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!

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!

1 comment:

  1. John, your blog is excellent! It's really interesting to read. Knowing how tough it is for you to get online, I imagine that each update is quite a challenge for you. Just want you to know how much we all love to learn of your exploits and adventures. Keep on blogging! x