Monday, 10 August 2009

Over the wall in Nyanza

July 12th

Up very early, before any of the others wake up, and out of the house by twenty past six. The water’s off, so there’s no point in trying to have a wash. I’ll travel sleazy to Gitarama and freshen up before I go off to church. All the volunteers seem to agree that, given a choice of having water but no electricity, or electricity and no water, we’d go for water any time. Without plenty of water you’re just so limited.
When I try to leave the house I encounter a problem. The gate is locked. There’s no sign of a night guard; I check all round the outbuildings. There’s no key left in a convenient place – in the lounge, above the curtain etc. I really don’t want to have to wake up anyone else so early. All round the compound there’s a solid looking brick wall, which is a convenient height to shin over and jump down into the road. So that’s what I decide to do. It’s sort of breaking out of a property instead of breaking into it.
Unfortunately I haven’t taken into account the inadequacies of Rwandan brick laying. The wall has been made using what appears to be lime mortar, instead of proper cement. Lime mortar is what we used with our vocational brickies at Bridport when I was looking after pupils on vocational courses. It holds the bricks together, but has no strength under stress. It’s designed to be easily removable from bricks, so that, for example, vocational students can use the same bricks, and the same mortar, over and over again until their technique is perfect. It’s not the right stuff to be using on exterior walls intended to be permanent fixtures, and is definitely not intended to be strong enough for a heavy adult to be able to climb over!
My weight causes a whole raft of bricks forming the coping layer at the top of the wall to come adrift and cascade down either side into Ken’s garden and into the road. I curse loudly, much to the amusement of the usual early risers who are on their way to church or to work. The wall is too high for me to be able to put the bricks back and pretend that nothing has happened. And I need to get off fast to Gitarama. So I have to cut and run like a guilty thief, and send Ken a text from the bus apologising for the damage and offering to pay for restitution. It makes an unfortunate end to what has been a really good night out in Nyanza.
I’m lucky enough to find an express bus just about to leave Nyanza. In fact, the bus is edging out to the main road while I’m trying to pay for my ticket; I get sent onto the bus and wonder whether the booking clerk will hold on to all my change or come out to the bus with it. (The latter, fortunately). But I have to pay the fare all the way to Kigali. Never mind; what took me two hours yesterday afternoon takes under one hour on the return trip.
By half past seven I’m back home, showering under lashings of hot water and breakfasting, all before Tom’s even awake! I go through my “sermon” notes and scoot off to Cyakabiri in good time. At Momma’s, all the secondary school pupils are home from the Kind David boarding school in Kigali, so the room is jam packed. My talk seems to go down well. I re-enact the parable of the Talents, with a rich and famous man (the mayor of a Rwandan district) having to go to Kampala on the jaguar bus to look after his sick father. I call out orphans to represent the parts, and I have a paper crown for the Mayor and bundles of “money” to give the three servants. (The servant with five talents, or a million francs, had the imagination to realise that everyone in Rwandan would be wanting to watch the world cup football from South Africa next year, so he set up a business selling and renting TVs and made an absolute fortune. The servant with two talents bought three cows and a herd of goats and did well from milk, cheese and meat. The lazy servant given only 1 talent (50,000 francs), hid it under his mattress). All these little things made a hit with the orphans. At the end of the story, when the rich man is rewarding the servant with five talents, I had the man rewarded with a house, a car, and a holiday in America. There was a long sigh of longing from just about every orphan in the room!
After the service we (Tom, Becky and I) decide we can’t be bothered to cook for ourselves, so we have very good brochettes and chips at a café near the flat. The afternoon’s spent dozing, reading, ironing, and then it’s off to “One Love” for the muzungu meal. This turns into a near disaster. Just as we arrive there’s a power cut which lasts the whole evening. “One Love” just doesn’t seem geared up to deal with large orders, and we wait for an hour and a half. There’s a self-service mélange, but it’s half cold. I get a phone call from Geert, who’s back in town, but has been collared with Michael by the Bishop and is out for the evening with him. On the other hand we have two newcomers, Sam, who is on a short term placement with a group from the University of Florida but actually comes from the Bahamas, and Els, who is the Belgian girl just arrived to work with Raima at Ahazaza school. So on my table we have a Philippina, an Italian, a Belgian, a Bahamian, an American, an Englishman, and Anglo-Portuguese girl, and an Australian.
I can’t understand why this restaurant doesn’t have a back-up generator – most of the others seem to. And evening power cuts in Gitarama are not exactly unheard of. I assume they’re trying to cook by candle-light in the kitchen, but it takes them ages to even think about bringing out candles to all the tables of customers. I really don’t like “One Love”; every time I’ve eaten here there’s been some problem. “Nectar” might have smelly toilets, but at least they’re geared up to cooking for us and they can cope with power cuts.
Back home and I make a list of all the things I need to do for tomorrow. The week ahead is getting very busy.
Best thing about today – preaching a sermon in a Rwandan church. Even if it was only a house church. When I came out here as a VSO I never in a million years dreamed that I’d be asked to speak.
Worst thing about today – feeling Ken’s wall crumbling away underneath me….
At least nobody can say that life here in Rwanda is dull and boring!

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