Thursday, September 9, 2010

I finally have a new camera. A kind colleague brought it from the UK and it’s a doozey. Can’t understand most of the instructions but have managed to take pictures and upload them onto my computer. Next $64 question is whether they will easily upload onto my blog.

So, again, it’s been ages since I wrote. I’m so behind I don’t even know where to start. Perhaps I should start with my holiday on the school break, to Zanzibar, Tanzania, the Spice Island.

Rwanda borders Tanzania on the southeast corner and the flight from Kigali to Dar el Salaam was about three hours. Most of what I saw from the air was desert-like with amazing, swirling, sand formations that were probably at one time, rivers and streams.

My two colleagues went by bus, twenty-eight hours and hassle at the border. No thanks, my old bod can’t do that anymore. (Their trip back was 36 hours because some jerk refused to pay the $50 visa fee at the border and after a long delay, he was apparently arrested).

Lonely Planet warned me of the touts in Dar that try to convince you that you need to let them get you a taxi, take you to the ferry or a hotel, or sell you a ticket, (over-priced for sure but they think you don’t know that there is a legitimate ticket counter at the ferry!).

So, on arrival, I met a well-travelled young lady and when we discovered we were both going to Zanzibar, we shared a taxi to the ferry where we luckily met up with Colette and Kelti.

In the ferry terminal, away from the touts, a nice surprise awaited us! A snack buffet was provided for everyone before boarding the ferry and the samosas were to die for! Must be the local spices!

The ferry was brand-new and went really fast! It took about three hours to get to Stonetown and while waiting, we watched dreadful movies in freezing air-conditioning.

When we arrived we were able to walk to St. Monica’s Guesthouse which is in the old slave market. In the courtyard beside the huge Christian church which is called, St. Monica’s, (I mention Christian because Zanzibar is VERY Muslim and it sort of stands out like a sore thumb), is a pit with statues of slaves with chains around their necks. It’s too realistic.

St. Monica’s Guesthouse was no great shakes but then $50 a night for a room for three ain’t bad. AND, they had hot water.

We were two days in Stonetown and enjoyed checking out the many shops. Stonetown is a maze of passageways, some passable by cars but most were too narrow for anything but motos. You had to keep your wits about you as any minute a moto or bicycle would come flying around the corner, unannounced.

In the curio and art shops it was obvious that artists knock off Masai-like paintings that only differ slightly and the baskets, trinkets and jewelry were the same. We got quite good at haggling.

But, do they ever hassle you! As you are walking along, they will step right in front of you and say, “Karibu, karibu” which means, welcome, but there is no sincerity. Their eyes are saying, “Come and spend your money!” However, we did find one shop, run by three lovely women, that had unique and reasonably priced items and we did most of our shopping there. Wait till you see the Zanzibarian Santas!

The most interesting thing I saw in Stonetown was the old Fort which was built by the Omani Arabs in 1698 to defend themselves from the Portuguese and a rival Arab group. It is an immense, medieval-type structure with castellated battlements and thick walls. Over the years it has been used as a prison and holding cell for slaves and in recent years, an amphitheatre was built for live performances.

Tucked in one corner of the Old Fort was an artist’s workshop where I fell in love with a painting. It’s of a Muslim woman in a purple garb but part of her face is showing. The artist has splashed colour everywhere so that if you look at it up close, it looks like a mish mash but when you stand back, you catch the emotion and wonder what she is thinking.

The artist wanted 120,000 shillings. Normally, if you walk away, they come up with another price but he stood fast. I left and while we were up-island, I kept remembering her face. So when we returned to Stonetown, I went back and paid full-price for her. We carefully wrapped her up and I babied her all the way home to Byumba where she catches my eye when I sit at my table.

While in Stonetown, we found the Livingstone restaurant and bar on the beach and religiously attended ‘happy hour’ each night. The tables are set right on the beach and as you sip your drink, you watch the sun drop into the sea and the tide coming up. If you were not looking at the sun going down, you could watch the stream of black bodies walking huge packs of cargo, (heaven knows what was in most of the bundles), onto a huge cargo ship. It was interesting to observe, that for some reason, they loaded vehicles onto the ship’s deck first and then these poor guys had to maneuver around them. It was fascinating.

We also discovered Mercury’s Bar and Restaurant which is named after Freddie Mercury. Freddie was born in Zanzibar but was not born Freddie Mercury. But listen to this bit of trivia! I happened to pick up a travel magazine that had pictures of something called the Mercury Project which was a monitoring station built on Zanzibar by the U.S. in the 60’s to monitor the first satellites that went into space. Wonder where Freddie got the name???

We then decided to go up-island to a place recommended to us called “Kendwa Rocks”. To get there the girls decided we would take a dala-dala. I cringe just thinking about it.

Picture a small Suzuki or Toyota truck with benches lining the perimeter of the truck bed and a rough canopy overtop. The area of the truck bed is less than that of a van and believe it or not, they had twenty-one people squashed in, eighteen smashed together sitting, and three on the floor or I should say, on peoples feet because the aisle was so narrow. The supposed three hour trip was only one and a half hours due to our lunatic driver.

We arrived in Nungwi where we had booked a night at a hostel called James’ Hostel. This was a mistake. Not to bore you with how bad it was, suffice it to say, we only stayed two nights. However, the beach was fabulous. Only drawback, we were being stung by little medusas.

At sundown we would find a restaurant overlooking the sea, sip Margaritas and watch the sun set over the wide expanse of ocean. Every night the view was different, the blues and greens of the ocean constantly changing, the many, ever-present dhows silhouetted against the black islands in the distance and the ever changing sky.
After settling up with James, we took the bus over to Kendwa Rocks. It was your typical, beach resort with cabanas and restaurants and bars but was quite charming. We spent our days swimming in the turquoise sea or sunning and reading on the fine, white sand.

We stayed in the dorm and I unluckily got bed #3 which I painfully discovered in the morning, had bed bugs. Colette spent the remainder of the holiday reminding me to stop scratching. What is it about me that attracts these blood-sucking critters???

It was a lovely holiday but I was so glad to get home to Rwanda where everything is clean. I thought it quite amazing that in one day I was able to travel from Stonetown to Dar, Dar to Kigali and Kigali to Byumba and be home in time for supper.

Since returning to Byumba I have been quite busy getting out to schools with names like, Mutandi, Nyande, Bugomba, Myumbu, and Rukizi. I arrive early in the morning and give a mini-workshop on their 20 minute break plus 20minutes of their class time where, supposedly, the kids are doing seat-work. Again, the language barrier makes it difficult to communicate but I have found ways to show, rather than tell.

I spent quite a lot of time preparing a Shopping Activity for a school in Mutandi. Betty was teaching about money but totally from the textbook. Knowing that most of these kids handle very little money, I photo-copied items that they could buy and created money for them to shop with.

Last week I took the kit to Mutandi and we introduced the money to the kids. Betty would say, “If you want to buy a banana and an avocado, how much money will you need? Show me!”

The kids would then sort out the paper coins to show 150 francs. Next visit we will set up the “store” and the kids will be challenged to spend all of their “money!” It’s fun!

One thing that I’m proud of is setting up a Penpal exchange in Rukizi, thanks to my dear friend, Myrna in Blackfalds. On my bookshelf are seven letters from Canada for Rukizi kids, ranging in age from 6 to 10. Twice my return to Rukizi has been thwarted, once because of illness and the other was the inauguration of President Kagame and no school the day I had arranged to go. As it is, I am booked to return on September 13th.

This weekend is VSO’s Family dinner which is always a stunning event. Last family dinner we were treated to the Intore dancers. The dinner is mainly in honour of the new arrivals and for an opportunity for us to get to know one-another.

At this point in time, I must think about my decision as to whether I leave after one year or stay for a second year. I waffle back and forth. When I am being bitten by fleas, I just want to GO HOME! But then I think about how much I have finally accomplished and how much more effective I would be if I stayed a second year, then I’m torn. Will keep you posted!!

On a very personal note, my son James, who has beaten cancer twice and probably would not be here today if it wasn’t for Terry Fox, (a Canadian who ran across Canada to raise money for Cancer), is raising money by running in the Terry Fox Run for the 23rd time and hosting a barbeque and silent auction.
Terry had the same kind of cancer as James, lost his leg and ran on a prosthetic. Because of the research done with the money Terry raised, James did not have to lose his leg, they only removed his fibula.

If you would like to make a donation, please visit this address:

I thank you in advance.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


I have been reluctant to write in my blog because I am going through a ‘stage.’ I wonder if it’s normal to get to the point where you just don’t want to go anywhere. I am so tired of being a novelty, so tired of being expected to practice English with everyone on the road and very tired of being poked and being asked for money or to sponsor someone to study abroad.

So, I sort of hide out in my cozy, little house, play my music loud and sing along. I have a favourite playlist now that includes Kiss, Daniel Powter, Steppenwolf, Poison, B.T.O., Aerosmith, Bob Seger, Guns ‘n Roses, The Cult and Jimi!!! I usually wake up to “Old Time Rock and Roll.” I just love his voice.

But I digress. Back to my situation. It’s not all bad, not even close. Best moments:

I walk over to the Byumba school and all the little pre-schoolers race towards me with arms outstretched, wanting a full-on hug.

My choir surprises me by knowing the harmony part to the ABC Song and is also able to sing a round in three parts. (They are grade 2 and 3).

My friend, Penina, has taken the bull by the horns and is going to arrange the school visits I have yet to make.

Florian, my young intellectual, and I are re-watching the LOST series with great conversations regarding the plausibility or the ridiculous.

Florian reports that the children where he is now staying are constantly singing, “Go Tell It On The Mountain” which is the choir song we plan to perform, gospel style, at Christmastime.

My mini-workshops have been met with enthusiasm and especially the MATH BINGO. It was a real hit!

On June 16th I co-facilitated a workshop with a colleague in Nekarambi. Dorothy talked about child-centred methodology and I talked about learning styles. We then demonstrated various participatory methods in hopes the teachers would be able to adapt the methods to their subjects.

This was my first big workshop and boy, did I choke. First and worst realization was that they were NOT understanding me. Spinning my wheels searching for the simplest of phrases and then still getting blank looks. I cut my spiel short and we got on to the actual demonstrations.

These went much better. I taught a Prepositions of Place Game, (race), that I devised in Japan. In spite of the fact that some of the teachers didn’t really know the prepositions, they loved the game.

I also taught MATH BINGO which I think was their favourite next to singing, "The Bear Went Over the Mountain!" They sure love to sing.

The best thing that we did, though, was to make slates. We found a sheet of plywood, had it cut into 16 pieces, painted both sides with blackboard paint, (who knew there was such a thing!), and edged them with good-old duct tape. The beauty of slates is that you can pose a question to your five or six groups of five in which each child has a number. You then say, “Student 5, what is the answer? They write it on the slate and hold it up for their classmates to see. Students do the checking, not the teacher, and explain the answer if a group gets it wrong. It was brilliant, (as the Brits constantly say!!). I plan on making slates here and hopefully sell the idea to my various schools.

I’ve been concentrating on two schools, Rukizi and Nyande.

Friday I went back to Rukizi to teach a model lesson on Active to Passive sentences. Again, had my eyes opened. First, it didn’t seem like they were understanding me, (Grade 6, who should have SOME English!), second, they were too shy to respond and third, the horrifying realization that they are not accustomed to discovering how something works, they only know how to listen, write it down and then regurgitate it. Believe me, I was sweating.

After forty minutes, I think they got it but we didn’t have time to practice in groups in a type of a game. Arsene is going to review the lesson with them and when I return next week, we will play the game to evaluate their understanding.

This particular day I was up at 5:30 so I could catch the Virunga bus to Rukomo at 7:00. From Rukomo I take a ‘sardine bus’ to Rukizi. Made the mistake of sitting in the back of the bus where all the gas fumes collect but didn’t have to share a two-seater with three other people. I arrived at the school around 8:00, did my thing and THEN, was taken to Pascaline’s house to see her three-day-old twins, John and Janet. So tiny and adorable. They served me Fanta which is quite an honour considering how poor they are.

At 12:30 I walked down the hill to the highway and waited for a mini-bus to come by. I waited and waited. Would you believe, I waited until 2:30. Got home at 3:45, having missed choir.

I’ve been back to the High Commissioner’s residence for further warden training and lovely, quiche lunch. I now have four people to be responsible for, two Quebecoise nuns and two other NGO volunteers. I now must try and meet them. I will be issued a two-way radio as soon as they figure out how to make contact with people high up in the hills. I can’t help but wonder if the Embassy really is preparing us for a real problem, i.e. the upcoming elections in August.

It is now the dry season and the verdant, green hills now have a brown hue to them. The lovely volcanoes are not to be seen because of the dust in the air. Sometimes it’s hard to breathe and my skin is like parchment. Found some glycerine at one of the shops up top yesterday so will see if that helps. At least the dreaded insects have subsided and I only have the occasional moth or large-type hornet that sounds like a buzz-saw.

There is a large strawberry patch in my compound but very few strawberries, even though I see lots of blossoms. Anyone out there know how to get the plants to produce more strawberries?

The birds are chattering away, the white-bibbed crows are dancing on my roof and the sun is shining lazily on my laundry. Think I’ll read a bit; Florian has given me “Shake Hands With the Devil” by Romeo Dallaire, to read. It is exceptionally well-written.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

As I replace my desktop with the June calendar, I realize I haven’t written anything about my doings in May.

May started with a visit to Mokono, a little village way up near the Ugandan border. It was a painful trip because Thaddee’s moto doesn’t have a padded seat, just a rack that you can carry things on. He had put a raincoat underneath for padding and that was supposed to be okay but I swear, my butt was bruised. It was a very long trip over unbelievable roads.

We came across at least five crews of people, men, women and children, repairing the road, (and I use that term lightly), after the heavy rains.

The best part of the trip was the scenery. The mountains are majestic and such green that can’t be described. There are miles and miles of tea growing in the bottom of the valleys and the hills are terraced with mostly vegetables. I often wonder how my mom would have mixed all those different greens in a painting!

As we were bumping along I wished I could remember more of the geology I learned in college so I could adequately describe the rock formations that I saw. Where the mountains have been sliced off to make a road, (really just a cow path!), there are huge, concave depressions which are striated in varying shades of a dusky blue colour; quite beautiful. Other rock is different shades of rust, some as bright as A&W orange!

Getting there we passed many groups of people standing beside their homes, (if you can call them homes, more like huts, all made with bricks formed by the natural clay), which are perched on the side of the road). From very old, (of which there seem to be very few), to the very young, you get huge smiles and waves. Children yell, “umuzungu, umuzungu!!!” I gingerly release my grip on the moto and wave back.

Because we were so late getting there I was only able to observe two classes, one before lunch and one after. Over the lunch break we were invited to the Headmistresses home to ‘rest!’ While there, I befriended the cutest, little kitty which sent me home with fleas, but that’s another story!

This school asked if I could find some penpals for their kids and just today Myrna Olafson in Blackfalds wrote to say her students are interested. What a wonderful opportunity for the Mokono kids!

The next week we visited another school, again, up near Uganda, called Rukizi. While the headmaster and his wife were giving us a cold drink, a girl of about 12 came to the door with a deep gash in her wrist. She was bleeding profusely and I thought she should have a tourniquet. No one seemed to know what to do and no one would listen to me, (no Kinyarwanda). Instead of attending to the girl, they were obviously trying to establish how it happened. (Apparently, someone pushed her into a window which broke and cut her). Meanwhile, the little girl is crying.

Finally, a man appeared with what looked like a cloth jacket belt and started to put it on the wound. I shrieked, "no," so instead he tied it tightly above the wound. (The bleeding did not stop). Then, a woman put a child's garment, (god knows if it was clean), over the wound and she was led away, supposedly to be taken to a clinic six kms. away and would probably have to wait for the next bisi, (taxi bus), to come along to get her there.

I was surprised there didn't seem to be any compassion for this hurt little girl and I ached to put my arms around her like we do when someone is hurt. I'll never grasp their ways or their culture in a million years.

In the meantime, besides coping with fleas, I developed a red, pussey thing below my left eye. Within days it had spread all around my eyes and down to my nose. I looked a sight. Immediately, I thought I had skin cancer so off to Dr. JP, my adorable physician, to find that I do not have skin cancer but I must see the skin specialist. That I did and she called it a form of eczema. Back in Byumba, everyone diplomatically told me it was simply Nyamuca.

Now, Nyamuca is a little insect with a black spot on its back and it’s secretions are very poisonous. After a big rain, they come into my house by the hundreds and in this case, some must have fallen onto my skin, including down the front of my blouse, and caused painful, but itchy, welts. That started on about the first week of May and I am still red and blotchy in the face and other places are settling down. Back to the specialist again on the 11th. Here is a website if you would like to see what the little monsters look like.

I have a new friend. His name is Florian and he is a 23 year-old research student from Germany and sooo smart. He’s like a walking textbook and seems to know a lot about everything. It is so nice to be able to have a conversation without measuring my words. Florian is going to be a psycho-analyst and he is here doing research on Social Therapy of which this country needs desperately. He tells me about his interesting interviews which are giving me even more of an insight into the culture of Rwanda.

Friday, the 21st, the young woman that I replaced came for a visit. She comes from Northern Ireland and is a delight. She, Florian and I had such a nice time together. It is curious that my life has changed to the point that small things now seem like luxuries. Paula had brought me a jar of marmalade from the city. The three of us made coffee, scrambled eggs, (100 francs for each egg), and made toast in my poor little oven and sat out on the cement step, (the verandah), and felt like we were sitting at a sidewalk cafe in Paris or somewhere. It was deliciously fun!

I have finished "The Virgin's Lover" by Phillippa Gregory.

I have started a choir and they come for 45 minutes on Wed. and Fri. I auditioned 450 Grade 2's and 3's and landed up with 51 kids.

Wednesday I looked up and there were at least 75 kids in the room. The teachers at this school are so lazy, they thought they would just send their entire class and have a break! Yikes! So Patrick, the only teacher that speaks decent English, called roll and sent the extras back to their class. Yesterday, same thing but one feisty little girl pointed at children, scowled and waggled her finger. I quickly understood and when she pointed at a child, back to class he went.

We are learning English songs, Go Tell It On The Mountain, 2 versions of ABC, (one version with harmony, the other, jazzy with clapping), Are You Sleeping and 1-2-3-4-5. They don't speak English yet so I use a lot of gestures and arm-waving. They are actually learning solfege too! They can't go from do to me but can go from so down to me. Wonderful voices!

One of my colleagues asked me to write a song about disability for a conference in July. I had a burst of inspiration the other morning and came up with:

Can you see,
The person that is me,
Can you see,
My possibilities,
Can you look beyond the problems that you see,
Can you just see
The person that is me
like you….

I laugh, I cry,
At school, I try,
To be the best I can,
My dreams are much the same as yours,
I wish you'd understand

And so that,

You will see,
The person that is me,
You will see,
My possibilities,
You will look beyond the problems that you see,
And you will see,
The person that is ME.

My creative juices are oozing as Nekarambi friend, Dorothy, and I are doing a Methodology Workshop on the 16th, presenting participatory methods that will work across all grade levels. Fortunately, I am able to call on all the activities I created teaching ESL in Mexico and Japan. I’m a little scared to presume to tell a group of teachers how to teach, but then, I have to remember that in reality, they do have very little teacher training.

I am having French lessons. I decided French was easier to learn than Kinyarwanda.

The rainy season is officially over and it’s dryer. Sadly, I don’t get my daily fix of the volcanoes as they are mostly clouded over. I wonder if it’s ever going to warm up as I sit here in my fleecy!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Better Late Than Never

It has been weeks since I have felt like writing my blog, don’t know why. Perhaps it’s because I’m embarrassed. Let me explain
On March the fifth, I went to Kigali on my way to a weekend with friends in Kibuye. I intended on taking the 5:00 bus to Kibuye so spent the afternoon at the VSO office checking out the resource room and talking to my Program Manager.

Time flew by and I realized I needed to get into town to take the bus to Kibuye but that it would be the 6:00 bus instead. Away I went on the Volcano bus from Remera.
I sat with my overnight bag on my lap and had my big bag on my right shoulder, next to the wall of the bus. As I was sitting on the bus I felt a hand touch me on the right hand side. I simply wondered if he wanted to adjust the window. I should have realized that I was being robbed.

I had a lot of Rwandan francs, about 100,000 which is about $200 CND. Somehow he was able to unzip my purse that even had a flap over the zipper and remove my money purse which also contained my VSO mergency phone number.

I arrived downtown not knowing I had been robbed. I enquired about the bus to Kibuye and was told the last bus left at 5:00. Oh, no! So I went over to Virunga bus, the bus company that I take to Byumba, and sure enough, their last bus to Kibuye had also left.

As I was talking to one of the regular fellows at Virunga, I looked down and discovered the pocket of my bag, OPEN! Frantically I searched my entire bag to realize I had lost my money purse.

By this time it was getting dark and I began to get frightened. Then I thought, “I can do this, just think!” As I was standing there, thinking and probably looking distressed, a young man named Sylvestre approached me and asked if he could help. I said, “I have just been robbed and I’m not sure what to do. Would you let me return to Byumba and let me pay

So you can probably point out my major mistakes thus far.

1. Checking the bus schedule in advance would have been a good idea.
2. Zipping my money into an inside pocket so that a thief would have two zippers to unzip, would have been a good idea.
3. Placing some of my money in different places or wearing a money belt, (I have a brand-new money-belt, but after being told that Rwanda is really very safe because thieves are severely dealt with, I didn’t bother).

So, now what! My first thought was to call VSO. I had office numbers for VSO but as I said, their emergency number was in with my money.

No answer, everyone had gone home! Then I thought that maybe they would let me sleep on the bus and then take the bus back to Byumba in the morning but as I was looking at my VSO identity card I noticed the phone number for the British Embassy! Aha! So, Sylvestre, bless his heart, dialed the number for me on his cell phone, (oh, mistake number four, it would have been a good idea to bring your cell phone with you!), and the British Embassy transferred me over to Anna Maria McCarthy, the Canadian High Commissioner here in Rwanda.

To make a long story short, she and her lovely Newfie husband Bill arrived in the official Canadian vehicle with Canadian flag flying . Out of the vehicle and arms around me in a huge hug. Into the vehicle and then told we were going out for dinner with friends. They took me to a wonderful, sort of Middle Eastern restaurant and I even had beer, not warm beer but icy cold. What a treat!

After filing a police report at the police station, they took me to their home, a fabulous six bedroom mansion with a pool where Anna Maria drew me a hot bath in a huge bathtub and left me to retire in a gorgeous bedroom with a Queen-sized bed. Oh, what luxury after my thin, foamy that I sleep on in Byumba.

I was so impressed with how I was looked after, I penned a letter to Stephen, Stephen Harper, that is, and in order to get it there faster than Rwandan mail, I emailed it to my friend Wendy, to forward for me. Unfortunately, he hasn’t replied yet!!!

So, I have certainly learned a lot of new lessons!

Back in Byumba, things are still moving along slowly. I keep visiting the Diocese elementary school in Byumba but return home with a feeling of despair. Number one, communicating is SO difficult as I speak virtually no French and even less Kinyarwanda, (although I’m learning, at least the important words, like food words and how to get from here to there!), and, then second and then to forever of frustrations; so many things that need to be fixed.

I go to observe a class and the class of 70 kids is sitting without a teacher. I go in and usually sing with them until the teacher arrives and even then, the teacher doesn’t want me to stop; they want me to continue teaching. (VSO doesn’t want us there as teachers but as Teacher Trainers).

Lessons are painfully slow, totally chalk and talk.
Lessons in English are taught with incorrect English and unrecognizable pronunciation.
Children are hungry or tired.
There are no resources, not even rice sack charts.
Primary children are using pens which they open and then there is ink everywhere.
Cursive handwriting is taught in Primary????? (They also taught cursive to beginners in Chile. Don’t know the rationale there).
You don’t even want to know about the bathrooms.
And on, and on.

My Program Manager has given me some good suggestions and the best is that I get out and visit other volunteers to observe what they are doing. This weekend I am visiting a volunteer from England who has been here since August and is also a Methodology Trainer.

I have to tell you about our trip here. Because we attended the St. Patrick’s Day Ball in Kigali this past weekend, we decided to take the 2:00 bus on Saturday, to Dorothy’s village called Nekarambi.

Instead of the big bus, we had to take what they call a taxi. Now, this is something to behold! They are like a seven-seater van. Picture a Toyota van with four people in the very front, (including the driver), and then four rows of seats behind. On each seat there can be up to 6 people. That’s not including small children that are held on laps. Yes, one of those vans can transport up to 20 people at once.

Dorothy and I were squeezed in with only four across for most of the way but towards the end of the journey there were five. It’s apparently very illegal but it still goes on all the time!! I shudder to think what an accident would be like.
As I write it is pouring rain outside. I am in Dorothy’s house in Nekarambi and again feeling extreme embarrassment. Another whopper of a mistake has just happened within the last three hours.

I was supposed to visit a Primary school via moto and Daniel picked me up just after 9:30. Because it was pouring rain, I dug out the little, purse-sized poncho Pat gave me and put it on. I then decided to put on a sweater and then, rushing as usual, put the purse, (my Thai purse that Nikki and James brought back for me), on my shoulder, but because of the poncho, didn’t put it over my head.
Daniel and I started down the road in the rain and the poncho was flapping behind me. I put my arms behind me to tuck the poncho under me and didn’t realize that my bag came off of my shoulder and onto the road.

After we had gone quite a ways, I realized it was gone. We quickly went back and Daniel asked everyone along the way if they had seen anything. Eventually, we went to the police station.

Daniel and I entered a U-shaped parking lot where there was a wet and bedraggled line-up of people waiting with grievances they wanted to report, or at least, that’s what it looked like. Daniel took me to the policeman standing guard and explained my situation. I was allowed to jump line, (guess because I’m umuzungu), and carefully explained my situation to a lady policeman. Several of the constabulary discussed at length in Kinyarwanda and then I was summoned to the Police Chief, a tall, loud, full-of-himself authoritarian. (I was so proud of Daniel that he didn’t let this big man intimidate him).

As soon as he had me sitting across the desk from him, he became very charming and in not-too-bad English, questioned me. I was then loaded into a police truck with him, Daniel and a driver. We drove down the road and stopped at each gathering place whereby the Police Chief yelled questions at the bewildered people. As you would expect, no one knew a thing.

I suggested that he needed to get the word out that I would pay a reward for any information as to the whereabouts of my bag. So, he said to leave it with him, he would send his officers into the market to question people and he would get back to me.

I have lost a little money, my camera, my modem and my cell-phone. I regret most losing my precious notebook with everything I need to function in this country, phone numbers, names, procedures and a lot of ideas for future workshops.
I think I have made all the big mistakes now, everything else should be smooth sailing from now on.

Thinking positively though, I feel sure that this loud, but charming man will track down my bag. I got the sense that he was thoroughly enjoying the challenge.

The next day, Daniel again picked me up and took me out to Rugurama to see another school. Instead of a Headmaster, I met Awaniek, the most amazing female Headmistress.

I expected to be sent to classrooms to observe but instead was ushered into her office where her walls were covered with charts, photographs and kids art. One chart looked like the student body had been divided up into intramurals or something which is something I had not seen before in Rwanda. But it wasn’t intramurals, it was ‘class families.’

Because there are so many orphans in her district, she organized her school into small families, even the very youngest grades. Each class makes up a family of about 8 – 10 kids and then they choose a mom and a dad from within the group.
This small group of children is then given the responsibility of looking after one-another. If a child doesn’t show up at school, ‘the family’ must find out why and if support is needed, give it. If the child is having trouble with schoolwork, the group must help. WHAT A WONDERFUL CONCEPT!!!

After an explanation of how her school runs, she did take me around to see the classes and I was astounded to find that she even has a library with a colourful floor where kids can sit and read. Where did she get all the books?

The next day Dorothy and I visited another school that was mired in mud. I was wearing my pink $12.50 rubber shoes which thankfully wash up much quicker than runners. The particular classroom that we went to observe required shoes off at the door, (no wonder, our shoes were caked with red mud), and we all sat barefooted. I was asked to teach a song and we had great fun with “Fish ‘n Chips ‘n Vinegar. At one place in the song they have to say, “pepper, pepper, pepper, salt.” It comes out, “peppoo, peppoo, peppoo salt!! They can’t say r’s!

From Nekarambi, I came back to Kigali for a night and then up to Rulindo where I observed three fellow vols give a workshop. Rulindo is across the mountains to the West from me and I got to see the volcanoes from the other side.

It has been Mourning Week here in Rwanda with the entire population remembering the genocide so that it will never happen again. Everything in the country shuts down and nothing happens until after 4:00 in the afternoon. We have seen many outdoor gatherings with speeches and singing and watched very official ceremonies on the television where Colette and I went for lunch.

School break began on the 2nd of April so I was casting around for something to do. Many of the volunteers were going home to England or Holland or wherever but I thought I would like to stay in Rwanda and see the gorillas. I texted a colleague in Nogororero to see if she would like to go with me and she said ok.

We met in Gisenyi which is on the shore of a huge lake called Lake Kivu. We stayed the first night in the Presbyterian Guest House for 4,000 francs each which in Canadian is $8. We walked around and around Gisenye looking for another place to stay and settled on Paradis Malahide.

Paradis Malahide is absolute paradise. It’s right on the lake with little, round rondavels tucked in between the gorgeous flowering trees and bushes. The many varieties of colourful birds were a constant pleasure; yellow birds that I’m sure are the same birds we sing about in “yellow bird, up high in banana tree” and tiny red, blue and rust-coloured songbirds. Such bright colours and lovely songs. One bird sounds like a microwave! One day we saw a white-crowned eagle being dive-bombed by three, big hawk-like birds. They didn’t catch him but they were certainly mad about something.

We stayed two nights there. The service was provided by adorable young people who ran themselves silly making everyone comfortable. At dusk they lit a big fire in the middle of the main lodge and all the guests sat around the fire drinking wine, eating tilapia finger-food and trading stories. It was ever so relaxing!

We met a lovely young woman who is teaching in Tanzania. Too bad I don’t have any single sons! She is not only smart, delightful and entertaining but is drop-dead gorgeous. The three of us got along famously so we all decided to take the bus up to Musanze and go see the gorillas. So next day, that’s what we did.

We stayed a night in the Kiniki Hostel, just the three of us in one hut, and it was such fun, just like being back in the dorm in college. Hannah and Colette talked about a children’s show called Teletubbies???? Amidst much giggling, we decided that I was LaLa, Colette is Dipsy and Hannah is Twinkie. Do any of you know of these characters? Life is good when you can pretend you’re a kid again!

Next morning we walked the 300 meters to the meeting point where the Rangers put you into groups to trek in to see the Gorillas. We were put in a ‘medium’ group with a lovely, young woman from Germany named Lisa and two wonderful Americans, Ross and Nancy. Ross and Nancy very generously offered us a lift to the base of the mountain and even paid for porters to carry Colette and Hannah’s packs.

We walked, first across farmland planted mainly with potatoes. Per usual, people were very poor and the kids ragged and dirty but all with BIG smiles and “good mornings!” (They say “good morning” any time of the day).

Then we crossed a tall fence constructed of volcanic rocks that apparently reaches all the way to Uganda. This wall is to keep the buffalo from destroying the crops. We were able to get over this wall because the little devils had pushed down a section of the wall.

One of the men accompanying the group had a gun. I assumed it would be used if a gorilla threatened the life of a tourist but when I asked him, “why the gun?” he said, “to scare away the buffalo!” The gorillas have learned to tolerate people and there have been no incidents at all.

After crossing the wall, the climb became more and more difficult. Eventually it was like climbing a wall covered with vines and bushes. I am quite proud of myself that I didn’t require a helper to pull me up. Along the way were stinging nettles so climbing without using your hands to avoid the nettles, was challenging. I only got stung a little!

Finally we came around a little bend and there they were, sitting eating a sort of wild celery. The big mom would yank a huge branch out of the ground and then strip the bark away. I thought she was pregnant, her tummy was so big but the guide explained that this time of day was their feeding time and that they absolutely gorge themselves and then have a siesta.

She had the cutest baby which she cuddled and groomed and watched like a hawk. We saw a total of about six, less than I had hoped but we were able to watch them for about an hour. The King, the big Silverback, was partially hidden by trees and we only got a glimpse of his face twice when he raised his head and were able to see his silver back just as we were leaving. He weighs about 500 lbs.

While we were being briefed,the guide showed us photographs of the family we were going to see. Each gorilla has a distinctive nose print by which they are identified. Under each photograph was the drawing of that gorilla’s nose print and when we actually saw them, we could distinguish the nose prints. Fascinating!

The trip down was also a little tough. Poor Colette, because she has lost so much weight, stepped out of her shoes as they became stuck in the clay-like mud. It was so funny seeing her teetering on a narrow branch while the guides streaked to her aid, their gum-boots sucking as they ran! I’m still laughing!

After a nice lunch and beer at Kiniki, we took the bus back to Gisenyi and spent two more nights at Paradis Malahide. The cost was beginning to mount up at 40,000 a night and meals exceeding 5000 francs so we decided to take the ‘over-the-mountain’ route back to Byumba where Colette would spend a few days with me.

There was a partially paved road to a place called Base, (Bah say with the accent on say!), where we were told we could get a bus the rest of the way to Byumba. NOT! Base must rarely see umuzungus as were were literally surrounded by staring people. One fellow spoke very good English and I don’t know what we would have done without him. Somehow, he flagged down a Tea Company truck and negotiated a ride for us to the Tea Factory. I think he royally scalped us price-wise but we were between a rock and a hard place.

The manager of the Tea Company, a lovely man from Sri Lanka, arranged motos for us the final 27 kms. at 5000 francs each and after a very bumpy, scary trip in the dark, we arrived in Byumba at about 7:30, hungry and shaken up. The hips are still recovering with muscles hurting much like the stiffness after riding a horse!

April 14, 2010

This morning we got up at 4:15 to get to the bus by 5:00 so Colette could be assured of a seat on the bus to Base. It was pitch black walking up the hill to the buses and when we got there, no one was there. One of the buses was open so we sat and waited for almost an hour. As the sun was rising, people began to arrive. We were then able to establish that yes, a bus was going to Base and that Colette would have a seat. I went home to bed for a few more hours.

Today is Pat’s birthday and I am still without internet because my new modem is waiting for me in Kigali.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Kigali and Byumba

Although it is now February 4th, I have much to catch up on. The intensity of the training, the difficulty of getting a modem and Sim cards to get online, (slowly, that is), and the process of getting settled in Byumba has not left much time or mental energy for writing a blog. I only hope I can accurately relay the thoughts and feelings I had at the time.

ITC (In Country Training)

The city of Kigali is a huge, spread out conglomeration of new and old, beauty and ugliness and streams of all kinds of people going every which way. The traffic food chain is lorries, large buses, small buses, taxis, motos and finally, you. Each yields to the one bigger and believe me, they don’t stop.

On the streets are many handicapped people, quite obviously victims of the machetes during the genocide. I saw one beautiful, muscled man poling himself along the street, his stump of a leg at a 90 degree angle to the ground. Judging from how old he looked, he was probably a child in 1994. It breaks your heart to see the heart they must have to cope with the memories.

During the ITC, I got to know wonderful people, all so very educated and motivated. After a few days of sessions we would walk up the red, earth road to the closest bar/pub/watering hole where we would try to set the world to rights. Also, volunteers who are returning were barraged with questions and our Irish facilitator, Ruiri, was an ongoing wealth of tips and stories. Here is a photo of him explaining how to fill a kerosene cooker. Thank goodness I don’t have to use one of the smelly things. Portia, an in-your-face but delightfully so, American volunteer, is looking on skeptically!

We had Kinyarwanda lessons every morning. I certainly experienced what I know my ESL students were feeling their first days in English class. You are terrified you’ll make a fool of yourself. It seemed everyone else in the room was picking it up quickly and poor Colette and I were not. But we decided we would just go at our own pace and do the best we could. The numbers are incredible. I have them up to 40 and know how to say 1000 which is the price of many things.

I have figured out a way to convert Rwandan francs to Canadian. It something costs 1000 francs you double it, (2000), and then move the decimal three places to the left. So 1000 francs is 2.00. However, on what they give me to live on, I should only spend $12.00 CND a day.

Here is a photo taken on our way down the hill to catch a bus. Children know how to say “how are you!” and hold out their little hands for a handshake. Nikki, can you see I am using the bag you brought for me from Thailand?? It is perfect to keep my valuables zipped up!

While we were at training we were required to go to the Genocide Museum. I really didn’t want to go as reading about it before I came was frightening enough. However, I did go and I seriously regret it.
The museum takes you through the history of Rwanda, beginning with the half-hearted occupation by the Germans and then the Belgians after the Second World War. It explains how the foreign powers orchestrated the genocide, convincing the Hutus that it was their duty to annihilate the Tutsis. It was horrible, pictures of bodies, devastation and even displays of other genocides, such as the holocaust, that have occurred throughout history.

The last display was about the children, thousands of photos of children who were killed. As I left the museum some of the others were already sitting on the benches outside and I sat down next to Ken, one of the other volunteers. I was so grateful that he put his hand on my shoulder as I broke down in sobs and couldn’t stop. I kept trying to imagine what I would have done to save my children. I wish I hadn’t gone. It took many nights before I could get to sleep easily.

Here are pics of Christine’s and my very basic room at the Amani Guest House. Those hanging-down things are mosquito nets.

Two days before our employees came to pick us up we had a day of shopping. VSO gave us 100,000 Rfr to spend on household items so we all traipsed down to “The Chinese”, a kind of supermarket owned by a Chinese lady named Miel, to try and guess what our unseen accommodation needed.

What a zoo, twenty of us piling pots, sheets, mops, utensils, etc. in a large wash tub that one needs to have in their shower, (mine is large enough to soak my bones). I blithely collected what I thought I needed, not worrying about the amount but, when it came time to pay, I was about 48,000 Rfr. short.

The next morning, Jeremy helped me find my way into town, find a money-changer to convert my few US dollars to francs and then pay for my purchases. We arrived back in time to meet our new employers.

Penina, the head of the education department for the Diocese in Byumba, was the person who came to collect me. She speaks very little English but we managed to get through the many exercises they had prepared for us to get to know one another and to learn what each of our expectations are.

For our last night together, we all walked, torches in hand, to a much larger bar where we said our goodbyes and wished one another well. It’s amazing how close you can get to people when you spend all day, each day, for 10 days.

Next morning, Penina arrived at 9:00, and on time, (miracles will never cease). Some of the other volunteers waited until early afternoon for their employers. The driver, Ephraim, loaded my stuff into the little pick-up along with a new mattress, (it’s really crappy, though).

The drive to Byumba is just over an hour and stunningly beautiful. The hills are all terraced and emerald green. Along the way I saw rice paddies, sugar cane fields and vegetable fields. The roads are filled with people.

Per capita, Rwanda has 281 people to one square kilometre. The population of Byumba is 70,500 and the population of Rwanda is 7,398,074, according to Wikepedia. Being a predominantly Catholic country, birth control is not really practised.

Here are a few pics of my little house. It’s about the same size as my apartment in Japan but very crudely built. The walls are cracked and the plumbing is constantly leaking even though Gaetan has already been here to fix it. You know me, Mrs. Clean so I launched in with scrubbing until I had to stop to let my wrists get better.

These were taken as I arrived. I am somewhat settled now.

I have a domestique and her name is Rosa. She only speaks French and Kinyarwanda but through an interpreter, we have an agreement. She will do my washing, cleaning, shopping and cooking for two days food for 2000 fr a week.

This morning she came and worked with me. We scrubbed down the walls, furniture, windows and doors. The floor is cleaned by sloshing water on the concrete, sprinkle a little cleanser, swish it around with your broom and then squeegee it out the door and onto the grass. The joint even smells clean although the cow aroma occasionally wafts in.

My week here has been frustrating but also interesting. So far the only official thing that’s happened is my employer has taken me to meet officials, at the Sector and also at the District level. (Very important people). I am responsible for getting a “green card” so we spent an entire morning trying to get our “ducks all lined up.”

I am hoping to get out and into the schools next week.

Today is Saturday and I have the weekend off. I am reading a book about southern Africa, Covenant by James Michener so I can relax in the sun or I can try and figure out my I-Pod or I can organize my contacts.

At this time I can't figure out how to insert the photos. I give up for now! Will figure it out and include them in my next post. smg
Amsterdam, January 15th, Friday, 2010
The plane was late leaving Montreal last night but we arrived in Amsterdam this morning at about 1:45 AM Ottawa time, Saturday, January 16th, ( 7:45 Amsterdam time). As usual, my legs were electric, (that’s what I call it when they twitch as I begin to relax), so I didn’t sleep. I was surprised, however, that the flight was actually just over five hours.
Since arriving, I’ve been a zombie, too tired to study Kinyarwandan, read my book or even listen to my new I-pod. I have found various places in this huge airport where I could “catch 40 winks.” The softest place was upstairs at the McDonald’s.
It is now 11:20 Ottawa time but here it is 5:20. I will stay awake now until I get on the flight to Nairobi leaving at 2:40 Ottawa time, 8:40 Amsterdam time so that means I have three more hours to kill.
I will arrive in Nairobi at 7:00 tomorrow morning, Nairobi time, which I think is nine hours ahead of Calgary so seven hours ahead of Ottawa. Therefore, I think it will be midnight in Ottawa when I arrive in Nairobi. How confusing, eh?
Then, I fly to Kigali after only a little more than an hours wait and arrive in Kigali at 8:10 Rwanda time. I dearly hope someone is there to meet me!

Flights from Amsterdam
Finally it was time to board the plane. I was starving as the McDonald’s meal was not that satisfying. I had expected that we would eat right after take-off but they offered drinks first which took a lot of time. After dinner was finished I took one of Erica’s relaxation pills, as she called them, because my legs were going crazy again. I waited and waited but it didn’t seem to help so I took the other one. Big mistake.
I don’t even remember changing planes in Nairobi. When I arrived in Kigali I was met by two women who quickly realized I was at the very least, drunk. The put me in a wheelchair, collected my luggage and brought me to the housing complex where we are all staying for a week’s training. I did explain, though, that I wasn’t drunk!

They were all having dinner when I arrived. I remember eating spinach and the names of a few people but the rest of the evening is a blur. This morning several people commented that I kept falling asleep at the table. This is a lovely bunch of people and they have been so kind.
I remember excusing myself and headed for my bed. (I am sharing a room with a great Australian girl named Christine). I absolutely died until 7:30 the next morning. I joined the group for breakfast feeling rested and excited for my adventure to begin.
After breakfast we met as a group of about 20 for ICT or In Country Training. First they went over the basics about health, again!, the local hierarchy for help and support and basic safety such as traffic, motos, purse-snatching, and what to do if you have an accident. We were also told that Burundi is not that safe to visit and that visiting the Congo was prohibited.
After lunch we were taken downtown to buy cell phones. My cell phone is your very most basic variety and cost 7,000 Rwandan francs. VSO has given me a SIM card which apparently will enable me to get internet. This internet stuff is all very confusing as other people say I need to buy a modem.
Back at our living quarters we had a session on kerosene lamps, kerosene cookers, (stoves), and charcoal cookers. Thank GOD I don’t have to use the smelly things as I am extremely lucky to have fairly reliable electricity and I will have an electric ring, (single hot plate, I think!). I am told, also, that I even have an oven so I can bake! Yaaa!
As the sun began to set I started to worry that the mosquitos would come out and I was a sitting duck. At that very moment, the session was brought to a close and we were told to go and put on repellent. I also remembered to take my malaria pill. It’s going to be quite an adjustment to remember to take it every day!
Dinner was a 7:00 and as I looked over the city, there was a bright, yellow sliver of a moon hovering in a black sky. Very beautiful.
I must tell you about the buses. The first bus we took was like our 7-seater vans. Believe it or not, they crammed 16 of us into one and we were told there was room for 3 more. There is no pollution or emission control here and it was horrible trying to breathe when another belching bus was ahead of us. The bus drivers on both the to and from buses agreed to an amount to be paid for the trip and then after we got underway, insisted that the price was higher. There was a lot of yelling and I’m quite sure the ladies in charge did not pay more than was originally agreed upon.
Tomorrow we are being addressed by Ambassador Nick Cannon from the British Embassy. At some point I will have to be registered at the Canadian Embassy.
Tomorrow, also, we will learn the finance and form-filling procedures and as well, a session on Rwandan culture. I did learn today that it is quite acceptable to take a cell phone call when you are in the middle of a meeting, conversation, or presentation.
This morning I took a COLD shower. Since then we have learned that the shower head is much like the units in Mexico; you can have hot water on demand.
Still in Kigali
January 19, 2010
Not much sleep last night as there was loud conversation outside our window until midnight and the Muslim singer began at 5:00.
This morning we started our Kinyarwanda lessons. The pronunciation that I had practised from what I found on the internet is a very watered down version of the actual sounds which I am having a devil of a time making. The mw sounds are the hardest, e.g. mwaramutse which means, generally, good morning but really means, “did you pass a good night.” Also, mwiriwe which means good afternoon.
I can say, my name is Shala. Nitwa Grindlay Shala! Then I can say, “And you?” Wowe se. Learning this language is going to be my greatest challenge while I’m here.
At eleven we were transported to the British Embassy where Ambassador Nick Cannon gave us a rundown of Rwandan history from colonial times to the present. He was extremely well-spoken and informative as well as quite funny. They had treats for us, even chocolate cake.
Back here for lunch and then a session on Finance and form-filling. The facilitators were Rwandan and I hardly understood a thing they said. The combination of my hearing loss, background noise and their accent made it impossible to make out what was being said but luckily my roommate Christine explained it all to me afterwards. We were given our allotment for the first three months and instructed how to go about opening a bank account. I will have to wait until I get to Byumba to do that as I need to bank in my town.
After the afternoon break we had a long session on Rwandan etiquette. For example, it is not acceptable to eat or drink on the street, public places or on taxis or buses. Ladies thighs are not to be shown. Do not show public displays of affection. It is acceptable for men to walk hand in hand.
I am very tired tonight and am ready to hit the sack.
NOT flying to Montreal!
Imagine my surprise when I handed the airline agent my itinerary and discovered that I was NOT flying to Montreal, I was going by train. Although the itinerary says KLM Dutch Airlines, in another section, in small print, it says Ottawa RR Station. So, here I am in the train station, an hour early.

I am rather pleased with myself that I have successfully packed my suitcases so that my big ones are exactly 50 lbs. each and my carry-on is around 20 lbs. Not sure how much my 'purse' weighs though! I was even able to get my new hot-pink motorcycle helmet in. Initially, I thought I would have to wear it on the plane!!
Older Posts
Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)

• ▼ 2010 (8)
o ▼ February (5)
 A Key Day
 Now I Know Why I Feel Lousy
 February 18, 2010 Although I have much to tell ab...
 Soggy Sunday
 Kigali and Byumba
o ► January (3)
 Amsterdam
 NOT flying to Montreal!
 Ottawa, January 5 to January 15th


A Key Day

I'm finally into the Diocese school here and today, and for the first time, felt like I was contributing something. One of the Grade 6 teachers asked me to write some dialogues, (conversations), for her kids to practice so, I did, and then put them on chart paper. Took me the better part of the afternoon.

Today was a funny key day. As I was rushing to get to school this morning I dropped my keys, unbeknownst. (Is that really a word, it looks funny). When I came home, I couldn't open the gate to the 10' wall that surrounds my house. I walked up to the Diocese offices and Celestine went to find keys. Some time.......... later we walked down to my gate, (in pouring rain, I, in my wonderful, turquoise raincoat), to see if the keys worked. They didn't.

Mostly, I needed to pee so I said, "Celestine, just give me a leg up and over the wall!" He was reluctant but did help push me over. In the process, my lovely, turquoise raincoat was smeared with wet algae and dirt. I thought, I'll never get it clean again, those are worse than grass stains. (Oh, and guess where my keys were? I had dropped them in the gravel right outside my door!).

However, I filled up my washtub outside, sat on my step and scrubbed and scrubbed. Miraculously, all the stains came out. It is now dripping on my clothesline. I will bring it in before I go to bed as it will probably rain again tonight. I have NEVER experienced such downpours, even in Squamish!

And another key story; when I came home from school this afternoon, my key wouldn't unlock my metal gate. I tried and tried but it wouldn't turn the lock. (And I had to pee, again. You have to plan your bathroom stops here as you don't want to use most places). Several people gave it a try but to no avail. Finally, a young man showed me the trick, you just pull out a little on the

key, and voila, it turned. "Murabeho, murabeho," I said and shook his hand!

I thought you might be interested to know that water here must first be boiled and then filtered. I have a kettle that holds about 8 litres of water. After I boil the water, I let it stand. I’m hoping I can upload the photograph of what settles to the bottom. I wonder what it is!!!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Now I Know Why I Feel Lousy

Now I know why I feel lousy

It was decided that I should see a doctor and so yesterday morning I got up at 7:00 to make it up the hill to the bus departure area, (not a depot), and halfway up the hill, I thought I might faint. To flag down a moto you pat the air. I paid him two hundred Rfr for about a football field’s distance to the bus and bought a ticket just in time to depart.

These are the luxury buses and it costs 1000 Rfr to Kigali. Like most buses, there are double seats on one side of the aisle and single seats on the other side. However, an added feature of these buses is drop-down seats that fill up the aisle. It is hilarious watching people from the back of the bus crawl over people to get off at their stop.

There was one, very prosperous looking lady, sitting in one of the single seats but with her bags on the drop-down seat next to her. Some poor man got on the bus, looked at the seat, (which was the only available seat), and without saying anything, fidgeted while the lady looked askance. Finally, with distain, she removed her bags to her lap and he sat down with a smile.

When I arrived in Kigali I asked the first English-speaking person I could find how much I should pay a moto to go to the Polyclinic. Three hundred. Instead of walking away after giving me the information, he walked me down to where the motos were parked and chose the best driver for me. At the clinic, the moto driver dropped me off with a smile and a pat. (Rwandans are very sweet in their concern for you).

I wanted to see Dr. Jean Paul again but was taken to Dr. Antoine who surprisingly was born in the hills near Byumba. What a story he must have to tell; from Byumba to Chief of Staff!

He gave me the complete once-over and sent me to a bed where I was hooked up to an IV. I was given pain-killer for my headache and something, don’t know what, in the IV. (Yes, I asked but didn’t understand what he said!).

I slept for the afternoon and the diagnosis is intestinal bug from either food or utensils. He sent me home with antibiotics, something for abdominal pain, and fizzy pain-killers.

So, last night I went to bed at 7:00 and slept through until after 8:00 this morning. As I write, I am feeling worlds better.

If I can get online I will find Cathy’s instructions on how to reduce photos for uploading and then be able to insert photos into my blog.