From Rwanda, Term 2
or: This is so not a blog ... (for my friends only!)

This term I will not write something each week, but only when there is something to say or to show, something new – so there will very likely be rather more at the beginning. (The page from the first term is still available, if someone needs to be filled in.) 16 Jan 2010: While classes only started again on 12 January, we had four days of preparation and staff training. I arrived on the first morning of that, missing only the first talk, from the Headmaster – which happened to be the one in which male teachers were told they had to wear a tie to work. Although I had only slept six hours in the previous three days, since leaving New York, I functioned well enough, I think. There were a number of new teachers, including some wazungu, (the plural of muzungu) to improve the teaching of the IB, one of whom has already left, after two weeks in the country. He seemed fine at school, but seems to have found life here too difficult, too different. Other elderly Canadians seem to thrive on that ...
My main worry for the first few days was that I did not have a place to stay – I had hoped that Joseph and/or Tadeo would have a place lined up when I arrived. So I stayed with friends during the first five days, while for a few hours every evening we went hunting for a place for me to rent. This involved meeting various 'commissioners' and being taken by them to a number of places. The very first one that Tadeo and I looked at was really nice, but too big for me – a compound in Nyamirambo, a lively part of town, with a two-room and a three-room house, each with inside toilet/bath, and a separate kitchen building. Unfortunately, by the time we had looked at a few more places, and Tadeo had decided that he would quite like to take the small house and we'd share the rent, another party had apparently already put down a deposit. Very sad: all the other places we looked at over the next few days were rather run down and/or less conveniently located. So we were extremely pleased when Tadeo got a call, some days later, that the place was still available after all. So that is where we are now living.

For 14 hours there had been an option of a very different kind of place. On Friday evening, while walking in town, a car had stopped next to me – which happens quite regularly, since taxi drivers always assume that I want to hire them. But this time it was a small SUV, and the person behind the wheel was Patrick, a Rwandan guy whom I had taught at AC eight years ago, and who, as I had vaguely heard, had come to Rwanda (not: back to Rwanda) two years ago and is doing business here. We spent the rest of the afternoon and the evening together, and I met some of his friends. And some time, around dusk, he negotiated for me to rent a luxurious, fully furnished, Western style two-floor apartment, just around the corner from where we are now, at half (!) the asking price; (that half being precisely what we are paying here, RFr 200,000 or $ 350.) The condition was that I'd pay four months' rent in advance. I only had three months' rent with me, but we made a contract with the son of the owner that I would pay the rest on Monday. That night I stayed at Patrick's, down the road, but the next morning, just before going out for business, he told me that my RFr 600,000 had been returned very early, since the condition had been that I pay not only in advance but immediately. – As it happened, I had had second thoughts about the place anyhow: it would have made quite the wrong impression, both on us and on others, and it would at that price have been limited to those four months – and I did not fancy having to look for a place again in May. Fortunately, just a few hours later we were able to sign for the place where we are now, and the next day we moved: we hired a small truck to bring Tadeo's stuff and the bed, shelf and two chairs, which I had bought with Tadeo's help at a road-side 'shop', to our place.
One of my concerns when looking for a place had been how to get to school every morning. Here one of the school buses stops on the main road just outside our place. I have to get up only 15 minutes earlier in the morning than last term. In the evening it is a rather longer trek to come home, but I pass through town on the way and go to Nyamirambo, which are places that last term I had ended up in a few times a week anyhow. And this place certainly is not as quiet as Kacyiru where I used to have my room ... At the moment the main road outside is being rebuilt, but it should be great when it is all done, hopefully soon (– after all, this is Rwanda.) Another thing I had aimed for was being able to give Pascal the option to live and work here, a bit, while continuing his education. (Some friends of mine offered to pay his fees so that he could return to school.) He seemed very happy with the idea, so he has a small room in my house, while still working for an Indian family for one more week. And he has already done an outstanding job when we were moving a week ago and the new place had to be cleaned up, and his cooking is very good too.
17 Jan 2010: Having bought a table/desk this morning, I feel that at least one room is now fully furnished – Pascal's still only has a mattress and a contraption to hang clothes, and the largest one, into which one comes from outside, is completely bare, and will be for a few more weeks, until I can buy a sofa and armchair set: when I have money again, I hope to find something less ostentatious than is common here. – As I have mentioned, this is an expensive country: the table/desk, though a pretty rough piece of furnture, cost RFr 45,000 (= $ 80: without Tadeo it might have been above $ 100) plus RFr 4000 for the delivery.

Apart from my living arrangements, what has improved the quality of my life here the most, compared with last term, are the mp3-player and the speakers I brought from Berlin: when I was there in November, I had made files of 75 of my CDs. (Since the player has a radio as well, Pascal makes good use of it too.)
23 Jan 2010: At school things have continued a bit chaotic, or at least in flux, though we are gradually dealing with various clashes and 'pressure points', such as a class having more than 30 pupils. One evening I only left after 6pm, having helped Daniel with a computer a friend has leant him – feels like I have done that quite a bit recently, at the expense of talking to him, almost. Hmmm. The respect I am shown, like being called a 'computer-guru' and finding myself described, loudly, as able to teach any subject by a colleague at lunch, is something that I will have to live with, I suppose, very uncomfortable though I find it. – Will be running a weekly Web Design and Programming activity from 3.30 to 5pm from next Monday. Students here clearly very keen on it, am sorry I had to restrict it to 12 from grade 12.

The resurfacing of the road near the house still leads to long detours of the 'taxis' over parallel roads, which have become so dusty that a car that has been left there for a day is covered with a thick reddish-brown layer. One evening I ended up taking a 15-minute detour and had to guess where to get off as we were coming from the opposite direction. – But getting back in the afternoons will be easier from next week: there will be a school bus back to this area, at 5.15, and I am aiming not to leave later than that in future.

Today is Pascal's last day working for the Indian family; he had been a bit worried how they would take it when he told them that he would stop, but that seems to have gone alright. Next week he will have to look for a school in the area and enroll. – Domestic arrangements in our compound are all settled now, I continue to be extremely pleased with how this has worked out. Have met up with a couple of new guys these weeks too, but not seen Joseph for some time, who has been a bit sick, and David not since last term.

Something that surprised me at dinner one evening: Tadeo and I had to tell Pascal about the 9/11 attacks, which he had never heard about, although he did know about al'Qaeda.

Back to school: on Thursday, instead of the last lesson, there was an Assembly, with "a big surprise for all of you," which turned out to be a semi-professional Rwandan dance group. Very nice, and quite distinctive: in many of the dances, accompanied by drumming and singing, the upper bodies of the dancers 'glide', with arms outspread like wings, while the feet and legs move rhythmically; at other times, quick turns of the body are accompanied by sudden jerks of the head, which in one dance were amplified by long white 'hair' attached to the dancers' heads. It looked slightly odd when a very tall student in school uniform and a teacher wearing a tie joined in, but they certainly knew what they were doing!
01 Feb 2010: An odd thought that keeps coming back: that it is winter in the places where people are reading this – and where I would be if I wasn't here. Odd partly perhaps because it had always been summer in Europe when I was in Africa. Today was Hero's Day in Rwanda, very serious, all shops closed until the afternoon, with discussions of heroism on the radio and supposedly in each community, and an address from the President on radio and TV at noon.
    Today Pascal and I went to the school where he will be starting tomorrow, about 30 minutes' walk from here. Looks neat and well-organised. The Headmaster and Principal seemed a bit reluctant to talk to me. Pascal explained that it was a language issue: when he was registering last week – for a specialisation in Computing, Economics and Management – and I happened to call him, the staff around were all surprised that he was able to have a conversation in English.
    Today was also very hot, probably the hottest day I have experienced in Rwanda: too hot for me to eat anything other than bread and jam for lunch, but Pascal cooked for himself. There has been no rain for a while now. When it got a bit cooler we went to town but still did not get the gas cooker, which will work a lot better and faster than Tadeo's kerosene stove that Pascal has been using to prepare our meals.

Last week at school we decided to set up remedial classes in English and Maths – badly needed by many students, I am afraid, mostly in the lower grades – to start next week, and I have been asked to coordinate the programme. So on most days I will be leaving on the 5.15 school bus, to arrive home around 6, instead of leaving on my own around 4 and arriving before 5. I think I am getting paid separately for that.
    Last week, with the heat and lack of rain, the fine red dust from the roadworks in the area became very annoying, we sneeze and sniffle with it, and it settles everywhere, even inside the house. Probably a few more weeks during which it is hardly worth trying to keep up with cleaning.
    Last week, when Daniel came to visit, for the first time, we spent much of the evening listening to classical music: even educated people here generally know nothing and have no interest – but he had asked. And Joseph dropped in a couple of times, feeling better now, but still not taking beer.
    Last week, Pascal had a friend stay for some days, who not only made himself very useful around the place, but also helped him look for a school, and went with him to his previous (boarding) school to collect his school certificates, after paying his outstanding fees from when he was last a student, in 2008: a four-hour trip each way, including 1 1/2 hours on the back of a bike.

Pascal's school (pictures by him)
17 Feb 2010: Things have continued much the same, am well-settled, precisely half-way through this term, although with my limited, local income I have still not been able to buy a sofa set for the living room. Some changes in routine, since Pascal often returns to school for some more studying and only comes back from school an hour or so after me, with our evening often finishing with some maths or English. Am now also passing on sponsorship to a friend of his, the one who came to stay for a few days three weeks ago: Benjamin was ready to enter S6, the last year of school, but he has a sister who was about to enter S1, and the family felt that it was more important to pay for her. About $ 100 pays for tuition and boarding for a term at his school!

On some days, the weather has been very unusual, apparently, ranging from being too hot and humid to being much too wet. While I was meeting with Daniel on Sunday afternoon, for coffee and to look at his new place, much closer to school, (so he is more happy and less stressed) there was a bit of rain; but when I came back to my place, less than 5 km away, there had been the heaviest downpour and the worst wind for many months – talking of microclimate! Luckily the dirt in this part of Africa is such that the major road outside the house, which is still being resurfaced, has not turned into a mud bath even in heavy rain. And as I wrote before, things – roads, laundry – always dries remarkably quickly. But other days have been spring-like and pleasant.

When I got into a 'taxi' last weekend outside my house, the gentleman who took the seat next to me started to talk to me – in pretty good German. After some time I asked him how he knew that I was German, and he said that he did not live far away and had asked around about me.

Have met with more people, like a friend of Thomas's who is here for a few months. But also Augustine who has come back for a holiday from doing business in Angola: he is the person who I started to talk to at Nairobi Airport the first time I came to Kigali, through whom I then met some of the other people I am still hanging out with, and whom I subsequently saw twice in Dubai on my way to visiting Arnold in Dar. When we talked yesterday it seemed to me that he, Augustine, did not understand well why I am here: he mentioned things like the weather and the food and having the luxury of a houseboy, which in Europe I of course wouldn't, (I said something about washing machines etc.) and was wondering why I would not move to a much better paying international school. I think his view is influenced by how he thinks of his own life and by what he wants to achieve for himself. (On the right I have copied a passage from a book that I feel expresses well – albeit in a more intense, emotional manner than I am quite comfortable with – why I like being here.)
on the

Westerners arriving in Africa for the first time are always struck by its beauty and size – even the sky seems higher. And they often find themselves suddenly cracked open. They lose inhibitions, feel more alive, more themselves, and they begin to understand why, until then, they have only half lived. In Africa the essentials of existence – light, earth, water, food, birth, family, love, sickness, death – are more immediate, more intense. Visitors suddenly realize what life is for. To risk a huge generalization: amid our wasteful wealth and time-pressed lives we have lost human values that still abound in Africa.
Back at home in London I sometimes ask visiting Africans what strikes them most about the way Londoners live. Suni Umar, a journalist from ... northern Nigeria, gives a typical answer: "People walk so fast. And they don't talk to each other. Even first thing in the morning they do not greet one another. ..." ... When Suni goes home to Nigeria and tells that tale [of someone in London just walking off when asked the way] they will not believe him. There they know that some Europeans are not kind to Africans, but to be so trivially inhuman to each other is shocking. Even in London or New York or Paris, Africans do not easily lose the habit of catching your eye as you pass. Raise an eyebrow in greeting and a flicker of a smile starts in their eyes. A small thing? No. It is the prize that Africa offers the rest of the world: humanity.
Richard Dowden, Africa: Altered
States, Ordinary Miracles
, 2008.
08 Mar 2010: Today is an unexpected holiday – nobody seems to have known that it would be Women's Day: I found out from a text that I got on Sunday from Gaspard, the Assistant Headmaster, and Pascal had to call one of his profs. That teacher had come visit him (or me?) last week, on his way home from school: at a staff meeting at that school, where teachers were reminded to speak only English in their classes, the headmaster apparently said that there were students from countries where they don't speak French or Kinyarwanda, and that there was even "one student who has a muzungu father." – I had been worried, though only slightly, how Pascal would cope with his studies, but the first tests suggest that he will be fine.

Some of you might have read about the grenade attacks in the centre of Kigali, one about three weeks ago, the other last week, killing one person and injuring dozens of others. No one has claimed responsibility, but everyone seems to agree that they are connected with the Presidential elections coming up in August: some groups may be trying to demonstrate that not all is as well in the country as it may seem. When these incidents were reported in the West, there was mention of criticisms from Amnesty International and, I think, Human Rights Watch that the political opposition in Rwanda was being harrassed. I am afraid that from here the opposition looks decidedly nasty: having asked around, I have not been able to discover any policies that they might be putting forward, no area where they might be offering an alternative to the government – in fact they don't seem to have raised any issues other than ones concerning the genocide, which they seem to want to exploit, regardless of the danger to the country, to gain power. It rather reminds me of Robert Mugabe, when he found that his popularity was waning, 'playing the race-card': for no apparent reason the white farmers, with whom he had happily worked for more than a decade, became the enemy, accused of being supported by colonial Britain, and so on.

I have been impressed when I have heard the President talk on the radio – in fact I know Paul Kagame's voice better than that of Gordon Brown or of Angela Merkel, who I only know from brief sound clips. He is very clever. Like when in a recent news conference, instead of accusing France of not doing enough to help prosecute those accused of master-minding the genocide, he stated that as long as justice was done, it did not matter where such people were tried, whether in France or in Rwanda – implicitly placing Rwanda at the same level as France, and in that way countering allegations that such people would not get a fair trial here.
Even yesterday and today our compound is shaking heavily every few minutes. The road outside is just a week or two from being finished, using a mixture of heavy machines and a lot of men with shovels, all supervised by chain-smoking Chinese. It has already been tarred down to about 1 km from where we are. Things have been slowed down by some very heavy rains, which have kept washing away some of the dirt and gravel that had been put down and levelled, but I am not sure that some better planning might not have prevented most of that.

Talking of planning, I have had to make plans and get my plane tickets as far ahead as November already. So from mid-June to the beginning of August I will be in Europe and for two weeks in Japan – I have usually gone there every two years, but missed last summer, because of moving and so on. Which means that I won't be going/coming to the US until the winter. I had hoped to have more time in August, since the third term only starts on the 12th, but I have been asked to join the school's management team for a retreat in a very nice place, by Lake Kivu I think, to do some long-term planning. Before then I will be in Berlin in April for the two weeks of Easter and Genocide Memorial Weeks, with two days in the UK on the way back – if I was not going 'home' now, I would not have been there for more than six months.

I have come to quite like some songs that have been played a lot on the radio, by Rwandan artists, like Igipimo (6Mb) and Mubwire (4Mb), two songs by Meddy. (You may have to right-click on the link and save the .mp3-file.)
22 Mar 2010:  John P asked me, in view of all the pictures here, about my "new fascination with" road construction. Well, for one, I have always been intrigued by how things work, and so I am interested in how a road is built; (it is simpler here of course than in many places in Europe or the US, because there is no danger of water freezing under the road surface and pushing it up. But all the main roads are sloping to the left or the right, so that the water during the often heavy rains can run off into the drains, which are usually open and run alongside the road.) But the roadworks are also a communal event, many local residents stand around and watch, and a number of times people have started brief conversations. And there is a large amount of pleasure in seeing things progressing so well, perhaps almost a kind of pride: this is not what most people would expect of Africa.

Many T-shirts here are fun to read, probably left-over stock that has been sold here cheaply. Like one about a 2002 'pub-crawl' somewhere in the UK.

There is an area close to the school where every morning we pass many cars on the side of the road being washed by houseboys. On most days, I am sure, most of the cars were completely clean.

I am very much looking forward to my first visitor from outside Rwanda: Eric-Jan will be coming for five days at the end of April, after a couple of weeks in Kenya and Uganda.

Another friend of Pascal's came to visit this weekend. I had met Laurien in the village last term, he is 16 but has been living on his own since his mother died two years ago; Pascal has been his 'mentor' since then and helped him out. Although he is only in Senior 2, his English is surprisingly good: apparently Pascal has always emphasised how important it is. He walks to school, 40 minutes each way, and is getting very good grades, but has been sent away by the headmaster a few times this term, for not having paid his school fees. So, I have ... etc.

I like Pascal's friends from his village whom I have met – he has lived there nearly all his life and has found himself good people, I guess. They are modest and funny, clever and hard-working: there is a saying here, "On the first two days you are a guest, but on the third day you pick up the hoe" – these friends have 'picked up the hoe' as soon as they have arrived. Like him, they all have siblings, but none of them have parents. So I think I will end up paying school fees for four people, (mostly with money from my friends: thanks a lot!)
02 Apr 2010:  I am at the airport in Kigali, waiting for my greatly delayed flight; I hope I will make the connection in Nairobi. Kenya Airways call themselves "The Pride of Africa" – my experience is more of "The Emarrassment of Africa": when you hire a baggage handler, there may not be much harm done if you hire somebody's nephew, but if you appoint top managers to run an airline or an airport in the same kind of way, this is what you get.

Two big events this week. One was a student-organised charity evening at the school, which raised close to $ 3000 for CAS projects. The Miss and Mr GHA contest was not much to write home about, (or mention in a non-blog ...) but the appearance of two major local musicians, including Meddy, to two of whose tracks there are links above, certainly was. I had to be there, like all teachers, for crowd control, (not much of which was required ...) but I had a very good time, and was able to invite Pascal, on the day on which he finished his end-of-term exams, who of course loved it.

The other was the arrival, only two days late and still two days before I left, of the sofa set that I had made: the wood and the covering African, but without the pompous sides and backs that are popular here. So now we can receive certain visitors, like Pascal's sister when she comes some time, more formally, instead of having them sit on my bed. (For most visitors it does not matter ...)

The exams at his school having finished too, Benjamin came yesterday evening, and he and Pascal 'pushed' me today when I came to the airport. Pushing someone is common, and sometimes involves walking almost all the way home with someone who has come to visit you. It is something that I got used to in Tanzania, but even some students at AC did it, and not only Africans, when they were comfortable with someone.

The last few days I really felt it was time to go away. I had been working on the on-line report writing, and was of course slightly worried if it would all work, especially with the inconsistent internet connections we have. (Everything worked very well, and the system is popular with my colleagues.) But thinking about it I also realised that I had for decades not been in one place for so long: terms at AC are longer, but I had managed to go away at least once each term, by plane for a weekend or on a Choir Tour abroad.


From Rwanda, Term 3
– by now I guess we are getting used to me being here ...

21 Apr 2010:  I am on the plane from Berlin, finally: not that I have not had a good time, but I had planned on 12 days there and two days in the UK, and now I will arrive at least four days late, depending on when I can get an onward flight to Nairobi. I wasn't too worried about school, I must admit: I sent work for some of my classes anyhow. But I had been expecting to still see certain people and to be met at the airport. And everything in Berlin felt very provisional these last days, I was not even sure I would get to Kigali before Eric-Jan comes to visit: as well as to concerts and bookshops, to the pool and to cakeshops, I cycled to the airport – 6 km each way, which I am sure was good for me – three times in five days, to rebook flights.

And I wanted to make sure that those guys had their school fees on time. So I arranged Tadeo to pay the April rent for his house in our compound for one guy; and I very much appreciated the way Patrick, the Rwandan/refugee ex-student from AC who I had met again last term, came through.

Later:  Got a connecting flight the same evening, and will be picked up by a driver from school: I'll be teaching most of my classes tomorrow. Am pleased to be able to do these trips with hand luggage only.
06 May 2010:  Two weeks later, and things have been no less good than last term – I had been wondering if this could last. Better in some ways, (although I am sorry that not everything is going well for all my friends: such as parents being sick.) So it feels slightly sad that having been late by a few days, one quarter of this term is already over for me: I will again be allowed to have my maths exams early so that I will be able to leave ten days before the end of term.

"Someone who hates children and animals can't be all bad." One of the things that is noticeable, and nice, here is that it is very uncommon for people to have pets. On the way to school we occasionally pass a muzungu taking his dog for a run – with his houseboy, I suppose, following him with another big dog on a leash; I wonder how he feels about that. – For a week or so there was a kid that we could occasionally hear screaming somehwere near our place; this is very unusual here, and seems to have passed.

I was very happy to have my first non-African visitor the first weekend I was back, when Eric-Jan came for the last four days of a two-week holiday in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. He met my friends and got along very well with everyone, and everyone liked him, (I would have been surprised if it had been otherwise, very surprised!) and he also taught some classes at school, introducing theatre and puppetry. On Sunday we, that is Eric-Jan, Daniel, Pascal and I, had gone to the Genocide Memorial in town, which is surrounded by terraces of mass graves – more than when I went there for the first time five years ago, as bodies continue to be brought from around the country and reburied there. The Memorial is not only for the 1994 Genocide, with displays of the events during those 100 days and what had led up to them, but also puts it in the context of other genocides in other parts of the world. It has to be said, though, that the place is beginning to feel slightly run-down, and that it represents an account that is beginning to feel somewhat one-sided. The best-known film about the Genocide is of course "Hotel Rwanda", and on Tuesday after school, Eric-Jan and I had a drink by the pool of the Hotel des Mille Collines, which features in it. The next day, when he had to go to the airport, since I was not free, it was Tadeo who 'pushed' him. – Then the following weekend Benjamin came to visit, whom I had missed before, because I arrived late. He is beginning to feel like 'a member of the family.' That weekend, we also got the last major addition to the furniture, a fairly serious radio and CD system that also plays mp3-files from SD cards and USB drives.




Eric-Jan, who took most of these pictures, and Daniel

16 May 2010:  Almost the end of a lazy weekend, after a very busy week, during which I only came back on the last school bus every day, precisely 12 hours after having been picked up in the morning. Main reason was that the IB registrations for November had to be done: while the number of candidates is only a quarter of those at AC, (though it will be one third next year) it is much more of a 'one-man show' here, and there are more things still to sort out at this stage, with teachers and students (and their parents!) Gareth wrote: "I hope your internet connection is not too slow. [It was, very.] It takes ages even with fast broadband." – and he knows. But all was entered and signed well before the deadline. – And some good news from the IB: we will receive the grant of $ 12,000 that I applied for in March, on behalf of the school, (at a time when it still felt stranger than it does now to be doing anything on behalf of the school.)

Hic et nunc. I am listening to Sibelius, reclining on the bed, the mattress of which has by now become decidedly lumpy. Pascal is at school for four hours, to study with some others from his class; apparently most students come even on Sunday, and the boarders are – have to be! – there anyhow. (The rules are strict: one student was expelled for being found with a mobile phone, even though it was switched off. There may have been more to the story of course.) So Tadeo is cooking this evening, which he does sometimes, and very well; his IT business is still having too many 'downs' and too few 'ups'. It has been raining, as it has continued to do occasionally, although it shouldn't be at this time of the year, not until October.

A friend of Pascal's came to stay on Friday, and I went for my second swim at the Milles Collines on Saturday, having got myself a carnet of 20 tickets for RFr 60,000 (= just over US$ 100.) After that I took the two of them to Simba Cafe in town (– NOT for coffee and cake): it will be Pascal's birthday on Monday. Of all his friends, JD is the one with whom I am finding it hardest to communicate: it is not only that his English is weak and that he is shy, but he often seems content to just sit there while things are going on around him. Still very much a boy from the village. Or perhaps it is that he is attending a seminary school, although he does not want to become a priest. – Last weekend, Joseph and Daniel both visited on Friday evening, (I wasn't quite sure how comfortable they were together ...) and Daniel stayed and went straight to church on Saturday, in this area, not his usual one. But this weekend they have been busy.

The other thing that took a lot of time last week, and was also slowed down by the patchy internet access that the country has been suffering from recently, was booking flights and train journeys for the next holidays, from 19 June, when I will again be leaving ten days before the end of the term, to 02 August, when I have been asked to come back, a week before the scheduled start of the term, to join a retreat of the school's administrative team; (the start of that term is scheduled for the day after the already looming national elections, on 09 August, and it may well be delayed by a day or two.) So, my travel plans: I will have two days in the UK, including a short trip to see Gareth and Ellie, (and hopefully my dentist, for a check-up) then three days with Britta in France – where the situation at the commune has apparently been more tense than ever before, although things have settled a bit, into a new arrangement – and three days with Thomas and Bridie in their Swiss chalet. After six days in Berlin I will make a trip to visit Eric-Jan in Amsterdam and Sebastiano in Italy, and after another week in Berlin I will be going to Japan for 12 days – my first time there in three years. By Aeroflot, from Berlin. Which leaves me a couple of days only before flying back to Kigali, also from Berlin, not via London. It looks like I will, in my second year of living in the German capital, again only be spending a total of less than eight weeks there.
The Richard Dowden book is sometimes hard going: things have not been well on this continent, and he has seen many of the worst things for himself, so his reporting is "up close and personal". In the chapter on Rwanda and Burundi, mostly about the genocides, he explains why at the time he did not send certain dispatches; but also why at first he could not believe what was happening: "One reason that I did not fully comprehend the scale of the organized killings was that I did not think Africa capable of doing it." On top of that he concludes each chapter with a 'downer', or at least that is what it feels like, so I am having to read it in small doses. – After reading that chapter, I became aware of something that had slowly been registering at the back of my mind, subliminally: that my students at the school have, practically all of them, a very different appearance, different features from the people I meet in this area and through Pascal. When I mentioned this to him, carefully, he did not pretend not to understand what I meant but just asked, with a smile: "Who do you like better?"
A Saturday morning, Pascal and Benjamin:

Laurien did not like his previous picture ... He is in fact older than I had thought, almost 18. And apparently doing very well at school, even if his school is not so great.

Sunday lunch – I don't like ugali, made from casava, and don't want/need meat as much as 'the locals', so I have fried eggs on toast, (which they don't care for ...) The meat is in a vegetable sauce, and taken by hand with the ugali.
03 June 2010:  Very busy these days at school – partly my own fault of course, for leaving 11 days before the end of term, but have also been doing a lot of 'fire fighting', some of it IT-related; (my own report-writing set-up is running well – when we have internet access ...) Dinner at the (Canadian) Headmaster's last Friday, and at the (Indian) Principal's and her family's this Friday. Laurien visited again last weekend, – like his older brother he is still very much from the village, but unlike him he is lively and sharp, so I just need to say: "Ask me something." – and my second trip to Pascal's village this weekend (– I intend to take the phone with the camera this time): I am invited to his godfather's first-born's First Communion, but will be able to avoid the church part. – After this weekend there is only one more before I pack my little backpack and leave, on a flight at 1 am!

Am also speaking German occasionally these days, with the six students and two teachers from Munich who are here for two weeks on an annual exchange; some of our students go there in July. Somewhat surprisingly many students in grades 7 and 8 are starting to learn German, and may continue to do so as they grow older: staff from the German Embassy, (where I think I will be accompanying the exchange group next week: my first time there, although I have registered as a German living here via a website) have come to the school to explain about higher education at Germany universities.

Both when Benjamin came for the weekend and when Laurien did, they and Pascal found it difficult to accept that I would not be offended if they left me for a few hours to watch soccer matches, like the European Cup final.

The road in our area is all done, apart for the pavement on one side.

Pascal and his two most precious belongings

In the village:
Welcome in the village – "Muzungu! Muzungu!"
The living room in Pascal's house. The newspaper on the walls makes the place brighter, and also cooler, apparently.
Laurien's house, some 10 minutes further up the hill, where he has been living on his own for the past few years, except that during the holidays his brother comes home. They farm some of the land that belongs to them: bananas, avocado, lemon, casava.
The house is quite spacious, with four rooms – apparently tidied up a bit for me. ;-)

His walk/run to school takes him 40 minutes each way. He showed me some of his work and his report card: 3rd in a class of 38.

A typical view, on the way back down.
A typical village building: the walls are made of wood tied and woven together, and then packed with mud (– I don't think that would work with the mud in most other places in the world.) The roof are is made from banana leaves or corrugated metal sheets.
When we came back from the church, the other guests at the celebration were singing for us, and we sat down to a meal, each person being served an enormous portion of food: luckily I had support from Pascal and his friends. Being the guest of honour is hard work: it seemed that the calabashes could not be passed around until I had drunk at least a third of a bottle of pretty potent banana beer.
I had been invited as the guest of honour at Pascal's godfather's first-born's first communion. Since the church – a Catholic one, near the bottom of the valley – was too small, most family members were hanging around outside in the heat. For the kids, and even some of the adults I was as usual the main attraction: the windows of the hired car that had taken us there was full of the smudges of little hands and noses pressed flat ...
Pascal's grandfather – born in 1932, but still fit enough to run down the hill to get some milk for us in the morning! – in front of his house.
19 Jun 2010:  This trip is going more smoothly than some previous ones: a driver from the school picked me up at my house at 10pm and took me to the airport where my flight left on schedule at 1am, I got bits of sleep in the transit lounge in Nairobi and am now waiting for the flight to London. Even after all my travelling I still find it odd that I will be arriving in London less than 24 hours after I arrived home yesterday from a long last day at school. I will only be getting to Berlin in 8 days, but am managing to travel light, with only a small rucksack.
The whole last week was extremely busy at school, even slightly crazy: there is a multi-cultural festival at the school today, from 10 am to 3pm. The brain-child of the Principal, it grew from an afternoon where kids would be learning about different countries, make flags, and so on, to a major event, with continuous performances, many national tents and different foods, advertised on the radio and attended by President Kagame. The German contribution includes games for children, like Topfschlagen and frankfurters (Wiener in German), donated by the German Butcher, but since the date was moved to the day after I was due to leave, I have been able to play not so active a role. I was still very busy, not only with 'normal' stuff, like installing a printer driver and interviewing (rather than, as it turned out, being involved in interviewing) companies to make an improved website for the school, but also because I had to set and mark my end-of-term exams: the term only finishes on 30 June. These early departures, at the start of the end-of-term exams, will continue to be part of my arrangement with the school: because I need to renew my work visa in August, (I now have a Green Card as well) I have already signed my contract for 2011. Nice: they seem to want me to stay ...
The week after our trip to the village, I had my second long-distance visitor here, when Arnold came from Tanzania for two days: he had had to fly to Mwanza in the north of his country where he has a friend, but then still had more than 12 hours on the bus, and the return trip was no less arduous. But he is rather stoic about that kind of thing – and in fact about anyting. Tanzanians are on the whole a bit like Rwandans, while Ugandans and Kenyans are rather more excitable. I used to stay with Arnold in Dar every summer, but had not seen him for two years this time, so was very happy that he came.
Had dinner at the Headmaster's one Friday and at the Principal's the next, had a good time on both occasions. Am finding them good people work with, and they seem to like me too and trust me. An incident when I was walking from school to the Principal's house, shortly after dark: on the opposite side of the road there were two kids fighting, about nine or ten years old. So a middle-aged man on a motorbike stops his bike, gets off, separates the kids, throwing one one way, the other the other, gives the bigger one a smack on the head, and continues on his way.

The last weekend Benjamin came to stay again, a nice relaxed time, at the end of which I took him and Pascal to the Mille Collines hotel. I had planned to go for a swim as well, but had woken up with a very stiff neck two days before, (my only 'health problem' this term) and so we just had a drink. Part of their education: they had thought that one would need to pay an entrance fee. I suspect that they also still feel about many places not only that they are too expensive but that they don't have a right to go there at all. The term at local schools is more than three weeks longer than ours, but they also start later again in August, so I am looking forward to various people staying at my/our house after I have returned.

I was very happy to be able to spend an evening with Joseph during the last week, whom I had not seen for a while because of a bereavement in the family. I have invited him to come to Berlin in November or next April.
Am excited about my travels for the next six weeks, but at the same time sad about being away and looking forward to going back in early August. – Until then!

From Rwanda, Term 4
– trying something more like a diary this time (still for my friends only!)

03 Aug (Tue):returned to Kigali, after a great six week holiday, visiting friends in various places in Europe and Japan, as well as spending some time in Berlin. Am mostly on my own there, and mostly with other people here: the double life suits me well. Pascal and Benjamin came to pick me up. 'Our' road is now finished, both sidewalks and street lighting, but very major roadworks are continuing in many other parts of the city.

04 – 06 Aug (Wed – Fri):went on a retreat with some 20 of the staff from the school, all three sections, at a convent above the picturesque Lake Ruhondo, within sight of the volcanoes, about 3 hours from Kigali. Good food, and on the last evening some party games, like musical chairs – much enjoyed by many in the group. (The photos were taken there and on the way.)

07 Aug (Sat):found out, when I was checking my accounts on-line, that someone had charged more than € 3000 to my German credit card account – a bit messy to deal with from here.

08 Aug (Sun):Benjamin came for a day: he was supposed to be here until his and Pascal's terms start in a week, which would have been nice, but the top ten students in his class had been called to a job, wiring in ten days three schools near his school for electricity.

09 Aug (Mon):Pascal and Benjamin left early to go to the village to vote. In the run-up to the election there were posters and text messages, (I only noticed ones for the incumbent ...) and some big campaign meetings.

I slept a bit longer, – the compound was locked but the house door slightly ajar – and when I woke up found that someone had come in and walked off with a few things, nothing major. But because of the election I cannot get my local phone replaced for two days.

At the voting in the village, this is the kind of thing that was said, apparently: "This is the ballot paper. You can put your fingerprint here, next to Paul Kagame's photo; or you can put it anywhere else, of course. ... There is a voting booth over there, but you might as well vote right here."

10 Aug (Tue):some excitement this morning, when we heard sounds on our roof. Pascal went out and climbed up, and gave chase to the thief from yesterday, who had apparently come back to retrieve a bag that he had left with some of our things in it. He wasn't able to catch him, but he saw him, a guy of about 14 years. So we got some of our things back, except my (cheap) phone, an SD card and a USB drive.

12 Aug (Thu):while walking outside, Pascal and I ran into Benjamin's cousin, who is apparently doing rather well as a motorbike taxi rider and is getting married in the village at the end of the month. I had already been asked to come, but after an invitation from the bridegroom – the first time I met him – I certainly plan to go.

Having come back to Rwanda fairly directly from Japan, I have felt at various times that here is not only very different from there, but in many respects the opposite. In fact, after recent conversations, at home and at school, (with people who know neither what an oreo cookie looks like, nor what it means to call s.o. an 'oreo') I have thought more again about the concept of 'passing' that I have come across in sociology.

14 Aug (Sat):was beeped by Pascal while I was at the pool: a pastor, Korean and in a car, had stopped him on the road and asked if he could borrow his bike, for a performance, and then in return invited him, and also me, to attend the show that evening. It turned out to be an unseasonal Christmas celebration, with carols and Christmas songs, (snow was mentioned rather a lot, and one scene was all about gift-giving – neither is a feature of Christmas here) and even the Halleluya-chorus, all put on by a Christian NGO from Korea running religious summer camps in East Africa. Not great, (preaching here is very limited, no theological argument at all, the passages used are always the same and obvious: "When Jesus comes to knock at the door of your heart, will you also say: 'No room at the inn'?") but I was at least able to show Pascal what a violin and a cello look like, and how a trumpet sounds.

20 Aug (Fri):the end of the first week of term at normal Rwandan schools, but it typically takes a week until all students – and all teachers! – have turned up and teaching starts properly. So Benjamin could come here and go to the village when they ran out of materials at the last school where he is on a job.

Daniel, who has been earning quite well, teaching English very hard and without much of a break, wants to invest in a motorbike taxi, which would be driven by Pascal's brother-in-law, so we met together to discuss details – such as that he does not want it to be on the road during the Sabbath. I asked him if he thought that the bike would be Seventh Day Adventist, and if the important point wasn't that he should not be making a profit from Friday sundown to Saturday evening. To his credit, he takes my barbs well and listens to my points, even if he does not change his mind.




Thanks to Amy for the pictures.
Waiting to be taken to the Giving Away at the bride's home, 40 dusty minutes by car away. 29 Aug (Sun):have been in 'the village' (Pascal's that is) for the wedding of Benjamin's cousin, and had a very good time. We arrived early on Saturday, and the day started with a hot and dusty trip in cars and vans to the bride's family's house, where after some symbolic haggling, – "How can you take the daughter who has been cutting my hair?" etc. – the dowry was handed over, with lots of guests, and some food and drink. From there everyone went to the church, although many of the party stayed outside, and then we returned to the groom's village, for the wedding reception. The real party seemed to have happened the previous night though: after two days here, Benjamin had gone a day before Pascal and me, "to help", and apparently there had been a DJ and music until early in the morning. I was again treated very well, with Pascal, Benjamin and Laurien in charge of 'looking after me' – hardly anyone speaks any English.
Claude, the groom at end of the 'neogtiations'. Handing over of the dowry by the groom's family.
The bride and groom give each other food and drink. An entertainer concludes that part of the day's events – including some references to the muzungu, of course.
The wedding party arrives at the groom's family's house. After we came back to Kigali in the afternoon, before Benjamin returned to school, we had time to "go to Expo", a fair, mostly of East African goods, with plenty of entertainment.

This time I came back from the village rather more seriously bitten, and I had a small (for me ...) sum of money taken from my pocket in the pushing and shoving for a 'taxi' after leaving Expo late, so Pascal and I only had just enough coins between us to be able to take the 'taxi', it would have been a two-hour walk – but a great weekend.

04 Sep (Sat):went "to Expo" again, with Pascal and a friend of his from school, more this time for the entertainment than for the East African goods, had some food and some beer. There was an area where people were dancing, and I (rather than we: Pascal was rather surprised) ended up joining them – first time I felt like dancing since Turkey and Hungary: guys very friendly, keen to show me how to do it their way, moving very close, little groups forming and dissolving, eyes mostly on the muzungu, but all very comfortable, fun.

09 Sep (Thu):two 'weeks from hell' are over, almost: even with a long weekend, because of the President's inauguration, the fortnight of Mocks and report writing has been quite wearing: if all the time here was like that, I might not last long – too much like work. Things like having to get all the reports completed and printed on time when the internet has stopped working in the middle of doing it all. We still have to come to school for Open House on Saturday morning, when students come to school with their parents to learn their exam grades. But tomorrow is Eid, the end of Ramadan and a national holiday. Since Eid depends on a sighting of the moon, we did not even know until late yesterday evening whether the holiday would be today or tomorrow.

10 Sep (Fri):went to celebrate Eid at the house of Ayubu, a Muslim friend of Pascal's from his school who had come around a few times. Very nice food and a nice occasion, nothing at all religious about it, although Ayubu is strict about praying five times a day. But conversation was made rather difficult by the typical set-up, not just in Rwanda, of arranging all the chairs and armchairs along the walls around the room rather than in groups.

Apart from at my school I mostly meet people through Pascal, so they are in a way 'preselected' – a bit like at AC, I have a much better chance of meeting good people than one usually does.

In the evening Laurien arrived from the village for the weekend – his English is improving, and we are slowly turning him from a village-boy into a city-kid: in so many ways he is well ahead of his older brother. Have been thinking that when he is finished with S3 (= grade 9) next year it may be appropriate for him to move to a boarding school rather than continue at the school in the village.

18 Sep (Sat):the series of 'weeks from hell', sadly, continued with one more: a combination of (1) students now having to upload their ThoK-essays to the IB website, where after at least 24 hours had passed I had to read and authenticate them, by a Wednesday midnight deadline – which meant that I was at school late and then working at an internet cafe until 10 pm on some days – and (2) a Maths teacher having had to be dismissed so that there were his grade 7 and 8 classes to cover.

But the matter of the € 3100 that had been charged to my German credit card seems to be sorted out, at last, after numerous e-mails and eventually a fax of an affidavit. And Benjamin is here for the weekend, taking a break from his revision, his final exams are in early November. Talking of the National Exams, (which a small group of students are taking at my school too) the Maths papers at least are very challenging – but because the teaching, at least of Maths, is generally very weak in this country, the grade boundaries are set extremely low; I think 10% is a pass. They are also, I have to say, atrociously set.

A Sunday Wednesday Afternoon by the Pool in Kigali – P and B came one day to see me swim at the Mille Collines.

The only one of P's schoolmates whose number I have on my phone: Ayubu regularly joins us for maths, he is very good.

When he was about to return to the village, L said: "Take my picture," and sat down. P by contrast prefers to pose more formally, looking off camera into the distance ...

'Our' road was finished some months ago, complete with pavement and street lights, but construction is continuing in many other parts of Kigali.
21 Sep (Mon):a major change we are planning at school, starting from next year already, after the Board accepted the move, is from a Southern-hemisphere school-year, from January to November, to a Northern-hemisphere one from August to June. I have ended up as one of the 'planners' – I can just hear you say: "Of course." But Alpana, the Principal, and I agree that the planning and implementing will be quite exciting, certainly more so, to me, than a multi-cultural day.

27 Sep (Mon):have started to make concrete plans for December in the US, though I will return to Berlin just before New Year, to come back here just after.

It feels like my life has divided again, almost into two separate lives, (or even three, with the travelling) like it was when I was studying for nine months of each year and working at the Camp on Long Island and travelling in the US for the other three months.

I do for instance not do much reading here, although I have been greatly enjoying Night Train to Lisbon during the 15 minutes of compulsory reading each day after break, and at home I have started the first book of the Millennium-trilogy. But most of my time I spend with friends and their friends: this weekend, Daniel came on Friday evening and went straight to church on Saturday morning, (7th Day Adventists are strict about Saturday, so I think he kept God waiting a bit, because he had more fun talking here ...) then in the afternoon a friend of P's came and they worked together, with some input from me, on a Powerpoint presentation for their MS Office class at school, and he stayed until Sunday; and when I had returned from a swim on Sunday afternoon and P from his sister's, Ayubu came for some maths, and also another friend of P's dropped in for an hour, very nice; so that after they had both left, it was so late that we only had (very dry) cakes, boiled egg, banana and tea for dinner.

In Berlin on the other hand I have more time to myself, which I also want/need, and will be able to read a lot, as well as 'overdose' on concerts and not-so-dry cakes. Over all, including the travelling, the balance feels about right.

02 Oct (Sat):had my first three-hour session teaching English in Parliament to a group of six deputies – the ones whose names everyone here knows. I had been asked by the head of Inganzo (an organisation which is based at the school and runs English courses for adults, mostly in the evenings) to do the first of a series of sessions, and another in two weeks' time, but I do get paid. Not that they don't know English – in fact, they are good enough to have spoken at international conferences; but they still want – and, as it turned out when I got them to read aloud, need – to do some work on certain basic skills. The trouble is that they would be impatient with someone who is just an English teacher, giving them exercises (– Daniel for instance is very popular with the usual adult groups): not only are they deputies, they also want to develop such skills as constructing arguments and taking notes. What required concentration was having to work at two levels the whole time: to have a serious interaction with what is a demanding group, while at the same time listening for, and then occasionally commenting on and immediately trying to remedy, linguistic mistakes.

Typical mistakes made by Kinyarwanda speakers in English: "I am going in Kigali," and "This is good than that," and: "The most people ...," and: "He is busiest [instead of: very busy]."

05 Oct (Tue):have come home late two evenings in a row. Yesterday there was a reception/party at the residence of the German ambassador, with two speeches, by him and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, which were even shown on TV, but also with plenty of nice wine and food. Most of the time I was talking with a prosecutor who works with the German authorities in tracking down genocidaires – I didn't quite know how to start a conversation with one of the about 80 Germans who were there: there are apparently over one hundred in the country at any time.

And today in the evening there was a parents' meeting, mostly to explain about/discuss our change next year of academic year. I had been supposed to chair one group, but when the Principal saw certain parents in another group, she moved me there. It was the most unpleasant experience, I think, of this year; (I have hardly any of those, fortunately.)

09 Oct (Sat):bought a new piece of furniture for the living room, a cupboard – in a style that I believe my grandmothers knew when they were young: nothing else can be found at a reasonable price. Where is IKEA?! The 'commissioner' at the covered furniture-market, not quite understanding the situation, apparently suggested to P and B that they pretend that it cost RFr 10,000 (= $ 16) more and that he and they split the difference, but they just said they were getting it for themselves – which in a way is true, since we need more space partly because B is going to be living with us next year while trying to find work while waiting to (perhaps) go to university. But the room does look better for it.

B's exams start in a few weeks, so we are doing a lot of maths this weekend, (as I will also be doing with P next week, before his exams.) Both are in the process of getting themselves girlfriends, although that, just as the phrase "making love to someone", means something quite different here, at least in 'their' Africa, from what it means in other places. That there are great differences in what people can mean when they say they are "going out" I had noticed at AC already.

16 Oct (Sat):my second session in Parliament, four hours this time, with a short break. A bit tiring, but fun, and they seem to like me. Afterwards, got talking to someone at the pool, at the end of my swim: not such a likely thing to happen at a pool in Germany, or in Japan! He turned out to be living in our part of town, and he will expect that I remember him when we meet again some time. Also exchanged phone numbers, when we ran into one another for the third time in two weeks, with a student from KIST (Kigali Institute of Technology) who had come to our stand at the Education Fair. – On the other hand, it has only happened once in all the many times that I have not taken the school bus home but been walking along the road to where the 'taxis' pass, that a student and their parent, or driver, have stopped to give me a ride.

The Assembly of God church, near our house, where P and B go on Sundays when they have time. In the village both are Catholic.

The "church for the poor", as P described it, less than 100m away! Here too, loud singing, but accompanied with wood blocks rather than an electric organ.

A bit old-fashioned, but not so bad, is it?

The rainy season has started, rather later than last year, and with only a few of the heavy downpours so far. Apparently there are more robberies when it rains heavily during the night: the noise on the metal sheeting of the roofs is so loud that people don't wake up when a big hole is broken through the outside wall of their living room.

Two posters from a campaign about something that apparently is, or has become, an issue:

What's strange in this picture?

20 Oct (Wed):P's exams ended yesterday; they will get – "pick" in the local English, rather than "pick up" – their reports next week, but he has already been told that he came top in English. Today his class had a party at a bar near our place. Because it was raining, quite a few of the students, many of whom I had met before, came here first, and later Joseph and I, at P's suggestion/request, went to the same bar for a drink till quite late, with people coming over to greet us. (I am considered very polite, apparently: I stood up when people came to our table to shake hands.)

22 Oct (Sat):Information Night yesterday, to introduce the IB to present and prospective students and parents, so I was the main speaker: the student presentations worked a charm, (like they always did at AC ...)

Only two more weekends before I leave, so some people will be coming to visit us. A feeling I get quite regularly (– like in New York, every year): missing a place, and the life there, before even having left!

26 Oct (Tue):got an e-mail from Fumiko, from the airport in Kigali, that she was in town for one day, on a sudden mission (– involving, mostly, representing UNESCO at a ceremony at the prison, at the end of phase one of a project she started there a year ago. The prison, near the centre, is called "1930", after the date written on the arch at its entrance. Prisons here are apparently very different from those in Europe and the US: there are a range of enterprises run by the prisoners, who are allowed to keep a part of their earnings, to be able to continue to support their families.) – and that she would be free in the evening, for us to have dinner. Since I did not want to leave Laurien, who was around for a few days while P was in the village, (I can make my bed myself, and make my own coffee in the morning, honestly!) alone for the whole day, I left school early, spent the afternoon at home, (where I showed him how to make a Powerpoint presentation: he has been doing a computer course but has only ever touched a computer when he has come to visit us) and instead of meeting Fumiko somewhere and eating out, I invited her to my place and to eat with us. It was a really really nice evening.

29 Oct (Fri):students at most schools – we are continuing for two more weeks – got their report cards today: L is 8 /34 in the village, and Ayubu and P are 1 /38 and 7 /38, respectively, in their class. P has improved his position each term this year. – B came for a last, one-day visit, his exams start next week, and we bought a TV, plus a decoder: without one there is only one channel, RTV. Needless to say, I had/have major reservations, but I think P and B understand and that it will be alright: for instance, I insisted that we only get it just before I go. The main reason that I agreed is that I will be away for long times, like eight weeks from next weekend, so they may not have so much to do, and they will be able to learn about the outside world.

05 Nov (Fri):a rather heavy last week at school, so I was quite elated when I came home – largely my own fault of course, as I shall again be leaving early, two weeks before the end of term. It was nice to get very warm, appreciative good-byes at the end of my first full year here. Alpana and I have been coming to grips with a timetable program, although she will still have to do most of the work. But the on-line report-writing I can look after next week from Berlin, and references I can write anywhere too.

Also a 'busy' time at home since all other schools closed, with various friends passing through or staying. The TV-business has gone alright so far: I have not felt that our way of life has been affected by it.

07 Nov (Sun):am in Nairobi, on the way to Berlin, my flight left Kigali at 3 a.m. and I should be arriving this evening. L came this morning to visit P and me, and to say good-bye, we went for a walk and to have a drink in the near-by bar where we go most often for some beer, and he and P 'pushed' me to the airport. Packing only took a couple of minutes, I again have hand-luggage only. – A good last day, though a bit sad.

I may be here a lot longer than planned: it has just been announced that planes, probably, I am afraid, including the one I should leave on, have been diverted to Mombasa, "due to bad weather". P.S. 'My' plane was already in Nairobi, so we only departed with a short delay.

Having had to explain about evolution and the origin of species to various friends during the last few weeks, I have become more angry with religion: if people are only given one story, and alternative accounts are systematically, even deliberately, as it seems, hidden from them, then their faith is the result of brainwashing! It is evil to deny people a free choice in that way. This brings to mind a point made – albeit with more repetitions than necessary – in The God Delusion, that there are no Christian children or Muslim children, there are only children of Christian and of Muslim parents. – P had never heard of dinosaurs, so it was nice that a week after we had talked about them, he happened to come across a movie on TV featuring them, something like Jurassic Park.

A better picture of L – again, the pose was his choice. I think that one thing that most of my friends have in common, not only here, is a certain playfulness, not always just verbal. (Still, P and L were struggling to understand the joke in what is written on L's belt: "I used to be schizophrenic, but now we are ok." To clarify it I tried to also explain: "I have not been suffering from arithmomania for 153 and a half days." )

My friends here all seem to be eager to have their pictures taken, and for me to say Hi! from them to my friends elsewhere. But people on the road or in the village are apparently convinced that the pictures taken here are worth a lot of money in Europe or America, and so they sometimes expect to get paid! About pictures of people, they have a strong preference for the whole person to be in the picture, (because of style?) whereas for me the top half of the body is most important/interesting, especially of course the face.

The near-by bar where we tend to go, although that is not so often. It is not so empty in the evening, of course, which is when we go there. (The blue paint really is that blue!)

Near Milongwine (= "40"): in the evening, the sidewalks are crowded with guys selling cheap clothing, to people like P and L; they all have to scuttle, pushing their customers aside, when the police appears.
There are many reasons that I am looking forward to being back in January ...

I hope all this has not been "too much information," as a former, British colleague of mine complained about a year ago when a close (he had said ...) friend of his started to talk about some personal – but to my mind not too personal – things. Still, I hope I, and the pictures, will not be misunderstood. As I have emphasised, this Kigali non-blog of mine is for friends only. [This written, by the way, and the above edited, on the plane to Amsterdam: I have missed G&T's, and wine, may not even have ANY beer for the next eight weeks. Lunch is about to be served. Writing this has not only been about but also part of my life. Therefore, thanks for reading. Bye.]

P.S. during the holidays: I have added an aerial view of the area where we live.