Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Boats and Goats

Early Morning bale out
Whoah! What a couple of weeks!!

I’m trying to remember how many boat trips, moto rides and bus journeys we have taken in the last two weeks but it is too may to count, so I’m going to think of my favourite journey and my most challenging journey.

Fishermen singing in the catch

The favourite journey has to be the early morning boat trip on Lake Kivu when we left the village before dawn to travel back to Kibuye. 

We had been staying in the simple church building on top of the hill overlooking the lake with the fishermen singing in the catch every morning

Waking up at dawn

Wendy and Phil on the dawn treader!
There is no electricity or water in the village and the floor of the church is packed earth. My sister and I slept in luxury inside a tent, inside the church. Fidele’s Mama provided us with plentiful supplies of delicious food and hot water for a wash. We each took turns in having a strip down body wash at the back of the church in the pitch dark, whilst the rest of the group continued with the evening conversation about the events of the day.

So, back to my favourite journey. We woke before daybreak and gathered our things together, said our goodbyes and boarded the small open wooden boat just as the sun was rising - 8 passengers and 5 oarsmen, 10 grass mats and various pieces of luggage.

As we made our way over the still waters in dawn-time the songs of our oarsmen filled the early morning air. The singing of songs and use of rhythms help the men to pull together so that the boat can make smooth and rapid progress to the other side. This was a short journey to take us to the place where we would catch the weekly market day bus/boat.

Looking out from the boat to the shore I reflected over the last few days. I was visiting the village for the second time (see blog February 2011)

Putting in the new roof joists
 Fidele, Paul and Jack came at the beginning of August to get the project underway. They organised the building works, appointed a builder, purchased the materials and work had begun in just a few short days. They also appointed a teacher and a cook. The Nursery children (aged 5-7years) are going to be given breakfast and lunch every time they come to school.

Organising the nursery children
My role is to support and guide the teacher in providing a suitable curriculum for the children, in line with government documentation. Until now there has been no nursery school available in the locality and so the new school will take children until they are 6/7 years old and then they will attend the local government school which is at least an hour’s walk away. (This is not uncommon in Rwanda) The children will receive a very good foundation in learning before they start in the formal education system. There are also plans to provide some level of health care.

Adult English class
Later on in the day the teacher has a class of adults who want to learn English. They come to the school after they have finished their day’s work and before it gets dark. I was able to take part in some of these lessons and it was a joy to experience their enthusiastic response to all our efforts at teaching, and to walk through the village the next day being greeted by folks in the field s shouting ‘Good morning, how are you?’  In English!!

Evening meal by candlelight
When the building works are finished there will be a guesthouse with electricity, running water, flush toilet, proper beds and mosquito nets. There will also be a church/ schoolroom with concrete floor and electricity. The whole village will have water and eventually electricity. But just at the moment those luxuries don’t exist!

Luxury camping
So we slept in the church on mattresses with nets but no electricity or water. We ate our evening meals by candlelight and had our stand up wash in the dark.

But, oh what bliss! To feel the cool water on hot, dusty, dry skin. There was I,  standing naked in the dark knowing that friends were close by in the same darkness, talking quietly and reflecting on the day’s doings. Darkness can be comforting, especially when you know you are not alone....

To be continued ... ASAP 

Monday, 22 August 2011

Visitors and Gifts

Thankyou sooo much for the clothes for the children x 

I’ve been rather busy this week – so I’ve not been able to write up the blog until now. 

I am on leave from work for three weeks because I have two visitors from the UK. They came with two suitcases each, but only one was for their own belongings. The other suitcases were mainly full of clothes for the children here. Thankyou sooo much to all those people who sent clothes – believe me they will be fully used here.

Phil also brought lots of gizmos to play with!
The living room at the Hacienda was full of baby clothes, boys clothes, girls clothes and lots of lovely football shirts collected by a young friend and  a lovely lady in the Salvation Army Shop in Flimby. Thank you.

We went to visit the office where I work and Wendy soon made herself at home. 

My sister, Wendy sitting at my office desk
You will also see an orange box on the table - not only did I receive gifts from suitcases this week but also a parcel through the post! Thank you Ann, lovely chocolate, cereal bars AND (my favourite) Kettle Crisps - Cracked Peppercorn. I'm not sharing them with my visitors!!

Pictures on the wall above my desk
I hope you can spot the postcards of Blackpool sent to me by the lovely Christine! For those of you who don't know,  Blackpool is my home town where I was born. When I look at the postcards it reminds me of my Blackpool family.

This was the first day of our holiday and following our visit to the office, we went to the market, bought some fabric and went straight to the dressmakers to ask her to make two dresses for my sisters.
I have so much more to write about because it's been a very exciting two weeks. But my blog must wait a little while again...

Friday, 5 August 2011

Pictures tell lies.... and hurray for football!!

Looking down over one of the valleys
I visited a school in the most beautiful location on earth. 

It is in the northernmost sector of my district and very difficult to get to, even on a moto. I had to get off and walk on several occasions.

The school is a Primary school perched on top of a hill overlooking three valleys in different directions.

It is surrounded by pine trees which give welcome shade because even at this altitude the heat from the sun can be very intense. 

The air is fresh and clean, a welcome relief from the dust and dryness.

Truly a beautiful paradise?

I have some photos. 

I showed them to the headteacher when he came to Gitarama to visit me in the office. He spent a long time looking at them. He looked up and said "The pictures tell lies."

I knew exactly what he meant.

The pictures showed a beautiful scene with children playing in the shade of the trees, in the fresh mountain air - idyllic.

But the reality is a hard struggle for existence. Families are completely dependant on the land and the climate for their very means of staying alive.

To my eyes,the hills are beautiful but when you are carrying a heavy jerry can full of water up and down those hills for the survival of your family maybe the hills lose their attractiveness.

The pretty terraced hillsides are achieved by the hard physical toil of women with hoes(some men, but mainly women)working in groups, supporting each other. So when the rains come and still wash away the soil and your crops, it can be  struggle to start again. The pictures tell lies...

The little boy is quiet and still, nothing affects him, he doesn't talk, he doesn't smile, he doesn't cry, he doesn't respond at all.He stays close to the headteacher who is a kind and gentle man. 

I ask "Is he always like this? Does he ever change?Does he cry? Have you ever heard him laugh?"

"He's always like this, except when he's playing football with his friends, then he is happy!" 


Lots of love to everyone and please keep up the comments.xxxx