Friday, 30 September 2011

Bungee Jumping Mamas and other things...

So, this week the blog is a hotchpotch of experiences and brief encounters.

I was in the town with a bag of shopping and my work bag and so decided to hop onto a Moto to go home, rather than walk. I negotiated with the young driver and we were just setting off when the guy on the moto next to me said something in Kinyarwanda (couldn’t catch the meaning) But I am CERTAIN that my driver replied by saying ‘Bunjee jumping Mama’!!! WHaat?? Am I hearing things? Course it could’ve been something else.

Sitting at the Bus Park , waiting for my bus to Kibuye, with two Rwandan ladies and their children when along comes a guy selling shoes. This is a common sight in Gitarama. The shoes are second hand given by donors in Europe and America. The guys carry about 20 single shoes in their two hands and the other members of the pairs are in a rucksack on the guys  back. So, this lady tries on several shoes and none of them fit. She’s really disappointed. She really tried to squash her feet into a shoe which was covered with beads, but no joy – none of them were suitable. I was watching, and she was watching me watching. When the guy turned away I stopped him and asked to try on the lovely bead covered shoe – no joy – too small for me too. The Rwandan lady and I looked at each other with great sympathy and understanding – it was one of those ‘girlie moments’! and reminded me of Cinderella – I wonder if the shoe guy found his princess?

Another bus story. I was sitting on the bus on my way back to Gitarama from Kigali, ticket in hand waiting for the driver to check our tickets so that we could set off. Then a delightful little girl and her mummy and baby got on the bus. She began to chatter away to me in Kinyarwanda – it didn’t seem to matter that I couldn’t understand , she was going to tell me all her news anyway! By the time the ticket man came, somehow my ticket had disappeared out of my hand!! I looked everywhere. The man next to me was very concerned and helpful – indicating my pockets, my bag, under my seat – nothing – not there. I was concerned because before now, I have seen people being told to get off the bus because they didn’t have a ticket. But the driver knows me (I try to blend in and be inconspicuous, but it’s difficult!) and the helpful man told him that he had seen me with the ticket in my hand. The little girl said nothing. Happily I was not thrown off the bus. Where was the ticket? The mischievous little imp had it in her hand all the time. (nooo, not me, the little girl – Sophia).

Just a lovely random photo
The best sign I’ve seen from the bus window this week has to be an advertisement outside a college, indicating the date, time etc for the ‘Swearing Ceremony’ YES!! I want to go to that.

Oh well, just another week in Rwanda!

Love to everyone. Xxx

Gitarama Road Works

PS Don’t forget to post Year Planners or calendars to:

Tricia Atherton
PO Box 207

Monday, 26 September 2011

We have hens!!! Introducing Heckerty Peckerty...

Can you spot 5 hens?

Yes, it’s true we now have hens, five to be exact – we wanted three but we have five! This turns out to be a good number because it means that each of us has been able to name a hen. I chose the name ‘Heckerty Peckerty’ for my hen because she is the lowest in the pecking order and if you look carefully at the photo you will see that the other hens have been pecking her head, just below the red crown. I know ... it’s mean isn’t it? 

But apparently quite normal for hens. (I’m glad I’m not  a hen)

Heckerty Peckerty
Anyway, I chose

‘Heckerty Peckerty my fine hen,
She lays eggs for gentlemen.
Sometimes nine and sometimes ten,
Heckerty Peckerty my fine hen’

Does anyone else in the whole world know this Nursery Rhyme? 

By the way, she hasn’t laid a single egg yet, but Kelly has. She lays one every day. The whole enterprise is not economically viable you understand – at least, unless we decide to eat them (the hens I mean), which we won’t!

Children make their own toys
What other news? 

Oh yes. I have a very exciting new project at the moment. I have been asked to help with the development of a Centre for Early Childhood Education, so I am collecting photos and ideas for resources for young children to learn through playing. If you have any suggestions please let me know.

Make your own construction materials

When we went out for a walk on Sunday afternoon we spotted these small mud bricks which the children had made in imitation of the real thing - see the photo above of the wall of the house.

Kids are great aren't they?

Lastly, please can I make a  request for 2012 Year Planners. If you want to contribute something or if you have annoying businesses who send you loads of Year Planners or calendars and you only need one, please will you consider sending any spares to Rwanda? They don’t need to be fancy – any type will do  - so many headteachers would be helped in this way. 

The postal address is:
Tricia Atherton
PO Box 207

Thank you my lovely friends and family. xxxx

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Autumn Equinox coming up... time to re-balance

For me, although we don’t really see a significant change in daylength here, the Autumn Equinox has come at the right time, or should I say my state of mind has coincided nicely with the Autumn Equinox?

What I mean is that I need to re-balance my thinking and attitude to life here in Rwanda. I have been here since January 14th 2011 (8 months). I have gone through the great excitement of coming to live in Africa in a completely different culture. I have experienced the great joys of getting to know new people and how to live in a completely different situation. Everything is still sooo strange sometimes!  I have also gone through some times of ‘What am I doing here?’ – A very common and normal experience for people in my situation. So, having swung from one state of mind to another, I need to establish and maintain some sort of balance between the ‘excitement’ and the ‘misery’.
It didn't look up to much in the ground!
Reading my favourite book ‘The Celtic wheel of the Year’ by Tess Ward I am reminded of this time of year at home; of the changing, dying leaves but also of the rich  fruitfulness of autumn – pumpkins, root vegetables, harvest festivals and Orange October.

‘Blessed be you Mother Earth for your fruits,  that we may not go hungry’

Such truth and relevance in those words here in Rwanda – the earth is so fertile even after years and years of cultivation.

But LOOK at what was hidden underground!
At home, I know you must be fed of up dark drizzly days soon enough, so you could view the darkness as a time to rest, to hunker down for the winter, to bake lovely casseroles and pies, cakes and puddings – beautifully hot, warming foods.

But most of all, a time for having friends and family around – shake off the coldness together! One thing I have regained whilst I have been here is the pleasure of playing simple games with friends – cards, scrabble ( a bit stressful) and my favourite ‘The Colander of Death’ – sounds gruesome but it’s great fun. (Thanks Vanessa) 
mmm warm beetroot with Lancashire Hotpot

Anyway, back to the balance of the Equinox!! A balance between day and night; between hope and despair; between high and low expectations; between close and far; deep and shallow (friendships).
I have been trying to work this out in my approach to life here. In the realm of work, some situations can be totally frustrating and others are wonderfully exhilarating and satisfying. So I need to plan my work-life to balance these experiences. I am planning into my timetable some good times at work which I know will balance out the miserable times – and so far it’s working. I’m beginning to understand that life can’t be exciting all the time and that the contrasts of experience are what make life richer.  

The same applies to my social life. I have neglected to plan in trips and journeys through which I can discover more of Africa and meet more  people who live here. I’m doing ok in terms of making friends locally, both in the volunteer community and local Rwandans but I need to balance this with discovering new places and people whilst I am here. Almost 9 months have passed already and the next year will pass even more speedily, so I need to plan a balance of opportunities. I am working on this aspect at the moment!

I’ll let you know how I get on and please tell me how you manage the balance of your life!

Lots of love to all my lovely friends and family. xxx

Monday, 12 September 2011

The Beautiful Lake Kivu

Every time I visit Lake Kivu I am overawed by its beauty. I hope this feeling never wanes, because that beauty conceals some great sadnesses and tragic events. The lake forms a border between the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Rwanda which,  historically,  have had very strained relationships. At present there is a kind of peace,  with citizens on both sides of the border wanting to live in peace and harmony. 

The great strides that have been made by the people of Rwanda in the last 17 years could be ruined by people of ill will. Let’s pray for these two great countries and the powers that rule them.

After our visit to the village we spent two days in the comparative  luxury of Home St Jean,  by the lake. We had showers and a glass or two of  fridge cold Primus, sitting on the terrace overlooking the water and mountains. We spent some time by the lakeshore, reading and swimming (well one of us swam, the others dipped their feet!) We re –organised our brains and talked about our experiences of the past few days and made commitments to continue our involvement with the project.

Wendy and Phil were entering their third week of their holiday and had other things they wanted to do. Phil has a friend who is opening a Coffee Shop in Cockermouth  The Coffee Kitchen  and he has just signed a contract to buy Rwandan coffee for his customers. We visited the Co-operative and viewed the Washing Station which is situated not far from where I live.

We  visited the pottery at Gisagara and bought some lovely gifts, followed by a visit to the Ancient Kings’ Palace at Nyanza – including a ‘life size house of kings’, an amazing  structure and a fascinating  history. As a final insight into my life here,  we made a visit to one of my favourite schools where Wendy and Phil were introduced to the teachers and children. As usual the teachers wanted to practice their English and asked lots of questions about life in the UK. The children were as delightful and welcoming as ever. 

As a special treat for me,  we went to the Mille Colline Hotel in Kigali and had a wonderful steak lunch with chilled white wine – not tasted since January!!  

Unfortunately the swimming pool was empty because it was being re-tiled but next time...

Thanks Phil and Wendy for making the three weeks so happy and fulfilling. I'm proud of you!!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Boats and Goats Episode 2

The building works...
To continue with the journey... we left the village with the building works very much under way and the classes already started. 

Wonderful memories of my sister and I doing the 'Hokey Cokey' with new friends and using 'Heads shoulders, knees and toes to teach English (parts of the body) This song can be heard the length and breadth of Rwanda!!

The Hokey Cokey 

So, back to the boats and goats...

My most challenging journey is a continuation of my favourite journey. We left the little boat and walked over the hill to the next inlet so that we could board the big boat to the market in Kibuye. Our friends carried our belongings into the boat and we said ‘Good bye’ or in my case ‘Farewell and see you soon’

The walk over the hill
The big wooden boat takes lake- side dwellers up to the market in Kibuye, picking people up from various points on the hillsides, as it makes its way down the lake.  A boat journey that would take 2 hours in a private hire boat takes 4 hours and is very very crowded by the time it arrives at its destination.

The empty market day boat
Women with babies on their backs and bananas on their heads; lean muscular men with great sacks of cassava roots; smartly dressed students travelling back to school; wide eyed toddlers and babies; toothless  old women with grins as big as their beams. All kinds of baggage- our now almost empty suitcase which we’d brought full of exercise books, text books and curriculum documents and teaching aids to leave in the village was on the roof of the boat, along with Jack’s grass mats that were made by a lovely girl in the village. He’s taking them home to the UK as presents for friends – each one represents a day’s wages for the artisan. At every stop on the lake more and more people and bags, goats etc were loaded onto the boat – more sacks of cassava, pineapples, mangoes, potatoes were added to the pile, goats and chickens were pushed in together.

The boat began to list to one side as people shifted around to find more space. The last hour was desperately slow and arduous. But at last we arrived at the market landing stage and, what chaos greeted us there!

The best bit was that we were on dry land again and out of the suffocating crowd. The second best bit was the noise and clamour as pigs were being loaded on an enormous deep hulled boat going to Congo. These pigs did NOT want to go on that boat – what a racket!!! Squealing and honking and grunting as the men pushed, pulled, lifted and threw those great beasts into the hull of the boat.  More than one made a bid for freedom – at one point I looked up and saw what I thought was a hippo in the water, but no, it was a pig swimming furiously away! However he soon turned round and swam back to the shore.

Later on I realised if we hadn’t had that awful journey we wouldn’t have had that great experience of the crowded quayside. That day began with a beautiful dawn journey, followed by a sad farewell and a frightening journey culminating in a sight so comical as a pig swimming in the lake. We were ready for a rest and, yet again, the beautiful Lake Kivu had shown me another aspect of its personality.

The peace and tranquillity of Home St Jean awaited.