Tuesday, 22 January 2013

All in a Day's Work... some snippets

One day last week I came to work and was sitting at my desk in the office and I noticed something that looked like smoke billowing low down on the floor. I went to investigate and spotted a familiar character who I know was a teacher. He was leaning over a large metal container from where the 'smoke' was emanating. It was a vat of liquid nitrogen from which he was transferring some small tubes.I greeted the teacher and asked what he was doing and what was in the tubes. 'It is cow semen for fertilising the cows.' 'Wow!' I thought,'That really is interactive teaching methods at work! Success!' 

But, no, it turned out that the teacher had given up teaching  (really terrible pay and long hours)  to join the agricultural team next door. Ha ha!
Cow sperm (read bull) in the office
It wouldn't happen in the Education Office at home! 

How can you deliver paperwork when there is no reliable postal system? Big fat carrier pigeons maybe? Moto drivers? Yes , good idea, but expensive. But we do have a very cheap and reliable public transport system. Last week my colleague in a town located several miles away by Lake Kivu needed to send me a big wodge of paperwork. So she went down to the local bus stop and asked them to drop off the package as they were going through Gitarama. I waited at the bus stop in town and low and behold one hour and 45 minutes later my paperwork was delivered into my hands, by the bus driver with a smile! Wonderful. 

Seriously the Public Transport system here is very reliable. There are three types of buses (no trains of course - too hilly and no influence from the Victorians.) Yes, the very big buses can be a little unstable and scarey but they do travel 'Pan Africa'.These are the buses I use to get to Uganda - its usually a 12 hour journey. 

The buses I use most frequently are the Coaster buses which travel all over Rwanda transporting people long distances and all meeting up at Nyabugogo Bus Park which is one of the craziest most interesting places on earth!! (in my view). These are the buses I use to travel from town to town and they are very reliable.They always leave and arrive on time. 
Horizon Coaster buses at Nyabugogo

Lastly there are the mini buses or 'matatus' which are the main form of transport (apart from feet) of most Rwandans. These buses travel all over the place and stop almost anywhere. They are hot and crowded and sometimes you have to wait for hours until they are full. The driver will not leave until the bus is full - great patience and tolerance is required.Also you never know who or what you are going to be sharing a seat with. You can be squashed in with lots of people of course but also possibly chickens, a goat, sacks of corn or casava, bed mattresses. You name it, anything goes!

Of course, if you are a regular reader of this blog you will know all about travelling by moto..

Walking down the road in Gitarama a moto driver passes me and shouts 'Manchester Cityyyy!! I turn and wave with a big smile from ear to ear. He is my friend who was in the bar last year for the derby with City and United - we were the only two in the whole bar who were supporting City! Another wonderful memory. I don't know his name ,he doesn't know mine but we are friends.

Ok, back to work - some photos of the VSO stand at the Muhanga Expo last week. Our stand was not expensively draped with colourful material like most of the others but it was very popular with the kids and students.
Using puppets to practice dialogue

Old calendars are very useful for making jigsaws

Bottle tops are our favourite teaching resource

Interactive Mathematics

Group reading using the Big Book made from rice sacks

connecting numbers to pictures of objects

We had lots of fun and so did the learners - who needs all that expensive equipment eh?!

Ok. Munsi mwiza (Good Day)

Thursday, 10 January 2013

A New Year 2013...

       Happy New Year for 2013
A new dawn

Is the photo familiar? If you have been following this blog you should recognise Gitarama at dawn with the early morning bus at the bus park.The news is that I am back in Rwanda and working for VSO until the end of April 2013. My intention was to finish my contract on February 14th but unfortunately there is no replacement volunteer for me until April, so I agreed to 'fill the gap'. I sincerely hope she can come in April. My contract finishes on April 30th and I am cannot extend again. It is sooo important for work to be continued until it is sustainable by the local community - this work is almost at that point because there are so many capable people in education circles here in Rwanda now.

So, why should you volunteer?

Yes - there is all the stuff about 'making a difference' and 'sharing skills' and ' helping to alleviate the effects of poverty' etc - and all these things are true, but the real benefits come from actually living in another culture for a length of time. Over the past two years I have become a small part of this community and the advantages have been entirely mutual!
The view on the way to work? How does it compare to yours?
When I went home to the UK for the Christmas holidays I was really concerned by the unhappiness of many people in their work- life and the difficulties faced because of long hours, horrible traffic jams and brutal expectations from employers. I know that many people have no choice but to stick it out in health destroying situations, but some do have a choice!!

If you have been undecided about volunteering but in your heart of hearts this is something you would really like to do 'when the time is right' please may I urge you to think seriously about it now.If you are coming to the end of your career it is a wonderful way of completing your work life - the icing on the cake and very very satisfying. If you are at the beginning of your career - maybe 3 years of experience in education- it is an amazing opportunity for developing your skills and your confidence. Many, many young teachers go on from VSO into really interesting jobs either back in their home country or worldwide. In the mid career situation and getting jaded/frustrated with paperwork? Take a break. It is still possible to get secondments from your paid post.

On my way to school...
Parents' Meeting
The parents here are so supportive of education for their children. The children want to learn and work hard. The teachers and headteachers are desperate for training.I hope you will consider it carefully, it will change your understanding of the world!
children really WANTING to learn...
Teachers and headteachers desperate for training...
Happy New Year 2013 and make this a special one for yourself and others! Lots of love to all my regular readers. Tricia xx