Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A weekend visiting the King's Palace

I just arrived back in Kibungo on a bus with leaking sulfuric acid and a driver with a lazy eye. But more of that later. It’s been a while and you need an update. Where were we? Oh, right. I turned 31 and you were all here to commiserate with me.


I spent the week working. At schools. On motorcycles. I think I probably bought sweet potatoes and bananas at the market. My power probably went out at least once. As did my water. Probably.


On Friday, Christine and I headed out of the Eastern Province to have a birthday weekend and visit some other volunteers. We arrived in Kibungo on Friday and had a quick lunch before catching the bus to Gitarama. We arrived (and ran into another volunteer in town) went to the bank and then caught motos to Karen’s house. I think I’m pretty tough on a moto but this driver was missing a key element to his protection – the visor of his helmet. Normally, this would not be a problem and might actually improve your vision since the visors typically are cracked and have tape downt he centre to repair it. But this time, driving fast through dirt roads meant that the driver’s eyes were watering and he kept closing his eyes to wipe them. CLOSING HIS EYES WHILE DRIVING A MOTORCYCLE. We would serve all over the road. The road to Shogywe (as with most roads this time of year) are full are puddles, ruts and pot holes because of the rainy season. A skilled driver would have recognized these and planned his path accordingly. There is always a smooth moto path. However, when said driver has his eyes closed, it means not seeing a rut until the last minute and either a) swerving to avoid it, b) bumping over it or c) a combination of swerving but still hitting it which sent me flying off the seat and landing with a ‘thud’ back down. Awesome. We arrived just in time for dinner of ugali (a corn flour mixture) and little fish from the market. Helen joined us from Gits for dinner as did Inka, who is a Dutch girl living in Shogywe and teaching. Her accommodation is the bishop’s old house which includes no less than (I would guess) 12 bedrooms! The place is a maze. It’s a wonder how she remembers to turn off all the lights before going to bed!


Saturday morning we enjoyed a usual breakfast of bread, bananas, peanut butter and coffee but it’s always so much better with company. We headed south to Nyanza – after being charged 1400 for a ticket, the bus pulling up, calling Melanie to ask her the proper price, people yelling and shouting and us wanting to get on the bus that was, uh oh, starting it’s motor…. (For the record, Gitarama to Nyanza is only 1000 Francs).  We arrived and decided to chance lunch quickly before visiting the King’s Palace. Into Sun Life (this place looks good), looking at the menu (is that really necessary in a country where there are five standard things on a menu, and no more?) and settled in to a nice Omelette Special – until Christine found a hair in hers. A storm hit as we were eating (thankfully not on motos) and we waited it out before leaving. We got motos the palace and, umbrellas in hand, took a quick tour. We arrived late and they were only open a few hours and it rainted the whole time but at least our guide offered us a ride to the centre in a bus that was chartered, I think, just for the workers. She even spoke to Melanie to get directions to her house and then to the moto driver to tell him where to go.  She said she’s wait outside of her house and as we pulled along the road you couldn’t miss her (bright red VSO t-shirt and a large rainbow umbrella!) unless you were the moto driver. In that case, you’d stop at the house just before the muzungu. So, we had to clarify that we were actually going to meet the other muzungu. We had a lovely evening and a good meal and even a bit of Waraji (Rwandan gin).


The next morning (Sunday) we spent too much time chatting over breakfast and were rushing to catch the 9am bus to Kigali so we could meet Karen and Victor at Heaven for breakfast. This was an amazing brunch. Like, you know when you have good food and you say “Oh my God! I’m in heaven?” Yeah…like that. Only literally….


I arrived home and enjoyed a quiet evening before…..heading back to Kigali on Monday!


The intention was to be in Kigali Monday through to Wednesday to work on the General Paper curriculum and have a scheduled meeting with the NCDC but Sunday night found out that, for the second time, it had been cancelled. AGAIN! Sarah and I decided to meet Monday anyway to at least complete the curriculum which included dividing the objectives into a three year plan. We did this, enjoyably, at Bourbon where we might have overstayed our welcome but hey! at least the cake was good! We ate brochettes for dinner, enjoyed a Primus and then headed to (ugh) St. Paul.


In the morning we went to everyone’s favourite coffee shop, Bourbon, (after I bought electricity at Nakumatt) where I ordered my usual – French press with milk – and just as I was logging on to Skype and made a run to the bathroom. The good news: it was the first time I’ve been sick in Rwanda. The bad news: They STILL charged me 100Rwf to use the toilet. To be sick! Thanks for the sympathy.


And then, I boarded a bus with, as I said, a driver with a lazy eye, a cockroach on the floor and a jug of sulphuric acid that was on its side infront of me that leaked through the entire journey. When I arrived home I punched in my electricity code and just in the nick of time. I was down to 3 KwH! (I use about 2 per day).


And now it feels like a short week. A few days of school visits and the book swap in, you guessed it, Kigali, on Saturday. 

For all of their faults (fleas, cockroaches, dripping sulphuric acid, bags that go flying out of the back that they thought was locked....) Rwandan busses are extremely punctual...ponctuel...whatever. On time!
Typical Rwanda kitchen - kerosene stove (volunteers) and bag of coal (for volunteers who are brave and patient enough to cook on charcoal)
Eating ugali. 
Rainy day in Nyanza
Two queens at the King's Palace. (Quintessentially Rwanda picture - crooked!)
Traditional milk jugs
The King's Palace in Nyanza
Notice the rain on the sign
Your chariot awaits!
I love moto rides in the rain!

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