Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The case of the disappearing bus park

A strange thing about Rwanda is the speed at which big things can disappear. For example in Kigali the one and only post office had been relocated and the old building pulled down within a space of two weeks. I remember walking to it one day, swinging my letters in my hand and staring at the blue sky which should have been obscured by a big building. My first thought was, as usual, ‘have I gone mad?’ ‘Am I on the right street? Has it really gone? Fortunately it had been relocated to the centre of town along with all of the letters inside, but it was a bit unnerving to say the least.

Well a similar thing has happened with Kabuga bus park. I got my bus from Kigali as usual and when we arrived in Kabuga all I could see was a gaping hole where it should have been. It’s so weird that a bustling busy bus park can literally disappear overnight, only to be replaced by...well...nothing as yet. So now all the matatus have to stop on this horrendously steep slope to pick up their passengers. The overladen things literally creak up the hill, narrowly avoiding the chilled out people of Kabuga who don’t seem to run out of the way even when a matatu is revving its way towards them. Then you hear a lurch as the tired old handbrake is put on as hard as is humanly possible, yet the buses still look like they are about to roll down the hill again. Goodness knows what will happen in the wet season. I have a vision of matatus sliding down the hill into old ladies and sacks of potatoes, running into a couple of moto drivers before reaching the main road and crashing into more matatus trying to get up the hill, but hopefully this will only happen in my overactive imagination.  Like the post office, the disappearing bus park will reappear in another place...like Rwandan reincarnation...ah tis the cycle of life here.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

A muddle of muzungus

Life has gone full circle and I have just finished welcoming all of the new January volunteers for vso. I can hardly believe that a year ago I was the one trying to process the massive stream of information and make sense of the seemingly senseless buses, banks and bureaucracy. Now I wonder why I ever found it so hard. Of course that second unmarked white bus will be the next one to go to Kimironko market and not the identical one ahead of it in the line, and of course the last chair on the right hand side is where to queue starts in the bank. Although having said that the mtn phone centre in Remera still baffles me, there is no obvious queuing system there...or perhaps it is simply that I have not been there enough times to pick up on all of the subtle clues about how things work.

Talking of Kimironko market, I took the new volunteers there in a moto convoy and we didn’t half turn some heads. Streams of white light streaking past, all clutching nervously to the back of the motorbike on the rough cobbled track...like beginners hells angels. I have finally after a year got to confidence to ride a moto the Rwandan way. You casually slouch your back, let your hands go loose or rest on your knee, and occasionally you get your mobile out of your pocket to answer a call or send a text.  Ok so I’m mostly joking about that last bit!

So 14 more volunteers and 5 accompanying partners have been let loose on Rwanda and I’m sure they will do very well and like it here. We did have some dramas including no less than 3 lost (and subsequently found) bags, a suspected death (not a vso volunteer!) on the Dutch volunteers’ KLM flight and a good few trips to the polyclinic, but all’s well that ends well I say. So its back to the job of teaching for me. I have had a big increase in my hours this year so it will be interesting to see how it all goes. So here’s to another week. I must admit even after a whole year I still have to take this experience of being out here one week at a time, and sometimes one day at a time, although I do have a sense that time is speeding up since I returned from the UK...

Monday, 9 January 2012

Applause on the dirt track

Today was a first for me. It was the first time (and probably the only time!) where I received a round of applause from a group of students simply for returning back to work. And its all the more surprising because sometimes I am horrible to the students. I wake them up if they dare to sleep in my class, I send them out if they are either rude or lazy and I give them low marks if they do sloppy coursework. So I am surprised they were glad to see me! You see in Rwanda it is quite normal for people to move on to other jobs during the holidays without anything being said at the end of term and several of the other tutors have done just that, which seems weird to me considering all the parties and fuss and speeches one gets when they leave work back in the UK. Here people go and just don’t come back.

I honestly don’t think anyone ever expected me to return.  I remember nearly a year ago when I said I was going to be here for two years there were a few raised eyebrows around the staffroom! So I feel delighted to have proved them wrong. In fact a few of the villagers stopped me on my way to work to say they were so glad to see me again which was so heart-warming especially as I was a bit nervous of returning to the village. I was worried I would be back to square one with the excessive muzungu calling but today I only heard the word once all day.

It was nice to come back already knowing people’s names, being familiar with the TTC and knowing my job. I think (I hope) I’ll be able to really move things forward over the next couple of terms...well I’ll do my best at least.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Back to Nzige

I’m typing this from my humble bedroom in Nzige which apart from some more damp on the walls and bits of debris from the ceiling on my bed, is as I left it. It’s so lovely to be back in the warm, wearing a t-shirt and having exposure to sunlight. Tomorrow is supposedly the first day of term, so it will be interesting to see if anyone is back, I do hope so! In any case I have some preparation to do as there will be a workshop in my TRC on Tuesday run by another volunteer for head teachers, and everything is lying in heaps under rice sacks as I packed it all up for the holidays.
Strangely, as soon as I arrived in Kigali everything seemed totally normal. There was no culture shock (well apart from the power cut at the airport!) and everything felt very familiar. The warmth did take me by surprise a bit, but other than that within a day it was like my trip home to the UK was like a dream. Even though the first week back in the UK was a tough adjustment I’m glad I did go back for a bit. It was so lovely to catch up with family and friends and my colleagues from my old school and being back forced me to start to think about life after vso, which I have a feeling will creep up on me very quickly.

So I will be up nice and early tomorrow to see what awaits me at the TTC. The first week back is always a bit of a surprise, you never really know what will happen...