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!