Thursday, 31 March 2011

Hand sanitiser in a Waragi bottle and other packing tips from the spatially challenged

Tomorrow I’m departing for Kigali en route to Uganda for a couple of weeks. Its the TTC holidays and genocide memorial week back here in Rwanda so it seemed like a good time to see another part of East Africa. However packing for a holiday has never been such a challenge.  Anything I take with me has got to fit into quite a small rucksack and be taken on the back of a moto along a long and bumpy dirt track, then squashed between my knees on countless bus journeys and finally lugged on my back around many towns. The pressure is on to pack light, or else suffer from restricted circulation between the knees on the bus and risk overbalancing on the back of a moto. So here are my top tips for a lighter rucksack...

1) Decant big bottles into small bottles.
This is easier said than done. My industrial sized bottle of Tres Semme shampoo probably weighs more than I do at the moment so it has to be decanted into a smaller bottle. The only smaller bottles I had were Waragi (dodgy Ugandan gin) bottles and hand sanitiser. The Waragi bottle was made of glass so it had to be the hand sanitiser. So I put hand sanitiser into the Waragi bottle to leave at home and shampoo into the hand sanitiser bottle. Voila! Lets just hope I remember its hand sanitiser before my next swig of Waragi...

2) Rock and roll
Those air roll vacuum bags are genius. Just squish your bulky towels and jumpers in it, seal it up and roll all the air out of it. But don’t sit on them as they pop! It does make your clothes look a bit like you’ve slept in them all night but I probably will have done that anyway so I won’t look any different.

3) Take a sarong
Definitely the most useful item you can take. Forget sleeping bag liners, pashminas, head scarves and beach dresses, the sarong does it all.

4) Travel wash
Ok so I do hate washing my knickers on the road, it can be very embarrassing hanging up the Bridget Jones knickers to dry on a hostel window but sometimes you just have to because it leaves more room in your bag for shopping.

5) My big fat Thailand trekking hairband
It makes me look like an old Babushka but it covers a multitude of hair sins and enables you to take less shampoo, see point number 1.

6) Leggings
Can be thermal underwear on a cold mountain, pyjama bottoms, or worn underneath an otherwise culturally indecent dress.

7) Flip flops
The essential footwear for hot days which take up very little space. They also stop you from getting electric shocks through your feet in the shower, as mentioned in a previous blog post.  

8) The cloth bag
Rolls up really small but allows you to put lots of things in it as and when needed. It can be a shopping bag or it can also have dirty clothes put in it, muddy flipflops or a wet bikini.

Well those are all my packing tips for now. I will be reliant on using internet cafes as and when I can to access the internet for the next few weeks so there may not be many postings on my blog for a while. Needless to say I’m sure I’ll have endless adventures to share with you later xxx.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Je faire du promenade

Well I was feeling a right dunce today after adding up lots of exam scores, doing it wrong and having to do it again, told to apply a formula to the scores and then doing it wrong yet again and having to do it all a third time (its all still a mystery to me but I’ve handed the marks over to someone else). Then the electricity went off for five hours when I had lots of work to do on my laptop. Grrrrrr! As the frustration mounted I thought ‘what would I do at home?’ to dispel my irritation with the world and the answer was as always ‘go for a walk’. Now this is not as easy as it sounds because the idea of going for a stroll without a purpose is very alien in Rwanda but I thought sod it, I need to do what I need to do. So I donned my flipflops and cardigan and set off down the long and windy dirt track that leads to who knows where.

As I hoofed it down the track I soon found myself alone outside for the very first time in Rwanda.  Or at least I couldn’t see or hear anyone else. This was the case for a good 5 minutes and it was totally magic. I can’t believe how beautiful it was down this little isolated track. Hills with cartoon points gave way to deep valleys with clusters of little mud houses at the bottom. Piebald goats greedily munched at tufts of luscious green grass and the earth was redder than in Australia ‘red centre.’ Alas my solitude was not to last for long. A young man pushing his bicycle met me in the opposite direction. I think he asked me where I was going in Kinyarwanda but I just couldn’t remember the reply, not that I could say where I was going anyhow as I didn’t know where the track led to. I tried the French ‘faire du promenade’ but to no avail. I’m looking forward to starting my Kinyarwanda lessons at the end of April as the people in the village don’t seem to speak much French outside of the TTC and I desperately want to talk to them and I can see they want to talk to me also. I’m sure if I do my best they will meet me more than half way.

It was just so liberating to go for stroll. It has inspired me to stay in the village for a few weekends next term. I’ll go to the market on Saturday and go for a walk. I am a lucky girl to be here in this beautiful land, I just need to learn how to cope with the attention I create and get over my shyness with trying to communicate in Kinyarwanda. ‘Buhoro buhoro’ as they say ‘slowly, slowly!’

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

The wonders of language

This week I have been treated to some truly brilliant answers for ‘why do you want to become a teacher?’ on the S4 exam. They all tried so hard to understand my questions and write in English (although sometimes it was definitely French!). They ranged from the very inspiring ‘Teachers are foundations of life’ to the rather more direct ‘Gives me money’, but actually most of them were way more society minded than I expected. Just goes to show that trainee teachers are a lovely egalitarian bunch the world over.

But it was a response to ‘why do teachers do teaching practice?’ that really made me smile. One
student wrote ‘to stop them from trembling’. If only it had worked for me! No amount of teaching practice would have kept the shake out of my knees on my first day of my NQT year or indeed from my first day standing up in front of a class of 60 African teenagers....However the response that gave me the most pause for thought was for the question ‘name a quality of a good teacher’ one student wrote ‘to stop children from having sugar mummies and daddies’. In my innocence I had to look up the meaning of such words, jeez I am innocent no longer...!

Well to put myself in their shoes I have been going at it some with learning French. I am officially temporarily banned from looking at the Guardian’s website however much I want to, it has to be Le Monde international and I have to translate. Deary me there certainly wasn’t much to translate for the UK news this week. I may have translated wrong but it seems that

Le train de vie du duc d'York embarrasse les autorités britanniques
The lifestyle of the Duke of York embarrasses the British Authorities

Again was all they had to say. Yawn. So I found a French textbook in the library and translated a lovely poem about Rwanda. I hope you enjoy it. It has made me very excited to see the volcanoes.

Les Birunga du Rwanda

Gashinga, Sabyinyo et Bushokoro,
Muhabura, tour majestueuse,
Karisimbi, le plus haut de tous,
Ils ont vraiment fière allure !

Ils ne dorment point,
Ils sont seulement assoupis,
Oh ! Les Birunga du Rwanda,
Ils ont vraiment fière allure !

Ils règnent, ils s’élancent
Aux confins du firmament,
Demeures immortelles des ancêtres,
Ils ont vraiment fière allure !

Bonjour, gorille des montagnes,
N’aie plus peur désormais,
On te protégera, toi et ton environnement.
Tu as vraiment fière allure !

Viens voir digne enfant de ce pays,
Réjouis-toi également, frère touriste,
Les Birunga du Rwanda,
Ils ont vraiment fière allure !  

The Volcanoes of Rwanda

Gashinga, Sabyinyo and Bushokoro,
Muhabura towers majestically,
Karisimbi, the highest of them all,
The look really proud !

They are not dormant,
They are only dozing,
Oh! The volcanoes of Rwanda,
They look really proud !

They reign, they soar
On the edge of heaven,
Dwellings of our immortal ancestors,
They look really proud !

Hello, gorilla of the mountains,
Be afraid no longer,
We will protect you and your environment,
You look really proud !

Dignified child of our country, come and see,
Enjoy them also, tourist brother,
The volcanoes of Rwanda,
They look really proud !  

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Eat, pray and read hello magazine

This weekend was all about repairing my soul. It was like a mini version of the book ‘eat pray love’ but sadly without the love story at the end. It was Louise’s birthday and so we went to a place called ‘The Manor hotel’ to eat and lounge about by the pool. I have finally found the posh part of Kigali – the district where the Manor hotel is located, Nyarutarama, is home to the city’s rich. There are 4x4s everywhere and lovely massive whitewashed houses with big gates. As part of the hotel complex there was a shop selling expensive cakes and one selling nice new looking clothes. The streets were cobbled, the gardens were manicured and the view was stunning. However the thing that impressed us vsos the most was the hot showers and hairdryers in the changing rooms. That was it. One by one people disappeared for an hour at a time and came back with nice soft, shiny blow dried hair and a grin from ear to ear.  
Down at the pool I had a freezing dip and looked at ancient copies of Hello and Cosmo magazines. Seeing Eammon Holmes dressed up as a Christmas king made me choke on my gigantic wedge of cake and reminded me once more why I chose to be in Rwanda. As I sipped my fanta citron and watched the reflection of the sun going down across Kigali’s skyline I thought ‘I do not miss you, plastic celebrities, with your ticky tacky showroom houses, bratty spoiled children and orange tans’, but yet I carried on reading about them, disgusted but fascinated at the same time in much the same way that Jim Carey’s face in ‘The mask’ brings about similar feelings of dual interest and revulsion.
Moving on from cake by the poolside, I have discovered my favourite restaurant in Kigali so far. Its called Lalibela and its an Ethiopian restaurant with great spicy food, lovely owners and a real lit fire you can sit around in the garden. Ethiopian food is very different from Rwandan food. For starters there were no carbs! Not one! Whereas the typical Rwandan ‘melange’ or mixed plate, has loads: rice, chips, spaghetti, plantain, spicy boiled potatoes, all on the same plate, Ethiopian food is all about different kinds of meat in different kinds of spicy sauces and delicately flavoured vegetables. Don’t get me wrong, I like carbs but it was really lovely to have a change. And to top it all off the owner was going in our direction to go home and he gave us a free lift back to our guest house in his sparkling big 4x4, how is that for hospitality!
 The next day I woke up to a new cultural experience, going to a Rwandan Church. I have always been fascinated by the idea from a curiosity point of view, but wanted to go with other people that I knew so I took the chance when I was invited on Sunday. We went to the Anglican church of Rwanda’s English service by Kigali Institute of Technology. I was surprised by how similar it was to a church service in England. It was a very nice church with a very international flavour and I loved the singing. We were invited to share some tea with some people from the Church which was lovely. We had a conversation about tea with a Sri Lankan, a Kenyan, a Canadian and some Brits so it was very international! One day I think I will have to get brave and actually go to the Catholic Church on the hill where I live to compare, mind you I don’t think they will have an English service there!

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

A few more photos

So here is the outside of the TTC

And the entrance. There are no students lounging about because they are all doing exams, poor things.

And this is what my resource centre looks like from the outside

And this is a rice sack map I made of the TTC

And last but not least this is my hero Elmer, he is multicoloured and proud. I am very proud of him. He is definitely the best rice sack I've made so far.

Well thats it for now! If I have time after marking hundreds of exam scripts I'm going to try and make a ludo board game on a rice sack....never been done before!

Out and about

By popular request I've decided to put a few more photos up of my surroundings. Soon I will psyche myself up to go for a proper walk around with my camera as it is really beautiful here. I want to get some cute kiddie picutres too, but you have to be a bit careful as many adults here do not appear very keen on having their photo taken, unlike in China where people posed literally anywhere! But for now here are a few more.

I'll start with some more shots of my house. My house in a nice brick dwelling which is lovely and cool in the heat.

It has the most beatiful garden

And a nice view out the back

Lets be honest the toilet can be creepy in the dark and I won't tell you about my losing things down it nightmares

And showering facilities are basic!

But its my home and I'm learning to love it more each day. Heres a picture of my new improved bedroom. Its still got some way to go but I think the African fabrics brighten it up. The white things everywhere are French flashcards.

This is what I see every morning out my front gate.

And this is what I see on my walk to work

The road is never this quiet when I actually am walking to work! I went at an unusually quiet time of day.

Now the computers being a bit weird so I will try and post these then I might do some more.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Culinary Inspiration from the most unlikely of places...

When I was searching for no bake no fridge few ingredients recipes I came across a recipe for Prison brownies. A bloke named Ricky who lives in prison in the US is my saviour. I don’t know how he managed it but he has found a way of making pretty authentic brownies using chocolate cream biscuits, chocolate syrup and 1 chocolate bar. I’m glad that some people spend their time inside being productive and helping others. Thank you Ricky. Making them is all in the method. First your separate the cream filling from the biscuits. You bash the biscuits until they are just crumbs. You break the chocolate bar into tiny pieces and mix with the crumbs. You add the chocolate syrup until the mixture sticks together. Form brownies. Then you blend the cream filling with a little water and spread over the top of the brownies. Leave them for an hour or so and enjoy. Not bad, not bad at all. They are a bit stickier than ordinary brownies so you will get messy hands.
I know the exams are for the students but I couldn’t resist having a go at the Senior 6 French exam when I found a spare paper lying around. Wherever in the world I happen to be and however old I am it seems my swotish, bookish, teacher’s pet tendencies are never that far away. I’ll never forget that date I went on at the bookbarn in Bristol. The poor unfortunate guy endured hours of watching someone stare at a psychology textbook on visual illusions and then trailed me around as I discussed the relative merits of different books on making displays in the early years.   
I do actually enjoy exams. I know its not normal. It certainly helps to pass the time. The senior 6 French exam has helped me to fill two periods of exam invigilation already. I have been slowly translating a page and a half of dense French text, first without a dictionary and then with for the words I couldn’t work out, and you know what, I think I’m getting better. I think its roughly equivalent to A level French so I’m feeling quite proud of myself that I managed to do it. I’m determined not to forget all of my French this time. I’ll be making a nuisance of myself across the channel by insisting on speaking my bad French at Callais buying copious amounts of vin rouge...ah vin rouge, how I miss you.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Four days of green

Well it has been all about green things recently. Green cards, green gardens and St Partricks day...
When I found out that I wasn’t supervising any exams or doing any teaching on Thursday and Friday I decided it was time to get my green card. This is so that I am deemed to be staying legally in my district, but the main motivation for me is that I get to see the gorillas for half price when I finally get round to going. Now I have to say it was a learning curve. First I had to get a 50 minute moto ride to my district capital Rwamagana. Then I had to go to the bank, pay some money and get a receipt. Then I had to go to the Rwandan revenue authority and get a receipt to show the fact I already had a receipt from the bank. I had to take my receipt for the receipt to the immigration office but it was closed. So the next day I went to the immigration office, filled in a form, showed my papers and got told to come back later. Which I did. I then stood in a queue for ages, made lots of small talk with immigration officers and got my green card. The sense of achievement I felt was comparable to when I beat Darth Vader in the Bristol half marathon.  I will look after that green card, I really will.
Well after hanging out with Steven and Mary in Rwamagana when I wasn’t engaged in the above process I travelled down south for the vso St Patricks day celebrations in Gitarama. Gitarama is the second biggest town in Rwanda and it has a large vso contingent and some truly awesome houses. I stayed with Trisha and April at their 5 star hotel. They have sofas, a fridge, 3 indoor flushing toilets, an oven, a dresser full of crockery, reliable electricity and running water, and finally the best thing of all: hot water. I had my first proper hot shower since the 13th of January. It was just so brilliant, I could have stayed under it forever. I will definitely be back to the Gitarama Hilton. I have been in 7 vso houses in Rwanda and their house wins top prize so far.
That evening we went to the aptly named green gardens for beer and goat brochettes. I am getting a bit of a taste for goat, its really not bad. If its old it can be a bit on the chewy side but on the whole it satisfies the meat cravings. It tastes a lot like those strips of stewing/frying beef you can get from Tescos. You just have to put the image of the little goats hopping around the hills out of your mind. People take their goats for walks here, its really lovely. The goats are amazingly obedient, much better behaved than most dogs when out for a walk. They don’t appear to pull or run on ahead and they never make a fuss when they see other goats.
The final thing to say is that I got my first couple of parcels so thank you Cheddar Michelle and Chesterfield Michelle! Love you both lots, it really made my week. It seems to take about a month for parcels to reach Kigali. I will also try and send stuff back to the UK now I’ve finally worked out where the post office is in Kigali. Its not in the town centre like you might imagine, but near ‘wedding roundabout’, a very curious place which I feel deserves a blog entry all of its own at a later date.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Boney M

That strange seventies pop band Boney M have a habit of following me wherever I go and I’m not sure I like it. Its actually quite spooky, its like they are stalking me through music videos. Perhaps they are trying to send me some sort of subliminal message through the medium of cheesy pop. A few years ago when me and Jo and Shelley were in Sri Lanka for our summer holidays I remember being in the middle of nowhere by a mountain and hearing Boney M’s hyperactive cheerfulness and marvelling at their gyrating on video while we waited for yet another Sri Lankan curry. I have also heard them in a hotel room in China and on a plane bound for Qatar. When I walked into the staffroom today I immediately felt a sense of déjà vu when I heard ‘Mary’s boy child’ coming from one of my colleagues laptops....
I had no idea that they were such a global phenomenon. I desperately want to know why. So today I spent some time watching them again. I must admit I gained a whole new appreciation for Boney M. Their campness and sequins do indeed make the world a brighter and better place. Maybe I was too quick to judge them before. There are worse things in the world. I just want to know why they have chosen me. I feel I have little in common with them. I don’t have their fabulous mop of afro hair, I look like a Christmas bauble if I wear sequins and I’m not particularly good at disco dancing...I think I could be pondering this question for quite some time. If anyone has any ideas why Boney M have chosen to follow me around the world please let me know.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Vegetables, pedicures and charity shop karma

Ok so this week was a bad week in the kitchen. The market was bereft of food, so much so that it was a struggle to even get bananas. It was tomatoes, onions and potatoes all week. I ran out of chocolate, I ran out of eggs, I ran out of cup a soups and I started to feel a bit miserable about eating. So when I went to Rwamagana to see Steven and Mary for rest, relaxation and a little bit of workshop planning I couldn’t resist a visit to the market. I can honestly say for the first time in my life I got excited about vegetables. As a person who loves all the bad stuff in life I never thought that would happen. I practically jumped up and down with excitement when I saw an aubergine. I don’t know what has happened to me. Who is this girl? I think I’ve lost about a stone since being here and all my clothes are falling down!  I better fatten up fast or I think I’ll be doing more flashing on the moto as my jeans will not stay up.
Talking of clothes I attempted to try and find a skirt for work at the market too. As a bartered away my volunteer allowance for an ordinary black second/third/fourth hand skirt which looks very similar to one I have in my wardrobe in the UK I thought this is karma. This is what you get for being so wasteful with clothes, here, slowly but surely, you will need to buy back all those clothes you stuffed into the charity shop bin. Its surprising how expensive the second hand clothes are, it made me realise how amazing it is that Rwandan people are so well dressed. The never walk around the college with yellow chalk dust all over their bum.. .I really haven’t got the hang of this whole chalk thing. I’m forever accidentally smearing my clothes with dust. Its because I have never had to teach using chalk. It was all interactive whiteboards and dry wipe pens in the life before.
The last exciting event of the weekend was the pedicure. I thought that Mary and me were very brave. Especially when the girl got out this blade thing. We looked at each other and wondered if we were going to lose our toes. But fear not, the young lady who did our pedicures was a perfectionist and extremely gentle. I also found myself admiring all the hair braiding going on around me. I want to get my hair braided one day. Perhaps before the big Christmas break? We shall see!

Friday, 11 March 2011

Our new exhibit is called ‘umuzungu’

There are large glass windows all on one side of my marvellous TRC, which is great because it makes it nice and light and airy. It is also perfect for a daydreamer and people watcher like me because any time when I am feeling fatigued from making resources or lesson planning I can look out and watch the world go by. The only trouble is it also makes it easier for people to look in. Children from the primary and secondary schools next door and even some of the braver TTC students come and tap on the glass and watch me at work.
I’m thinking of writing a description for myself ‘Our new exhibit is called ‘umuzungu’. Umuzungus are creatures with white skin. They usually come from the Western hemisphere by origin and tend to live in cold climates. This particular specimen comes from England, a cold and rainy country in Europe. It is an example of an adult female and although 27 years old, has yet to marry or bear any young. It is a shy and usually harmless creature although it is wise not to disturb it too early in the mornings as dangerous and erratic behaviour has been observed before 8am. If you want to feed the umuzungu, it likes chocolate and crisps, cake, bread and cheese, but not all at the same time. Thank you for visiting.
All in a days work. I do keep getting visitors, in particular other tutors at the TTC, coming to look at what I’ve done which has given me a much needed mental boost as I’m feeling a little low this week. I think I’ve started to hit the two month dip on the graph that vso showed us before we departed. We were warned. But the graph does go up again, well as long as I’m not a statistical anomaly that is...I’m sure I’m totally normal. A completely usual and sane human being....perhaps with a few extra yellow pencils in the pack? Or a few unpicked threads in the shirt......

Thursday, 10 March 2011

The day of reckoning

Today heralded my first official visit by vso personnel to check on my progress in my placement so far. As you can imagine, as soon as I knew they were coming I was madly trying to tidy up the bits of cardboard everywhere to present my resource centre in the best possible light. And thats when I found it. The dead bird. Now I know I should be upset that a living creature met its end in my resource centre, but the damn thing shat all over my ‘what makes a good teacher’ display so I wasn’t. The only trouble was trying to remove it. I hate dead things, they are just so disgusting. And I didn’t have any resources such as a broom or shovel which I could use to get rid of it. Fortunately someone came in and did the deed for me when I said ‘le ouiseaux, il est mortir’ and pointed to the corpse.
Well the official reckoning was that I’m doing fine. In fact vso personnel were so pleased that they took photographs! Praise indeed. Steven and Mary also hitched a ride down to the college and it was lovely for them to see where I work. Today was also a day of celebration at the college because all of the previous year’s students passed their exams. I was treated to some truly fabulous singing where the sound gave me goose pimples, I am so jealous of the singing ability of the students here, if only I had a voice like theirs. I’d be right down to the x factor in actual fact its probably a good thing for the world at large that I don’t.
After the ceremony with the students I went back to the staffroom and drank too much fanta. Ever since coming to Rwanda I have become a fantaholic. I don’t even really like the stuff that much, but it everywhere here and gives me my fix of sugar. Drinking too much of it makes me hyperactive and ditzy (well ditzier than normal) and I’m sure it does bad things to my blood sugar levels but I can’t see myself kicking the addition. Apparently girls are either classed as ‘fanta citron’ or ‘fanta orange’...I’m definitely a fanta citron affection for the green bottle tops replaces my love of the green mugs in the Hannah More staffroom...oh how I miss the green mugs! No one else liked them for some reason so they were always available to be filled with a nice hot cup of tea...made with real milk from real cows...oh deary me I feel another larium dream coming on about cows and milk and dairy produce. Its because now I’ve found eggs I’ve stopped dreaming about chickens, so I think cows will be next.

Here is the TRC so far. When I first moved in it was completely empty so I've made a start.

How people learn rice sack

How children learn display with students work

Brainstorm of Rwanda

An excellent teacher...

A nice little learning names rhyme

Sunday, 6 March 2011

All the small things

As I head towards my two month anniversary of being in Rwanda next week, I think its timely to do a little progress check and reflect on my small achievements.
1) Getting on a moto
Now I’m still a long way off being able to do this in an elegant or ladylike fashion, if indeed I will ever achieve this, but I can now do it without splitting my trousers. Now everyone who travels along the roads to the East of Rwanda will be spared seeing my pink la senza knickers flapping in the wind. Thank goodness for that.
2) Being creative in the kitchen
 Again, its not something I’ve completely mastered but progress has been made. I can now make risotto using Rwandan rice, creamy potato and tomato curry, corned beef hash, chips and a rather nice pasta salad. So I’m getting better at making stuff with tomatoes, potatoes, onions and bananas. Delia should watch out. I still have at least one culinary disaster a week, but that means I make around four edible plates of food so the balance is tipping in my favour.
3) The rice sack queen
I’ve made some really pretty rice sack visual aids. I’ve copied out a poem in French, made a map of Rwanda (going to do one of the whole of Africa next), made a quiz on learning styles just to mention a few things. I love spending so much time drawing J.
4) Languages
Again, definitely a work in progress but the French is starting to improve a bit. I said something in French to a guy when I checked into a hostel and he sort of understood me and I’ve sent my first ever text message in French. Kinyarwanda is proving to be a challenge, but at least I’ve remembered most of what I learned in the first place. I’ve not given up yet, I will improve!
5) Packing
I’ve become very good at packing as little as possible for a weekend away in order to fit loads of food and rice sacks in my bag for going back home. Its a fine art, it really is, you have to think of dual function. A sarong doubles as a towel and a skirt or scarf, a pair of flip flops stops you getting electrocuted in the shower at the places us vsos stay at and can also be worn out and about, shampoo can also be used as soap, a hoodie can be used for keeping warm but also as a pillow if the one you are given looks worse for wear...
6) Squatting
Ok so none of you really want to know this but I’ve developed muscles which facilitate the process so to speak. Its still a challenge but not as much as it was.
7) The bucket shower
Definitely mastered this one. You fill up half of a small bucket with water from a jerry can. You boil 1 kettle full of water and tip it in. You carry the thing with a cup in it to the outside room. You go back and grab a bag containing shampoo, conditioner etc and put it in the room. You lock the door to the house because you can’t see it from the wash room and  voila. You have to remember to unlock the front door and take everything back to the house after the ‘shower’.
Well thats it for now. Quite a long list!

Thursday, 3 March 2011

OMG I lost my sense of humour (temporarily you’ll be relieved to know!)

It was probably a bad idea from the start but I have always wanted to teach a lesson ‘under the big tree’. ‘Under the big tree’ is where important meetings are held and holds a mythological quality for me. It just sounds so idyllic and reminds me of the Enid Blyton book ‘The Enchanted tree’. So after the thunderstorm I took my huge class of 57 senior 4 students ‘under the big tree’ to play name games. Well that was a bad idea. For starters I just cannot seem to pronounce names correctly over here so every time I tried the whole 57 of them burst into giggles. Secondly, trying to learn 57 names in one go was just a ridiculous idea. And I used to think my class of 28 kids in the UK was a lot. Well 57 is too many, learning all their names is akin to climbing mount Everest, especially when I only see them for an hour a week.
Lastly they kept calling me umuzungu after I had told them not to and that was it. It was like showing a red rag to a bull. I felt myself shaking with voice got tight and I’m sure I turned purple. I somehow managed not to lose it entirely but I was definitely cracking. I am normally such a calm person, I don’t know what came over me. I hardly ever get really really mad. I gave them a lecture on being respectful to teachers and all the time there was this angry little voice in my head whispering ‘what makes you think you can do this, you crazy misguided fool...why did you chose to turn your life upside down?!’  
But fortunately karma is alive and well in Rwanda at the moment, for every bad moment there are two good ones. Firstly Senior 5 made my day because they remembered all of what I had taught them on learning styles in the previous lesson and they worked really hard. And secondly my neighbours greeted me with a friendly smile and a handshake when I got home and invited me to sit with them outside for a little while. So at least I ended the day by returning to my normal white colour and a smile on my face. Alls well that ends well, Rome wasn’t built in a day... Watch out Senior 4, a lesson on classroom rules will be next ;-) This umuzungu is persistent if nothing else.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

The bottle top thief

Ok I it seems my new job involves me scrabbling around in the dirt picking up discarded bottle tops. When it rained earlier today and everyone else was inside I did the deed. I always feel a bit shameful doing it when people can see. It just doesn’t seem very socially acceptable to get down on your hands and knees outside someone’s house to gauge dirty trodden on bottle tops out of the earth with your hands. Especially as everyone looks at me enough as it is! Why would anyone want to do such a weird thing? You may ask and I think if they were able to ask me in a way that I understood I think most people here would ask too.
Well there is so much you can do with bottle tops, you just wouldn’t believe it. I think I really do love them. They can become counters in a game of checkers or snakes and ladders. When you bash a hole through them with a nail and string them onto twine they can become a counting bead string. You can use them simply as counters or you can even make shapes or the flag of Rwanda out of them. The white ones from the ‘Mutzig’ beer bottles can have letters or numbers drawn onto them and so can be used for spelling and ordering numbers. I'm sure they also have a hundred million other uses I haven't quite dicovered yet. Bottle tops are brilliant! Long may people continue to throw them onto the ground.