Monday, 10 August 2009

Million dollar morning at Gatenzi

July 8th
Today turns out just as active as yesterday was inactive. By half past seven I’ve been out to Gatenzi school and delivered a million francs. I count them out on Imelda’s office table; the advantage of going so early in the morning is that I can hand over the money before most of staff or pupils have arrived and seen the amounts involved. It also means that as soon as school is settled down Imelda can ring a moto and take the stuff to the bank. The total cost of the Gatenmzi tank is around 2.8 million francs; this seems rather a lot but not soon exorbitant that I think anyone’s cheating me. I’ve said I’ll pay up to a maximum of 2.5 million. Imelda says the parents are so happy that the school is getting water at long last that they are going to stump up the extra 300,000 between them. Gatenzi is in a very poor part of Cyeza and for these parents top come up with this amount of money is very heartening. It also means that they will consider that the tanks is “theirs”, rather than entirely something donated by foreigners, and I hope that means they’ll take more care of it. I tell Imelda that the remaining million will take me about a week to put together but that I hope to be able to give it to her before I leave for home on the 18th.
If there is any more Dorset money left, I know that Gikomero Catholic school is having problems with its water supply, and Michael tells me that Gikomero Protestant is, as well. So if there is money left at the end of all this I would be more than happy to repair one more water system, especially in the Anglican school (Gikomero P). This would mean that Bridport and its surrounding villages have provided clean water for hygiene and drinking to no less than 5000+ pupils per year for an indefinite number of years. I think that’s something West Dorset should be really proud of!
Back at the flat (I manage to get a proper racing bike instead of the usual TVR machines, and the driver goes like the clappers on the main road), I quickly smarten up and walk through town to Ahazaza school. I can’t believe what I’m seeing – we seem to have yet another closure day. Businesses are shutting up shop, and the bus park is partially roped off. It can’t be two successive Gacaca days, so what the hell’s going on? Nobody seems to dare tell the market women; the Wednesday market is bigger than ever as a result of yesterday’s shutdown, even at a quarter to nine in the morning it is absolutely heaving.
At Ahazaza School I’m helping with the formal interview for Raima’s assistant. Or rather, I think I’m assisting Raima but she asks me to take over and lead the interview. So by just after ten o’clock I have interviewed and we have appointed a candidate who seems honest, conscientious and knowledgeable. We do the entire interview in English, and I invent situations to test his grasp of confidentiality and accountability; his skill at dealing with difficult parents and recalcitrant teachers etc. So now I have actually formally interviewed and appointed someone in a foreign country! Expect the unexpected indeed!
Up at the District Office I find the place busy; there’s no shutdown (yet) at work. Claude’s in, but in a meeting and I can’t talk to him except to ask him if he has the modem (no), and if we’ve been able to locate Nyabikenke School’s census details on the big computer (yes). Also a load of secondary science textbooks and teachers’ guides have just arrived; this time we have year 2 and 3 biology, chemistry and physics. In French. I take copies of each to add to my collection of textbooks (which is going to become to District reference library of books).
We also have been given lots of copies of “Vision 2020”, which is the Rwandan Government’s long-term planning strategy document and will be essential background reading for my successor. So I pinch a copy of that, too. I’ve now got more textbooks and strategy documents, in print or in electronic form, than pretty well anyone else in the office.
There’s not much point in hanging around at the office. There’s just a chance that the internet café might be open in town, and I want to see if I can buy tea, coffee to take home, and vegetables for Tom and I. (Last night’s big feast cleared us out completely). So I stroll off back through town. It feels as if I’ve already done a full day’s work and it’s only just after eleven….
As I go down to “Tranquillité” to get some lunch, I discover that it really is a second Gacaca day. But today is very Rwandan. Officially all business are shut, but actually they’re a lot of them continuing behind closed doors. The main gate at “Tranquillité” is shut, but as I approach it is opens a crack and I’m hustled in. Normal service for food, but very few eaters. All the time I’m waiting for my food to arrive, one of the waitresses is sitting a few feet away from me, picking her toes in the sun.
The weather today is just perfect. It’s a bright sunny day, but with quite a wind blowing, and that makes it cool and breezy. Just the day for getting down to work!
After I’ve eaten and got some credit for my phone, I try the internet café. The door is shut tight, but I knock on it. After a minute or so a little face appears, looks carefully around to see who else might be in the vicinity, then the door opens and I’m allowed in. Very Rwandan! However, the connection is so sloooow that all I can do is read emails and upload blog texts. I’ve got loads of pictures to post on this blog but with these connection speeds there’s not a chance!
Back to the flat and it’s time to start cooking. Wednesday night is film night, so I make a big lentil and sausage stew. While this is happening Moira rings to say we can’t have the digital projector from the teacher training college because they need it for a meeting tonight. Tom’s too tired to come out in the evening, Christi’s at a meeting somewhere, so there are only about seven of us at Becky’s. We decide to forget the film tonight and just eat together instead. We might try showing a film tomorrow night, if we can get the projector for Thursday.
Hayley, Soraya and Charlotte have dressed up for the evening in their “charity shop” clothes, and look simply amazing. Charlotte has walked the length of Gitarama dressed in multicoloured tights and a white tutu; Soraya’s in a long kaftan type dress with a cowboy jacket on top, and Hayley’s wearing an amazing lurid pink creation with sleeves so big you could hide a child in them. God knows what the Rwandans make of these visions drifting past them in the gloom!
As usual there is a mass of food, and good food too, so we eat ourselves to bursting point. Becky shows us her pictures from Canada Day, from Phisto’s Eucharist and the naming day ceremony at Momma’s orphanage. I’ll get copies of all these and add some to those I’m going to post on the blog.
I walk Beth and Karen back to the FHI base where they are sleeping. It’s a warm, balmy night and it’s been a really good day. I can’t say I’ve done an awful lot of professional work, but I’ve managed to get done a lot of the things that have been building up and bugging me. But, Lord, we’re all fed up to the back teeth with Gacacas. If they continue into a third day tomorrow I think I’ll go and murder someone…. Word on the street is that the current court hearing is of the former mayor of Muhanga District, who has now been accused of genocide related crimes fifteen years after the event.
The stuff I mentioned about education officers being arrested in Bugasera District is on the front page of today’s “New Times” newspaper. (See, you read things in my blog about a week before they even make the newspapers here!). Also, the President has been smoozing with Gordon Brown in London and persuading him to change British law so that genocide suspects can be extradited back to Rwanda to stand trial. The only other thing in the press seems to be Michael Jackson’s funeral. Honestly – you people outside Rwanda have got a funny idea of what’s important in life….

No comments: