Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Everything Else

Continuing the catch-up.

The day after returning from Karongi and depositing internationals with their homestay families, we were off to visit the ministries. Got a great group photo with the Minister of Health, and another with Rwanda Development Board, both of whom were extremely welcoming and generous with their time. Both of whom have extremely long tables.

Ministry of Health


The next day we were off on a four hour round trip to the Eastern Province to visit the Prison Fellowship's reconciliation village. You can read an article here. It's a faith-based village where both victims and perpetrators of the genocide live side by side, work together, eat together, and so forth. They fed us with corn and bananas from their fields and we heard testimonies from members of the village, explaining how their lives had changed and become better through living side by side. It was one of the few areas of the country where no 'favours' were granted - meaning no one attempted to save any of the Tutsi. The death toll was very high. Which, I think, is what made it a prime focus for reconciliation. 

On the way home, we stopped off at Kayonza, a town I hadn't been through in about seven years. It had changed little. Though there were now a row of public toilets round the back of the petrol station. They provided quite a bit of amusement. You pay 100 to use them, but they are falling apart and the doors only have one handle. When you close the door, it locks! Then you have to shout for a woman to come with the only handle and let you out! I hope she never takes a lunch break.

There was a Liberation Day school parade going past the place we stopped for lunch.

The next few days were wonderfully peaceful for staff. Two days off, then they started volunteer placements for four days. This gave me a chance to catch up on the one sporting event of the year that I am utterly mad about - Wimbledon!

Reclaimed my projector, stocked up on Pringles and Skittles, and vegged out on the sofa.

Andy Murray


I have a huge back wall. Combined with a free VPN, which allows me to access BBC Online, and a little somethin' somethin', my life was bliss. That little somethin' somethin' is the latest technology in Rwanda - 4G broadband. We rented it for the participants at their hostel. I was so impressed that I reached into my pocket and doled out a small fortune for a connection of my own. The website loaded so fast it smacked me in the face! 

I've decided to make a vow, though. I will never, ever again spend this time of year overseas. Wimbledon is best observed on Dad's couch with Doritoes, dip, strawberries and cream. However good 4G is, it does only work when there's electricity. A power out in the last set of a Federer match is not funny.

Small Treat
£5 Worth of Chocolate!

Participants weren't completely abandoned.  We popped round to see them, to make sure they were getting on okay in their placements. On my list, I had the two participants volunteering with the National Paralympic Committee, my old friends from the Disability Coalition/PEPFAR days. Was really great to visit them again at their office in Amahoro Stadium. Looks like they're building a new running track outside.

Amahoro Stadium from a Distance

Also took them on a tour of the US State Department (Embassy to you and me) to find out about what they do in Rwanda. Really interesting to have our refugee participants with us to ask questions.

US Embassy, Kigali
I remember their old Embassy, it was a box. When this happened, it was like a spaceship landed. Their flag was bigger than my office. Still, very interesting to find out more. 

Then it was time for the final day presentation, where we book out a conference room at a local hotel and present to local NGOs and alumni. Followed by a posh dinner in town, combined with impromptu birthday celebrations for our lovely Kiziba refugee participant, and the handing out of completion certificates. Lovely evening, and I took home four days' worth of Chinese take-out.

The next day I met with the team in town for scrummy cakes and coffee whilst we went over feedback and reporting material. Managed to finish just in time to high-tail it across town to lovely Joanna's for home cooked pizza and Wimbledon final on the lawn. A Federer/Djokovic final. Phenomenal tennis all round. Beautiful sunset.

Anyone for Tennis?

Half the kids were off to Musanze and Uganda after the program, a couple went to the airport, including Dechen (teacher) and Meghan. I went there to pay the taxi and ended up hanging with them for a couple of hours, chatting and saying our goodbyes. 

The next day I met my team at Shokola above the library to have a conference call debrief with New York. Halfway through the call, it became apparent that we were in an internet black spot, so we raced motos back to my place and sat on the porch for the meeting. It was a good couple of hours and by the end we were all a bit knackered, so we decided to have a celebratory drink at the shop opposite my house. One turned into three and we were swapping swear words and toasts in our (combined) eleven languages, giggling like lunatics!

"We're going out tonight," my program assistant said. "You should come."

But I'm old and tired and no fun, I was thinking, eyeing my bed longingly.

"You must come!"

"I'll come for a couple of drinks..." I said, reluctantly.

My assistant and I had to sober up for a second 9PM conference call. We pulled it off. Met up after at a bar in town. A couple of drinks.... hmmm. Cue beer, wine, gin and tequila. (Gin shots are what they give you when they don't have any tequila and assume you're drunk enough not to notice - assumed correct). I think we went to four different bars that night, three of them night clubs. I have a photograph of my colleague twerking with a bottle of water on her head! Crawled home at 5AM.

It took me two days to recover. 

Oh, how innocent...


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