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Entries "February 2008":

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

No eggs, no dairy, no wheat

Big thanks to the family for all the gluten-free treats you sent out!  I've been trying to ration them out slowly but never have rice cakes looked so appetizing!  I had some brown rice pasta last night and it was the first time in months that I had had pasta!  I shared some chocolatey things with other visitors, but the cashews are securely hidden in my cupboard.  Dad, we've been watching the movies.  In fact Elson's seen them both twice... I've only seen one once.  Things are starting to truck along nicely at work.  We did an 'English Fun Workshop' this last weekend and had a good time.  I was counting and I think it was the ninth English workshop I've done in Rwanda.  Antonia, Annemiek and I work so well together now that we don't really prepare much.  We just use code words to convey what happens next and to build the timetable.  To other people I'm sure it makes no sense:  "Cathie, you'll do Sebasunga right?", "Yeah but first we're going to speed date.", "Oh right, do you want to ...?", "Annemiek'll do it, I'll bring the ...", "Right, so first Welsh, then the cat, the clinic, and fruit salad", "Roger that, over and out." 

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Written by: cathie78    in: My travelblog
Here's a long one to make up for my negligence


It's 2 :30 in the afternoon and it's hailing for the third time this week!  Hail!  In the 2 and a half years that I've been here it had only hailed once before and now 3 times in one week!  Never mind the fact that it's February and should be the short dry season.  It's not supposed to rain for another month or two and yet it's been raining consistently for about 2 weeks now!  I can't imagine that anyone is still bull headed enough to say that the world climate is not changing. 

Time to Say Goodbye

I'm on the countdown until home time now.  I figure in five months time I'll be back on Canadian soil.  I can't deny that I'm looking forward to it but not without some apprehension.  First of all I really don't want to leave here without my husband and so I'll ask everyone to keep their fingers crossed that the immigration process moves smoothly and quickly.  Secondly I'm beginning to wonder if I'm ready to be back in Canada again.  Sitting here it's easy for me to fantasize about all the things I'll be able to do, see, eat when I get there but I may be underestimating the powerful culture shock in store for me.  We'll see, but it's time.  I can't stay in this situation anymore.  The job I'm doing now is interesting but it's not where I see myself in the future.  I'm a SECONDARY school teacher at heart, and not in any way a Primary School Specialist.  These six months will give me a newfound respect for my Primary School Teacher friends but I long to be back teaching novels and not teaching how to read.  I'm just ready to go.  Spending Christmas in Rwanda (for the second time) made me miserable this time.  We had a good time, invited Elson's family over for a Christmas dinner but there was nothing in particular that made it seem like Christmas, other than my persistent playing of Christmas Carols to which Elson learned some of the lyrics.  We went swimming at the lake on boxing day and the weather was hot and dusty.  The seasons change from wet to dry but the leaves stay on the trees and aside from the recent hail, nothing more substantial than rain falls from the sky.  I miss the changing seasons, the flocks of birds heading south, the red and orange leaves, that crisp feeling in the air that tells you that fall is coming, the damp earthy smell that tells you Spring has arrived. 

Sore Bum

Enough nostalgia!  I'm off to visit another Primary School tomorrow with my new fellow volunteer Bruce.  We've been to visit 3 already, 2 way out in the countryside.  We went on the backs of motorbikes which took us about 2 and half hours each way.  The first time the muscles in my hips and back were burning so much that I felt like I was going to faint when I finally stepped off at the school.  Children from the kindergarten were shouting out the window in delight when they saw the two of us roll up.  I observed some lessons and chatted to some teachers while Bruce did an administrative inspection of the school.  At noon I reluctantly climbed back on the back of my moto and grimaced the whole way home.  When I told this to Annemiek, a veteran moto rider, she told me I was probably fighting it too much.  That I needed to relax.  Relax.  Right.  Not an easy thing to do when you're bumping and swerving over a rocky dirt track but the second time I tried it.  Every time I felt my thighs and hips tensing I said "Just relax, relax, relax".  It's hard to relax muscles when they're holding you upright but I remembered an old singing teacher who used to tell me lift my cheekbones.  Impossible I thought but if you just consciously say "Lift cheekbones lift!", well, they do!  So I just kept saying "relax, relax, relax" and though I was stiff by the end of the day I had none of the burning pain of the week before.  In any case, with the rainy season surprising us in early February, we've decided to visit two close schools this week.  My behind is very thankful. 

Where to Work        

Elson is now working at GS Shyogwe, a local secondary school where students specialize in Math and Physics.  He's teaching Physics.  He got a job there at the beginning of January but has danced back and forth to other schools a couple times now.  After getting the job at Shyogwe he found out that the government had changed the rules.  You see teachers are paid by how much education they have.  If you have only finished secondary school and are in University you're paid 35 000 rwf a month (about 70 bucks).  If you have a bachelor's degree, then, as of last year, you are paid 120 000 rwf a month (about 240 bucks a month).  Elson just finished his bachelor's degree and should be paid the full salary but the ministry realized that they didn't have a big enough budget to accommodate all the newly graduated teachers so they decided that schools could only pay the same number of BAs as they did the year before.  At Shyogwe Elson's replacing someone who didn't have a BA and so is not entitled to the full salary.  After a week of work he was called and offered a job at a technical school.  They were going to pay him a full salary.  So, he rushed over to discuss with the school but they wanted him to teach a course that he doesn't know anything about.  After trying to negotiate for different courses, he simply told the director that he couldn't work there.  Elson in the meantime had been offered another job at a private school.  He went there only to find that the post had been filled while he was negotiating with the technical school.  So back to Shyogwe he went.  The school agreed to up his pay out of their own budget and now the ministry is seeing that they can afford some more BAs and so he's busy getting his documents and diplomas together to maybe get his full salary after all.  People spend so much time tracking down documents at University and discussing with people at the District office that it's a wonder any teaching gets done at all.  After all that, the technical school has started stalking Elson begging him to come and work for them as they don't have teachers even for the courses he is qualified to teach.  He's decided they're not worth the trouble.

            Our House

Our house in Gitarama is good.  It's got a pretty garden and a bright, spacious sitting room and dining room.  We have two spare rooms and a flush toilet!  The only real problem is that we don't seem to have running water a lot of the time.  It comes on sporadically and until yesterday we only had it about an hour a day.  Maybe all this rain is causing a shift because we've only been without it for an hour a day today and yesterday.  I bought myself a two burner hot plate so I'm cooking on electric mostly with the occasional need for charcoal.  The only problem with that is that the hot plates I bought are cheap and Chinese and give off mild electrical shocks.  It's something I'm learning to live with and Elson (who should know as he studied electricity) assures me that it's not dangerous.  Nonetheless I stir with a wooden spoon.  We had a boy called Joseph who lives out back and takes care of dishes and last minute runs out to the shop.  We have a guard named Oswald who lurks sleepily in the dark corners of our yard at night.  And finally we have Chantal who comes in three times a week to do laundry, go to the market, cook beans and clean house.  Yes, gone are the days of Sylvester.  I've moved up in the world with three staff but I'm sure in the end it'll be cheaper given how much Sylvester used to eat.  Also none of them speak English or French so my kinyarwanda may improve.  When the earthquake happened, I came home and asked Joseph how he was.  Then I put my hands out in front of me and shook them.  He said "Yes."  Then I said "Ariko nta kibazo?" (But no problem?)  He confirmed that there was indeed no problem.  One day, after coming back from my long motorcycle ride, I wobbled into the yard carrying my motorcycle helmet.  I saw Chantal and Joseph in the yard and they looked quizzically at me and my helmet.  I said "Uyumunsi ngiye iRongi, kure kure kure" (Today I go to Rongi far far far).  They both nodded and had a prolonged discussion in Kinyarwanda about where this Rongi was.  Eventually I said "Ndananiwe" (I'm tired) and walked into the house.  It was enough really.  It's amazing how much you can communicate with a little vocabulary.  I need to learn the past tense though.  Joseph does find it confusing when I want to know if Chantal has been in and I say "Chantal ari hano uyumunsi?"  (Chantal is here today?)  He looks at me as though I'm blind and says, no she went home. 

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Written by: cathie78    in: My travelblog
Wednesday, 06 February 2008


I have been scolded by Antonia for now writing more about the wedding on my blog.  She's right but I'm not sure what to add.  It was a beautiful day, I had to do my wedding vows in Kinyarwanda, we had Rwandan traditional dancers at the reception.  The day before the wedding, at the dowry ceremony, my father did an outstanding job of negociating my brideprice and we got 5 virtual cows as a result!  I think Antonia has written up something nice on her blog so check that out!  I'll try to post more pictures but I'm also on Facebook now and so my technology hours are very divided.  Elson and I have settled into our routines in Gitarama, he's teaching at a Secondary School and I'm working at the District offices and at a Primary school.  I'm organizing trainings way out in the countryside that will require that I stay over at some distant Parishes as they are far from any town, hotel, or the like.  We are eagerly waiting some confirmation about the immigration application we sent in December but no news as of yet.  The earthquake that rattled Southern Rwanda was felt by everyone but luckily we were not anywhere near the centre.  We've just had a wicked rainstorm and the electricity in this internet cafe keeps flicking on and off.  It even hailed!  That's all for now.

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Written by: cathie78    in: My travelblog