Monday, September 19, 2011

Final Leg

View from our window at Chez Lando
So, after we rushed home for family reasons, we find ourselves back in Rwanda. We now realise how important it is that we complete our placements and do as much as we can in the short time we have left.
There are also places we need to go to and see but who knows whether we will get the chance. Because we were going to be working so hard, we decided to treat ourselves at the weekends. One such treat was a stay in Chez Lando Hotel. It's close to the VSO office in Kigali and they were doing a special deal on their rooms. It's a modern place and we had a great weekend. The room we stayed in was an upgrade and was bigger than the whole of our house in Rwamagana.
Presidential Palace Museum
Whilst we were there we were there, we went to the Presidential Palace near the airport. This is a significant place because it was the home of the President of Rwanda at the start of the Genocide 18 years ago - President Juvenal Habiyarimana. His private plane was shot down on 6th April 1994 and it fell in the Palace and can still be seen in the same position were it fell to this day. The President of Burundi was also on board.
The Museum has an interesting section on the culture and history of Rwanda and particularly about the importance of hairstyles throughout the ages. It has not been renovated or preserved and still has the same furniture which, because of lack of restoration, is literally falling apart. At the top of the building are two chapels - one for the official religion where Catholic Masses where said and the other for the traditional religion. The presidents obviously had a foot in both camps but "never the twain shall meet". The Pope said Mass in the chapel on his official visit to Rwanda. Who knows what was going on next door?
If you want to read more about the Genocide, follow some of these links. It is up to you to decide what is true and not true.


On our return, we were still tempted by the possible move to the new District Office but it never happened. It was almost finished but who knows when we will actually move in.
New District Office almost completed
But, let's face it, the back of a container truck as an office is more of a novelty, a challenge, a talking point and the REAL VSO.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Here we are again

Our 20 minute view over Lake Kivu before departing
Those of you who follow the blog regularly must have wondered what has happened to us. Are we still in the land of the living? Why has Stephen stopped writing? What’s going on? Where are we? Well, it’s been somewhat a hectic seven weeks since the last time I wrote. Great happiness with a visit from our friend Helen (she was in Guyana with us) followed by a rush home for two weeks as Mary’s father was very ill and we wanted to see him and then a week of preparation for workshops.

Our rush home started when, after a week of Helen’s visit, we had planned to go to Lake Kivu over in the west. It’s two buses away via Kigali, through the rolling hills and you eventually get there after 5 or 6 hours travelling. We booked our tickets back for Sunday and were walking to Home St John, a beautiful hostel nestled in an outlet on the lake, when we had the call suggesting that we might come home as Dad was very ill. A difficult decision to make but one that had to be done. So, one hour later we turned round, got the bus back to Kigali and a taxi to Rwamagana where we got our passports, packed and got the plane out the next day. VSO had done a brilliant job booking the flights and because it was last minute we got an upgrade to more comfortable seats and a smaller cabin (both ways actually). We arrived home, a little shell-shocked but in one piece! Dad is doing better now and out of hospital so after 2 weeks we made the decision to return and try to finish our placements. It took over 32 hours to get back to Rwanda because our plane from Nairobi via Bujumbura in Burundi, couldn’t land in Kigali due to fog and had to make the journey back, again via Bujumbura again, where we waited for hours, getting back to Nairobi after six hours on a plane and not travelling an inch
Our House left to Helen and Cam
We’ve decided to come home for good when the third term ends in the beginning of November which means we have 7 weeks left. We are determined to have the maximum impact even though we are returning a little early and so we have planned 7 more Methodology Workshops, 14 Planning Workshops, a two day Deputy Headteachers workshop and have been asked to contribute to a Conference for all Headteachers in the District, delivering sessions on Strategic Planning, School Finance and Performance Management for Headteachers – a tall order, I know, in just five weeks because not much can be done in the last two weeks of term due to exams.

We’ll be flitting about on motos all over the place and delivering workshops almost every day.

Looking at the job

Hard at work
It wasn't going to be just sightseeing. There were schools to be seen, workshops to be done and the sloping container truck office to be experienced.

We went to Groupe Scolaire Nsinda for a discussion with the Headteacher and delivered a workshop on planning in GS Rutonde, both a moto ride away from home.

Happy to meet up in Rwanda
Helen is upright. It's the office that slopes

Nursery children in Centre Cesar
Volunteer classroom building
Proud Headteacher
New Maths
Helen helps out
Evaluation at the end
Stephen breaks down on the way back

A Glimpse of Life in Rwanda

Selecting Fabric in Kimironko Market
Being a former VSO, flexible, adaptable, sensitive and hard working (all the VSO Dimensions) she was able to muck in without any problems. We visited schools, one for a half day Planning Workshop, our District Office with its sloping container truck floor, Lake Muhazi (our own Eastern Province Lake, Akagera of course, the Genocide Memorial Centre, Kigali, Kimironko Market, the sights and sounds of Rwamagana, the local “Solidality Bar”, the Dereva Hotel for a Rwamagana Meal, partook of a “melange” in Centre St Agnes and the aborted trip to Kibuye and lake Kivu.

We had already made contingency plans in case we had to go back and had asked our nearest VSO neighbour, Camilla to take over, if we were not there. As expected, she did a brilliant job and Helen was able to see even more in Kigali and especially Camilla’s Teacher Training College which involved a return trip on a moto over seriuously challenging ground of over an hour each way. Helen, you are a star and for that you are awarded the……

Higher Advanced Rwanda Moto Pillion Rider’s Award

Well Done!

I’ll just let the photos tell the story

Everything you want in Kimironko
Beans Galore!
Sifting Flour

100RWF a bag
Market Day
After going to the market, we went to the Centre Cesar. It's run by a Canadian woman and is a centre for widows and orphans of the genocide. They make artefacts for sale, have a nursery, teach ICT and motor maintenance and sponsor hundreds of children in school.

Widows of the genocide make products for sale in Centre Cesar

Centre Cesar Nursery

To find out more about the Centre Cesar and its work, follow the link below.....In the afternoon, we went on to see the Genocide Memorial Museum in Kigali. Click below for a link to the site. 250,000 Genocide victims are buried there. It is a very tasteful reminder of a very bad time in Rwanda's History 17 years ago, hopefully never to be repeated again.

View over Kigali from Memorial Centre
Highest point in Kigali in the centre of town

Kigali Memorial Centre Gardens
Back home on the Rwamagana bus from Kigali
Bus Park Mayhem!

Helen in Africa

Helen makes herself at home with the facilities
At relatively short notice, our friend Helen decided to visit us here in Rwamagana. She was a Guyana VSO with us and would be up for sleeping in the kitchen as there’s nowhere else. Being an expert guide leader, she knew how to nestle in under the mosquito net with all her stuff laid out on one side so she could sleep on the other just like a tent! Sleeping in the kitchen was no problem. At least she had access to everything she needed. Better than a 5 star hotel.

All the facilities right by the bed
Dormir dans la cuisine. Pas de probleme!
She had to hit the ground running because the day after she arrived, we were up at five and in a 4 X 4 on our way to Akagera, the National Wildlife Park over in the East. It was a great day with many animals around. We were in the same car and the same driver as last time but without the mishaps. The giraffe were more in evidence and we saw most of what the park had to offer except the 100 or so elephants. How such large creatures managed to hide from us, we will never know.

I think the pictures will speak for themselves.

Buffalo taking it easy
Mary enjoys the ride
Nonchalant Giraffe
Enjoying the Safari

 You can see all of the photos in the slide show below.....

Click on the picture below to see all of the photos full size

Akagera with Helen