Monday, 7 September 2009

Faffing around in Kigali

September 5th

A lie in until half past six and then I’m trying to make up lost time for the rest of the day. On the bus to Kigali and just time to get more money changed before our VOLCOM meeting at ten. (I need to change more money because if Soraya and I are going into the wilds next week we will need plenty of cash to pay for our transport).

It’s a depleted volunteer committee – just myself, Épi, Sabine and Ken are present, plus Mike and Ruth from the Programme Office staff. For all except Sabine it will probably be our last meeting before we end our service in Rwanda. We cover various administrative grit – volunteers finishing their postings early or for unacceptable reasons; problems with volunteers who feel under utilised in their placements or whose employers can’t understand that working away from the office visiting schools doesn’t mean they’re off skiving in Kigali…..All good stuff and we spend two hours on it.

We don’t mind putting in the time, though, because we get a superlative mélange for lunch at Karibu and I get a chance to chat with Épi which doesn’t happen very often these days.

Then it’s down to the internet café; I have a lot of stuff to post on the blog and want to get it all done before Teresa rings tonight. Last week has been so full and so varied that each day’s blog feels like a small essay, and I have loads of pictures of Rongi and of Cyicaro to show you.

But even the decent connection I use in Kigali means I’m running late for the next event which is a meeting of volunteers with Lynley. Lynley is a Canadian volunteer doing a short term placement on ways to strengthen partnerships between VSO and the districts or dioceses we work with. We talk about the practical problems which inhibit how effective we can be with our partners, things such as the acute lack of staff in district offices and the ridiculous wide ranging job descriptions some of our Rwandan colleagues have. (However is Claude going to be able to manage education of 100,000 children, plus health for a district or around 340,000 people, and “good governance” as well? After all, there are only 24 hours in a day….)

Straight after that meeting we meet up with the new volunteers and walk them along the dusty road to Luna D’Or restaurant and bar. Chris from Nyagatare does his usual excellent team building exercises, this time involving splitting us into groups in which we have to make ourselves into a model of a cow, and various games with balloons. People are always grouchy about these team building things and say why do we need to do them, but there’s no doubt that Chris has some brilliant ideas and people are always happy and enthusiastic when we’re doing them.

Then its time for the “family meal”, my fourth and last in Rwanda. We have the same troupe of Intore dancers and singers to perform for us as on the other occasions, and as usual at the end of their display we are dragged onto our feet to join in. The picture below shows why I’ll never remotely pass for a pukka Rwandan dancer!

The food is great; vast quantities and nicely done, and I have my second enormous meal of the day. The evening is bitter-sweet; on the one hand we are welcoming some fifteen new arrivals, but on the other hand we are saying goodbye to Nidhi and Steve who fly out tomorrow. Andy Crow has already left this afternoon. Nidhi and Steve are great people and we will definitely miss them; Steve goes out in style as you’ll see below.

We are introduced to Helen who is yet another volunteer who might be coming to Gitarama to follow on from Hayley at the YWCA. If she does decide to come to us we will have no fewer than eleven volunteers in and around Gitarama. That’s more than in Kigali and far, far more than in any other single town in Rwanda.

After the meal the decision as to where to go for the rest of the evening is very simple. Steve – the same Steve who is leaving Rwanda in less than 24 hours – plays with a reggae band, and they are performing in a room above the BCK supermarket in the town centre. So a huge gang of us all pile into taxis, with us more experienced volunteers showing the new arrivals how to beat prices down from ludicrous to merely expensive, and sail off to BCK.

As it happens, just about every western colleague I know in Kigali is at this bash. Kersti and Nick are there, Kate and Mary and other people we know from the American school in Nyamata; Jacob and others from KICS and so on. The music is far too loud to have conversations, but as a Bob Marley cover band this outfit is pretty convincing. Steve plays bongo drums and is the only muzungu in the band, so it’s not exactly difficult to recognise him. It turns out to be a very pleasant, hassle free event.

Oh, but there is an issue hanging over three of us this evening. I have been allocated a bed for the night by VSO but it is at AEE on the very far side of town, and I don’t want to have to go all that way after midnight. Soraya thinks she might just be able to walk into St Paul’s centre and bag a room, but we tell her that at this time of night there’s not a chance. And Tina was supposed to be staying with one of the Programme Office staff, but this person left early and Tina’s not sure whether she can find the house, and also isn’t happy trying to feel her way round half lit, strange neighbourhoods on her own and late at night. So, you see, we have a dilemma. Do we forget about sleeping and stay up till dawn, like some of did a few weeks ago, or do we crash on somebody’s floor? Answer – the latter. We are with a bunch of the new arrivals, and very kindly they take pity on our collective incompetence and offer us floor space for the night.

I end up sleeping on Anna’s floor with a blanket but no pillow; as I write this blog at mid-day on Sunday my neck’s still recovering. Soraya looks like death warmed up on the bus back home and she certainly didn’t sleep well either. And Tina hasn’t even surfaced by the time I leave the Amani guest house. But these new arrivals have done us proud, and it says reams for the way VSO works that a young woman who has only known me for a few hours will let me sleep on the carpet in her bedroom. Anna – you’re a star!

Some volunteers went on from BCK after Steve’s band had finished playing and ended up at one of the clubs. Before I came to Kigali today I also had visions of making this my final fling at the Kigali club scene. But in the event I was wise not to try. For one thing I had my rucksack with me, and it’s not exactly cool to be seen going into a club carrying a backpack; and I decided the offer of somewhere definite to sleep was not to be let go. I must be starting to act my age!

Best thing about today – once again, meeting the new volunteers, and saying goodbye to two good friends.

1 comment:

Mark Benson said...

The food in Rwanda is surely very delicious and mouth watering. Take a holiday trip to Rwanda by flights to Kigali and fascinate yourself with the number of attractions and the amazing food the nation is home to.