Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Rwandan Sunday

600 The Catholic Cathedral helpfully rings its bell at 6am or thereabouts each day, so we don’t need an alarm. This morning it is supplemented by Archdeacon Azariah starting his motorcycle and by the cockerel next door. The dawn chorus is unusually muted today, or perhaps we just can’t hear it above the racket!
645 Breakfast time on the veranda. This is lemon season and the main problem is stopping more bushes and trees from sprouting everywhere. We already have far more then we can use. It’s toast with lemon marmalade, Rwandan coffee and water with lemon in it to wash down the doxycycline. We’re having a morning without bananas, which are nearly a staple diet.
745 We are trying to get away when my colleague Emmanuel shows up to introduce himself. It’s always important to spend some time chatting in these situations, even if it makes you 10 minutes late.
810 We meet up with David (my predecessor, who is doing a hand-over) and “the Toms”, 2 students who are visiting him, plus Mattias, who usually helps David to do his shopping in the market, but is our translator for the day. We have a nervous time when our Toyota LandCruiser fails to start and then we have to push it out of the wet grass after an unsuccessful bump-start, but finally we are on our way.
The journey takes 2 hours, 1 on the main road (slow because of pot-holes, steep hills and a police check), followed by an hour downhill through the forest (very slow because it’s a basic track with sharp corners, water erosion and steep drops at each side). I think abut our 2 minute walk to church in Scotland.
1040 We arrive unannounced at the church at Banda. There is no electricity here and no phone signal, so advance warning was difficult. We are warmly welcomed, despite interrupting the proceedings and introducing the need for interpretation. There are about 300 people packed in, lots of singing (2 visiting choirs) and a lot of announcements and welcoming. It’s literally a “church without walls”, as many of the bricks have been removed for use in the larger new building which is half-finished and just alongside.
1300 We are taken to Martin, the pastor’s, house where despite our protests we are fed on huge bowls of rice, chips, beans and some small bitter green aubergines. How did they do that? It feels rather biblical, as a young woman (who tells us she is still in p6) brings round a basin of water for us to wash our hands before we eat. Conversation over lunch is about people on the diocesan welfare programme, which I will be administering and about farming methods. We are shown a new variety of maize which Martin is introducing and meet his family’s pig. Pigs are easy to keep, breed quickly and sell easily.
1400 We spend the next 2 hours walking around the district and meeting people who have benefited from the welfare programme : a young epileptic girl, Aloe Vera, who has a pig; Gaspar who has a new house under construction and Andre who got a plot of land a couple of weeks ago and has managed to dig it all over in that short space of time. Even by Rwandan standards, Banda has a beautiful setting, in a valley surrounded by hills on every side. This also makes it very hot in the afternoon – the sun is fierce.
For the children, we are the afternoon’s entertainment and we end up with a troop of about 40, all very poorly dressed and a few holding hands with various members of our party. Spending money on children’s clothes seems to be a very low priority – they are certainly much worse dressed than the adults, although this is a community of subsistence farmers and the living standards are very basic.
1600 Eventually, we take our leave with the threat of darkness approaching in 2 hours. We end up with 4 extra passengers : Martin and daughter plus 2 young men who work as guides in Nyungwe Forest. We come across a family of baboons on the road as we head back through the forest. There are a lot of primates in the forest, which is absolutely impenetrable apart from paths.
1900 We arrive home 3 hours later than originally estimated and it’s hard to work out where the time has gone exactly. We don’t have to eat much after our unexpectedly large lunch, but Sheena is being very creative with the cooking and we have pancakes (with lemon, of course!).
2000 A couple of phone calls back to Scotland, we manage to get Skype working here for the first time and then we settle down to our escapist treat – watching a “West Wing” DVD. We have the whole first 2 series (thanks, Crawford & Fiona!) and we are already hooked. Bedtime is 2200, it has been a long day.

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