Archive for October, 2010

‘High Noon’ at Nyakarambi & Glaws gun down Tigers in Kingsholm showdown!
October 31, 2010

Weekends are the quietest part of the week in Nyakarambi. On Saturday a number of businesses are closed because the owners are Seventh Day Adventists and similarly a lot are also closed on Sunday due to the call of church.  

This Saturday, being the final one of the month, was umuganda so it was even quieter than normal and I had to wait until 12.30 for the first Kigali bound bus of the day.

As I hauled my suitcase up the main street it did occur to me, not for the first time, how similar Nyakarambi is to those out posts of the old wild-west depicted in Hollywood movies.

As the midday sun bore down I had a sudden flash back to the Gary Cooper character in the classic western High Noon (which really shows my age!).

Shop fronts line the main street with their covered walkways, the Auberge Ikirezi does a good impression of a saloon bar, with its fair share of all day drinkers, while the moto drivers coral their machines in the shade of a tree at the edge of the town or cruise around, like latter-day cowboys. There are even, off stage sound effects, with the occasional long-horned steer lowing in the background.

In fact all that was missing, as I waited for the International ‘stage coach’ to pull in, was a piece of tumbleweed cart-wheeling along the road!

Meanwhile, back in the 21st century, it was a tight squeeze on the bus. My suitcase caused a bit of a problem and had to be wedged under a seat whilst I was show horned between a guy snoozing in a window seat and a sister of generous proportions who spread over most of  my seat as well as her own.

The sun soon dissolved into pouring rain and for three hair-raising hours the driver had one hand on the horn and the other clasping a mobile to his ear.

I knew Rwanda had joined the Commonwealth but I hadn’t realised they had switched to driving on the left hand side of the road, which is where we spent most of our time – swerving back to the right at the last-minute to avoid on coming traffic!     

Luckily the rain had abated by the time we reached Kigali and I was soon ensconced in the bar at my hotel of choice, the Isimbi  (where I’m becoming recognised as a bit of a regular) settling my nerves with a much-needed beer whilst watching a similarly edgy Gunners sneak a 1-0 win over the lowly Hammers at the Emirates.   

Game over and I went straight on-line to find that Forest’s recent recovery had stalled as they suffered a touch of the blues with a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Pompey, apparently conceding two soft goals and converting just one of 13 chances that came their way!

However in the ‘egg catching’ game Gloucester, who seem to be going from strength to strength, tweaked the Tiger’s tail, to steal the points with a last gasp try from Lesley ‘the Volcano’ Vanikolo.

This type of final flourish is usually reserved for the likes of Leicester, not Glaws, particularly in televised games, but this young Cherry & Whites side seems to have a bit more steel about them than last year and just maybe they might surprise a few people, come the end of the season!

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End of School Year Celebrations – Rwandan Style
October 31, 2010

Friday marked the end of  the Rwandan school year. I spent the entire day ‘celebrating’ with my two schools.

Over a week previously Flora, head of Nyabitare, had invited me to spend the afternoon over there. On Thursday evening  I took a belated, but welcome, call from Nyamateke asking me to spend the morning with them – so as luck would have it there was no clash to negotiate.

With 10.00 am the appointed hour I arranged a moto with Daniel for 09.30. I was enjoying my first outing of the week, soaking up the bright morning sunshine and taking in the unfolding views when another bike pulled up along side. It was Alex and who should be sitting behind him but a be-helmeted and grinning Wellars, head of Nyamateke.

Having exchanged ‘high fives’ there ensued a race, of kinds, towards Nyamateke. However there was only ever going to be one outcome given that the combined weight of Alex and Wellars was probably about half that on Daniels’s moto!

Wellars was already dismounted by the time Daniel’s, ‘made in  India’, 125cc bike had hauled us up the final steep approach to the school.

The children of Nyamateke enjoyed an extended period of recreation, for about an  hour and a half, whilst Wellars and his staff finalised the end of year prize giving ceremony. Eventually we were all assembled on the grassy bank facing the school building and the presentation began.

Three children from each class had been selected, based on their test results, to receive a prize of an exercise book (alarmingly many of these had pictures of either Manchester United or Liverpool on the front cover) and a biro.

Everything was wrapped up by 12.30 when Daniel arrived to take me on to Nyabitare for the second leg but Wellars was adamant we couldn’t leave without a drop of liquid refreshment. Crates of Fanta and inzoga had materialised in the office, and it wouldn’t have been right to turn down his hospitality, so the first slightly warm and frothy Mützig of the day was slurped from the bottle before moving on.

The tortuous, but enjoyable, cross-country route between schools took about fifteen minutes and as we wound our way around groups of children, homeward bound for the holidays, they turned with beaming smiles on their faces and waved their pink report cards.

At Nyabitare a sheltered seating area had been erected on the grassy quadrangle between the classrooms and as I arrived a sound system was being tested. What followed was a joyous P6 leavers’ performance of song, dance, speeches and prize giving.

The teachers and P6 students were all turned out in their Sunday best and the celebrations were watched by an impressive group of invited parents’ committee members.

Mid way through proceedings, my boss, Telesphore, the Director of Education, rolled up. This was quite unexpected, as far as I was concerned, but handy as I hadn’t seen him for a while and he could see I was out visiting one of my schools on a Friday afternoon, not slipping off to Kigali for an extended weekend!

Following the obligatory Fanta break, Telesphore, open necked in ‘designer’ jeans and trainers, (‘dress down Friday’ has obviously reached Rwanda)  made a speech during which he exhorted the P6 leavers to work hard at improving their English.

It was obviously thirsty work as immediately he had finished I was invited to retire to Flora’s office for a ‘quiet word’ which consisted of chewing the fat (literally) over a bowl of melanje and downing my second Mützig of the day.

Daniel arrived at 5.00pm for our homeward journey in the final glowing embers of the day. As I bobbed along on the back of the moto, feeling just a tad queasy, I felt quite elated and privileged to have spent such an uplifting day in the company of the students and staff at Nyamateke and Nyabitare schools.

Chance encounters…….
October 27, 2010

This week has been very slow. Being exam week, and the final week of the Rwandan academic year, heads and teachers are so tied up that school visits would be rather pointless. Although on Friday afternoon Nyabitare School have kindly invited me to their end of year ‘celebrations’ which will no doubt be an enjoyable occasion.    

As an interesting aside, Wellars, the head at Nyamateke  had told me that he would not be available as he would be at Nyarabuye Secondary School, all of this week, with his P6 students who have to sit their important external exams. He explained that for most this would entail a daily return cross-country trek, up hill and down dale, of up to 10km.  They will need to leave home at around 6.00 am to be sure of arriving by 8.00 am to register for a test which begins at 9.00 am.  

Somehow I can’t imagine Y6 pupils in the UK, or more to the point their parents, agreeing to such an exhausting schedule during SATs week!     

Most of my time this week has been spent preparing booklets and visual aids for three workshops I’ll be leading, during November: ‘Ten Steps to Creating an Effective Classroom’, ‘A Ten Step Guide to Lesson Planning’ and a ‘Classroom Observation Guide’ – maybe rudimentary stuff for teachers in the UK but essential ingredients of school improvement out here.   

Technology at the District Office is not the most reliable but this morning I took a chance and went along to print off and photocopy my workshop materials only to find paper was in very short supply. As I was going to need quite a large amount I went in search of some. I didn’t hold out much hope given that shopping in Nyakarambi is a bit of a lottery.

It is not always easy to tell what is sold in any given outlet from the often misleading signs they display but once within their dark interiors many of them turn out to be, what you might call, ‘general stores’ stocking an often random selection of goods.

As luck would have it I bumped into a Victor, a secondary school English teacher, I had been introduced to some time ago. Having gone through the whole hand shaking greetings ritual, which is so important here, I explained my quest and he immediately led me off to an unprepossessing looking shop where, sure enough, three reams of photocopying paper sat on the shelf along side a tins of sardines and packets of Nice biscuits – two very popular luxury items in these parts!   

The next hurdle, as always, was negotiating an acceptable price. 3000 RWF suddenly became 3,200 when the lady in the shop saw she was dealing with a muzungu but having, to my surprise, located such a rare commodity as photocopying paper I wasn’t about to haggle over 20 pence!

With mission accomplished I was by now feeling a bit peckish and set off up the high street to Auberge Ikirezi. The mainly French-speaking staff here are always very friendly and it has a pleasant open courtyard to the rear. More importantly I have recently discovered this is the only place in Nyakarambi where I can get a proper cup of icyayi, hence I’ve become a bit of a regular.  For the princely sum of 600 RWF (60p) they provide a china mug, two tea bags, a thermos of hot water and amandazi (a local type of doughnut).

As I headed back from town towards the District Office I enjoyed my second chance encounter of the morning. A young lad greeted me with a confident, ‘Good morning, how are you?’ and quickly fell into step introducing himself as fourteen year old Gwsenga from the local secondary school. He had finished his exams and had ‘free time’ now until he collected his results on Friday.

Gwsenga had only been speaking English for two years, having previously been taught in French, and I was surprised how fluent he was. He accompanied me for the rest of my journey, during which time he told me he liked English but wanted to improve. He was working hard at his studies and was fortunate that his parents were able to support his secondary education by growing pineapples which were sold on to markets and retail outlets in Kigali.

Gwsenga’s family live near the local medical centre and one day he hopes he can become a doctor and help cure the many ill people he sees around him in his country. He told me that he had been a little bit frightened to approach me, a white person, but he wanted to practice his English and could we exchange email addresses so that we might correspond when I return to England. I was pleased to do so.      

I was most impressed by Gwsenga. Bright young men and women like him, with a social conscience, who are motivated to improve themselves, through education, can provide a bright future for this developing nation.

Five Go Wild In Akagera!
October 24, 2010

Once upon a time in Rwanda, five VSO volunteers, Abdel Illah, Cathy, Louise, Mark & Phil, had a spiffing idea. They thought it would be a great jape to hire a four-wheel drive vehicle and spend a day on safari in nearby Akagera National Park.

They were assisted with their plans by a local friend, Msafiri, who arranged for a large Toyoto Land Cruiser to pick them up at six o’clock on Saturday morning from Cathy and Louise’s house in Kibungo.

It meant an early start for the five intrepid volunteers but they were all so excited they could hardly sleep, especially Abdel and Mark who spent the night on sofa cushions in the living room. Everyone was ready and raring to go when Innocent, their driver for the day, arrived.

Cathy and Louise had prepared and packed a special Rwandan Safari picnic, fresh baguettes filled with cheese or honey, juicy red tomatoes, sweet ripe bananas, scrumptious green apples, chocolate and coconut biscuits, and bottles of water for everyone.

There were concerns about the weather because on Friday afternoon it had rained none stop for over four hours. Everyone wrapped up well and packed their waterproofs but by the time they reached the northern, Nyungwe, park gate the early morning mist had cleared and layers of warm clothing were being peeled off and replaced by safari hats and sunglasses.

Safaris aren’t cheap and the five travellers had been saving up their VSO pocket-money for the eagerly awaited wild day out at Akagera. Once the tickets had been paid for, their guide, James, showed them a large map of the national park and pointed out the route they would be taking as they drove south towards the Akagera Safari Lodge exit.

He also told them lots of interesting information about the park which covers 1,085 square kilometres and takes its name from the Akagera River that runs along its eastern boundary and forms the border with the country next door, Tanzania.

The four-wheeled drive had a special pop up roof which meant they were all able to stand up and look out for animals as they bumped their way along the narrow dirt tracks.

Mark, a keen ornithologist, had brought his binoculars and was soon displaying his expertise, excitedly identifying many brightly coloured birds from a checklist of 550 species! There were lilac breasted rollers, woodland kingfishers, hornbills, fluorescent blue starlings, tawny eagles and fish eagles perched up high, the grotesque marabou stork and the noisy bare-faced go-away bird, with its distinctive call, to name but a few.

James was a very friendly and knowledgeable guide, answering many questions from inquisitive Mark as well as helping Cathy with her homework by patiently spelling out the names of all the animals in Kinyarwanda so that she could write them in her exercise book.

Louise had come with her own I Spy Safari Animals  hit-list  in anticipation of ticking off those she  spotted. By the end of day there were big ticks for giraffes (her favourite), zebra, water buffalo, hippos, baboons, vervet monkeys and many different kinds of antelope including impala, topi, oribi and water buck.

She was rather disappointed that the elephants were hiding away (although there was the consolation of seeing some big piles of elephant pooh) and that the last remaining pair of lions in the park, who have not been seen for some time, had once again failed to put in an appearance.

Abdel Illah contributed his usual range of insightful observations displaying his Gallic charm as he happily munched his way through a box of biscuits. Phil contented himself by taking many photographs with his long lens camera. He was particularly happy when he got a shot of an adult and young hippo wallowing in the lake, mouths yawning wide open.

The zebra proved very popular with everyone and prompted a great debate as to whether they were white with black stripes or black with white stripes! Zebra were also the winner of the ongoing quest to find the fastest animal of the day.

There was an exciting moment when James shouted out, ‘Look!’ and Innocent braked hard as a black mamba snake slithered across the track, in front of us, and away into the grass. James told everyone that if they were bitten by this highly poisonous green snake (with a black mouth) they would be dead in fifteen minutes!

It had begun to rain by now and that seemed to be as good a point as any at which to end the safari. As the light began to fade Innocent headed back to Kibungo, dropping off the five weary and ravenous volunteers at St Joseph’s tea shoppe, where they were soon tucking into omelette, brochettes, salad and crinkle cut chips served with salt, vinegar and tomato sauce. And of course there were lashings of Mützig and Primus. A perfect end to a perfect day!

Co-operative Kakira – Art Imigongo
October 19, 2010

My services weren’t required in school today so having paid a cursory visit to the District Office to use their printer I decided to walk into town and pick up some MTN air time.

Tuesday is a market day and Nyakarambi becomes a cacophony of sound and a riot of colour with people thronging to and fro along the main road. The ladies in their brightly patterned skirts and head dresses, many with babies strapped to their backs, stride along balancing all manner of wares upon their heads while some ride side-saddle perched on the on the back of bicycle taxis.    

The men and boys push their bicycles up the hill laden with such diverse goods as hands of bananas, cane furniture, lengths of corrugated metal and sugar cane.  

It is the men who generally deal with the livestock, leading bleating goats tethered to lengths of rope or clutching struggling chickens by their feet. They also specialise in trading bicycle parts which take up a large area on the periphery of the market.

The sun was shining but there was a pleasant  accompanying breeze rustling through the banana plantations  on the edge of town so I took a spur of the moment decision  to extend my walk to the Co-operative Kakira – Art Imigongo centre about 2km along the road towards Rusumo.

I had read about it before I came and have passed it regularly on the moto ride to and from school but this was first real opportunity to pay a visit.

The south-eastern part of Rwanda is renowned for its Imigongo (cow-dung) ‘paintings’ with their striking geometric patterns. Their origins stretch back to the early 19th century when Kakira, the son of the King of Gisaka in Kibungo Province, invented the art as a means of brightening up the interior walls of houses to make them more attractive.

It was an art form born of mixing together the earth, fire, cow dung and certain medicinal plants.

Cow dung was used to form patterns with prominent ridges which were painted in red (from the natural clay with ochre) white (from kaolin) and black made from the sap of the aloe plant and mixed with the ash of burned banana skins and the fruits of the solanum aculeastrum plant.

Over the years the old skills were gradually disappearing with the introduction of industrial paints etc. so a women’s association was formed to maintain Kakira’s original art form. Following the genocide the women, most of them now widows, re-launched their work making around twenty pieces a month.

In recent years the association has benefitted from improved marketing and many more pieces are being created, a large number of them to order.

When I visited half a dozen ladies were sat cross-legged on on the floor of a shaded veranda, moulding  dung in their fingers and applying it, in the early stages of creating a number of new ‘pictures’. It is a multi layered process and once an order is placed it takes at least two weeks to complete.

I was tempted to buy two pop art style geometric designs which I hope Chris will be pleased to display chez Aldridge!  A little bit of earthy Rwanda in leafy Worcestershire.

Seeds of Peace at Lake Muhazi
October 18, 2010

Lake Muhazi is 60 km long but nowhere is it wider than 5km. Its serpentine shape is broken by numerous spidery tendrils stretching along former tributaries. It is a pretty, if not beautiful, lake with abundant bird wildlife (or words to that effect so says the Bradt Guide).  

The eastern end of Lake Muhazi is just under two hours north-west of Nyakarambi by express  mini-bus and about  three  hours  normal service as Mark and I  found to our cost on the return journey.

Saturday morning dawned dull and threatening but we set off around 8.45 and headed for our appointed rendezvous, with four fellow volunteers, at Kayonza bus station, about 8km from our final destination.

The Bradt Guide is less than flattering in its description of Kayonza; “this small, rather scruffy settlement …situated 78km from Kigali” which “serves as a passable base for exploring Lake Muhazi and Akagera National Park.”     

I would agree that it falls into the unremarkable category but ‘scruffy’ is harsh. Rwanda is an incredibly clean and litter free country and I haven’t been anywhere that warrants that epithet.

Our weekend companions were running late (the ladies had problems with their packing!) so there was time to discover the small unprepossessing but clean Café Al Rahmaan, run by a very pleasant and welcoming Muslim gentleman.

We ordered a late breakfast of tea and amandazi. Amandazi approximate to doughnuts but without any sugar-coating or jam in the middle. Let us say they are substantial, suitable for dunkin’ and fill a hole. 

African tea is an acquired taste and not to my liking. It is made with hot milk, sugar and ginger served in a huge thermos, as do all hot drinks. Some flask manufacturer with an eye for the main chance made a killing out here.

It took me three attempts to get unadulterated tea made with hot water, no milk, sugar or ginger, but we got there in the end. When the bill arrived it was itemized as dry tea!   

As soon as our friends clambered off the bus from Kibungo we immediately hopped on board another for the ten minute drive to the lake and our accommodation at the Seeds of Peace Centre. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but the centre had come well recommended and it didn’t disappoint.

It was situated directly on the lake shore. Mark and I shared a well maintained, recently decorated rondawel style chalet, with a large living area, separate bedrooms and a bathroom with a hot shower.  A veranda offered extensive views across the lake and was ideal for bird watching. One night with breakfast cost us the princely sum of 10,000 RWF (£10.00) each!

Lake Muhazi is a twitcher’s paradise and during the course of the weekend we saw kites, a grey crowned crane, pelicans, numerous pied kingfishers, and bright yellow weaver birds that make the most delicate of nests which hang from the branches like Christmas decorations.

We also spotted, spotted neck otters gliding and diving backwards and forwards from the reedy shoreline.

The ‘Seeds’ or ‘Pipes of Peace’ as we rechristened it, after a memorably dodgy number from the McCartney catalogue, is run by the Episcopal Church and the people were extremely friendly. Unfortunately it was dry.

However we had done our homework and a couple of hundred yards down the road was the Jambo Pleasure Beach where we were welcomed by two large wooden giraffes framing the gateway to a lakeside bar and restaurant with a penchant for country and western music. I lost count of how many times I heard Joline and Coward of the County!   

The weather could have been better. There were several downpours but Sunday morning was bright and sunny for a couple of hours. It was long enough for a leisurely walk around the fringes of lake, where the locals were fishing, doing their laundry, or following the strange muzungus and trying to engage them in conversation.   

Finally, there was just time for a Jambo special toasted cheese sandwich with chips coated in spicy tomato sauce and one last ice-cold Mützig before we made tracks back to Nyakarambi. It had been a very pleasant, and indeed peaceful, weekend, enjoyed by all.

                 

I bless the rains down in Africa!
October 14, 2010

Toto’s lyrics came to mind today. The short rainy season is now well and truly with us. The temperature has dropped slightly, although it’s still short sleeve weather for muzungus and the only need for a sweater is to keep out the mosquitoes during the evening.   

Luckily, so far, I’ve managed to avoid a real drenching. Earlier this week I set out for Nyabitare School in bright sunshine but as we headed over the hills, the dark storm clouds gathered and my motorbike helmet visor was being spattered with the first drops of rain as I arrived about two minutes ahead of an absolute deluge.

It’s final revision week in schools with the end of year exams starting next Monday so they are all very busy. The children finish at the end of October but the teachers are required in school throughout November and December for in service training.

This week I’ve been doing some school development planning with my two head teachers which involved translating their existing long-term strategic plans for 2010-2012 from French into English! Actually it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it might be.

Today I was working at ‘home’ mulling over some ideas for forthcoming workshops on lesson planning and creating an effective classroom environment when I heard the first ominous rolls of thunder accompanied by distant flashes of lightning. Within a few minutes the sky had darkened, the wind was whipping up the red dust and buffeting the surrounding trees, bending the banana plants almost double.

Then the heavens opened, the rain hammered on the corrugated metal roof, cascading into the concrete gully that surrounds the house sending blood-red rivulets spilling across the open ground. The torrent  lasted for about 15 minutes and then it stopped as suddenly as it had begun.

That is pretty much the pattern of things at the moment, but the rain is obviously much-needed in this, the driest corner of Rwanda.

‘It was the trap and the peanut wot done it!’
October 14, 2010

Since moving  into our new premises we have been aware that we are not alone. The tell-tale signs of rodent companions soon became evident.

They seemed to take a particular liking to our bananas but we have managed to keep our food out of harms way by either storing it in sealed plastic containers or keeping it in bags which are suspended from a couple of six-inch nails that Claude hammered delicately into the wall!    

He also picked up a rather evil-looking trap from the local market which we positioned by a hole in the corner of the room that appeared to be a main thoroughfare for our furry friend(s).

We baited it first with banana and then with cheese, but without success. On one occasion the cheese had gone but the trap had not been triggered.  Yesterday Claude appeared with a handful of ‘monkey nuts’ which seemed an interesting alternative, but clearly he knows his stuff.

At seven thirsty yesterday evening I was partaking of an early evening drink with John and Abdel -Illah at KMC.  Mark had declined staying at home to finish some work.

My mobile suddenly vibrated into action with an incoming text that said it all: ‘1 dead rat. It was the trap and the peanut wot done it!’  

My response was that I hoped he would haven given it a good Christian burial by the time I got back from the bar!  

This morning King Rat’s lifeless form was to be seen in the pit at the bottom of the garden, where Claude disposes of our rubbish. When I pointed it out to him he smiled knowingly.

Amavubi stars fade as they are stung by Squirrels!
October 11, 2010

To borrow a well worn phrase from an over excited Norwegian football commentator, Paul Kagame, your boys took one hell of a beating! 

In fairness the 3-0 score-line in Benin’s favour was perhaps a little flattering and it could be argued that Rwanda were the better side in a goal less first half. They certainly had the best efforts on goal, including a long-range shot that was acrobatically tipped over, at full stretch, by the Benin keeper and one than came back off a post.

I guess the Amahoro Stadium in Kigali was only a third full, but the 10,000 or so spectators created quite an atmosphere for this African Cup of Nations qualifying game.

Tickets had not been difficult to obtain on the morning of the match, 3000 RWF to sit on the concrete terracing or 5000 RWF (£5.00) for a VIP ticket. This section, either side of the halfway line, had plastic seats and the only shade available in the ground, so that’s what Mark and I opted for.

There were no allocated seats as such and we finished up sharing a row with the local TV, radio and news media which would have been interesting if I could have understood word of their animated reporting.

The game had only been underway for two or three minutes when the whole of the block in front rose to their feet, as one, and began applauding. It was nothing to do with the football, but marked the arrival of the President, sporting a smart/casual look in his open necked black short-sleeved shirt, as he took his seat not more than ten rows in front of us.       

I understand he is a genuine football fan and attends matches whenever he can. I’m sure, given the final outcome, that he will have been disappointed that the Amavubi (Wasps) stars, kitted out in the national colours (yellow shirts, blue shorts and green socks) faded so alarmingly in the second half and that they failed to sting the opposition during a period of ascendency just before half time.

There was, of course, no such thing as a match day programme or even an announcement of the players’ names, although surprisingly there was big screen at one end of ground which relayed the on pitch action.   

The best players on both sides were in midfield and wore the number 8 shirt. Essentially the difference between the two teams was that the Rwandan number 8 struggled in the second half, under closer marking, whilst his counterpart from the Squirrels continued to pull the strings for them.

Benin took control from the outset of the second period and finished with three well taken goals. The first was a speculative long shot, from striker Razak Omotoyossi, which arrowed into the top corner past the hapless Rwandan keeper.

The second was tucked away by Stephane Sessegnon, the afore-mentioned number 8, who I later discovered plays for French Ligue 1 side PSG  and was said to have been on Harry Redknapp’s shopping list earlier this summer!   

The final goal was the best worked of the lot and well finished, by Seidith Tchomogo, following a good build up and an accurate cross in from the right hand side.     

The buzzing vuvuzelas were finally silenced and it was time to follow in the slip stream of PK and beat a hasty retreat to the local bar for a Mutzig (à la pression!) and bit of post match analysis.

*Goal scorers names and details supplied courtesy of the BBC Sports website!

Alexis’ corner of Rwanda
October 7, 2010

Kirehe is the driest district in Rwanda and although we are in the ‘short wet season’ (September to December) there has been precious little, much needed, rain until yesterday when the heavens opened with two short but torrential storms accompanied by rolling thunder.

Luckily I managed to avoid both of these on my moto drives to and  from Nyamateke, where I spent three hours or so with the  headteacher, Wellars,  sorting out an  Action Plan for the remainder of my placement.  It looks like over the next three weeks I will be providing him with management support for writing a new school development plan and possibly some help with ICT if he can get his laptop up and running.

That will take us up to the end of the school year. Thereafter, during the month of November, I will spend the final four weeks of my placement providing in-service training sessions for his staff, a mixture of education methodology and some English sessions based on themes of their choice.

Today I go through the same action planning process at Nyabitare but I suspect it will be a much slower process as Flora, the head, speaks French but very little English.

Daniel, my usual moto driver, got a puncture yesterday so I was picked up by Alex (Alexis). I had met him a few times but only been on his bike once before. This was a free ride he gave me one evening when he saw me walking into Nyakarambi. As he was headed in the same direction direction he kindlystopped to give me a lift, insisting there would be no charge. 

Alex is very proud that he owns two cows. Cows are extremely significant in Rwanda. They are tangible assets, a sign of prosperity and of course a source of milk.  As we were driving along he suddenly pointed out a small clay brick, cement rendered property with a corrugated metal roof. Next to it stood a rustic wooden  shelter, home to his pride and joy.   

This was Alexis’ corner of Rwanda, just off the dust track, part of a small settlement on the edge of a banana plantation, with wonderful views across the valley.   

He pulled over, parked up his moto and led me across to take a look at his long horned cow and calf. I was taken into his house and introduced to his wife and two young boys. The oldest of them had recently started school in Nyakarambi.  Alex explained who I was in Kinyarwanda and primed him to greet me in English which he did with, “Good morning teacher!”   

Alex’s wife then appeared with two jugs of piping hot boiled milk, from the family cow, and a plate of rice and beans which Alex and I shared. The milk was served in large mugs with a heaped spoonful of sugar.

Alex passed me the family photo album, largely pictures of his wedding and some of him going through exercises in combat gear. He told me had been in the army for 15 years and is now 30. It is therefore highly likely that he was a boy soldier with the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front) during the aftermath of the genocide, which was probably borne out by another photograph in the album, that of Paul Kagame.    

It was a very kind of Alex, who I barely know, to take me to his home in this way and I felt very privileged to have met his family and to have shared lunch in this way. I took a few photographs of Alex and his boys. He is very relieved to have sons as apparently girls are too troublesome!

With this most unexpected and enjoyable interlude to my journey over we carried on to Nyakarambi.