Saturday, October 1, 2011

Mr George

Just over 36 hours ago, we heard that Mary’s Father, Jerzy (George) Rozek had passed away quietly with his son John with him after many months, if not years of health problems.

But I don’t want to dwell on those or the hard times he faced as he got older because it’s better to remember a man as he was for most of his life rather than dwelling on the things that brought that first-class life to an end.

George, Mary and Stephen in Krakow, Poland 2006
George, or “Mr George” as I always called him (he was my boss when I worked in his West End Restaurant almost 40 years ago), was the model father-in-law anyone could ever have. He never failed to show respect and enthusiasm for anything we did, he encouraged and admired our work and blessed our marriage by never criticising or showing disapproval of the choices we made in our life. We knew he was proud of us and he always showed it.

But we too were proud of him. As a Polish soldier in the British army in the war in the forties, he helped save our nation from almost certain drudgery and discrimination by his bravery and commitment to what was just. He rarely spoke of it as he started his new life in a new country and brought up his family to fit in and respect that culture. He had a commitment to family life and, although his long working hours often mitigated against it, he treasured the moments he could bring us all together to “be a family”. What greater pleasure could he have than to have all of us around him!

In his work life, he was a professional par excellence. Everything had to be just as it should be in the restaurants he used to run, Everything for the customer but, at the same time, nobody could feel alone in his presence with the charming and welcoming spirit he would show with everyone he met. Lost for words he was not! He was a quality conversationalist, all in his second language. That flowed over into the street on his regular walks when I’m sure he was seen as a character in the local community who always had a word for everyone.

His professional preciseness and ability to care and put people at their ease are traits that I have always held in high regard and admired and ones I have always tried to emulate throughout my working life.

We know your time had come, Mr George, but you will live on in our lives with fondness, love and, most of all, respect!

George as a young man
May you have more than your “Sto Lat” and have perpetual peace knowing that you will be always with us.

Sto lat, sto lat, niech zyje zyje nam.
Sto lat, sto lat, niech zyje zyje nam.
Jeszcze raz, jeszcze raz, niech zyje, zyje nam.
Niech zyje nam!

Back Again!

Coming back to Rwanda was hard but necessary. We decided to have the maximum impact by refocusing our work on delivering as many workshops as we could to as many schools as possible in the short time we had left.

We wanted to try to deliver a “Planning Lessons” workshop and a “Methodology” workshop to all of the schools where we work – about 18 in all and each a half day. We had completed quite a few before we went home. In addition we had a postponed two-day workshop for deputy headteachers to deliver.

Deputy Heads of Rwamagana District hard at work
We felt that the Deputies’ workshop was the pinnacle of our work. We know they created an identity for themselves with our help, embraced the new ideas and challenges and started to understand their true role of enhancing the learning and teaching in their schools with enthusiasm and eagerness.
Well, we managed to do eight of the half day workshops and the one for deputies before we finally had to make the decision to come home after the death of Mary’s father.
We are very proud of what we have done and feel that we have achieved almost all we set out to accomplish. So, we are going home happy and fulfilled with more than a tinge of sadness despite the circumstances.
It’s all so strange really because, despite the challenges, we are pleased with what we have done but we cannot deny it has been hard for a whole variety of reasons at home and here, before and during the placement. We have always felt welcomed by the local community here in Rwamagana but, since we came back just three weeks ago, it has moved up a gear. The friendliness, the chats in the streets, the warmth of the children’s greetings and, particularly, the good wishes of the headteachers and the teachers we work with have made us feel that this is our “Rwanda Home”. But that is not to be, circumstances dictate and we have another life and one pulls against the other and it would have been so hard, having gone to and from Africa three times in less than three months to continue for just a few weeks until the end of term in November.

So, the people of Rwanda and especially Rwamagana, you will always remain in our hearts and we wish you well.