Saturday, 21 March 2009


So we’re into number 5 and I’m sorry for how sporadic they've become. Tomorrow I’m off to the Congo so blog 6, if there is one, should be quite a read.

This week I started some teaching. As I’ve mentioned, every Rwandan school must teach in English from 2010 so I’ve been drafted in to help. The biggest problem is the lack of Anglophone teachers; a school we visited yesterday had one from a staff of 16. On my first visit to Mururu, a teacher training college the students howled with laughter when I told them my age. Fortunately, I felt, it was a big school and so the chances of me being given them again were slight. My first lesson, misleadingly, went very well. I spent my two hours explaining 12 and 24-hour clocks, while daintily avoiding requests for rap lyric translations. I won’t go into what they were, mainly because my mother might read this, but it’s fair to say that the Catholic brothers running the place would not have been best pleased. Anyhoo, everything ran smoothly. Unfortunately Sam and I were misallocated. My ‘language class’ were geography students, while his ‘geographers’ were not. To his credit he managed to keep up their interest in water cycles and erosion but it was clear that we had to swap.

As you might have guessed, it was my new group who had giggled at my adolescence. I had them working on expressing opinion, which had worked well the day before. When the first example given was ‘I believe that you are a teenager,’ I knew things would be tough. Fortunately they’re actually very sweet and, after initial trepidation, I’m enjoying the challenge. I didn’t want to spend my gap-year teaching English, but Rwanda’s position makes it rather necessary.

I went out to dinner last night, which is always an experience. Most places are terribly under-stocked and my initial order of spaghetti carbonara somehow become beef stew. The food took two hours, but it was part of the fun. David has a great story about his first meal in Rwanda. 45 minutes after ordering an omelette, a waitress returned to tell him "No eggs." Paris, mes cheres amis, this is not.

The last few days have opened my eyes to some of the unseen problems faced here. Along the main roads here you see all the normal signs of poverty (malnourished children, dilapidated housing and general disoccupation) but it is in the backcountry that the real problems arise. Gone are the schools and houses built with western money, the signs of independent growth and the air of optimism that is sometimes so palpable here. Rwanda Aid is the only group in the region that makes the awkward journeys to these places. It is not difficult to see why others snub it; our 4x4 could barely cope with the boulders that littered the road and at one point we had to shift a fallen tree.The remoteness means that we are quite heavily relied upon for help. I met Pascasia, a widow living with her two daughters and three grandchildren. Those more familiar with Rwanda have told me that her daughter, unmarried but with three children, is probably selling herself. As shocking as that sounds, it’s important here to throw away western values and consider the alternative for a young girl, poor and unqualified, with mouths to feed. Realistically there isn't one and without Rwanda Aid's help there probably never would be.


PS I just found a way to upload my pictures far more quickly which is very exciting, hours indoors getting pasty was one of the things I had hoped to avoid out here.

1 comment:

  1. Reading your blog brings back memories (some fond) of my elective in Kenya almost exactly 30 years ago, I was virtually a child. Can't wait for your take on the Heart of Darkness trip.