Entries "March 2008":

Friday, 21 March 2008

Friends and visitors and let's not forget electrogaz.

Being based in Butare with more creature comforts than many volunteers have means that I have lots of visitors. I really enjoy this and will certainly miss the constant contact with people both in my house and in casual encounters when I return. It is so easy in UK to spend days without speaking to a soul while this would never be possible in Rwanda. Yes! one can be lonely here but never alone in the way that is all too easy to be in Britain.

On the other hand it is not so easy to make real friendships with Rwandans. This is partly due to the disparity in income and to the cultural and lingusistic differences, and of course to the terrible history but also I think the Rwandan people are difficult to get to know properly and they do discourage intimacy. The friends I have made are all slightly on the edge of society or Congolese - who are much more sociable and outgoing.

The other group of people whom I shall really miss are the bicycle boys and the moto drivers who have become real pals over the time I've been here and about once a week one of them will give me a free ride. This is generosity that I have not experienced from anyone else.

I certainly shall not miss the "Donnez -moi d'argent" or the muzungu calling!

Nor shall I regret no longer having the ghastly monthly ordeal of paying Electrogaz. I went to pay on Thursday not having received a bill since January. I queue to get a handwritten total, queue to pay, am told that the total is incorrect,queue again to have it corrected, rejoin the queue to pay, remonstrate with a cocky young man who pushes in front of me, am told  off  by another bumptious young man so he gets an earful from me, indrawn breaths from everyone  else deeply shocked that a muzungu should address the flower of our youth in these terms - not,I hasten to add in any way abusive-  eventually get to the counter, am told that something else is wrong so have to go to see another man. By now desperation must be evident even to the harridan whom one pays because she tells me to come to the front of the queue and finally it is all over for another month!! I am very happy to think that I shall only have to do this 4 more times and maybe less if I don't get the bills!

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Posted by: Antonia    in: My travelblog
Tree down, birds and monkeys.

There was a glorious, huge and aged accacia tree in the grounds of the Centre. The Directeur has had it cut down, He told me that THEY said it was a health and safety hazzard and told the teachers that it was dirty! In reality I think they wanted firewood for cooking on! I was and am furious and have moaned about this destruction daily since it came down! Many of the teachers are now openly agreeing with me! Good!

A cry like segulls that has puzzled me for a long time has now been identified as being made by ibises as they fly over in the morning from their sleeping place to wherever they spend the day. I also sometimes hear the crested cranes as they fly which is very reminiscent of the same call I used to hear as a child in Kenya.

The birds here are wonderful - I have brilliantly coloured sunbirds which come and tap at my window sometimes and every morning I wake to a wonderful choir of birdsong. I shall really miss all this colour and sound.

When we went to do the University training at the medical school we saw vervet monkeys all over the roofs and fences the hospital. They were extremely  healthy looking with bright eyes and gloosy fur and very unafraid!

Last Sunday I went for a walk by the university fish ponds and throught the arboretum. There were storks nesting by the ponds and in the arboretum a very small dark browny/red antelope which was lovely. It is a very big area, with hardly any one around and some marvellous trees. I can quite see how the universty studnets are reluctant to finish their studies and go out into the hustling bustle of overcrowded Rwanda!

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Posted by: Antonia    in: My travelblog
Dance and Drama!

A wonderful Congolese friend of mine called Sammy has been coming to school the last 2 or 3 weeks to do drama with the children. He is fantastic with them and has them doing exactly what he wants despite having very few signs. Felix, the senior Deaf boy has also startd taking an interest and thinking up little scenarios and working with small groups doing such scenes as drunk husband returns home and beats up wife, girl gets pregnant to the distress of aged parents who finally accept baby and children playing and squabbling over a ball in the playground!

It all provides a fascinating insight into Rwandan society, as seen by the Deaf. The omniprescence of the police, of madmen and of thieves. The incidence of drunkenness and domestic violence and little incidents such as the man cooking the brochettes eating half  before serving them and extremely laconic priests distributing communion while chewing gum! Apparently!

The plan is to hone and polish these performances and then do a grand performance in the local theatre and invite various dignitaries to show what the deaf are capable of. Sammy has influential links!! I hardly need to say that little or no interest is evinced by the management at the school and the wretched women who are supposed to look after the children outside school hours  are hostile to the whole project! According to the older girls they are only interested in gossiping and running after men!

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Posted by: Antonia    in: My travelblog
Term over!

I'm in Kigali marking time until I collect Mair Leverett from the airport so a quick burst of news!

The term finished a bit early with the usual flurry of exams, marking and then a lot of sitting about while the children washed all their clothes!

The last 4 weekends have been busy with trainings of one sort or another: an English weekend with Cathie and Annemiec - lots of singing and nursery rhymes, trainig the teachers of deaf how to communicte with Deaf infants, a day with university students on interactive teaching methods and last Saturdy a day with parents and their deaf children which was really great. It was so moving to see hope dawning in the parents eyes as they realised that their child was not going to be a no- hoper and the delight when they actually got down  on the floor and started playing with them!

English in all classes seemed to go well especially with the older girls who really enjoy the lessons and are so keen to learn more. Some of the teachers do also seem quite motivated to make their other lessons a bit more active too and are trying to put things up on the walls too, so maybe at long last some kind of message is getting through!

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Posted by: Antonia    in: My travelblog