up with a book!

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