Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Beer Fest, and Jonah in Lake Kivu

October 10th – 11th

A lazy morning getting my stuff sorted out, then into Kigali at lunchtime. There’s some shopping to do first, and then a session on the internet to catch up on emails I’ve missed while I’ve been up country. Once again, the “news” as reported in the English media seems increasingly distant and irrelevant when compared to the day to day realities of living in this developing country. The squabbles between Britain’s political parties seem so petty, and most of the rest of the news is unremitting gloom with earthquakes, floods and tidal waves thrashing around the Pacific. And I discover that Obama’s been given the Nobel Prize before he’s even really got anything done. In my cynical mind I wonder if that’s a reflection of the scarcity of peace in the world at the moment, or a reflection of the world’s relief at the change of government in Washington!

In Kigali I meet up with April, Léonie and Helen and we go to the VSO office. They’ve finally finished converting a couple of rooms into a dormitory, and the girls are among the first volunteers to try it out. The room is divided off for privacy with curtains; it looks for all the world like a hospital ward. But there are clean toilets and the rooms have been redecorated, and while the key arrangements could potentially be a hassle for people travelling in from up-country, it’s lovely to have somewhere like this we can book and use for free!

During the afternoon there’s a ladies’ football match between a group of volunteers from various NGOs, and a Rwandan team which includes Jeanette Kagame, the President’s wife. Becky has volunteered to play in this, and the match is a great success. Becky manages to score a goal, and has an opportunity to chat to Mrs K after the game. Not only that, but the match is being covered by Rwandan television and when the footage is shown on Sunday, Becky’s goal scoring is there for all the world to see. It’s not every volunteer who has her goal shown on national TV, and certainly not when she’s playing against the First lady!

The beer festival is way out of town on top of a hill at a country club. There’s a spectacular view of the night lights of Kigali spread around us. There’s the usual traffic chaos to get there, but once inside there really is unlimited free beer and some very decent food to eat as well. The music is OK; there’s salsa to get us started, then a live band. The band is a muzungu affair; I’m told they all play poker together and decided to make a band about a fortnight ago….. The lead singer is (I think) the programme manager of the Rwandan Red Cross, and the lead guitarist is our friend “Mr D”, Kersti’s boss and the headteacher of the new International School in Kigali. Truly a man of many parts….

We eat, we drink (a lot) and we dance. Absolutely everybody from the muzungu community is there. Leah and her friends from Red Cross. Jacob and other teachers from the International School. And, of course, we’re knee deep in VSOs current and past, including many of the staff from the office. It’s a great evening.

Just before it finished Kersti and Nick sweep me up (I’ve vanished into the throng socialising and generally indulging myself) and we head back home before the drunken chaos of the traffic trying to leave the "do" gets under way. Considering there is free beer, you simply wouldn’t believe the number of people who have driven themselves here and will be driving back drunk through unlit earth roads jammed with other cars all trying to out manoeuvre each other. It’s a recipe for disaster.

Sure enough, as you leave the festival there’s a long hill down to the tarmac road (the Nyamata main road), but a sharp dog leg right at the junction. And here’s a saloon car which has totally failed to make the dog leg and is now almost vertical with its bonnet stuck into a deep storm water ditch. Fortunately it looks as if the body of the car isn’t affected and provided they were wearing their belts the occupants should be OK.

There are various after-the-festival parties and there are always the night clubs, but my stomach has been grumbling during the afternoon, and in any case I’m supposed to be preaching a sermon tomorrow morning. Two in the morning is quite late enough to crash onto a comfortable mattress chez Kersti and sleep like a log until daylight!

On Sunday I’m up early, and considering how much I had to drink last night (like everyone else I was determined to get my RwF5000 worth of beer…) I don’t feel too bad. A quick wash in cold water is a good tonic as well.

By nine o’clock I’m back home in Gitarama and getting my props for the sermon, and I’m the first of the muzungus to arrive at Momma’s. The sermon goes down well – Jonah is an easy story to dramatise, and the children always react well to anything participative. We slap our legs for the rain, stamp our feet for thunder, and the rocking of the boat in a storm is done with great gusto. (Though it would be more realistic if everyone were to rock in the same direction at the same time!). The children roar with laughter when Jonah gets swallowed into my sheet sleeping bag, and the little girls playing the part of the fish get the rhythm right straight away. When you read the book of Jonah in the Bible, you find there’s a final chapter about trees and worms which is both hard to understand and certainly too difficult to try to incorporate into the drama I’m doing, but the general message is clear and applicable to them. At least I feel that my final chance to work with these children has gone down well and if nothing else, they’ll remember me for this story!

In the afternoon I catch up on some sleep, then it’s off for the muzungu meal. Tonight, at Christi’s request, we’re in a different restaurant. This one is right under the main white building in the town centre. The cooking is really excellent – western style, with rich sauces and an attempt at western standards of presentation. It’s just that with a big crown of a dozen or so, the service is so slow. We’re waiting about two hours before the final dishes arrive. Fortunately we’ve anticipated all this and come prepared with card games and such like, so we entertain ourselves and the rest of the restaurant while we’re there.

On television there’s the final of the East African talent show (a sort of “Fame Academy” for the Swahili world), and lo and behold while we’re in the restaurant the Rwandan entrant wins. Cheers erupt all round the place. Well, it’s better than the football – Rwanda gets beaten and is out of the world cup qualifiers.

By the time Tom and I get home we’re both absolutely tired out, and my stomach is grumbling with a vengeance so that I’m sure I’m about to go down with something nasty….

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