Thursday, 28 April 2011

Camilla’s continued attempts at trilingualism

Ok I have to confess that I still haven’t braved the running track yet. One of the new Ugandan tutors has had a great suggestion, he wants to help me set up a running club and invite the students to join us. That way, I won’t be the only one huffing and puffing. We thought we would try to start it on Monday...

However my linguistic struggles go on. I am still trying to come to terms with switching between three languages on a daily basis, two of which I can’t speak with any degree of competence. The harder I try, the more frustrated I seem to get!

Camilla’s attempts to learn French this week:

1) Continued attempts to translate and sing along to the lyrics from French Canadian star academie 2003. Sorry to anyone in Nzige who has the misfortune of hearing.

2) I’ve started to read only in French, borrowing books in French from the TTC library (not hard seeing as most of them are still in French anyway). ‘Le dossier Harding,’ a very odd comic book, is my current livre of choice.

 3) I have made a potentially useful discovery. My neighbour, a nice if somewhat elusive man, speaks French! Yay! So as long as I am ever able to pin him down (he hardly ever seems to be there, I think he is a health worker who has to do shifts) and I get in first before he starts trying to practise his English (sometimes in this world you just have to be a bit selfish) I will be able to practise.

4) I’ve started writing in my ‘journal de classe’ in French. I’ve reasoned that the headings are in French therefore I shall write in French. This is a book where I have to write what I have done with each class on a daily basis.

5) When I was waiting for a meeting to start I played the French opposites game. The staff in the guesthouse looked at me very strangely, sat all alone muttering pairs of French words to myself.
Camilla’s attempts to learn Kinyarwanda this week

1) I have started counting in Kinyarwanda with the local kids on my way to and from school.

2) I have also started to take my Kinyarwanda learning materials into the staffroom at break time to try to break down some barriers. While I have to withstand some ridicule for my hideous accent, a surprising number of people have tried to help me.

 3) I have made a momentous step forward this week. I have found a suitable teacher and started lessons. Whats even more exciting is that my teacher is a woman. At last! I have regular contact with a local woman. I was so relieved when she came to my house for the first time, I think she is going to be my Kinyarwanda saviour.

4) I have made a rice sack of the Kinyarwanda numbers and stuck it onto my kitchen wall. Every time I go in there to make the latest tomato, onion and potato based dish I count to 20.

Phew, thats quite a lot! Ands what more, I feel like none of it is making a jot of difference. I think I have learning difficulties when it comes to foreign languages. None of it sticks, the words all desert me when I need them and I stand there like a lemon waiting for the words to come but they never do. French is annoying because I feel I should be better at it than I am and Kinyarwanda has sounds in it that my mouth just won’t make.  I am wondering if it will ever get easier!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Oh dear God, what have I just agreed to do?!

Sometimes I really do wonder if living alone in a small village has already started to tip me over the edge of reason. It seems that I have agreed to be part of the VSO Rwanda relay team for the International Peace Marathon in Kigali. I have just under a month to train as it takes place on Sunday the 22nd of May. I will have to run 10.54km. I haven’t gone running for nearly a year. My Ipod has been in peace. Whats more, when I was running in Bristol most of the time no one gave me a second glance.  Well other than that time where I was followed by a crazy lycra clad Italian man. When I started to walk because I just couldn’t keep going he started shouting ‘oi you lazy, you must always run door to door, always!’ I tried running again in the hope I might actually be fast enough to get rid of him but it was to no avail. So I ran like a snail. The slowest anyone could possibly run. And that got rid of him.

Well in Nzige I can’t even walk anywhere without attracting a crowd. So goodness knows what they will think when the muzungu starts to run. My only hope of running in relative peace is the ‘stadium’. The ‘stadium’ which I can’t even remember which dirt track its down, has one dusty running track around the edge. Now I know the TTC students use it which will probably mean I get a crowd of onlookers but eventually they might get bored....although the lack of much entertainment in the TTC (no phones, radios etc are allowed) might mean that they never tire of watching the muzungu turn red...well on Wednesday I’m determined to give it a go. Nothing ventured nothing gained. All I know is that doing Tracy Shaw’s Salsasize video behind closed curtains is probably not going to be sufficient. So running it will have to be. All in the name of peace ;-) 

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Lounging by the lake

My last instalment of tales from Uganda will be brief. Mostly because the last place we visited involved doing nothing. Nothing at all, it was bliss. We went to an island on lake Bunyoni near the Rwandan border. Getting there from Kassese involved getting a moto, 2 matatus (squishy tiny little buses) and a boat, and took the best part of a day. But it was worth it. We stayed the first night in something called a ‘geodome’ which was basically a thatched roof covering with two beds underneath it. It was completely open on the side facing the lake so you could lie in bed looking out at the lake. We sat by the lake all day, read books and ate chapattis with shredded potatoes inside them, cheesy omelettes and coconut rum balls.

Getting back to Rwanda was something of a nightmare though. We hitched a ride in a very squashed car to the border (Kathy got rather closer to one passenger than she wanted to, but thats another story!), crossed the border and then had terrible trouble getting from there back to Kigali. Don’t know where all the buses had gone but they weren’t there, thats for sure. We walked to this town just in from the border and every bus that came was literally jumped on by hundreds of people, I’ve never seen such a scramble in Rwanda. There was no way we were ever going to get on with our big bags. However we had a friend already on a bus which was being held up through immigration so we ran with our bags all the way back to the border and managed to hitch a ride, thank goodness.

So now I’m back in Nzige. Its Easter Sunday and I’ve just been watching French Canadian star academie from 2003 pinched from another volunteer’s hard drive. I’ve been trying to translate the lyrics, easier said than done. I’m well stocked up on chocolate thanks to you good folk sending it my way.  In a moment I’m going to try and do something with the green oranges I bought from the market yesterday. It took me ages to realise they are actually oranges even though they are not orange. Can’t wait to cut one open to see what they look like inside - surely they at least have to be orange inside to be called an orange?! Later on today I’ll run through some Kinyarwanda and have a think about what I plan to do next week. Apparently Easter Monday is not a holiday here which is somewhat surprising so I’ll be back at work. Next week promises to be interesting. I’ve been invited to help with the ‘education programme area review’ for vso on Tuesday in Kigali and on Friday I’ve been invited to go to the British High Commissioner’s house for a Royal wedding reception. Can’t wait!

The mainland where we got the boat from

Lovely views

The lake at sunset

The geodome - wish you were here?!

Saturday, 23 April 2011

High on a hill was a lonely goatherd Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo

Back to tales from Uganda! Around Fort Portal we saw some lovely scenery, but by far my favourite thing we saw were the black and white colobus monkeys. These furry critters looked like fluffy back and white cushions wedged high up in the trees and watching them hop from one tree to the next kept me occupied for ages. I just wanted to touch them, but if there is one thing I learnt from my psychologist research assistant job at uni it was that moneys go beserk if you try to touch them...

Our next stop was Kilembe, a small ex-mining town in the beautiful Rwenzori mountains. It was once more popular to trek in the Rwenzoris than it was to climb up mount Kilimanjaro in neighbouring Tanzania. However, in the 80s Idi Amin pretty much destroyed Uganda’s tourist trail and it has been trying to recover ever since.  Stunning beautiful yet crushingly poor, Kilembe is a place of extremes and here I saw probably the worst poverty I’ve seen so far in Africa. Since the copper mine stopped being operational in the 1990’s, the community looks like it has really suffered. The old ex-miner’s cottages are charming but in a state of incredible disrepair. There are a lot of young children here and a massive clinic for people living with HIV/AIDs.

We stayed in the most beautiful little place called Rwenzori backpackers which was surrounded on all 4 sides by mountains. Me and Kathy were on our own for the first night, and the place was full on our last night as lots of other vso’s decided to join us for some fresh mountain air, simple home cooked food and stunning views.

On our first day there we walked the 10k to the nearest big town, Kassese. The views were beautiful and we enjoyed seeing people going about their daily lives at the side of the road. When we arrived in Kassese there was a destitute teenage boy eating from the rubbish dump and big clouds of dust from a nearby cement factory.  It gave me some perspective on Rwanda and made me realise how amazingly clean and unpolluted it is. In fact I think Kigali is probably cleaner than most cities in Europe, long may it stay that way.

We were only meant to stay for two days but the loveliness of waking up, opening the door and being able to see right out to mist covered peaks meant we stayed for four. The Rwenzoris are like the Switerland of Africa. Lots of jagged green and purple peaks and fluffy clouds, just lovely.    

My monkey friend

Rwenzori Backpackers

Stunning views

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Camilla and Lindsey’s joint 28th Birthday

I’m going to take a break from recounting my tales from Uganda (I am back in Rwanda now, just hopelessly behind with my blog!) to tell you all about my first ever birthday away from home. I woke up in the morning feeling a little dazed and weak from my digestive issues (I was quite violently ill on my return from Uganda) but recovered very well throughout the day. I opened up the parcel from Chesterfield Michelle (the only one which had arrived at that point – thank you Michelle!) and ate one of those mini Cathedral city cheeses which she sent me. My taste buds were in heaven. They had forgotten the taste of cheese other than the insipid waxiness of fake laughing cow cheese triangles. I practically skipped around the vso dorm, simple things....

All of the January intake volunteers were in the capital, Kigali, ready to start a week of training so we had a great group together of over 20 volunteers. I celebrated my birthday with Lindsey, a New Yorker vso vol, who had her 28th Birthday just a few days before me. Lindsey was great to share a birthday with as she has an endless appetite for party games, has a great sense of humour and is possibly the only person in the world who would appreciate getting a homemade rice sack version of twister for her birthday. We went to a lovely Italian restaurant called Sol e Luna. While we waited for food Lindsey and myself got into teacher mode once again and gave everyone a quiz to do. I gave out scrambled up names of volunteers for people to unscramble, (spelt most of them wrong – don’t know whats wrong with me spelling wise at the moment!) and they had to name the most corrupt countries in the world.  We checked for cheating and shouted out the questions, disturbing all the other good Kigalians just trying to unwind with their pizzas after a long week. I had a whole half and a bit of a carafe of red wine and my pizza came nearly last despite being the birthday girl, boooo!

All of this week I have been having more Kinyarwanda lessons and trying to take in vast amounts of information. We have had presentations and lessons from 8am until 5pm. I went to the post office today to investigate the whereabouts of all the parcels which you fantastic folk had sent my way. Well some of them had been put in the wrong PO box by the post people, some of them had not  been written in  the collection book and some of them had only just came, but so far I have got ones from Sarah K, Auntie Kathryn and Granny Gore, Mum, dad and Doug and family. And thank you Cheddar Michelle, I enjoyed opening your card too. So thank you all, you have made me feel very special! I will be sending you all thank you emails over the coming week.

Well thats all for now, no doubt I’ll be back on here a lot more when I’m back in the village. Well here are a few photos for starters. xxx.     

The quiz

Lindsey and Nicole's son, Tao

 Tao, Erin, Me and Nicole's other son, Daniel

Tammy, Lindsey and me.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Arriving with the mail on the post bus

We left Kampala by hitching a ride with the post bus to Fort Portal. It was its first outing in over a year and it was donned with red ribbons to celebrate the occasion. We got off to a rocky start as the driver crashed the bus into the one behind while people stood on the pavement sniggered away! This was in spite of someone madly banging on the back of the bus. The driver definitely seemed to have clutch/reversing issues. I couldn’t eat the cake I bought for breakfast for ages, his driving made my mouth go dry.

We were two of only three passengers who boarded the bus in Kampala. It was a real luxury to have the bus almost completely to ourselves, a very unusual situation in Uganda. It was an amazing journey. We saw round huts with thatched roves and cows grazing peacefully on the hillsides. The hills were impossibly green, like an African Switzerland. As we jolted along from one post office to the next, giving out red leaflets about the post bus, people stopped and stared in surprise at this shiny red thing blazing through their countryside complete with a couple of token muzungus. Children ran alongside us and every now and then the driver stopped to ask the way. At each stop people carrying brochettes ran up to the bus and pushed them through the windows.

The obligatory Ugandan pop music videos blared out from a big flatscreen TV at the front of the bus. Kathy learned some new vocal sounds for her African sounds vocabulary ‘eee’ and eakk’ and I learned that you definitely don’t have to be skinny to star in an African music video. We finally arrived with the last mailbag in Fort Portal, a town which lonely planet promised is ‘a postal to great scenery’. After getting hopelessly lost when we arrived we stayed at a small place tucked away down a side street. Definitely not a place accustomed to seeing white women people came out of their rooms to stare at us brushing our teeth or on the way to the toilet.

Talking of which, the toilet really was something else. Shared with the bar and a cross between a flush and squat toilet, it was on a raised platform and positioned at such an angle that it was very difficult to go without falling down it. Worse still the window was low enough that if you didn’t squat down far enough you risked being seen by interested passers by in the compound outside, who were mostly men curious to see if my white ass looked the same as the one on the music video.

Sleep was a real challenge. It seemed that there were loads of late night revellers in Fort Portal with nowhere to sleep and where we were staying was the last stop on a long night of drinking and good times. At 2am I heard very loud banging followed by a quieter banging back on the same gate of roughly the same duration. Could this be a late night Ugandan Morse code?! A couple of hours later at 4am people in the compound started work for the day. Radios were turned on and sweeping brushes were picked up. At 5am a girl sang Britney Spear’s ‘Lucky’ acapella and at 6am someone shouted ‘shhhh’ outside our door.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

More tales from Kampala

The jamming session at the National Theatre was great. We heard Coldplay done African style and Ugandan country and western. Kathy was also accosted by a self proclaimed Kenyan artist. His attempts to win her over included asking to buy her a beer no less than ten times, claiming that the same plastic surgeon who had operated on Dolly Parton’s boobs had also reconstructed part of his face and assuring her that the angry lady on the phone was his sister and not his wife...all to no avail, poor guy.

The next day we experienced extreme agoraphobia at the market. As people shouted ‘muzungu’ at us and tried to poke our asses we tried to make a hasty retreat. Easier said than done. Once you are in the market you sure as hell aren’t getting out anytime soon. Each turning point just led us further and further into the labyrinth. After getting more and more confused we saw a chink of light and shuffled towards it like flies flock towards the holy grail of strip lighting. It has just been raining and our shoes became covered in mud from the dirt roads around the market. Yet somehow none of the Ugandan people got muddy shoes, I just don’t know how its possible for their shoes to stay spotless when ours became so disgusting. A particularly well turned out man stopped Kathy on the street and said ‘Please, you are dirty’. Kathy replied ‘I know, we have just been to the market’ and the poor guy looked totally bewildered as he tried to fathom how one trip to the market could result in feet as dirty as that.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Hi from Kampala

Kathy and me arrived safely in Kampala, the capital of Uganda a couple of days ago. Kathy has arrived with her house on her back, she s not one who packs lightly! And I had so much dirt in my hair that it turned the water red...but the people here still say they like us (rich girls). Being the culture vultures we are we have already been to the National Theatre in Kampala to watch a kids show. My favourite line was 'I don't want my girlfriend to be an ugly caterpillar'. We are going to go back there this evening to see jamming, Ugandan style...

Today we went people watching down in the centre of town. It was mad, muddy and manic. We were still called muzungu, so it seems the word travels across country borders. After nearly ending up in a brothel we found a suitable vantage point from which to watch the sheer craziness of Kampala. There was just so much going on in such a small space. We found enough to keep us entertained for over half an hour. Well I have to go as the computer is bugging me to buy more internet time. I'll be back soon.


The craziness of Kampala