Saturday, August 27, 2011

BIG MAMA VISITS

On Wednesday Helen Claire, the Director of WorldTeach, who is in charge of the programs in all 20 countries they operate in, was to come over to Ngara for one night after meeting with the government in Rwanda to formalize details for starting the program there.  We wanted to clean up our house for her, but, alas, the water went out again so we only got to sweep the floors.  Thank goodness Bree's cat, Poa, is getting pretty good at going to the bathroom in the shower instead of our living room rug.  Don't know how he learned that, but when we go in to go to the bathroom he often comes in and does his thing at the same time, so it must be learning by example.  Having cats go to the bathroom in your shower does not sound great, but a big improvement over the rest of the house!  The shower hasn't worked since we have been here, anyway.

We expected Helen Claire to come around 6 so she could see our house then have dinner in the canteen at 7:30.  We did not have her phone number so were unable to call her.  Their car apparently broke down at the Rwanda border.  They were able to get it going again, but it broke down again right when they got into town, next to the petrol station where they were supposed to meet Bree.  They were able to see the station right before the power in the whole town went out, and everything was suddenly pitch black, except for the gorgeous stars in the sky.  Helen Claire said she tried to call Bree about six times en route, but her cell phone apparently could not connect in the rural area. 

So about 8 p.m. Bree got a piky piky to the station to meet them and show them the way to our compound.  There was apparently some discussion about leaving one person behind so the car was unattended, but Bree finally convinced them that we have a low crime rate here and the car would be fine.  So they showed up at Afriline by taxi around 8:45.  The prepared dinner was on the cold side, but everyone was hungry enough to do it justice.  We ate by candlelight, since there was no power.  The visitors were tired and in a rush to get to their "hotel" as their driver was threatening to walk there.  So they left after about 20 minutes and not much conversation.  Bree accompanied them to their room at Womencraft, a local NGO that sells baskets made in the villages, where Bree had arranged for them to stay.

The power was on the next morning, but still no water.  Bree met Helen Claire and her companion, Susan, at Womencraft and walked with them to her school.  Her students were prepped to give a little "Welcome Helen Claire" speech that was well received.  They then came to Ngara Secondary School and met me.  I had kept my Form 1C students for 3 periods, hoping the visitors would come and be able to see me teach, but they arrived about 15 minutes after I finished.  I had taught "occupations" and had the students play "What's My Line" so all my writing was still on the board when I took them to visit the class.  My students had a free period and swarmed the visitors instead of the very organized reception they got in Bree's class.  The students finally sat down and got introduced, but Helen Claire commented on what a "challenge" they were.  I then took the visitors to see the library and one of my other classes, also in free period but not so rambunctious.  There is something about cameras, which Helen Claire, Susan and I were all using, that gets the kids really excited.  I think they rarely have an opportunity to get their pictures taken.  Nobody really misbehaved, but they were definitely a little overenthusiastic.  I think the visitors were charmed, nonetheless, as they really are great kids.


the girls get their heads shaved when they enroll,so no fancy braids here

Susan with the Twins

Bree, Helen Claire, and Susan visit one of my classes

Fellow teachers on break


Unfortunately, Helen Claire has gotten word that her mother passed away the day before (not unexpectedly), so her planned visit to Rulenge to see the classes of Lauren and Allie was cancelled.  She wanted to give plenty of time for the ailing car to get them back to Kigali and the flight home for the funeral in the United States.

I have to say, through all the trials and tribulations of their trip to Ngara (car troubles, power and water failure, cold food, no cold beer, late nights and early mornings, curtailed visit) I never heard a single complaint from either of these older women.  Hopefully their journey home went without a hitch.  But TIA (This is Africa!)


Some of my Form 1B students outside of class.  There are about 40 students in each of my four Form 1 streams.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

WATER TRIALS

I came back from Kigali (6 1/2 hours bus and shared taxi) to find that the water had come back on briefly, but was out again.  I went several days without a shower.  Luckily the weather has been cool.

 I walked home from school one day and it was pouring rain.  I didn't have an umbrella but my pashmina protected my face from the water and kept me warm, even though it got soaking wet.  My shoes took 3 days to dry out.  Heavy storms and dirt roads are not a good combination, especially with a little thunder and lightning thrown in.  The roads are usually bustling but almost no one was seen walking or driving.  No motorcycles or bicycles in sight, and no taxis.  Only stupid mzungos (white people) walk in the rain, I suspect.  It wasn't raining when I left school, but the storm lasted for a few hours after I got home.  Usually they are over quickly, which is why I kept walking.

One of my teachers is helping me deal with the plumber in Swahili, trying to get our kitchen sink drain that was running directly onto the floor fixed (he took a week and a half to get there and do it)  and to get hot water hooked up in our shower.  He arranged for the plumber and electrician to meet at our house on Saturday, but only the electrician showed up, and he can't do anything until the plumber makes a connection in the shower pipe for the heater.  My teacher friend came to my house with him when he came to fix the sink, and has called him several times about the other, but the plumber often doesn't even answer calls or texts.  Tanzanian time, again.

I went to Rulenge for fellow WorldTeach volunteer Lauren's 23rd birthday celebration.  I was alone since roommate Bree and neighbor Rob had gone out the night before to bake the birthday cake.  I walked the 40 minutes to Ngara town then it took over an hour in a shared taxi (sharing the front bucket seat with a man this time; my leg fell asleep from having the circulation cut off).  They had arranged a party at Mama Penda's restaurant, which was a walled in outdoor compound and very pleasant.  I met several of her teachers and her headmaster, as well as her and her roommate's piky piky drivers, who were invited.  They were pleasant young men, and when we were told we would have to stay there overnight because there were no taxis available, they got a friend to take us back to Ngara.  So we were able to make it to school Monday morning.  It cost us 40,000 shillings to come back, though, versus 3,000 each to get there.

Another week has come and gone, and still no plumber.  We had a dinner party last night with about 7 Mzungos.  Jeremy is a medical student here for two weeks from Australia and Amy is a new Womencraft recruit from Chicago.  Everyone was under 30 except me and "other" Rob, a 40+ missionary from Australia who is staying in Murguanza with his wife and 3 young children.  He was happy to be able to have a beer with us in our home, since the diocese does not allow him to drink in public.  Bree made her aunt's cabbage salad recipe and we had rolls she found on her way home.  There were supposed to be peanuts in the salad, but Rob and Vanya reported that the usual sources were not around so they could not get any.  Protein is severely lacking in our diet, but at least we are trying to eat more vegetables.