Monday, 28 February 2011

Homemade cookies and ice cream

I’ve had another fabulous weekend of visiting other volunteers. This time I visited Cathy and Louise, some volunteers who have been here for 6 months and who live further East than me in a town called Kibungo. Kibungo seemed a really nice town. Not least because they have a bakery and a shop where you can buy Cadbury’s dairy milk (the quite strange South African variety but Cadburys nonetheless). In the evening we went out for dinner to the house of some American Peace Corps volunteers. They were very lovely and great people to talk to. They have almost completed their two year placements in Rwanda and will shortly be heading back to the states. It was really interesting to talk to people at the opposite end of their placements. I have this massive stretch of two years before me where I can’t imagine the end so it was interesting to get some perspective on two years and to hear about what they had done in that time.
The food was totally amazing. Our charming hostess had made middle Eastern food with flat bread followed by chocolate chip cookies and caramel ice cream! I honestly thought I’d died and gone to heaven. It was definitely the best food that I’ve had so far in Rwanda and inspired me to get a bit more creative with the cooking again.
Then I went to Kigali for a couple of meetings with the other TTC (Teacher training college) volunteers. We went for more African Chinese food and then stayed at this place run by nuns near the city centre. It is definitely the most religious place I’ve ever stayed. There was a kind of shrine to the pope in the reception area which featured a huge signed photograph. I’m not quite sure about why it was run by nuns  but I’m sure one day I will find out as its frequently used by vso by virtue of the fact it only costs four quid a night to stay there. Well I’m feeling pretty tired today so I think its time to give in and go to bed as I’m back in the classroom tomorrow.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Its not right but its ok...

Today was an exciting day. I finally moved into the TRC (Teacher's Resource Centre). There are still birds roosting in the corner and there is no furniture other than a couple of tables and a chair but I have the keys and it is my space. .. And now I’ve somehow got to make it into a super duper resource centre full of books, visual aids, games and child centred resources. It would be made easier if UNICEF got on with it and coughed up the cash so I could at least buy furniture but...its seems that the powers that be move slowly.
 In the meantime I’m making some storage units out of old cardboard boxes in true Blue Peter style, I’m quite proud of them actually. They look a bit like something I saw in IKEA once except that they are made out of cardboard. I think the TRC will soon look like a cardboard IKEA showroom. If only I could magic the cardboard into the fabulous IKEA Swedish meatballs...mmmm...I’m having carnivorous dreams again.  This is what larium combined with protein deficiency does to you. It makes you dream of meat. I know its weird. I just keep telling myself that its not right but its ok...surely there are weirder dreams that I could have?! Ok well maybe not, the only weirder dream I had was about the chicken, but that was brought on by fantasising about eggs so it was still a protein related episode. Well at least I've lost the cake weight. Can't weigh myself but looking trimmer for sure! 
Another achievement of the day was that I have managed to write a whole page and a half of French and sent my first ever French text message. My accent is terrible and my teacher is too polite to tell me that I’m murdering the language of romance. I have a feeling I’m learning a kind of African French too. It will be interesting to watch people’s faces when I next go to France...I’m looking forward to the reaction, attention seeker that I am ;-)

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Too many tomatoes and an introduction to Nollywood

Well every day brings new challenges for me. My house guy had to leave early today which meant I had to brave the market myself for the first time since arriving. After psyching myself up and writing out a card with my Kinyarwanda numbers on it I ventured out. The thing is, I seem to have absolutely no concept of a kilo. I bought a kilo of tomatoes and Jesus, I will be eating them for at least a week. I don’t know why but I never thing of buying things by weight. Back in TESCOs I remember just grabbing the number I wanted and putting them into a plastic bag. Well here plastic bags are illegal for starters (yes, really!) and you actually have to ask someone for what you want in a language you don’t understand. So my house guy laughed when he saw how many I had and I have been busy trying to make passata. My kitchen now looks like the site of a chainsaw massacre but I have managed to get rid of a fair few.
I have also been introduced to the delights of Nollywood. Now I must admit I had no idea that Nigeria had such a big film industry until yesterday. Lagos is the centre of Nollywood, like the Los Angeles of Africa. One of the tutors brought in a Nollywood film to show the students called ‘against all odds’ and I couldn’t resist watching it. The films there are made for home viewing and apparently Nollywood churns out 200 new home watch movies a month, making it the second most prolific film industry after Bollywood (Hollywood actually comes third!). It definitely did make me laugh and I’m not sure it was in the right places. Africans like their drama so there was plenty of speeches about love and loss and strange priestesses. I learned that it is wrong to lust after a priestess because you and your family will die and that it is dangerous to be hot tempered. Good lessons to learn in life don’t you think!

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

The beauty is in the journey...

This weekend after eating African Chinese food and listening to 90’s throwback music in Kigali with Mark and Tammy, I visited Rachel and Catherine and snowball the chicken in their hilltop home in Kirambo. On the way out the heavens opened and I got soaked to the bone. The moto driver tried to play a game of ‘beat the rain’ which he lost and I now see why they sell weird double ponchos in Simba supermarket.  I have not stooped low enough to buy one yet, but only time will tell. We then went to the market where two umuzungus buying a kilo of potatoes was the day’s entertainment, we drew quite a crowd!  Allegedly the more umuzungus in one place, the more curiosity is aroused. One umuzungu attracts the attention of approximately 6-7 children, for two umuzungus its about 12-14 and for three you’re looking at being followed by approximately 20 children. Its like being the pied piper.
The following day I had my first real duvet morning since arriving in Rwanda. It rained for three hours straight so we stayed in bed...then the bed broke...oops! So we made a pillar out of bricks as reinforcement. It was like a kind of jenga construction. We were selected to do vso on our ‘practical problem solving’ ability after all. Rachel will have to sleep like a log for the rest of her vso days...Well luckily the weather did improve and we were able to visit ‘paradise’ bar for some fanta and sunshine and I was able to soak up the mountain air.
The way back to home was unfortunately eventful. The moto got a punctured tyre in the middle of nowhere. There were no houses or anything. The moto driver sped off and said he would be back in a minute, which I kind of knew wouldn’t happen. Nearly an hour later after being stared at by a huge gang of children for the whole time, a guy appears on a bike to tell me that the moto had ‘technical problems’ and no one seemed to know how I could get another one...At this point I must admit I was quite close to cracking. Fortunately a family drove by in a car and agreed to let me hitch a lift (a very rare occurrence!) so I got lucky.
 I wish I could say I enjoyed the rest of the journey home but...the bus I got was totally rammed and people kept pointing and saying ‘umuzungu!’ hahaha! ‘umuzungu!’ for the whole hour. Came close to cracking again but I managed to stare out the window and imagine myself lying on a white sandy beach with the waves lapping the shore. Calm thoughts Camilla, calm thoughts...But despite the journey I had a lovely a long weekend and I was looked after very well. Rachel actually made a cake outside using a charcoal stove which was incredibly exciting. It rose up and everything. It had that proper cakey texture, mmm.....

Thursday, 17 February 2011

I am linguistically challenged

Today was tough in class. I definitely don’t think senior 4 got me. And before I knew it asseyez-vous and ecoutez bien (almost certainly spelt wrong)! had come forth from the dark recesses of my brain where the remains of G.C.S.E French lay buried underneath the rubble of too many degrees. The shock response that another language came through my lips was enough to get some sort of compliance. I feel at times like I’m back in my NQT year, when I felt like I was a subject on channel 4’s faking it show and one day a panel of ofsted inspectors would be brought in to try and out the fake.
 But I did discover the delights of using clapping patterns with them, African people seem to have rhythm in their blood and in two minutes they were already doing it better than me. I often hear some lovely singing going on around the college but as my voice is shockingly bad and these are teens rather than 5 year olds I’m not sure its the way forward! Maybe in a while I might start singing some Gill songs with them, we shall see.
One tutor who speaks good French and English has very kindly offered to give me French lessons which will make me feel a bit less embarrassed when people ask you ‘what languages do you speak?’ This is generally the time to look at my shoes and say umm a bit of French and a few words of Spanish...I have looked at my shoes a lot since arriving. It is the norm here to speak at least 3 languages, maybe 4. The Senior 4 language specialists learn French, Kiswahili, English and of course Kinyarwanda, clever kids. Hopefully I will absorb by osmosis some of the linguistic skills of the students and tutors while I’m here. It would be great to hold down a conversation in French, Kinyarwanda and Kiswahili by the time my two years are up!

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Textbooks and chicken fantasies

Textbooks are quite new to me in my teaching career. The UK early years brigade would have had me hung, drawn and quartered if I allowed my reception or year one classes to work from them. But here I have come face to face with my arch enemy of the textbook. And maybe they are not so bad. I’ve just been reading one called ‘Elementary Science and Technology’ for P5 (11 year olds) and its quite good. It tells you how to make a rabbit out of clay and how to crochet a table mat. I love the instructions ‘1. Get some clay, 2. Make a rabbit’. My experience is that even asking children to make an egg cup out of clay produced some creations that made the gherkin building in London look sensible.
The section on the evils of drink made me laugh and I really don’t think it was supposed to. Yesterday when I asked a particularly lovely class about the qualities of a good teacher, they mentioned that a teacher should be ‘innocent’. Such a sweet thing to say and so far removed from reality back home. It just reminded me of a story in one of the trashy magazines I used to read in the UK about a secondary school personal and social ed. teacher who moonlighted as a stripper...where had the innocence gone?!   
My mid week hysteria has definitely begun to set in, I’m noticing a pattern that I go loopy on Wednesdays. I think I always did back in the UK as well but all the time alone with my thoughts has intensified it.  Last night after having a particularly successful omelette (I’ve now found eggs in the village!) I had a very vivid dream about keeping a chicken as a pet. I called her Vivien and she had a little pink tag around her foot.  I woke up really wanting to own a chicken. The problems would be a) I don’t know how to look after chickens, b) I go away at weekends and so I would have to employ a chicken sitter and c) I have a feeling they live longer than two years. This would create a problem when I finally leave because I would have to find someone who wanted an ancient chicken as a pet. So ces’t la vie, the chickens of Rwanda are safe!

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

An inspector calls

Well as if life couldn’t get any stranger for me at the moment, we had the Rwandese version of Ofsted here today! I’ve come to the conclusion that inspectors the world over give me the heebie jeebies. Its not their fault, I just find them scary. An inspector came to watch me teach as I knew they would as I stick out like a sore thumb...not quite sure what they made of my work (I don’t think I got graded) but they did take lots of photos! Coming face to face with inspectors left me feeling traumatised enough to eat my whole chocolate stash in one day. Needed a hug and so I went outside and little Noella from next door kindly obliged.
I’m going to be kind to myself this evening and watch a film, have a glass of Amarula cream and remember that I can only do what I can do. Change takes time and Rome wasn’t built in a day. Its all feeling a bit stressful this week, feeling a bit frazzled. On the plus point people in the village are starting to talk to me more and so are the tutors so feeling a bit more at ease in my environment, slowly but surely. Hopefully I’ll be able to stop by a supermarket in Kigali at the weekend and buy some more weird Kenyan Cadburys for the next emergency. For all you kind souls out there, its not quite hot enough to melt chocolate out here and British Cadbury’s really is the best! Email me and I’ll give you an address...hint, hint, hint!

Sunday, 13 February 2011

My first time in a police car...

Well it seems that here in Rwanda the one thing you can expect is the unexpected. Had a good morning on Friday teaching at the TTC, I’m really getting into my job and I think I was well matched to working in a training college. I love the fact that I am doing some regular direct teaching of students and as you all know I love drawing, marker pens and making things so I am in my element with making a resource centre. That afternoon we had to gather for an impromptu rescheduled meeting ‘under the big tree’ with lots of police officials who had come to talk to the students as part of drugs awareness week. It was in Kinyarwanda but luckily for me a college tutor translated so I knew the gist of what was being said.
Afterwards we went to the local bar for beer and brochettes with the police officials and as the light began to fade and the police officials left I excused myself so I could try to get a moto to Rwamagana to see my VSO Rwanda mum and dad, Steven and Mary. As the police sped off I mentioned to the principal that I was going to Rwamagana. Out came his mobile phone and he called them back to give me a lift. No one thing I know for sure is that police in England would never do such a helpful deed. So I squashed into the middle of the police pick up truck and conversed with the chief of police about drug prevention laws in the uk and how college lecturers from England talk too fast for around an hour. As we slowly went along the bumpy dirt road to Rwamagana in the dark and my head kept hitting the top of the truck I couldn’t help but think ‘How did my life get so weird?!’ I am hitchhiking in the dark in the middle of Africa with the police and talking about drugs. It was quite funny turning up at the hotel to meet Steven and Mary in the police certainly turned a few heads!
The next day there was a big volunteer gathering at Jambo beach, which paradoxically is not a beach. There is no sand for starters. It is a little place on the lovely lake Muhazi where one can sit, drink a beer and enjoy trying to get a photo of the rather shy Ugandan great crested crane. Some people (not vso) were brave enough to swim in there, but apparently the lake is full of Bilharzia and as I don’t particularly want horrible little worms burrowing their way into my bowel I stayed sipping beer on the bank. It was great to swap stories and have a good laugh about our different experiences, despite getting soaked waiting for a bus on the way back! Talking of which the bus from Kayonza to Rwamagana was interesting to say the least. It had no lights and couldn’t seem to go above 20 miles per hour, I swear it had half its engine missing. It was practically empty which is not the norm for here which was very strange, but it took us to where we wanted to go.
Here are some photos of Lake Muhazi
VSO Rwanda volunteers old and new. Most of whom are living in the Eastern Province like me.

My friend the Ugandan great crested crane

The lake

The very strange bendy necked giraffes who guard the entrance to jambo beach.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

I am cursed with motos

Yesterday I finished work earlier than expected and so I ventured into Kigali to buy stationery and do chores for work such as printing things and photocopying (yes, exciting stuff I know). Well on the way back I seemed to get another crazy moto driver. I do seem to have a talent for picking them! After ten minutes of hair raising hanging on as he beeped at everyone in his wake to look at the umuzungu passenger, his moto hit a stone and he got a flat tyre. I would have though haha serves you right for driving like a madman, except for we were literally in the middle of nowhere and the light was fading.
 Some cute children came to stare at me as if I had 10 heads and in turn both me and the moto driver stared wistfully at the punctured tyre. Eventually just as I was formulating my ‘oh dear what do I do next?’ plan, he tried to mend it by sticking his key in the tyre but to no avail. So he called one of his mates to take me home (it seems that all moto drivers know each other). So in about 6 moto journeys I’ve had one fall and one flat tyre, statistically this is very bad! Its a good job I’ve no sense at all and just keep on getting back on.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Photos at long last!

At the VSO quiz during in country training with some of the other VSO Rwanda volunteers

Kigali, the capital of Rwanda

Another shot of Kigali

Me on a bus with some of the stuff I needed to get to set up home. It doesn't look like much here but believe me it was!

Intore dancers at the VSO family dinner (big volunteer get together which happens every 6 months)

VSO Rwanda volunteers January 2011 intake.  What a lovely looking bunch!

My bedroom. It has since been re-arranged!

My kitchen. I now have a rug for the floor.

My front room/office/making teaching resources all over the floor space before it got covered in junk.

So now I have worked out how to install the thingy which lets me resize pictures to a size than my modem can cope with there will be more pictures to come! I'll take some of the TTC, the outside of my house and the village soon.

Will snowman markers shorten my life?!

I’ve spent the afternoon planning lessons and making teaching resources. The only marker pens you can get here are called ‘snowman’ and they say ‘beware imitation’ on the box, but really it should say ‘beware inhalation’. As the toxic fumes invaded my front room I couldn’t help but wonder whether the few remaining brain cells I have left are being slowly eradicated. The name ‘snowman’ for marker pens is in itself a bit strange...its not as if they come in white, and I dread to think what they would do to an actual snowman if you were to draw his smile on with one of those! But snowman markers will become vital to my life as they enable me to draw pretty pictures onto rice sacks which will be to me here what PowerPoint was to me back in England. So I do love snowman markers really...

Monday, 7 February 2011

Je suis fatigue...

Feel somewhat tired today. I think it was because I spent a fair few hours in the classroom and I’ve begun to forget what thats like! Love it though really, despite the huge change in context I still feel I’m on familiar ground when I stand up in front of a class, whoever they may be. I’ve come to the conclusion that teaching is teaching anywhere. Sure there are massive differences between teaching five year old British kids and African teens but the basic principle remains the same: keep them focused, keep it real, keep it clear.  I managed to teach a couple of lessons I was fairly happy with today and got my first ‘flowers’ where students wave their hands in a sign of appreciation, felt very chuffed!
The young senior 4 students arrived today. Bless them they look so young and lost. It reminded me of my first day of university where you move somewhere new and leave your family behind. I remember stopping in the motorway services in Birmingham on the way to Nottingham University for the first time and feeling like I didn’t want to get there! These students are a couple of years younger than university age, about sixteen I think. They keep arriving on motos with a mattress and a small bag of stuff.  Its a bit of a contrast to the packed car load full of stuff I took with me to uni, most of which I probably didn’t even need.
 I think this whole experience is going to make me very anti ‘stuff’. Back at home I had so much stuff, what was the point of it all? It definitely didn’t make me a happier person. In fact I’m not convinced whether much of it enhanced my life at all. It suffocated me, crowding me out of my house like some big tsunami of clothes and stationery and DVDs and books. And when you have less stuff you have less tidying to do which has got to be a good thing when you have an anti-order anti-tidy anti-straight lines personality such as mine. So there we go, I’ll get off of my soapbox, although I would still do anything for a sink with running drinkable water...but I’ll have to wait two years for that one!

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Pizza never tasted so good!

Yesterday marked my three week anniversary since arriving from the UK. I can’t quite believe its only been three weeks since I was sat in my room in my parents house surrounded by piles and piles of stuff. It seems like another world, well I guess it is in most ways. While I’m still to really understand what cash power is about,  can’t really hold down a conversation in Kinyarwanda yet and haven’t discovered whether its possible to buy eggs in the village, I do know much more than I did and I’m starting to feel more at ease in my surroundings.

This weekend I headed to Kigali to stay in the vso dorm (for free!). VSO Rwanda is one of only two vso programme offices around the world to have a dorm so I think we are really lucky. Its also on the right side of town from where I live so only takes me an hour to get there. On the Friday evening I went out for dinner with some other volunteers to a great Italian restaurant called Sol Luna. I had a pizza and its the best I’ve had in a really long time. Oh how absence makes the heart grow fonder! And I love the fact it came with French fries on top like a kind of McDonald’s pizza, genius.
 I caved in this weekend and bought a great big block of the orange gouda cheese thats readily available in Kigali. According to Kelti, it lasts for ages without a fridge and when green bits start to appear you just cut them off and carry on.  I did see the strangest thing in Nakkomatt (big Kenyan supermarket). It was cheese made from both cows and goats...I’m not so sure about that one. Its probably delicious but I’m just not sure you should mix different kinds of animals together in just one cheese...I bet you anything I will end up trying it before my time is up here.
Us UNICEF CAPACE people working at teacher training colleges got together to do some planning and thinking which was really helpful. It was also lovely to spend some time just chilling out, walking about freely and lounging about in restaurants and cafes. Just what I needed. This week I pledge to begin the exercise dvds behind closed curtains as feeling a little bit of an unfit slob. I may also take my skipping rope out into the yard. I’ve never been able to skip as I due to my height I have always had a lack of control and coordination over my limbs, but I think its time I gave it a go.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

The first lesson and making friends with the kids

I survived teaching my first lesson at the college. Not my finest hour as a teacher if I’m honest but I learned more in that hour than I have done all week and its given me an idea of the many challenges there are with teaching in this context. The students are great and I have adapted my plan for when I teach the same lesson again next week. Its a very steep learning curve but I’ll get there. I keep forgetting that I’ve only been here a week!
Slowly but surely it seems that the local kids are beginning to get used to seeing my umuzungu face about. There were still slightly shocked when I came and sat next to them in their lessons today. I was observing the senior 6 (eldest student’s) teaching practice which was very eye opening. Seeing a change here will be the hallmark of whether the work I do has any impact or not. The children here are gorgeous! So lovely and unspoiled. When I went into P1 (about year 1 age in England) I just wanted to get up and teach them something fun like head, shoulders, knees and toes, they were just too cute. Perhaps they will let me in a little bit. When I have the resource centre up and running I would love to take groups out to it and model circle time and learning through play with the students.
Talking of which my resource centre now has glass on the windows! Next week they are supposed to be installing electricity which I’m extremely excited about.  I’m glad I’ve got two years because its going to take time for it to evolve. I’m lucky though that the tutor I’m working with on the project is absolutely lovely and had lots of good ideas himself. I must take some photos to compare at a later date.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Taking my first tumble...

Today was ‘heroes day’ which means no work for me! So after waiting for the rain to subside I decided to visit Steven and Mary, fellow volunteers who live in the district capital, Rwamagana. It was lovely to see them and have a good chat. It was about a 50 minute moto ride along a bumpy and steep track. It was breathtaking scenery though and I saw so much of Rwandan life. There were children spinning wooden tops on the track, women carrying huge piles of reeds on their heads  and just the most beautiful green hills you could ever imagine. I knew Rwanda was going to be beautiful but I never thought it would be quite this beautiful.
Unfortunately on the way back I took a bit of a tumble! The moto driver seemed to be a bit of a speed demon and the motorbike fell sideways going up a vertical slope. Because the slope killed his speed we were going very slowly at the time so only have a few bruises fortunately. The terrible thing was that I was in the middle of nowhere so just had to get straight back on. I wish I had a nice warm bath to soak in! Just lying on my bed with a huge cup of tea to calm my nerves! Such is life. Tomorrow I’m going to attempt to teach my first lesson at the college so wish me luck.