Monday, 28 February 2011

My first fall... well, slide really!

I tried to get to Nyabinoni this week and failed! I had 5 hour journey for nothing – except the experience of falling off the bike into the mud for the first time AND hailstones which felt like god throwing medicine balls at us! We were ‘bitten by ice’ as Charles said. He was mortified when I fell off and got covered in mud and later on as the rain stopped he found a water tap and literally poured water all over me and rubbed all the mud away – fortunately I proved that my waterproofs are, indeed, waterproof!

My plan was to give a presentation at the district headteachers meeting and travel up to the north of my district in the afternoon, arriving about 4pm, then spend the rest of the week there, visiting schools. My colleague had gone up the day before and we would return together on Friday. I have a great moto driver called Charles and he is safe and lovely!

I gave the presentation and left the meeting early. I had a heavy back pack because I was staying over, needed my netbook, work things etc. We set off, we left the tarmac road after an hour which meant at least 3 hours on dirt tracks – it is like scrambling rather than motorbike riding. An hour later the wind blew up (I’m beginning to know the signs!) – a warm wild wind – we put on all our waterproofs, then the rain started - it lashed down, but not just rain – ice balls!!! We were pelted by ice balls – I have the bruises to prove it. We needed some place to shelter , the track was becoming very slippy and dangerous. We pulled into a little sheltered place where there were other people. The local people told us that the road was blocked up ahead and it was not possible to go any further – I phoned my colleague who confirmed that the rain had been very heavy and it was bitterly cold – not the picture we have of Africa is it?! So we decided we should turn round and go back. The rain had stopped by this time. The journey along the track back to the tarmac took us two hours – it was extremely muddy in places and I had to get off and walk,(my preference by this time!) I fell off once but it was a gentle slide off into soft,wet mud rather than a ‘thrown off’ situation. Charles was mortified!

We continued on our way slipping and sliding and stopped at a water tap – Charles literally washed me down from head to foot!! – he was pouring water all over me and rubbing off the mud with is hands! By this time my bag was twice as heavy because of all the water he poured over it! I was aching all over and my back was so sore and stiff with carrying that weight – lesson – even if you’re staying overnight don’t bother taking anything – seriously I’m not going to take spare clothes or anything next time- just soap and toothbrush! We arrived back at the tarmac road and we were both relieved – it was another hour before we got home. We had set off at 12.30 and arrived back at 5.30 and basically got nowhere!

Oh well! Just another day in Rwanda

The next day was bright and clear and the sunset glorious.
Love to you all. Tx

Sunday, 20 February 2011

A very special visit.....

I have just returned from an amazing trip which I feel privileged to have been part of (bad English, I know but I don’t care!!). My very good friend from Rochdale (Fidele) and his lovely wife came to visit Fidele’s home village where he lived happily as a little boy, with his family and friends. As we journeyed he told us of how he and his brother would walk the hillsides looking after the animals, and playing boy’s tricks. Those boys knew every nook and cranny of that lush mountainous terrain. Later on they went to school and studied hard, but tragically the family were separated for many years. In a wonderful turn of events, Fidele was re- united with some of his family last year and made his first visit home. When he left, he promised to return with his wife.

In the photos you will see the boat we travelled on and how excited everyone was to be seeing their family and friends again. We set out onto the beautiful Lake Kivu and all went well – until the storm blew in!! The waves got higher and higher and the rain lashed down – we made very slow progress and at one point decided to pull ashore to have a break and to pray against the waves – if you haven’t heard Africans pray... I tell you I would take notice if I had been those waves!!!

So, back into the boat and out onto the choppy water again.... singing, singing, and singing!! - singing our way to the shore – not only singing but clapping, whistling, beating the sides of the boat – and then we were in sight of the village – we saw people standing at the top of the mountain waiting for us!

...they had been waiting for hours – patiently praying and hoping we would get there. As we drew nearer we could see children running down the ,mountainside towards the watchers on the beach – we could hear their singing and clapping and the beating of a drum – they were dancing and running, jumping up and down – calling Fidele home....Then we were enveloped in welcomes and hugs and tears of joy!

We were led up the hill to see the home where Fidele and his brothers and sisters grew up and the small coffee plantation which his grandfather bought for him as a present. Further up the hill we came to the church where a wonderful feast was laid out for us. After our meal we were treated to the singing and dancing from 3 choirs from all the churches around.

Later on; as it began to get dark, the people gathered to receive clothes that had been sent by people in churches in Rochdale… six suitcases full in all. And then, children were wandering around with their new t-shirts, trousers, dresses and anything you can think of!

I began to be concerned that we would be travelling home on the lake in the dark (at least a two hour journey) and wondered if the boat had a light – I asked the boatman. His reply:

‘No we don’t need a light, we’ll be fine’!?!
... And we were!

Travelling home in the dark with only a few fireflies for company the lake was peaceful and still. The night was calm and as we drew into the harbour the full moon shone down on us in all its glory!

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Taking the goat for a walk?

These 2 photos were taken just outside my front gate. There is a lot of livestock wandering about here; including chickens, goats, cows and turkeys. Sometimes I see a man or a boy taking the goat for a walk on a lead, just like a dog...where are they going?? Are they going to find more grass to eat or are they going to be made into goat brochettes?? I just don't know!!

Like so many things here in this world in which I have found myself...
I don’t know what is going on half of the time! Sitting on a bus, waiting to go, the bus is full what are we waiting for? (don’t know!) people start making comments and chatting in Kinyarwanda... what’s going on (haven’t got a clue!) just sit and wait...all will be revealed! The bus starts off very, very slowly – pulls out into the carriageway then back in again. (what’s going on? Don’t know) Motorbike pulls up...passenger gets off...jumps on bus... ok we’re off! *tugende!* See – all will be revealed in good time!

One thing’s for sure you mustn’t be in a hurry and you must be able to accept that you won’t understand what is happening. This weekend I went to visit some friends in a different part of Rwanda. I travelled into Kigali on the bus (this journey is becoming familiar now), went to the VSO office – got lost – asked a friendly moto driver – got found again – collected some books to read – took a moto into city centre – booked into a room for the night – met up with Rachael – went to Heaven –( a wonderful restaurant in Kigali centre) Coming out at the end of a lovely meal we were overtaken by a raincloud and the storm broke – we were soaked to the skin within one minute – I kid you not!! We were screaming with laughter! Then a car pulled up and a perfect stranger offered us shelter and a lift – so we got into this car with a strange man – something we would NEVER do at home but which here seems perfectly safe and natural. He gave us a lift to our rooms and we left him with a very wet back seat and many thanks...‘Muracose Charne’

I’ll be so happy to start my Kinyarwanda lessons tomorrow!

Love to everyone and let me know when the snowdrops and daffs start showing through xxxx

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Beginning to realise

Hi everyone, I’m beginning to realise that I am living in Africa! It may seem obvious to you, but to me it has seemed unreal for most of the time.

I am getting into some sort of routine so I’m sure that is helping to makes things more solid. I wake with the sun at 6am, wash, dress, breakfast and leave for work.  By 6 .45 I am walking down to work along the main road, along with many other people – one of the really nice things about living here is that so few people have cars which means that you get to meet and greet people on the street – it is a social highlight!

Last week I spent most of my time inputting data and teaching myself how to use Excel Spreadsheets – a boring job but it has to be done. My reward for all those hours (and more to come , not finished yet) was being able to provide my boss with information that he required at two minutes notice. This week I am visiting four schools with another volunteer who has been here a long time and is going home in April, so I need to make the most of his knowledge and experience.

As I walk home, exhausted, I meet friendly faces and smiles all the time. Usually,  the children who live close by come to welcome me home, with arms outstretched for a hug. It is a delightful welcome mixed with sadness for the poverty in which they live. Their ingenuity in providing toys for themselves is boundless! Old bicycle tyres and a stick, paper helicopters, amazingly intricate wire cars with plastic lid wheels and footballs!!!???? Footballs made out of anything they can get their hands on – bits of netting stuffed with banana leaves, plastic bags filled with rubbish and wrapped around with cloth – the strips of cloth unfurling as the ball is kicked through the air and along the ground. Oh the excitement and joy of playing bare footed football !
I am including this photo in the blog this week for those who work in schools in the UK and may have seen a Peace Pole in the school garden. This is an international movement involving children and schools all over the world. I was thrilled to see this one in the garden of the Catholic school I visited today. It is a wonderful school founded by Pope John Paul to educate children from poorer families - the facilities are excellent and the staff team are wonderful. there is a Primary section and a Secondary section. Many of the children live in the 'Family Dormitories' and each has a House Mother. Children from the local area also attend the school, so that there is a good mixture and so that the school can serve the local community as well.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Rice sacks

Today I have made my first rice sack visual aid and it’s going in my office.

As you can imagine there is a shortage of resources here so teachers are very imaginative and use whatever they can find. There is an abundance of rice sacks and if you can get hold of waterproof marker pens many fabulous creations can be made. Mine is not sooo fabulous but it will be very useful. It is a simple plan of the district showing the 12 sectors. I will put it in the office wall with the names of each of the schools in the sector so that I can get an idea of their geographical location. I have also started the number crunching so that I can decide where to focus my work. Shall I go for the poorest performing sectors or shall I look for the most enthusiastic headteachers who I may be able to train up to become trainers themselves? I will need to think and plan carefully - but I do have 2 years to implement a plan so that’s good.

On Friday I went on my first visit to a school, riding on the back of a motorbike. Another volunteer took me to visit one of her schools so that I would get an idea of what to expect - the schools are pretty much the same as in Bangladesh and in Congo, but I was interested in the approach that was taken by the volunteer. There are so many needs that we have to be very focused on what our actual task is, so sometimes we need to be firm, but friendly.