No longer a moto-taxi novice!

No longer a moto-taxi novice!
No longer a moto-taxi novice! It can be exhausting but it's great fun!

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

The Rainy Season

Filling containers from overflowing gutters.
The rainy season is really letting rip now.  Today we had grey skies all morning then after lunch the heavens opened with a vengeance.  The wind sprang up too, so that the house was battered with heavy drops of rain.  The roof gutters overflowed everywhere and Dignite tried to get all the water containers filled with free water!

The orange tree is covered in little oranges which will probably benefit from the rain.    You can see my personal electricity pole too!

The front garden becoming a paddling pool!

Sadly today was market day and many traders must have got soaked and perhaps had their goods spoiled.  After the storm the people emerged from wherever they had found some shelter and gradually the market came back to life.  It's quite amazing how the roads and streets empty as the rain begins.  Life just stops temporarily as any coat or umbrella is far from adequate to protect you from such torrents.  I did eventually get myself an umbrella for lesser rainfall and tend to carry it, heavy as it, is as a kind of talisman against it actually raining on me. Many Rwandan women use an umbrella a lot, but as a parasol, especially if they are carrying a baby on their back.

Recently I hopped on a bus with a friend just as it started to rain.  We were in Kigali heading for the big market just outside town.  When we arrived at the terminus in torrential rain the bus simply stopped and nobody moved to get off, except the stupid "muzungos".  However, the conductor made it clear that we should stay as he shut the door firmly and the driver slumped over his steering wheel for a sleep.  Every mini bus that came in drove as near as possible to the shelter so that those foolish travellers who wanted to could rush off,  but most people just sat and waited until the storm had passed. 

The temperature has dropped quite a lot after today's soaking and I needed to put on a fleece even in the house for the first time.  I'm wondering if I should go and look for some wellies!  Amazingly the electricity did not fail, though I'm probably tempting fate by writing that!

Of course the un-surfaced roads just become impassable for vehicles when it rains hard.  The stones become really slippery as they are covered in a coating of mud and moto-taxis simply refuse to start a journey.  I've been lucky so far that my moto trips have only had a light sprinkling which hardly wet my visor and it was on a tarred road.  Even there the layer of dust turns into a treacherous slimy mud.  I'm really fortunate to have such a skilled driver in Daniel - I'm sure he could win motocross trials or races in the UK!  Any thoughts I entertained about getting a licence to drive myself have long ago evaporated, as I've seen how difficult many of our journeys have been for Daniel.

Daniel went shopping at the lake while I visited a rural school.  At the next stop he had it chopped up and cooked ready for dinner! 

Monday, 22 November 2010

Some little people, that is my grand children have asked for more information about my house - especially inside.
Well, I've got some new photos, which show the interior.
The first two show the living room with pretty standard VSO furnishings.  THe room is pleasant enough when the sun is shining, but the windows are so small that it is rather gloomy when the sky is grey or evening is falling.  I've ordered some pictures form the cow dung painting co-op, but they are not ready yet.  Many volunteers hang lengths of African cloth on the walls, but as I am expecting a new housemate in a couple of weeks, I decided not to fill too many walls just yet.  At the other end of the room is the door to my bedroom and you can see my gallery of Pugh family pictures on the walls.

In my bedroom the three-quarter size bed has a mosquito net over it, which covers the bed at night, though I have seen very very few if any mosquitos since I arrived here. It's better to be safe than sorry!  Dignite makes the bed each day in an amazing variety of different styles of folds. All bedclothes here in Rwanda are brightly coloured, plain is almost impossible to find.

In the indoor kitchen, one photo shows the food and crockery shelves, which have stuff going back to previous volunteers who have lived here.  The plates, dishes and pans are all of Chinese origin and feature lots of flowers ugh!  In the other photo you can see the water filter and thermoses which Dignite fills with hot water each day, some for tea and cooking and another for washing (in fact a basin shower, using a small jug). You can also see the dodgy solar panel system, which in fact comes into its own quite often as there are frequent power cuts each week.  There is usually enough stored solar power to get the lights on during a mains cut., though I'm glad not to have to rely on its limited capacity every day now!

The photo below, with Dignite, shows her working in the outdoor kitchen, which is where she cooks on a charcoal burning stove (front left) and a kerosene stove.  Both are pretty smelly so it is best to keep the cooking in the separate building.  Dignite, like most Rwandans does everything at floor level - there is no such thing as a kitchen work top in most houses. However, I have seen a couple of hotels with suites that feature an American style kitchen.

The last photo shows the shower room/water room.  As you see the shower is just a base which drains through the wall into the garden gutter.  The various buckets and jerry cans hold delivered water or rain water collected from the roof. After a shower the water, which is left in the basin, is used to flush the outside toilet, as there is no water supply there.

It's all pretty basic and rather rough and ready.  The house walls are mud brick coated with a thin screed of cement inside and out.  If you want to put up a clothes rack, you use six inch nails straight into the wall at an angle.  Needless to say they come loose often, which is why every room has a scattering of holes of every size from previous fixings.  When the house was decorated recently the painter just painted across the holes and did nothing to fill them.  Even the man who plastered over the newly chased in electric cables ignored holes only centimetres away from his task. The decorator also painted straight over many blobs of blutack left when he took down any pictures!  As you've seen every room is the same colour with dark brown painted doors and windows and a black band around the base of the walls.  The cement floor is often washed down so the black gloss paint protects the walls. Unfortunately the ceilings are plain darkish plywood so make the rooms dark.  Having seen the slapdash way the walls were done I dread to think what kind of mess would happen if I wanted the ceilings painted!

Imogongo Art Co-operative

Here is a photo of a couple of pieces of Imigongo art (that's the cow dung stuff).  On the left a traditional style one, always with black and white geometric patterns and on the right an example of the modern art pictures they have started doing in recent years, probably for the tourist market.  The raised pattern is done with the cow dung mixture, used just like clay or plasticine and the traditional ones have natural pigments and fixatives. You can see a young woman applying the texture design to the wooden backing  board . I suspect that the modern designs use Rwandan emulsion paint!  When I go to collect my pictures I'll try to find out more, especially as I want to get some of the cow dung mixture to have a go myself.  It doesn't smell even when damp, so they must treat it in some way.  More details later for the artists among you!  I need to go with a KInyarwanda interpreter so I can find out more.  The women there don't speak French or English and there's only so much you can do with signs.

One last picture snapped as I was waiting for a bus in Nyakarambi.  The bus comes from Rusumo, where the River Akagera goes over the waterfalls at the Tanzanian border.  The driver evidently took advantage of the trip to bring home a couple of river fish!

Monday, 18 October 2010

One month on - October 18, 2010

Beach at Home St Jean guest house, Lake Kivu

Sunrise on Lake Kivu
 One pleasant weekend was spent in Kigali, apart from the dubious delights of a budget hostel run by a church.  The surroundings were pleasant enough and it's right in the town centre, but the bed was really lumpy and uncomfortable. However Kigali is very nice on Sunday - very quiet, and a good breakfast can be had in lovely gardens at the Karibu Restaurant.  The biggest surprise was to get home to find that an electrician had started re-wiring the house ready to get connected up to the mains supply - they had even cut channels in the walls to conceal the cables, and replastered.  The place looked a mess but at least something was happening - the rent must have been paid!  A day or so later we got home to find the whole inside of the house had been re-painted!!  Not quite the finish we'd expect in the UK but at least it all looks clean and fresh.  In the next few days all went quiet apart from occasional tinkering and now four weeks later all has gone very quiet, though Maman Jonathon, my land lady, called today to say that all the applications had been made and we just have to be patient!

Towards the end of September I met a group of teachers from this district who are going through the complicated process of applying for a Global Schools Partnership link with a UK school and then completing a form for a reciprocal visit grant.  They are all really enthusiastic and were also saying goodbye to my predecessor who had given them so much help. VSO is holding a workshop in Kigali this weekend to help them with the forms - needless to say I'll be looking for different accommodation!
Nursery Class - notice the concrete benches!

Children from village near lake in Mpanga Sector
Notice the young girl carrying a baby sibling - a common sight, even in the nursery class picture above here.

Home St Jean, Lake Kivu
My room at Home St Jean, with lovely lake view
Lakeside School in Mpanga sector,  notice the planted gardens.

The early days of October were filled with handover meetings with my predecessor and visiting schools she had worked in over the last year to see what can be achieved. There were of course several farewell parties, including one in Nyanza, where we both have volunteer friends.  The town of Nyanza is much bigger than Nyakarambi, but the edge of town where they live is a big contrast with the town centre house I have, the former being very quiet and mine being relatively noisy from about 5.30 in the morning!  Nyanza was once the home of the Rwandan Royal family until 1961 when the monarchy was abolished.  His new palace, is currently a Modern Art Museum, offering annual prizes to Rwandan contemporary artists.  The displays would not have been out of place in any western art gallery, great carvings in wood, stone, and multi-media as well as paintings in many styles, again often using a variety of media.  Very much worth a visit - I was really pleasantly surprised.  The old Palace has been renovated as a museum, but it was too far away to visit on foot that afternoon.

On the way to the museum we passed a group of drummers practising in the open air.  On returning from the museum they had been joined by a large group of traditional dancers, who were rehearsing.  Although they were in casual clothing and not performance costumes it was very good and we felt privileged to have been allowed to watch for a while.

Schools are currently revising for the national exams and school exams as the school year finishes at the end of October.  Teachers then have November for training generally and December for English training for all teachers, provided by the government in a huge logistical operation. The compulsory training finishes on 24 December!! That is after a year of double shifting (one half of the school in the morning the other half in the afternoon) and teaching everything in a foreign language! There is no doubt that Rwandan teachers have a very hard life.  In addition many spend the weekend at Uni trying to get extra qualifications so they can see slight increase in their salary (Teachers' salary is about £30-£35 per month!). We have made five full day visits to Mpanga and will be going back often in the new school year.  Yesterday we had our first rain moto experience - luckily not the usual deluge but a steady light rain as we drove along.  Even so we got a sense of how impassible the dirt tracks will be when it really rains hard - the clay makes everything very slippery under the tyres - not a nice sensation!

I have included some pictures from a lakeside village near one of these schools.  The poverty is self evident, but they still give us big smiles and get excited to see rare white people in that area.
In contrast there are pictures from a school only half an hour from here which has benefitted from a good deal of VSO attention and has set up flourishing after school clubs for Science, English, Music and Dance, Environment and recently Media club, based around a donated digital camera and the school's one laptop.  They have a computer room with cloth-shrouded donated desk top computers - but no electricity! You will see the basic Science materials using plastic containers from all kinds and household chemicals and ingredients. They have made soap to use in school, paint for one room and are planning to make foam mats for sport when they get the materials!

Last weekend some of us went to Lake Kivu in the West of Rwanda, to the little town of Kibuye.  We found a beautiful and comfortable budget-priced guest-house, which is on a headland overlooking the lake.  It has  a terrace restaurant and bar and gardens going down to a rocky small beach from which we were able to swim - it was great, lovely water and fantastic views.  The staff are really welcoming and friendly too. If any of you come to visit that will certainly be worth the trip, 6 hours by bus!! - but through wonderful scenery.  Kibuye is a destination for Rwandans and there are very few white tourists, so it is fairly quiet.
As well as the pictures of the lake I have included one of local children collecting water from the water's edge and some fishing boats.

I got home yesterday after an hour's moto ride to find my house surrounded by an excited crowd.  MTN, one of the mobile network providers had parked their road show right outside my garden and were blasting the whole town with music and adverts for mobile phone air time. It was market day, just next to the house, so they were sure of getting a big crowd.  Luckily it stopped at about 17.30, as the market packed up.  You can see my house roof in the picture behind the MTN lorry!

MTN Roadshow - my house behind!

Last weekend I had two meetings to attend in Kigali, so was there for three nights.  This time in a more comfortable hotel, but still only about £22 a night.  Mind you I have to keep remembering that I only earn about £190 a month so it's all relative.  I was treated to a lovely meal in the Hotel Mille Collines  (the one in the novel and film, Hotel Rwanda) as a birthday present. It was so good to be in luxurious, clean surroundings for a few hours.  We keep discovering interesting places in Kigali - this time it was a supermarket, come German Butchery, come craft shop but with a lovely garden restaurant with great food.  The supermarket has its own bakery supplying most of the good shops and restaurants and we were actually able to buy wholemeal bread - it's sooo nice after the usual stale white stuff I can buy here.

The journey home from Kigali was the worst journey imaginable.  I took one of the taxi buses instead of the usual bigger ones called "Coasters" , as it would have meant a two hour wait for the big bus.  What a mistake!  The rickety old seats are at least 5cm shorter than my leg length, it was packed like a sardine can, had totally shot suspension, exhaust fumes in the cabin and a driver from hell!  In spite of sitting with the window open and my nose stuck out I felt really sick and could hardly walk when we arrived in Nyakarambi. Never again will I get into one of those little buses!!  One funny incident was that the bus pulled over to the side of the road at one point to allow a mother to get off and change her baby's nappy on the grass, while we all waited!  That reminds me that when I left Nyakarambi on Thursday afternoon, the bus had gone about 10 minutes down the road, when the driver's phone rang.  He immediately pulled over after listening to the call, turned round and went most of the way back to our starting point to pick up a group of passengers who had missed the bus, in spite of the fact that it left town 10 minutes late!  It's all very different!

Arriving home I found a long wooden pole lying across the garden and today two men came to creosote it and dig a deep hole to erect it on their next visit.    Electricity is slowly getting nearer - I wonder how many more days will drift by before it actually finally happens!

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Settling in to Nyakarambi

Now in Nyakarambi.

I arrived in Nyakarambi on Wednesday after a journey of just under three hours. Dorothy was here to greet me and to show me where I am going to be living.  The little house stands in a bamboo fenced garden very close to the main street of the town.  Only 75 metres away they are just finishing building a new branch of the Bank of Kigali, which will be very convenient. The bus stop is just a few metres further.
On our first day we decided to take our first moto-taxi ride as we had to go down to the Tanzania border, to the little town of Rusumo, where we opened bank accounts at the brand new Bank of Kigali.  The manager took three of us one by one, while the other staff sat doing nothing – it took most of the morning.  We then took a stroll down to the bridge over the Agakera River, which forms the border, to see the waterfalls – quite impressive! The border crossing is a one track bridge with a huge queue of heavy lorries waiting to get through immigration, which takes hours, apparently. We had a pleasant lunch overlooking the river and across to Tanzania. (Melange, of course!)
I have visited two schools so far.  The first was 40 minutes by moto-taxi on dirt tracks – quite a hair-raising ride.  You arrive at your destination covered in dust, which you have to get rid of as much as possible because clean clothes and shiny shoes are considered essential in professional circles in Rwanda. We had a very warm welcome from the staff. We saw the school’s English club, science club and the library, as well as meeting the head teacher and the school teachers.  At the end of the morning we were surrounded by school children while we waited for the motos to come back.  It was very unusual to have six white visitors all at once so there was a lot of excitement!

That evening we went to the bar opposite the house, where the owner allows his customers to re-charge their phones, laptops etc.  He’s a very friendly man and pleased to have three Brits coming to live near his bar! Beer is 600 Rwandan francs, about 75 pence, for a large bottle – but we have to remember that we only earn 170,000 Rwandan francs, the equivalent of £175 a month! It’s a pleasant way to get your equipment charged up.  Our solar panel at the house is a bit unreliable, and only gives about three hours of lighting on a good day. Fellow volunteers are finding that their house that is supposed to have electricity and running water but supplies are cut off, so they have to fall back on jerry cans and torches. Poor Abdel Ilah, has also got a rat to contend with at his house which is about half an hour’s walk from the bus on the main road. We are all finding that everything takes so much longer to do and after a weekend without a domestique it is easy to see the need for help. Working with kerosene or charcoal stoves to heat water to fill thermos flasks for making tea, washing up, having a shower and boiling water to filter for drinking takes for ever.  Taking waste water to flush the latrine (squat-type!), is another chore.  Washing up is a complicated process so I don’t know how I would manage to wash clothes, without help. It is quite clear that if we want time to go to work we have to have someone to clean, shop, cook, wash, using the really basic facilities available.  The kitchen has one small table, the cooking kitchen outside has the stoves on the floor, or in the garden.  All the water has to be delivered by the water carrier and much of it has to be boiled before use.  The dust makes clothes dirty each day, so the washing soon piles up.  Our domestique, Dignité, is a hard working treasure of a young woman, who is about to go to university each weekend, while keeping on her five day job with us! She gets the best prices at the market and cooks fantastic meals each day, which we can eat either at lunch time or in the evening. I’m sure I couldn’t manage without her and am glad to be able to pay her 25,000 RWFrs a month, which is a good salary in this country where teachers only get about 30,000 RWFrs!(£33)
On Sunday afternoon we set off in a moto-taxi convoy to visit one if the national genocide memorial sites, which is quite near Nyikarambi.  Of course most of the journey was about half an hour on dusty tracks up and down hills and through small villages. The young driver I was with was having some difficulty on the steep hills and eventually we ground to a halt on a steep and rutted climb and the bike fell over.  I managed to get one foot down then rolled backwards in the dust banging my crash helmet hard on the stony ground – luckily I was wearing the official VSO helmet and not the cheap plastic thing the moto drivers carry.  I’m glad to say I was unhurt and I’m happy that my baptism into falling off a moto was when we were stuck rather than belting along down a hill! My nice new waterproof is now taking on the colour of the Rwandan red dust! The poor driver was mortified – it’s the height of disgrace to dump your passenger on the ground and all my smiles did nothing to help his disappointment.  Our chief driver sent him off in shame and called someone else for the return journey.  It is a matter of great prestige to be selected as a regular VSO moto driver as well as a reliable source of income and we try to keep drivers we are confident with.
Well, we were given a guided tour of the genocide site, which was pretty harrowing as the guide went into some detail of the massacres and torturing that took place there in 1994 – some 28,000 were slaughtered and the site has a total of 51,000 bodies, a number that regularly increases as they continue to discover other mass graves around the area. It’s difficult to write about the legacy of the genocide with any real understanding, as each day we learn new snippets of information about the nightmare most people you meet have lived through and hear of the deep trauma they still have to deal with.
Work starts in earnest:
This week has been a whirlwind of activity, punctuated with long periods of waiting or watching quietly.  The guided tour of the District Offices by the Education officer took up much of the first day – we shook hands with at least fifty people and promptly forgot their names.
Tuesday and Wednesday were teacher workshops in a school some 40 minutes away along the usual bumpy, dusty tracks up and down the hills by moto-taxi.  The scenery is amazing, but the dwellings along the track are poor mud brick huts surrounded by banana trees or scrub with a few goats and cattle.  The kids stand by the road and shout “muzungo” and wave as we pass by.  It’s not an insult from them, but it means “rich whiteman” and can be used unpleasantly though very rarely.  The school “Bisigara Primary” was welcoming to us and all the teachers from other schools there for training.  The workshop was a first for Dorothy as the first part was to be delivered in Kinyarwanda by two young teachers who were from a school using the family grouping system, which the workshop was exploring and promoting.  Although we understood only occasional words it was clear that the two teachers were confident and enthusiastic in their delivery and the participants responded well to them.  The day continued with group work and discussions much as a workshop would in the UK and the participants left enthused and pleased with what they had learned.  The main thrust is to get teachers to adopt a more child-centred methodology, using lots of praise and encouragement.  That message was also there in the second day’s workshop, which was about Peer Observation.  We actually had lessons set up to be delivered by one teacher while the rest observed and took notes. After discussions two groups planned a lesson each and chose a teacher to deliver it.  Again they observed different aspects and gave feedback to the teachers.  It was amazing to see how far they could progress in one day, as we saw lessons, which were coming near what we would expect in the UK from good teachers.
On Thursday we visited another primary school, Rugarama 2. (Please take it  as read that each visit involves a hair raising moto ride in future!)  This is a model school, where the family grouping system originated, arising from the need to deal with the many orphans and traumatised children after 1994. This school is often visited by teachers from all over Rwanda, to see good practice at work.  The school is really clean and tidy, with gardens the children look after, a good library and science laboratory.  Of course it is all light years away from what we have in the UK, but we can see good progress and a good deal of improvisation and initiative, for example in the science equipment.  You see plastic water bottles for measuring, bananas as stoppers, kitchen ingredients as chemicals for experiments – nothing goes to waste.  Speaking of which, plastic carrier bags are illegal in Rwanda and that combined with the once a month “umuganda” community clean up, means that there is a good deal less litter lying around than in other developing countries.

Of course none of these schools have electricity so by the end of Tuesday both my phone and my computer were running out of power.  Very frustrating!! I managed to get a partial recharge at the District Office today, but as on Monday the power went off after about an hour.  They are working on a new building thee and on installing higher speed broadband so things should get better.  At our house the landlord has declared our solar panel system past repair and is hoping to install mains electricity at the end of October – that is if the District Office actually gets round to paying the rent arrears!! This evening again we were plunged into darkness at 7.30 in the middle of our Kinyarwanda lesson.  I’m sitting here in the dim glow of a candle using a rapidly dwindling laptop to write up a blog which I will upload this weekend in Kigali, where electricity and wi-fi are much easier to find.  What a contrast!  In fact today that was brought home even more… All Rwandans nearing adulthood or adult have a mobile phone, even living in a mud hut with no power!  The infant pupils had been modelling their hopes and ambitions in clay recently and what did they make but little mobile phones in great detail, even to the little sockets for chargers and headphones! There are little shops which sell a phone re-charge for 100 RWfr (9 pence). It is common practice to plug in your charger wherever you see a spare socket, even in the bank for example!

VSO Family Dinner

Sunday 12 September
Last night was the VSO Rwanda Family dinner – a six-monthly get together for all volunteers and workers at VSO Rwanda. Held in a large barn-like restaurant not far from where we are staying. We started off with some team-building games, which were not difficult and were good for getting to know other people. As darkness fell (just after 6.00!) we had drinks and began to settle down at tables ready to start the meal. A more sumptuous melange much as I described before – very tasty indeed.
The highlight of the evening was a performance by the Intore dancers – traditional Rwandan dancers, who showed off a variety of dances accompanied by drums and singing. After the performance they took a break and then came, as expected to get “muzungos” to join in. In fact this proved very popular and we had a great dance together. I think the dance troupe was pleased by our enthusiasm because they came back after changing out of their traditional dress and started playing again for us all to dance together.It was a great fun evening and continued well past the
programmed time!

In country training

Hi everyone!
Well, the first week has gone already and we will soon be leaving Kigali to go to our various destinations – there are 19 of us and about six of us will be quite close together in the south-east. Strangely four of us are the only men in this cohort and we are going to the same place. I met my predecessor yesterday and got more information about the job and the accommodation, but I’ll tell you more when I’ve seen it for myself. At the moment we are staying in a guest-house in the suburbs of Kigali, not far from the VSO offices and all our training has been here too. The rooms are quite comfortable, but basic. The en suite bathroom has a dodgy shower over the bathtub, which at best delivers very lukewarm water, but we have also had power cuts affecting both the lights and the sockets meaning cold showers too! Thank goodness for LED torches and headlamps! The food is very good – breakfast consists of bread or toast with omelette and slices of cheese, then jam or chocolate spread and fresh pineapple. Flasks of hot water are used to make tea and there is a coffee machine. Of course there is no fresh milk, everywhere it is just milk powder.
Lunch and dinner are what they call “melange” from the French word for “mixed platter”. Big dishes of grated carrot salad, tomatoes or beetroot, or grated cabbage, cold cooked aubergine – all with mild onion slices, and a dressing – that’s one side of your plate – then there are dishes of rice, potatoes, mashed or fried, roast or fried sweet potato or plantain, squashes or courgettes, cooked carrots, sweetcorn, maybe brown beans, then comes the fried fish pieces or goat meat stew, or today there was even beef too. You simply take a little of whatever you like and pile it all on the same plate. With it we have bottles of soft drinks or water. As dessert there are tiny sweet bananas or tree tomatoes (a mix between passion fruit/kiwi/tomato but very sharp and mainly seeds). Sometimes they serve vegetable soup (blended) for dinner with a less exhaustive “melange”.
On Thursday night we went out to a pub quiz VSO had organised for us and had the popular local dish of goat kebabs with chips. It was quite good food and the quiz was fun. Some of us went off yesterday afternoon to take the local bus down to the town centre. Ancient Toyota mini buses with about 12 seats cram in about twenty passengers for the 15 minute journey, which costs 180 francs – less than 18 pence! The local passengers are friendly and laugh at our attempts at Kinyarwanda and chat in French or English. We had a wander around the shopping area and found a bar with a first floor balcony for people watching. The shops are mainly tiny but there is a modern shopping centre and a few larger supermarkets which sell most things. We have to shop next week for household things – sheets, towels, pillows, candles etc. That will be very hectic I’m sure.
Most mornings the weather starts off bright and sunny then by lunch time the clouds begin to build up ready for lightening and heavy rain late afternoon or evening. One night it rained a lot during the night too, but the days have been warm and pleasant. It gets dark about 6.00 and the mosquitoes come out, so we need to put on repellent and long sleeves. Of course we sleep under mosquito nets too. Most evenings we make the most of a nearby bar and our friends, while it is possible.
The Kinyarwanda lessons are proving a real challenge for most of us – the more we learn the more difficult and complicated it seems. Apparently no foreigner has mastered the language and there is no fixed grammar rules which have been agreed by all. Eg they pronounce “r” and “l” in the same way so the spelling is either. Our teacher says “Emiry” for “Emily” and writes words with either letter!
I haven’t started my blog, yet as I’m planning to do that when the placement proper starts. More news will follow in time!

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Getting Ready

The month of August is proving really enjoyable in all respects except the weather! I'm so glad I rented out the house from the beginning of August as I have been able to make lots of visits and spend valuable time with my family and friends and not be still worried about packing up the house ready to leave.  I am still puzzling out the stuff to take and what to leave behind, but gradually things are getting sorted.  The bank holiday weekend should be fun, as my farewell get together with the boys and partners will be at the Jazz festival in Hampton Court. Let's hope the weather finally brightens up! I am still spending time trying to learn Kinyarwanda, which is both challenging and enjoyable.  I'm really looking forward to the language lessons during the in country training in Kigali. I'm making the most of hot showers, electricity, TV, wine and ice cream, as they will be in short supply from next month.