Thursday, 19 November 2009

Bikes and chapizzas

November 18th

There’s still no word from Paulin as to whether the student teacher mentor training at Kavumu is taking place or not, so I have to assume it’s on. I get there, and I’m just walking up the steps to the staffroom, when I receive a message from Paulin saying the training has been postponed till January. So I won’t be involved in doing it after all. Well, I’m pleased I don’t have to hang around till ten o’clock this morning to discover there’s nothing to do here. I have a “plan B” for the day because I had a feeling this was going to happen.

So I go back on the bus to the town centre, and Gatete who is passing on his moto takes me for free up to the Akarere. He has some form to hand in there and get signed, so it’s not totally altruistic on his behalf, but it’s certainly a very nice gesture.

In the office I sort out some documents and get another blog, the final one of the Zanzibar holiday, ready to send. Meanwhile I’ve booked a ticket to Kigali on the ten o’clock bus, and off I go.

On the way, as we leave Gitarama, I notice there seem to be a lot more traffic police about than usual. Then, some way further on, there seem to be an unusually large number of people waiting at the road side. We just get round a sharp bend and onto a relatively straight stretch of road when the police pull us over, and suddenly there’s loads of motor bikes and sirens and flashing lights. It’s the “Tour De Rwanda” cycle race again, and from the raised seats in the bus we all get a grandstand view. There must some sixty riders, many of whom are muzungus. (I’m later told that many international professional cyclists are using the Rwanda tour as a training ground ready for the Tour de France and other better known events). As happened last year, I don’t have my camera with me, so I don’t take any pictures. However, unknown to me Soraya is also on her way to Kigali in the previous bus; she is better organised than I am and takes some pictures which I’m posting for you.

So it’s an exciting run in to Kigali today. At the VSO office I return DVDs and books, and give Charlotte the of furniture and other equipment VSO needs to arrange to pick up from Tom’s flat when I’ve gone. That’s another two boxes ticked off on my pre-departure list!

There are several other volunteers in the office, some, like Els, are getting ready to go to Zanzibar as their end of service holiday; others are just working. I meet up with Eric and we go together to the Ministry of Justice to hand in our papers for police clearance. For once the office isn’t too busy, and they tell us to come back later in the afternoon. Now that’s a turn up for the books – to get any official document the same day is most unusual!

For the rest of the middle of the day I post blogs, check emails and generally do boring things. I send my ideas for the mentor training to both Paulin and Moira, hoping they might be able to improve on it and adapt it for their January training day. At least they’ll have a starting point to knock around!

Having picked up my police clearance documents in the afternoon I head into the town centre. It’s been threatening to rain heavily all day; it comes on a few drops and everyone runs for cover, but then the sun comes out again and normal life resumes. My purpose in the town centre is to change a large amount of money for a third water tank, this time at Nyarusange School. Time is running out for me and I need to move quickly. When I leave the forex I have nearly 2 million francs in my bag, and I feel vulnerable. I had it in mind to do some shopping, but decide with all this money I’d better get back home as fast as possible. So it’s back to Gitarama on the next bus.

Back home I recount the money and stash it away. The situation is complicated. The tank will cost 2.67 million francs. I have told the school that we will provide 2.5 million, and the head has pledged to get his parents to find the extra 167000 francs (no easy task in a poverty stricken secteur, but at least if they have had to stump up some of the money they will feel more of an ownership of the tank and my plan is that ownership will make them look after it). Then Moira has some money left from her community in Bray which she will contribute, but I don’t know how much. It’s certainly less than the 600000 francs the project still needs. So I’m going to have to send her an email and find out how much she’s putting in. What a shame she’s had to go back home just at this time.

I think the best thing will be for me to draw out all the remaining 600000 so that I know that all the project money is in the school’s bank account before I leave, and sort out the Irish contribution privately with Moira. That’ll make for a lot of emails flying around, but I’m up against a deadline of two weeks’ time and there are many other things to get done between now and then. I’ll be in Kigali for Giudi’s wedding on Saturday so I hope I can draw the rest of the money providing the banks are open.

In a further complication to life it seems that somebody has decided to make umuganda this coming Saturday to align it with national tree planting week. I’m not doing a blog entry for November 17th, but on that day all the district office staff, including Claude, were sporting natty teeshirts and off to plant trees in Shyogwe. Why Shyogwe? – easy to answer – the illegal brick making that’s been going on there has resulted in large-scale felling of trees without the authorities’ permission, and the damage is being put right to teach everyone a lesson (and stop any erosion that hasn’t already taken place). Claude’s name is prominent in today’s “New Times” with a picture of somebody’s backside as they bend over to plant saplings. According to the government everyone in the country is supposed to plant three trees this week – that’s up to 30 million trees.

So umuganda this Saturday will pose problems for me – not only might the bank not be open, but also we might have trouble getting to Kigali for the wedding. I think we’ll have to leave Gitarama really early – before eight o’clock – to be sure of arriving. It just shows that even when you think you’ve got everything here planned down to the last detail, someone in Government changes everything to suit their political agenda and everyone is thrown into confusion.

In the evening we all go round to Becky’s. Not only is it April’s birthday but it’s also Becky’s big day. The girls have made us a feast with “chapizzas” – pizza toppings on a chapatti base – and very nice they are too. Tom’s brought fresh bread from Kigali and I come with a whole cheese and biscuits to go with it. The evening is livened up with power cuts, but that helps when Becky has to blow out her candles. Sneaky Christi has put two of the re-igniting ones in with the others and by the time Becky has finally blown them all out the candle is almost down to cake level!

The original idea was to show a film, but what with power cuts, Piet being very late arriving with the digital projector because he’s had another series of days with 30 eye procedures per day (how on earth does he manage to keep that up?), and many of us are really tired and feeling the strain at the moment. So we play silly games like “Humdinger” and set off home relatively early.

It’s been another good day overall, and for any potential VSO reading this it’s a classic example of how you always have to have a “plan B” for the day and just shrug and get on with the alternatives when your intended programme falls apart.

Best thing about today – getting police clearance done in one day.

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