Thursday, 1 June 2017

Blurgh Continuation

What's in the box kitties?

Rescued this not-so little chap from the cats the other day. I was so sure it was dead, but five minutes in the sun and it turned a beautiful shade of green and scuttled off to find lunch - instead of being lunch.


I love my cats. They can look very beautiful, but I hate the fact they kill lizards and bite the tails off geckos. I've got loads of geckos in my house, regrowing their tails. It's horrible to find a tail in your shoe, still wiggling.

Creature of Doom and Destruction

They do help keep the cockroaches at bay, though. I'm having an unpleasant time at the moment for a number of reasons, one of which is dealing with a roach infestation. I've had to fumigate my bookshelf, bathroom and kitchen. I swear the buggers are becoming Doom resistant. Think I'm almost on top of it now. Just need to spray my printer. Seriously. It prints roach poop.

Also, what the feck is this?

It appears to be a grasshopper with the head of a shrimp. It's about as long as my little finger.

Still, better than my friend Maia, whose daughter had a scorpion on her head the other day. I saw a dead one in a village once, but haven't seen a live one here yet. 

Other reasons I'm not so happy at the moment... well, still shaking that cold. It's been a stinker. I only felt really rough for about three or four days, but my ears are full of cotton wool and my nose has that stubborn snot that is more annoying than anything. I just feel a bit glum and lethargic. Been treating myself to take out because I can't be bothered to shop. Just inhaled a bag of sweet fried chicken from the Chinese and now feel twice as lethargic. 

My friend Sameer bought me lunch the other day. We met at rock night. He works on the tea plantations up in Gisenyi. Comes from Assam originally and grew up with tea. He brought me freshly packaged tea, just picked. I didn't realise, but Yorkshire Tea is mostly Rwandan tea.

Tea, Fresh from the Hills

What else has been getting me down? Well, here's one I haven't complained about in a while - RRA, the tax department. After three years, I thought I'd cracked it. Paid my corporation tax without a hitch all last year... then submitted my annual return and got slapped with a massive tax bill for eight times the profit I declared, plus a huge fine. I have fuck all idea what that's about. 

Business tax in Rwanda has reduced me to tears several times over the past few years. Every time I think I have a handle, crap happens. It's so incredibly easy to start a business here, but figuring out the tax system is like trying to do a Rubik's cube blindfolded in an alligator swamp. Trying to get a response from anyone at the tax department is blood from a stone. 

I can't keep doing this, I'll run out of money. So, I've booked an appointment with an accounting firm tomorrow. I should have done this from the very beginning, but idiot me thought, Hey, I have a master's degree and a rudimentary grasp on arithmetic. I've filed my own tax returns for years - how hard can this be?  And this is where over confidence gets you - broke.

I should have called it quits when I went to deregister for VAT and they accidentally deregistered my entire company. I should just have said, Yeah, actually, that's fine. Leave it.

I plan to find out exactly what this latest shenanigans is all about, because it seems a little ridiculous. If it can't be fixed, my plan is to pay it off, close this business, register as a sole trader for consultancy work, then, if the piano business takes off, go into business with Désiré and hire a proper accountant. 

I'm sure that'll be another conversation starter with Immigration, but I'll still be doing the job I got my visa to do, and I'll be doing a second job which nobody else in Rwanda is doing, and hopefully employing more people. The terms of my visa do say I can switch trade - it's an 'entrepreneure visa,' and you can't get much more entrepreneurial than building pianos.

Speaking of which - the one bit of good news this week: Alex is hopefully casting the first string frame any day now! I am super excited. This is a major part of the whole project. It weighed in at 70 kg (11 st), well within the forge's capacity. Weirdly, that might not have been the most heavy part of the piano. The backboard weighs about the same, if not more.

I popped down to the workshop the other day and Alex's team were busy forming the mould for the molten metal. 

He's going to give me a shout once they're ready to go and I'll head over to film it. We did have a guy from the local paper get in contact, but never heard from him again. Guess he'll turn up when we have a full piano to show.

Sadly, another unpleasant thing happened that day. I'd just pulled up on a moto at Alex's workshop. There's a low wall next to it and I heard a clatter and the moto driver stood up in his seat. I didn't know what had happened until I started heading down the path, past the wall. I chanced to see a man lying on the other side of it. I was two seconds away from walking on. People sometimes fall asleep by the side of the road. But I remembered the sound and turned back.

I've just finished reading A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James. When I don't understand something in a book, I go and look it up. Tonight, I just looked up Kitty Genovese. The bit at the end, under Psychological Research - that's what it was like. There were maybe five or six of us standing around just looking at him. It was only for a moment, but I remember looking up to the guys on the balcony, who were looking down. I looked to the woman in the doorway, who was looking out. No one moved. 

I wanted to walk away, thinking someone else would know what to do. I've been in situations like this before, and you never feel more aware of your skin colour or your gender. I've had instances where my whiteness and inability to speak Kinya terrified an injured child more than I helped him, and led to a lot of laughter from bystanders. I've also had an experience where my whiteness, confidence and camera stopped a man beating another man in the street - at least until I left. And many years ago I went to help a guy in the street who seemed incapacitated, who suddenly found his legs and started towards me at speed. Thankfully, I was alert enough to keep my distance and he was too drunk to hit a straight line.

All this shit goes through your head and tells you to stay where you are, but I didn't. 

The poor man was lying on the floor, on top of his shoulder-height walking cane, a white bag clutched in one fist. He was mumbling but nothing I could make out, so I asked in Kinya if he needed help. I didn't understand the reply, but seeing my pitiful attempt at communication, a couple more passers by came and helped him to his feet. A couple of people stuffed 1,000 (£1) bills into his shirt. One young guy was patient and helped explain to me that the man was trying to get home but that he came from very far away. I asked how far, expecting them to say Musanze, or a village out of town. Turns out he was only trying to get to Nyabugogo. 

Kind of puts things into perspective. It's less than fifteen minutes by moto, but I guess if you're walking it's going to take you a couple of hours. When you're inching forward on a cane like he was, maybe most of the day.

Then I saw his arm and I had to turn away to hide my expression. He'd skinned himself all the way up his elbow. I didn't even know it was possible to injure yourself so badly just by falling down. A great big, bloody mess.

Then you've got that whole big question. 

Do you leave him in the care of Kinya speakers and go to your meeting, or do you do what you want to do at the risk of fulfilling every stereotype? 

The guy interpreting said the man could get a moto with the money they'd given him. 

"He can't get a moto," I said. "Look at him."

He could hardly stand up, clutching to his cane and wobbling about. I'm not sure if it was DTs or MS, but falling over your own feet is one thing, falling off the back of a motorbike is quite another. Yes, maybe in that strange Rwandan way in which people can do the hardest things because they don't have another option, he might have made it. But I persuaded them to hail a taxi by saying I'd pay for it - and the hospital treatment. A grand total of ten quid well spent, but excruciatingly mzungu. A couple of people whistled when I slip the cash, as though they'd been taking bets on whether I'd do it.

I also found a wad of clean tissue in my bag and offered it - immediately wishing I hadn't. A guy started rubbing the man's elbow with all the delicacy of a brillo pad, then pinched the large flap of hanging skin and yanked it off. I felt faint, but the man didn't even flinch. It was as though he didn't feel it, but he must have done - blood everywhere. 

I went off to my meeting once he was safely in the taxi. He gave his number to the guy I was with, who he was going to call to say he got to the clinic okay. I really felt that article about Kitty Genovese, though. I was once attacked late at night and when I tried to stop someone in the street for help - a jogger - he couldn't get away fast enough, just ran off. 

Despite that, I do feel the 'don't want to get involved' pangs, too. And I think it's right what the article says. If there are other people standing around watching, it's harder to step forward than if you were on your own. Unless you're with friends, maybe. I've intervened quicker in situations with friends or on my own than I have surrounded by strangers. I tend to hang back and observe, especially if it's a man (which is ironic, because I was attacked by a woman). But at a certain point, you have to go and ask. Yeah, it might be a lovers' tiff, a minor tumble or whatever, but there is only one way to find out for sure.

The thought that goes through my mind is What if that was me? Not very altruistic, I suppose, but does it need to be if it gets you moving? If that was me, and I was hurt, and I didn't have the money for a cab to get home, wouldn't it change my world - or at least the course of my day - for someone to put me back on my feet, ask my name and get me home? 

Obviously the world doesn't owe you anything for that. Maybe they'll never pass it forward, maybe there will come a time when you need help and no one turns up. But just for that day, it makes someone's life a little better. But I did come so very close to walking past without stopping. And I did feel so aware of being watched that I almost didn't offer the cab. If I hadn't, I think I would be thinking about that man an awful lot more than I do now. If you don't do what you can, it follows you around.

Anyway. I'm satisfied with how I reacted, and because of that, I have way more space in my rested conscience to contemplate my fecking tax situation.

I'm determined not to get caught up on it this time. It panicked me so much before, I even burst into tears at tax HQ. I'm as determined to sort out my crappy tax situation as I am to build pianos at the moment, so I reckon there's a fair chance I'll get over it quickly. (Seriously though, how can your tax come to ten times more than your declared profit for the year?).

Time for a lie down. What a pretty rhino-skin sky.

Oh, and the live streaming of the new South Park episodes on internet trolling and virtual reality - soothing balm to my torment. Wonderful to see it going strong, thankfully something to laugh at.

1 comment:

  1. That's my Girl ! Just off for a cuppa Yorkshire :)


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