Saturday, November 7, 2009

In Country Training 2

November 7, 2009

This week was a fun filled week of training in the big smoke, K-town - Kigali. All 15 of us new VSO volunteers were brought to town to get a refresher of all things important for us to do our jobs. We actually arrived Friday for a meeting but not until Monday did we get to the hotel -- Le Bambou! This was a new hotel that VSO was trying out and it was in the middle of nowhere but in a place that has a great sounding name - Kabagabaga. much fun to say when you've had a few drinks and you're trying to get the moto driver to take you back. We all pulled up and were happy to see each other and share in our new experiences. 

We all gathered and heard and compared horror stories as well as skin concerns. “What are these bites?” and “I don’t know but they look like mine.” Of course there were the “My moto driver is the best because….” and the “My bathroom situation is worse than your’s because….” Whatever conversations we found ourselves in, they were a far cry from what we discussed when we first arrived in August. Then it was comparing flights to Kigali, anit-malaria tablets and jet lag symptoms.

The training was chalk full of sessions information us about what VSO does. We’d all pretty much mastered the keronsene stoves, water filters, saying hello in Kinyawrwanda and the like so now was a chance for us to fully understand out role in the big VSO Rwanda picture. Over all the sessions were okay although too often it turned out to be a time for us to voice concerns and forget to look for solutions. Maybe VSO is the organization that brought us here but it’s certainly not on them to solve all of our problems. Sessions included Education Advocacy, Disability in Rwanda, AIDS and HIV in Rwanda, meeting with representatives from the Education ministry and DFID. We also started every morning with Kinyarwanda lessons and we were split (by our own choice) according to ability. I was in the remedial class. Yes folks, that’s right. From being in the “Enrichment Class” in grade 5 to the redmedial class in Kinyarwanda really did impact my self esteem. However, I now feel much more confident to say “I am going home” and “It’s 6:15” than I did last time round.

The evenings were left to ourselves and because we were so far away we really couldn’t do much. We read and watched some CSI. Wednesday night we went into town and met Dianne and another Canadian for Indian food at Handee. Friday night we all went out on the town to a place called Sundowners which was a challenge to find (but a challenge we were up for!) I had met a Canadian named Ulises who studies in Sweden but is working here. He met us and I think was a welcome addition to the normally heavy-on-the-estrogen group. After Sundowners we made our way to KBC (Kigali Business Centre) which holds a bar named Planet. Yes, stop here to reflect that I went to a bar and arrived at midnight! I do recall someone saying “It’s good to do this once in a while.” And I did the math and realized that it was the first time in two months I’d been to a bar. “This means I have to only do this six times while I’m here!” I said with glee. The bar was sort of like the Legion meets Electric Circus but with worse dressers. It was comedy though and for 1000 francs for a Fanta, it better provide a few laughs. April and I grabbed two motos at about 2am so we could get some sleep. It was a short sleep because we all had to be out by 9am and this early morning wake up call was made worse but the fact that Le Bambou had run out of bloody water. No steaming up the mirror for me this morning!

Chirstine and I made our way to meet up with our new couchsurfing friends Ariane and Dmitri and their two kids. Adrian is 2 and ½ and Lucie is 6 months old. When Adrian was a baby they brought him around the world – couchsurfing the whole way. They treated us to a great pasta lunch and finished off with chocolate and….strawberries!!! WE had such a good visit with them that before we knew it it was 3pm and I was too late to catch a bus home for the market in Kibungo. So, I decided to stay the night in Kigali at good ole St Paul’s. We then met up with a girl from Montreal who is here to do some work with the Ministry of Finance. My French comprehension has no choice to improve but I’m still reluctant to speak. I need to get over that, really. I understand most of what they say but just am too nervous to speak. I’m sure it will come with him. We had a great meal at Sun and Moon and I managed to grab a taxi back to St. Paul in the rain before it really started to come down.


Sunday November 8, 2009

Sunday morning at St. Paul guest house means essentially one thing – waking up to the sounds of church next door. I dare say, though, it’s better than waking up to sweep, sweep, sweep. But the nice thing about St. Paul is the hot showers. Although this morning the “hot” seems to have taken a vacation. Oh well. Then I head to Bourbon to have a coffee and try the internet (which also seems to have taken a vacation) and wait for Christine and Patricia. The girls come and we talk in French and English. Okay, they talk in both languages. I talk in English and listen in French. A woman came up to us because she could tell we were Canadian. She was from Ottawa and had just seen the gorillas. She said it was amazing but was sort of clouded by the fact that on their way back they came upon a serious bus accident and, because they were first on scene, took some victims in their vehicle with them.

Patricia took us out for breakfast at the Serena hotel. It’s so amazing!! There was a pool that had a waterfall as well as beautiful bathrooms and palm trees and tiled floors. I was in heaven. Patricia is here from Montreal working with the Ministry of Finance doing consulting and training. I think she saw that as volunteers we have nothing and wanted to treat us. We’ve given her the phone numbers to some of our friends in Kigali so she can go out and about while she’s here. We left and made it back to Patricia’s hotel before the rain started and were holed up there until it stopped. Caught the bus back to Kibungo and got used to the sights of mud houses and banana trees again. I arrived in the dark to someone waving at us through the window. It was Patrick! He was gathered with all the other moto drivers and had a big smile. “Anna! How are things going?” He’s so great. So we put my suitcase on the bike and he drove me home. I told him all the Kinyarwanda I had learned while away and that I could now phone him and tell him a time in Kinyarwanda (which, when telling time here, is essentially Swahili and so everything is six hours later. Sort of confusing actually). It was so nice to see someone familiar in Kibungo. It was like arriving to someone waiting for me and I felt home. I arrived in the house and turned on the light to….nothing! My power ran out while I was away so I did everything by candlelight and kerosene lantern. I actually hung the lantern in the bathroom and though…wow, if the water wasn’t cold and dirty, and there was a bath and there weren’t spider webs it would actually be very relaxing in here. Well, I had enough juice in my computer to watch an episode of the The Office (which I had downloaded from Paul) and then hit the sack with a Miriam Keyes novel and heavy eyes. Asleep by 9:15 to prepare for a busy week of training and workshop planning.

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