Après tu Claude!

Rwanda, being only 120km south of the equator, the daylight hours remain more or less constant throughout the year.

First light is about 5.30 am and it gets dark around 6.00 pm. Thereafter it is very difficult to see what you are doing. Even with electricity, and there has been at least one power cut every evening since we arrived, the light is pretty feeble.

The notional working hours for education volunteers are 7.00 am to 4.00/4.30 pm. Add on to that travel time by moto-taxi, which in my case is at least 40 minutes each way, and the days are quite long.  

Given these circumstances it is common practice for VSO volunteers out here to hire a domestique to do the basic domestic chores. It also provides work opportunities for people who may not normally have any.

With the assistance of Awunic, a successful local headteacher and highly respected member of the community, Mark and I have taken on the services of a young man called Claude.

Claude is very pleasant and most willing to please. The deal is that he will shop at the market (and hopefully get good prices not muzungu prices), clean the house, fetch water, do our laundry (by hand in cold water) and cook for us using our VSO issue kerosene stove. We haven’t sampled his cooking yet but I think umuceli n’imboga (rice and vegetables) is his signature dish.

All of this for just 1000 RWF (£1.00 sterling) per day for a five-day week. That is the going rate and although it sounds as if we may be exploiting him, the VSO allowance is only 170,000 RWF (£170.00 per month) although that is far more than most people around here could dream of.

Claude is bright-eyed and speaks some English but it is difficult always to know whether he has fully understood instructions, as the Rwandans have a tendency to smile and say, “Yes,” when they don’t have a clue what you are talking about!

He told me he is 25 years old and having finished school his previous work had largely been helping on the family plot, cultivating beans and peas. Given what my two daughters, of around the same age, are doing with their lives back in England it does rather highlight the huge difference in expectations and life opportunities between the developed and developing world.    

It is early days but I hope it works out for Claude and for us.

One Response

  1. Just caught up on my early morning daily contact! Didn’t think you were old enough to remember the Claud and Cecil gags. Had a great day with Chris yesterday before she starts on her travels. Don’t work too hard. All the best from both of us.

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