Monday, 27 June 2011

Sunday afternoon tea in Rwanda

The guys 

This week, I had a great weekend in Gitarama. Sometimes, it’s good to go away for the weekend and visit friends, see new things and find out how other volunteers are getting on in their situations. Last week I went to visit  a friend who is working in a Teacher Training College in the north west of the country. But this weekend I just wanted to stay at home and have a relaxed couple of days.
Saturday market

Having a laugh with the stall holders
So, on Saturday morning I went out shopping for food in the market. I used to find it overpowering - it was busy and strange and confusing. I could see the fresh vegetables but had great difficulty asking for them and not knowing what price to pay. But now, I'm so familiar with the whole set up that I can have a joke and a laugh with the women. They are very shy about having their photo taken but are also intrigued when I show them the resulting picture and often want me to take more!

After shopping in the market for fresh goods (and I mean straight off the bush, straight into the basket on the head and down to the market the same morning)I go into town to buy bread, tea, milk and other basics. With my arms full of shopping and a heavy bottle of oil I hop on a moto. The drivers are beginning to know me and enjoy my particular brand of Kinyarwanda.

A beautiful baby girl
Following my choir practice in the afternoon, on  Saturday evening three of us got together and had cocktails, home made Indian food, chocolate and watched a film, on the laptop.

Sunday was a day for visiting a 'miracle' baby. She was born 3 months early, and in the hospitals here there are not the same resources available to promote the survival of infants like this. 

She was in an incubator just to keep warm, no feeding tubes or anything.  But look at her now, seven weeks later and she is thriving. Of course I couldn't resist having a cuddle!

Later that afternoon I prepared a traditional Sunday afternoon tea for our guests.Home made scones, jam and cream (yes, we even managed to find some cream but I must admit whipping it with a fork  for half an hour for it to end up looking like curds and whey was probably not worth it)

Proper Rwandan leaf tea, teapot, cups,saucers, tablecloth, sugar bowl, sandwiches cut into triangles - the works! Our Rwandan guests were delighted and delightful! They enjoyed the scones so much that they requested a cookery lesson!

So, a lovely weekend. The next two weeks are four day weeks for work. On Friday 1st July it is Independence Day when Rwandans celebrate independence from the Belgium colonists. Monday 4th July is Liberation Day when Rwandans remember the day in 1994 when the RPF took control of the parliament in Kigali.

At home, I hope you are enjoying many summer days and late evenings, lots of BBQs and fresh chilled white wine. mmmm!!

Love to everyone and don't forget to write. Tx

Monday, 20 June 2011

Summer solstice and Lunar Eclipse

lunar eclipse

This year I’m celebrating the solstice in Rwanda and last week I experienced the total eclipse of the moon for 100 minutes – it was like someone had stolen our moon! It made me very thankful that I had a scientific explanation for what was happening.  It did help me to understand how such a phenomenon could be very frightening for people who didn't know what was happening. That sort of thinking makes me all the more thankful for education but also makes me realise how much ‘awe and wonder’ we are missing in our 21st century thinking. Anyway, happy summer solstice to everyone and may you have many more long summer evenings.

Here in Rwanda the nights and days remain the same length and the dry season continues (although there are occasional massive rainstorms) The second school term of the year is passing by and the inevitable exams will begin on June 27/28/29, then again in week beginning 18th July. Examinations take place so frequently for everyone in schools that it leaves precious little teaching time. As a friend used to say ‘You can weigh a goat, and weigh a goat but if you don’t feed it, it won’t make any difference!’

The v sign is for peace!
This weekend I went to visit the home of another volunteer in the north of the country.

I came across this group of guys collecting sticks for firewood and like a group of friends anywhere in the world they were having great fun together. They love having their photo taken, and then to look at themselves on film. No doubt making rude comments about each other's appearance.

a room for girls to rest

bottle tops
This week we went to visit some 'Inclusive schools'  and we were very impressed. The teachers and headteachers are really committed to including children with physical and/or mental disabilities into mainstream schools. This is a big challenge in the UK so you can imagine the enormity of the challenge in Rwanda.

There is a group working in Muhanga District called 'Handicap International' and they have designated one school in each sector to be an 'Inclusive School' So in my district there are 12 of these schools. You can see from the photos some of the improvements that have been made.

I don't think I've told you about our Musical Film evenings here at the Hacienda of Dreams. One of the volunteers borrows a projector from work and the film is projected onto the wall of our living room. Lots of volunteers come to watch and join in the singing! This week we had 15 friends; a couple of people cook a meal using our gas cooker - ( a rare opportunity to cook on a proper stove). This week we had delicious Indian. 

Since I came in January we have had four such evenings. The first was Bugsy Malone, followed by Mama Mia (my favourite) then Grease and most recently The Sound of Music. We are hoping to get hold of Calamity Jane, Mary Poppins and the Jungle Book. 

It can be very tiring when you are constantly surrounded by a different culture and language particularly when you are trying to do a job of work as well. So, we work hard and then we relax.

Sometimes I relax with other people but I also appreciate time on my own. I haven't done much art work yet and I feel the lack of it. I have materials but there always seems something else to do. I read, knit and mess around on the computer! I am determined to take a short break away soon.

I know how lucky I am to have this opportunity to live in Africa for two years and I want to make the most of it. As my daughter says - I am making new memories for the future (she's very wise, my daughter!!)

So, I hope you are also making good memories for the future.  With all my love, Triciax

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Six Fantastic Days Training

Periodic table in bottle tops

Microscope Work

All my plans have come to fruition – not necessarily in the exact way I expected but certainly very close. You will remember from a previous blog, I wrote about a big training project in one of the focus sectors in the north of my district? We have now completed the third stage of the plan!! The fourth stage will begin in 4 weeks but we are already planning the fifth stage!! Ha Ha!

During the last two weeks we have spent 3 days each week training teachers. We have been staying in one of the northern sectors with the priests. (I told you about the big celebrations last week). Each morning we go out on the motorbikes to a school which is fairly central to the sector. Most of the teachers can walk there from their homes (short journeys of about 1- 1 ½  hours) There is one school in the sector where the journey is too long for the teachers so we will be going to spend a whole day in their school, doing training just for them. However, teachers from the other schools have managed to get to the various training days. The first day was training for Senior Science teachers, the next day Primary Science, then Social Studies, Maths, English and Nursery.

What is this crazy white woman doing to me?!

Oh the Hokey Cokey
All the sessions were successful because the teachers really wanted to learn and were very enthusiastic. Many of them had had hardly any teacher training at all. Each day included teaching on how children learn and the importance of active participation. It involved lots of playing games and using a variety of teaching strategies and, of course, making teaching materials. As you can imagine, teaching resources are few and far between so we use any available resource. The main items are bottle tops from Fanta bottles (or Primus – whatever you can get hold of!), also rice sacks, empty tins of dried milk powder, cardboard boxes from triangle cheeses, plastic bottles etc  etc

There is a highly developed curriculum in Rwanda but I have doubts about its relevance apart from passing exams, however VSO is working with the Ministry of Education to lobby for change. The biggest change may come from Nursery upwards. Most schools have a nursery class and one of our schools has 81 children in that class, with one teacher!!!! The Nursery teachers design and plan their own work, which is hard for them because they have not had training in child development or how children learn. So the Nursery day was filled with games and activities, songs and stories – my favourite day! I hope that, maybe, I can be of assistance in working to develop guidelines for teaching in nurseries throughout Rwanda – that would be such a wonderful opportunity.
No need for childminders
when you can bring your
baby to work on your back  

So our six days of training are over and the next stage of our plan will take place in 4 weeks time when we re- visit each of the schools to see if the teachers have been able to implement any of the strategies. My job is to persuade the headteachers to use money from their school budget to support the making of teaching aids, and to persuade headteachers of the importance of lesson observation and the quality of teaching and learning. This is not an easy task when there are so many other demands made on their time (sounds a familiar story to me!) Our plan has a fifth stage but I’m keeping that under wraps for now.
The Motos

The Comedy Duo Moto Drivers
By popular request I am including a photo of the Moto Drivers who give us such a laugh - see below. There's nothing like free wheeling downhill for twenty minutes after a hard day's work - the red dust blowing in your face and knowing that the driver can't see a thing cos he has no visor on his helmet! Seriously these drivers are amazingly skilful on these mountain tracks.

So, thanks guys for getting us to schools safely and especially for delivering the Fanta and mandazi!!!

Keep safe everyone and enjoy the long summer evenings. Let me know what you are doing.

Lots love T xxxxx

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Suddenly it's the Dry Season....

The road building continues
 For weeks it has been raining almost constantly – just like being in the Lake District, only the mountains are more numerous and closer together. Then one day it didn’t rain... and the next day it didn’t rain... and now it hasn’t rained for over a week. The roads are already very dry and dusty. The tarmaced roads are ok, but riding on the back of a moto on an earth road in the wake of a lorry , bus or car is very challenging. The driver is hard pushed to see where he is going, especially if he doesn’t have a visor on his helmet. So we travel slowly and arrive at our destination covered in a light red dust.
Imagine the dust cloud from this lorry

I watched a mum with a baby on her back and shopping in her hand get on the back of a moto. Before they set off she passed her shopping to the driver who put it in the front, then she wrapped an extra piece of cloth around the baby so that his head was completely covered by the cloth to protect him from the dust. Then she put her helmet on and off they went... I wish I had a photo.

Making teaching materials

I can't resist... 
This week’s travelling has been up to one of the beautiful rural areas. The training is for three days and so we travel up on Monday mornings, stay overnight at the priests’ house and return on Wednesday afternoon. This week we had a science training day for senior school teachers, followed by a science day for primary school teachers and then a social studies day for primary teachers.  Our main aim is to encourage pupil participation and active learning methods, to make learning fun and effective. We certainly had fun, and it was great to see teachers taking on board all the new ideas and methods. We introduced role play and as Rwandans have a great sense of fun they really threw themselves into it.

The lads enjoying themselves

Health and Safety Exec eat your heart out!
A day off school and best clothes
Whilst we were at the priests house there was an amazing celebration at the church including an outdoor service of Mass for 6000 people!! The singing and music and drumming was wonderful. The crowd was enormous and we had difficulty getting through but a kind man cleared a path for us.

Everyone was enjoying themselves and many many people in the community were involved, it was a very special day. 

The clearing up afterwards took no time at all with all the willing helpers.

The local children had the day off school. Some of you will remember playing with a similar toy when you were young!!

After such a strenuous week I was glad to get home and relax with my knitting. Thanks Cat – my scarf is going to be beautiful, and warm during the next rainy season xx

Lots of love to everyone. I hope you are enjoying some lovely long summer evenings. 

P.S. I think the 'Comments' gadget is not working and I don't know how to fix it, sorry about that but please feel free to send an e- mail.