From Rwanda, 'Semester 10'
– I had not expected that I would do this for five years!

My previous 'diaries': There is also a page of maps and aerial photos.

The school actually has three terms a year, but the breaks between the terms are only two or three days, so the year does feel like consisting of two semesters, from August to December and from January to May. These are almost the same length, so it would make sense to change to a semester-system, for various educational reasons as well – but people are too conservative here, and parents are apparently worried that they would have to pay school fees in two installments.

late January

After four weeks spent mostly in Berlin, (I had left school a week early, – but also the country a day late: I was bumped off my flight, but well looked after and generously compensated by Turkish Airlines) with pleasantly mild weather and time for reading and concerts, a quiet non-Christmas and New Year with the usual fireworks, but including a very enjoyable six-day trip to Amsterdam, London and South Wales, I arrived back in Kigali after midnight on a Saturday night, was picked up by Laurien and Oliver, and was back into the full routine at school on Monday.

Other schools had already started, so L had dealt with people's school fees – after all, he is studying Accountancy. For most of his two-month holiday, not having found an internship, he had done a course in his field. Some friends have been to visit: O was here when I arrived, a new guy from Goma, just across the border in the DRC, stayed for a night, Modeste spent a few days here on the way to his internship in Northern Uganda, and Philbert came for a weekend. – Britta, after 2 1/2 months in East Africa, mostly in Kenya, has just flown back to France, from Nairobi this time.

Just after I came back, the tenant of the smaller one of the two houses in our compound moved out, after more than a year, and a new guy, rather more lively, never without a beer in front of him, moved in. Instead of estate agents, there are informal 'commissioners' in each area, who keep track of what places are available, and who get paid their expenses plus about a third of the monthly rent of any place that someone actually moves into. New tenants are expected to pay the first two or three months of rent when the contract is signed.

School has started easily enough, the project of introducing proper accounting is making progress, albeit slowly, and I have even been able to go home after a mere 8 1/2 hours on some days. During the holidays I had written an e-mail to say that from next year, i.e. from August, I would not want to work the way I have been doing – while I have been enjoying all the different parts of the job, now as 'Senior Consultant' but with an almost full teaching load as well, there has just been too much of it, both in terms of hours per week and in terms of weeks per year; so I have suggested something like "half the job for half the pay." I hope we'll be discussing this in the next month or so; if we don't, then the school, if they want me, will have to fit in with plans I will start to make.

'Termly' summary (– it is the start of the academic year for schools but almost the middle of the year at the universities):
  • Noel (Chris) has finished all his exams, but still has a one-month internship and a thesis to complete before he gets his degree in Urban and Regional Planning in June.
  • Hadelin is in Israel for a year, on a work-study programme for agricultural students from African countries, but will return in September for the last year of his course.
  • Oscar, who I got to know through his brother Alain Theogene, is in the third year of his course in Education, at what is now The College of Education of the University of Rwanda, or fKIE, as we call it.
  • M, from the same village as H, studying Nursing at UCU (Uganda Christian University), has just started a three-month internship in Northern Uganda, at a hospital in what has turned out to be a small village, but will continue at university in May.
  • Benjamin is now in the second year at Lovely Professional University in India, doing a BCA (Bachelor of Computer Applications). It was good to talk to him and Pascal on the phone sometimes when I was in Berlin.
  • O only has one more term of IT at what was (and may still be, despite the reorganisation) Tumba College of Technology. There are a lot of IT graduates, so he has started to think about what he can do, how to continue, after July.
  • Ph is in the middle of the second year of Economics at what is now The College of Social and Applied Sciences, I think, of the University of Rwanda, formerly the NUR (National University of Rwanda), in Butare.
  • P is at the same university in India as B, and they are in fact sharing an apartment – very nice, from the pictures they have sent. I am looking forward to visiting them in April for a week.
  • AT passed the theory exam for the driving licence well, and has been taking practical lessons: every day for two months, here. When he has finished, he may well be more employable than someone with a bachelor degree.
  • Flora, P's girlfriend, has started to study at a private university in Kigali, while working at the same time – but all this is hear-say: I am still waiting to know what she is studying, and so on.
  • L has started Senior 6, the last year, in Accountancy, at the school near our house where P used to study. He is doing extremely well, and has read all of Emil and the Detectives.
  • Justine, B's sister, has also started Senior 6, but at a boarding school, also studying Accountancy.
  • And then there are brothers and sisters of H, M and P, but school fees in the villages are so low ...

Since the government's change of heart, regarding the fees charged to poor students, there is, I am pleased to report, rather less for me/us to pay or contribute than half a year ago. But as always, I am very grateful for the extremely generous support I get in supporting most of these students – from friends of mine who don't even know the people who their money is going to! Thank you so much.

Long overdue, perhaps: a new mattress, the old one, here still in the background, has by now been taken to the village (– this picture may be appreciated more by friends who have actually slept here ...) By the way, some things are much more expensive here than in Europe: my much better IKEA mattress in Berlin was much cheaper than this one.

L at school, (where phones are not actually allowed!) taken with the new smart phone he had been saving for:

O (in the foreground, his injured arm cannot be seen in this picture) and some fellow-students at Tumba College giving a presentation:

F, who is in fact studying Business, Economics and Finance at the Independent University of Kigali, known by its French acronym "ULK", while at the same time still working in an office job:

late February

After six weeks back in Rwanda, with an especially 'bad' last week of the second term, partly because of a mathematical colleague from Kenya suddenly just leaving, presumably for a better-paying, and perhaps better, position, probably in Asia, possibly in Dubai, teachers are having a two-day break before the next term; students will have had a week or more. Our next break will be Genocide Memorial Week, in early April, when I will be flying to Amritsar in India to visit P and B for a week at their university. (Noticing that teachers, especially Kenyan teachers, leaving this way is not unusual, and that this colleague was, in my opinion, 'a good guy', instead of just getting morally outraged that they don't care about the students, one should think again – as with corruption? – about the (dis-)incentive structure, including but not only pay.) [A week later: things have become more serious, with another colleague leaving, also from Kenya, also out of the blue, so I am now teaching his ThoK classes as well – all fun, as I said, but all a bit much.]

Life 'at home' has continued to be very good, with friends coming to stay on weekends, and I am still meeting new people as well, who I am hoping will become friends, some even from DRC, Burundi and Uganda. Except that it is a bit annoying, and more work for L, that we often don't have water, sometimes not for a whole week, so that we have to pay 'street guys' to bring it in the ubiquitous yellow jerry cans; and that despite the fact that it has been cooler and wetter than it should be at this time of the year. One of the consequences of global warming (which many people here hear about for the first time from me!) is supposed to be that the weather becomes more unpredictable – as it seems to have done here – and more extreme, as it seems to have done in other parts of the world.

My Big News is that the next one will be my last term at the school, and that in June I am going to retire for the second time. Although by now it is hardly news any more, since in the last three weeks I have mentioned it in mails to almost all the friends who might read this: I apologise for any repetition. As I wrote above, I had written to the school that I did not want to continue to work the way I have been working; but what I suggested, including missing a term each year, might not have been workable, especially with a new Principal starting in August. Or there may have been other problems, too – financial, personal, political, performance-related: I have not asked, because, this being Rwanda, even if the Headmaster is Canadian, I might not be able to quite trust the answer in any case.

However, as I had planned, leaving the school does not mean leaving Rwanda, and I already have booked my flights to be here again from August to November, which is when L will be finishing secondary school. I'll then see what I can do here, perhaps some voluntary (or even paid ...) work, and definitely some more travelling than I have had time for in the past five years: my sister has been to many more places in the country and in the region than I have. (Talking of Britta, she seems to have decided to buy some land in Kenya, near the coast south of Mombasa, and to build a house there, instead of doing the same in the French Alps. I guess we don't only look a bit similar.) And if I continue to be happy here I want to keep spending a few months in Rwanda in subsequent years. – But for now I am looking forward to not having to fit my travels and the times with my friends into limited periods each year. And to becoming a proper Berliner.

The next weekend: again very nice, some visitors and visiting someone not far from here, swimming and reading, but also giving ThoK-essay feedback, on-line, and still no water most of the time.

N last weekend (– pictures like this may be appreciated more by friends who actually know the person in them; and this non-blog is of course also my personal diary and 'scrapbook'. The new camera I brought but hardly ever use myself seems to take nice photos.)

Ph, about to tuck into L's isombe with meat on rice: isombe is made from cassava leaves and requires a long time to cook, and this was the first time we had it in a long time. They then went to town to try to buy the computer which Ph has found he needs for his studies.

It was O, not I, who wanted a picture of the two of us together.

end of March

The weekend in the middle of this 'term', i.e. of the almost five months I am here this time, I went to Butare to visit N and Ph. Not much to do there, to be honest, the centre of town consists of a triangle of streets with shops and bars and a few taller buildings, up to five storeys, and then 1 km further along the main road through the town, there is what used to be the National University of Rwanda and is now one of the colleges of the University of Rwanda. (It seems, incidentally, that UNESCO has not accepted the attempt by the government to make a 'better' university by combining all the separate universities into one. It is causing a lot of problems on the ground, it seems. For instance, that some of the courses in Butare are taught by lecturers from what was the School of Finance and Banking in Kigali – there are frequent 'no-shows', the exams are not quite right, and so on. On the other hand, the new requirements for admission make more sense to me than the previous system, under which the government simply assigned students to universities and courses.)

Butare is just over two hours by bus from Kigali; there are different companies operating on the route, and a bus leaves at least every half hour. When I arrived in the afternoon we had Fanta, beer and African tea (made with milk and a lot of ginger: I like it a lot), in the evening we ate at Africano, a somewhat hidden, rather bare restaurant offering a nice buffet, including a tasty potage, (which Ph was struggling with, not having had a vegetable soup before) for RwF 1,200 (= US$ 1.80), and went to a slightly fancy – i.e. Western style – bar near the place where I was staying the night, in a simple room for RwF 5,000; in the morning Ph and I had breakfast, and before I left N and I had some chapati and Fanta at one of the restaurants at the university. In the evening we had also met up with a guy, a student and a singer, whom I had first talked to at a muzungu birthday party in Kigali but had not seen for a year, who not only is very well known at the university but also turned out to be a friend of N's. (This guy is sponsored by a German lady, but she is giving him too much money, I think, so he is leading a relatively affluent life; she could have sponsored two students for the same amount. I try to get this right.)

At school I am doing a lot of teaching, but less of some of the other things, like supervision at lunch time and invigilation when the exams happen in May; so I am not complaining. ;-) About next year, it now appears, after a meeting which I have been informed of, between some of the other senior staff and a member of the board, (the one who is not married to the President) that the reasons that there was no discussion about if or how I would continue were probably personal. So now things have started to look different – but I had already booked my flights, and I will be going back to Europe three months after coming here in August. I'll have to see about what happens after that.

Something that has become a bit difficult/sad for me is that some of the people I know, including some I/we have been sponsoring, have finished school but have not been able to find a job, and for some of them, like L's brother JD, life has become quite tough. Difficult for me, because I can see what situation they find themselves in but don't want to keep supporting people indefinitely. And there may be more and more people who end up in that situation, even after having completed a university degree. (Incidentally, but of course not unconnectedly, the fertility rate, despite some progress over the past decade or so, is apparently still about 4.7 children per woman – way above what is sustainable!)

But things are going well for some other people. Eric, who I met through N and who started to work in Kigali some months ago even though he is still a student in Butare, has been taken to Korea by his employers, for further training until June. And the guy who came to visit me from Burundi is being sent to a conference in Belgium in April by the HIV/AIDS charity that he has been working for, also while still completing his studies.

Breakfast. The bag contains Ph's new computer; it seems that one needs to keep one's valuables with one at all times, that even one's room is not quite safe.

N in his room at university. Until last year, a two-bed room would accommodate four students, but this year it is two students. The cost is still only RwF 5,000 per month.

Some of the residences, for male students, (but not all of them.) The women are in nicer, new, multi-storey buildings.

Going to lunch, at a university restaurant.

The main building of the University College, which was originally built as a secondary school.

In early April, during Rwanda's Memorial Week, I went to India to visit P and B: B first joined Lovely Professional University, in Jalandhar, in the state of Punjab, in the NW of the country two years ago, and nine months ago P joined him. It was a lot of travelling, but I was very happy to see them and to live with them again, a bit like in Nyamirambo, even if only for six days.

at LPU:
where B and P are staying:
the visited and the visitor:
back to the airport in Amritsar:

So this part is not really 'From Rwanda', but since it does feel a bit like an extension of my life there, I will write about my trip to India here. – Having been VERY careless, I must admit, about checking whether I needed a visa to come here, and therefore having only received it from the Embassy in Kampala the afternoon before the flight that I had booked months ago already, I am very pleased to have made it here at all. And I am very happy to be visiting B and P, if only for a week; this visit, during this Memorial Week in Rwanda, had already been planned when B first came here two years ago. We have lots to talk about: as with the friends I made over the years at AC, they have of course 'improved' as they have become older, lived in a foreign country and continued their studies. And they are looking after me very well.

B and P are renting a nice and remarkably cheap apartment, the ground floor of an impressive looking house, less than half an hour by auto-rickshaw and bus from campus, larger and much better appointed than where we are staying in Kigali. The cost of food at the local supermarket is also only about half of what it is in Kigali, and there is a much wider selection, including more processed food. It is very nice to be living with them again, if only for a week; but I also have some time to myself, while they are at university and when they are studying at night. The schedule is quite different from what I have got used to in Kigali: they only wake up around 7.30 am, but also only go to sleep well after midnight, although they do usually take a nap after coming home from classes. The climate in this part of the country has cold winters and very hot and humid summers; it is not as hot yet as I had been warned it would be, but the temperature has been going up.

They, and now we, eat mostly Nyamirambo-style, although things do taste a bit different here: the rice has much more flavour, for instance, but B and P certainly seem to appreciate the 2 kg of ugali (cassava flour) I brought. The meat is mostly chicken, and beef is difficult to get, which is fine for me but not for them. One evening we went for a nice Indian meal, (almost too hot for me but still just alright) in a mostly Chinese restaurant in town, where there was also some live Indian singing that I/we liked. – And talking of music, one day when I was coming back, I noticed a stage being put up on the main road nearby, and when I heard some music in the evening, I walked over and found a local Hindu festival in progress, taking up one lane of the road, as well as much of the night. It involved mostly drumming and singing, some of which I thought was very good and did like, and sometimes some men dancing slowly, interspersed with something which seemed like a story being told, all of it sounding a bit like from a Hindi movie.

One day I went with B and P to their university, which is a very well organised, very large institution, and even met with one of the officials. While I am not sure of its national ranking, having found positions between 11 and 165 on the internet, LPU does seem to provide the right kind of 'just manageable challenge' for them: they both have to study seriously, but neither of them has had to retake exams or courses, and B has managed to steadily raise his GPA since his first term: their Indian fellow-students not only have a generally much stronger educational background, they are of course also more acclimatised – literally and metaphorically – from the start. There are quite a few Rwandan and Burundian students here, as well as Nigerians, (on a one-hour walk in the area where B and P are staying I saw six Africans who looked like students) but many have also left, I was told, because they did not like the strict rules of the place, such as required attendance at lectures, (which take place even on Saturdays) and/or because they could not cope with the courses: so some just drop out (which their parents apparently sometimes do not even know) but stay, illegally, while others transfer to other, less challenging institutions in the country.

I had thought I might go to Amritsar for a day, (the centre of the Sikh religion, I understand, so in the whole of this area one sees many men with long beards wearing turbans covering their long hair) two hours by bus from here, but have decided to just stay in the area and walk around in the centre of Jalandhar while B is at his karate sessions. When we tried to find out about trains at the local train station, I was surprised that no one spoke any English, except for the staion master, who spoke a little; everyone else just turned away and pretended that we were not there.

While the university, and the inside of the place where B and P are staying, are neat and clean and quiet, the outside is dirty, with rubbish everywhere in the street and bad smells in some areas, especially where they keep and slaughter chicken, crowded and noisy with people and bikes and bicycle rickshaws and motorbikes and auto-rickshaws and cars and buses and lorries, with a large number of stray dogs and a few cows roaming freely, and lots of fine sand that gets everywhere; and dangerous because of the way people drive – like very commonly on the wrong side of a road with a middle partition! On the one hand India is of course much more developed than Rwanda, but on the other hand living here would, at least for me, require a lot more 'effort'. – Compared with what I experienced about 18 years ago in Delhi, when I was also visiting an African friend who was studying there, something that is better here, or perhaps better now, is that there does not seem to be any racism against black people. That, for me, is a great relief.

[On the journey back: At the end of a great week, B and P dropped me off at Amritsar airport, (by auto-rickshaw to 'bus stand', then 2 hours by bus, and then another auto-rickshaw for the 15 km to the airport) where we had time for another nice Indian meal. On the way it seemed that Amritsar is much bigger and rather more developed, and also a lot cleaner, than what I had seen in Jalandhar. The airport is very new too, but it seemed almost deserted, appearing too large by a factor of 3, roughly. ;-)

Then another stay in a very expensive hotel, this time for just six hours, and courtesy of Kenya Airways, in a less impersonal hotel than the one in Kigali where Turkish Airlines had put me up for almost 24 hours in the winter. This time it was because the flight from Delhi was delayed and I missed my connection in Nairobi. Seeing a bit of Kenya on the way to the hotel, my first time in the country in more than 20 years, I was impressed – we may have passed more industrial facilities in 15 minutes than can be found in the whole of Rwanda.]

early May

Half my classes have started exams, so I am doing much less teaching, and I am beginning to have 'end of year'-feelings, like these:

Good: I am gradually getting to know some more people here, on my own rather than through my friends, some of them just guys who have started to talk to me in the street, who after we had walked and talked for a while wanted to exchange phone numbers and meet again. This is good, because from August I might have a lot of time here, while L will be very busy preparing for exams. (The situation between me and the school is still not clear, although colleagues at school keep asking me, and I did have a good conversation with the next Principal.) – And the average age of the people I know has been increasing, not only because my friends are getting older, of course, but also because the guys I have been meeting are older, may already have a job and so on. This is good too, because conversations tend to be less one-sided and more interesting for me.

Bad: I am a bit worried because many Rwandans seem to have a different conception of friendship from mine. This is bad, because it means that I am liable to have expectations, often quite minimal, about people who I think – and who have said – that they are my friends, only to find myself disappointed; and it is not just a matter of someone coming late for a meeting we have arranged. So I am not sure how I will manage from August. (Things are better with the friends I have had for a longer time; perhaps they have adjusted, to some extent, to my expectations, as I have had to adjust to their way of conducting relationships: intercultural understanding.)

Don't know: One thing that has become quite different over the past year, compared with how things were with P, is that L and I are leading much more separate lives, with sometimes him and sometimes me staying out very late, so that when one comes back, the other is already asleep.

[Some weeks later: When the Headmaster asked me if I could continue to work at the school, perhaps doing admin rather than teaching, (depending partly, sadly, on which teachers actually turn up in August ...) when I come back in August, I said: no problem. But when he asked me if I would be willing to change the date of my flight back to Berlin in November if the school paid for the change of ticket, I said: probably not. – Things have become quite 'busy' at home, with various visitors, both friends staying to say Good bye! and new acquaintances from this area.]

I am rather dismayed about a conference taking place in Kigali, of the BAD (= Bank for African Development) – not only because the many security measures mess up the traffic and the bus routes. With more than 2500 delegates from 53 countries – that means on average 50 (!) delegates per country, each costing their country on average $ 4000, I guess. What can all those 50 representatives from each country possibly be discussing that will benefit their country? Couldn't most of that money have been spent better where they come from? The topic is the Africa they want in 50 years' time. If there had been such a conference in 1964, 50 years ago, what could they possibly have discussed then that would be relevant to today? – Of course, the host country, in this case Rwanda, does benefit from an event like this, by its economy getting a major boost.

I pass this new conference centre and hotel, finally nearing completion, after five years, every day on the way to and from school.

Talking of school, there have been no pictures of where I work since my first term. New (in the past five years) are the covered walkways, absolutely necessary at times. And the IB Suite with a covered study area between two blocks of classrooms.

beginning of June, in Berlin

The last few weeks at school were fairly relaxed for me, for various reasons. I also missed an all-day staff picnic and the Prom after the Graduation – not the kind of event I enjoy. What I will be doing from August is still not clear. Sadly, and worryingly, at the end of the term another Maths teacher, the only other one who can teach IB HL and SL Maths (and to my mind probably the most indispensable – or: the least dispensable? – teacher in the Secondary School) announced that he was leaving, so that might affect things too. Does anyone know a good Maths teacher who might want to work in Kigali?

But I greatly enjoyed P being around for the last five days before I left: he is spending the summer in Kigali, and we will meet again for two days (only!) after I have come back in August, just before he flies back to India – assuming he gets his visa on time: at the embassy in Uganda they seem to require the actual passport of the person who is sponsoring him, (even though I have already paid the university fees for next year!) I hope something can be worked out so that he does not have to leave late. Apart from meeting his friends and family, and looking after L at home, who is studying hard, even missing most of the World Cup games apparently, P is dealing with the subletting of the smaller house in the compound: the guy who has been renting it paid for the first three months when he moved in, but has not paid on time, or been able to pay at all, since April, so he has to move out and someone else be found.

My life in Berlin is of course even more relaxed, in the usual way: reading, concerts, swimming, cakes, cycling everywhere, wine instead of beer, and some friends. In the next nine weeks I will go to the US for four weeks, but also go on two shorter trips, one to the UK, the other to the South of Italy. – So the next installment of this non-blog will come in August. Until then, have a good summer, everyone.

O's birthday = P's fourth day in Kigali = K's last day in Kigali = our first time at Simba Cafe in town for a long time = my last African tea (made with milk with a lot of ginger)

From Rwanda, 'Semester 11'
– the start of my new routine, perhaps?


It was a great summer: two very busy months, rushing from one relaxed visit to another, with short trips to the UK and Italy, and a long one to the USA, but again only three weeks, split into four short stays, in Berlin. Thanks to my friends for such a happy time! I even met some new guys these holidays, who might also become friends. At the end of all of which I was, I must admit, not so much looking forward to coming back here.

But having been here for more than a week, I can say I am very happy to be back, mostly because of my friends, (though I have still not seen some of them again) but also because of school. And also because this time, I have decided, I will only be here for 13 weeks, not 19 or 20, like the last two times. What I am envisaging for the next few years, ("my new routine" mentioned above) and have announced both to my friends and to the school, is that I will come to Rwanda twice a year, for what are the first and the third term of the school year, so from August to October and from March to May. And that when I am here, the school can choose to employ me or not, part-time or full-time – I really do not mind.

This term it is definitely full-time: not only do I have a contract, continuing from last year, (contrary to what had been said at one point ...) I also have been doing a lot of work already: apart from the usual website, organisation and coordination stuff, I have spent a lot of time filling in and working with the new Principal, taken on an English Literature course for grade 9 students struggling with literature, and even written a speech for someone in a high position. I am also continuing with grade 12 ThoK classes; I am not teaching any Maths, because there are more than enough teachers in that department (– and I will be leaving at the end of the term, of course.) And there are some other projects in the offing.

And I am of course continuing to support, with the very generous support from some of my friends elsewhere, some friends of mine here, to enable them to continue their education.

Considering that this is supposed to be the dry season, there has been rather a lot of rain. Unfortunately – due to mismanagement of funds at the utility company apparently, (the result of a recent privatisation, I believe) – this has not meant a regular supply of mains water: we have had practically none for the past few months. But on the plus-side, the power has only been cut twice, briefly, while I was at home.

'Termly' summary (– it is the start of the academic year for universities but the start of the third trimester at schools):
  • Hadelin is still in Israel, on a one-year work-study programme for agricultural students from African countries, but will return in September for the last year of his course at Umutara Polytechnic.
  • Oscar has been looking after a very sick aunt for some months, far from Kigali, but is waiting to start his teaching practice at some school. This is compulsory, but students have to pay for their upkeep themselves and their travels.
  • Modeste has finished the second of four years of Nursing at UCU (Uganda Christian University); he is studying for two terms each year and doing an internship for one term, with only very short breaks in between, (during one of which he is visiting right now.)
  • After an internship during the very hot summer in Punjab, Benjamin has started his third and last year at Lovely Professional University in India where he is doing a BCA (Bachelor of Computer Applications); he is hoping to go on to do an MA, possibly not in India. We talked a few times on the phone when I was in Berlin.
  • Oliver has finished his two-year degree at Tumba College of Technology, but is still doing an internship with a mobile phone company, for which he is staying at our place during the week. There are a lot of IT graduates, so he has started to think about what he can do next.
  • After spending the summer 'in the village', Philbert is about to register for his third year of Economics at what is now The College of Social and Applied Sciences in Butare of the University of Rwanda. Both H and he are eligible for the government (or now: bank?) loan covering their fees, but don't get enough money to live on.
  • At the end of the first year of his three-year course in India, Pascal came to Rwanda for nine weeks, where we got to spend some days together just before I left and again just after I had come back, but he returned to LPU, and to a still very hot India, a week ago.
  • Alain Theogene, Osc's younger brother, retook the practical exam for the driving license this summer, but sadly failed again. The additional lessons and the exams have been very expensive, but I think I will allow him one more try.
  • Flora, P's girlfriend, will be continuing at ULK (Université Libre de Kigali: "independent", rather than "free") while working at the same time – or trying to: she is looking for a new job.
  • New: Ayubu, a former classmate of P's, whom I have known for four years, who has been hanging around without finding anything much to do since he completed secondary school, apart from getting some more practical ICT experience, has started to apply, to start in September.
  • Laurien has one more very busy term of studying Accountancy in Senior 6; I tried to book my flight in November to be here for some days after he has completed his National Exams, but sadly I won't now be – so I will miss the big party!
  • Justine, B's sister, has returned to her boarding school, also with one more term of Senior 6, also of Accountancy. Both L and she have continued to do very well in their studies.
  • And then there are brothers and sisters of H, M and P, but school fees in the villages are so low ...

Noel has completed his degree in Urban and Regional planning and is now struggling to find a job.

The friends who are helping me to support these people don't even know the people who their money is going to! Thank you so much, no less for the trust than for the funds.


The weather has continued to be strange: we are now supposed to be at the end of a dry season, and the grass is supposed to be brown, until the rains come – but there has been rain throughout, sometimes a lot, we even had two days without any sun, and everyone has complained how cold it has been. And so I have only gone swimming once in the five weeks since I came back. But the last few days have been a bit nicer

As to school, things have been fine, although we have been pushed for teaching hours. I have so far been able to avoid bringing any work home, and will try to keep it this way: one of my friends in Europe has 'complained' that I have allowed myself to be exploited the last few years. It may not be as bad as that, but as I have mentioned before, I am not committed to the school as I was to AC, and as I am to the values of the UWCs. The students at my present school are from (almost) the richest and most powerful families in the country. And one can tell. (I wrote "almost", because the children of the richest and most powerful are sent to study abroad, especially at prep schools in the US: we lose a good number of students that way each year.)

Talking of home, things have been very fine, with friends visiting and often staying, as usual, somehow more relaxed than last term. And I keep meeting new people – again, some of them a bit older – who might become friends. So far, so good, but we'll see.

Two weeks ago I spent a long time on the internet, finding and booking flights, so I am now not only set to come back here from mid-February to mid-May, but also to spend the three weeks up to New Year in New York and thereabouts, then ten days in Sydney, where I have not been for six or seven years, and three days on the way back to Berlin in San Francisco. I am looking forward already to the trip and seeing friends: the beginning of the more time and the greater freedom that I have been looking forward to.

Update: When I decided before the summer to support A, it was already too late for him to apply to UR, the University of Rwanda, so he applied to (and was accepted at) AUCA, the Adventist University of Central Africa – after some hesitation on his part: while it is a very good university, in some areas probably better than UR, it is a university run by 7th Day Adventists, (as is his and P's, and now L's, school) and A is a fairly strict Muslim. – Incidentally, what does it say about UR, and the Ministry of Education, ("Mineduc" in a typical Rwandese contraction, like "Minijust" and "Minecofin") that the beginning of the term was delayed by four weeks, and that students were informed of this just a few days before?

Ayubu, and AUCA, where he is now studying


The weather has continued to be strange: now that we are supposed to be at the beginning of a wet season, there is no rain. After some weeks when it was a bit cool and wet, I was able to go swimming both the last two weekends, and my tan is coming back. – Yipee! We have had water almost all the time for three weeks.

Update: Some weeks ago we picked up H at the airport when he came back after a year in Israel, and on that occasion I also met his girlfriend and a brother, Charles, for whom I/we have been paying school fees in the village (not very much!) but who I had never met. He is studying LEG (= Literature, Economics, Geography), was able to talk about some of the works they had been reading in remarkably good English, and seemed quite fun – a good choice. Before he goes back to his university, H will again be working at the local bar where we first met him and then Modeste, and then met him again.

As to my school, things have been very fine: I am not doing much teaching nowadays, just four classes of ThoK, but I am doing more programming again, things that people are actually asking for, and doing like work-flow design and implementation. I keep getting along well with the new Principal, and the HM has been very friendly. – Daniel, my Kenyan friend who used to teach English at the school, but then started to teach at a (very) local university, both as well and instead, has come back from a summer job in Norway, selling books, and I am pleased that he now looks set to stay as a teacher more permanently.

At home, things have continued mostly fine. One bad experience: a university student who had started to talk to me on a bus in April, but who after we had met three times and had had some good conversations, had repeatedly failed to show, and on whom I had basically given up, got in touch again and even arrived early where we had arranged to have a Fanta – but apparently only to check that I really don't believe in God, that he had not misunderstood me, and to tell me that since that was so, he could not meet me again, because he is afraid of being punished by God, because of a Bible passage about hanging out with non-believers. (The worry for me: might that one day happen with all my Christian friends?) [A week later: when I mentioned that experience and this worry to someone who I met some weeks ago and have been talking with quite a lot since then, although his English is not great, his immediate reply was: "But it also says in the Bible that God created man in his own image, and that applies to everyone.] – A very different kind of bad experience: when I was talking with Ch, somehow the calculation 24/3 came up, and he was not able to do it; and nor was another student I then asked, in Senior 4 at a school near here, 17 years old and also one of the best in his class.

The President recently complained, apparently, that driving tests must be too easy, because 40 people a month get killed in accidents in the country. But it should not take 90 hours to pass the test (– A is trying it for the third time!) The problem must lie somewhere else. After more than five years here, and seeing 'half-accidents' every day, (each of which would become an accident if it met another half-accident) it seems to me that people – including the police, who generally are only too happy to stop cars and motos! –

  • don't understand (the need for) certain rules, such as that a vehicle in a roundabout has the right of way, or that a wide line across a road means that one should give way: this means that every encounter between two vehicles requires 'negotiation', and that they
  • are lacking the concept of lanes: this means that every driver takes the shortest route, across intersections or anywhere, from where they are to where they are heading, in a risky free-for-all, and that they
  • act as though the purpose of lights on vehicles was only for the driver to see, not for the vehicle to be seen: this means that after dark, on the major road outside our compound, for instance, about 10% of buses, cars and motos are driving without lights.

Having said that, I have found the taxis/buses here much less scary than the dalla-dallas in Dar-es-Salaam, which are competing much more dangerously.

This used to be a bustling street, where buses to places outside Kigali left from the centre, but now it is deserted, awaiting redevelopment. It seems to me that there is too much of that ...


I am a bit tired, after something flu-like for the first two days of the week and something intestinal for the last three days, but I am fine now. Twice I took a one-hour nap in the nursing station at school, which helped; everyone here, like L and the nurse, always wants me to go to hospital immediately ... – Two more weeks of school; still little I have to do in the evenings or on the weekends; sometimes I go off to Bourbon Coffee, near school, (there is also one on 14th Street in NYC) for two hours to do some programming – nice, relaxed. But I have agreed to work up to one day a week, paid pro-rata, while I am away for three months, which suits me well. – At home and with friends it feels like time is rushing, I have seen people for the last time, for this time, already. But I hope that EJ will make it here before I leave – his original plan was to come here two days after I have left. :-(

The President recently complained, in an address to Parliament, about a BBC documentary called "Rwanda: the Untold Story", which had aired in the UK a few days earlier, accusing the BBC of 'genocide denial'. While I have not yet watched the programme myself, I did read all the 120 comments of an often heated discussion on a website – and it did not seem that the genocide was denied at all. Instead it seems that the documentary, as its title makes quite clear, adds to the official story, (that only "Tutsis and moderate Hutus" were killed, all by Hutus) arguing that a large number of Hutus – many (or some?) of whom may indeed have been genocidaires – were killed in 1994 by the Tutsi RPF and subsequently, without any judicial process. (This is standard government practice: anyone saying that there may have been any other killings than in the officially recognised genocide is accused of denying that a genocide happened! – especially if they actually say that there were in fact "two genocides".)

While the documentary may sour relations between Britain and Rwanda for a while, – the government here assuming, apparently, that the British government controls what is shown on TV there to the same extent that the government here does – it may actually help this country: one of the things that fuels Hutu resentment is that they are not even allowed to mourn their dead; some of whom may even have come to be counted as Tutsi victims of the genocide! So to find that the other, their part of the story is recognised at least by someone outside, may give people some comfort and perhaps reduce the anger. (I am aware that I am taking a certain risk by putting things like this on the internet, even if it is only on a private page: I may at some point find that I cannot get a work visa, or be accused of something, in the way in which Russian oligarchs who fall out with Putin – or even former comrades who have fallen out with the President of this country – are always found, all of a sudden, to have been corrupt and to have exploited their position.)

On the main road outside my place

This place can almost be seen from my place, but I have never been there – no hurry. ;-)

05 November

At school things were rather busier, as usual at report-writing time, the last two weeks of the term, but a lot less tense than in past years. I have been asked to do up to one day a week, or I guess eight hours, of work during the holidays, which suits me well. And a lot of colleagues have expressed their regret that I will be away for almost the whole of the next term. There even was a surprise party for me on the last day, with cake, Fanta and speeches; (I very much appreciated the advance warning I was given ...)

I was very happy that EJ was able to cross the border from Uganda and to visit me/us for the last five days before I left, the second time he has come: having been able to get neither the starting date of his visa changed (which was two days after my departure date) nor a new visa, he decided to try his luck at the border, and after a phone call to me from Immigration, he was allowed into the country. ("Rwandans are very friendly," was his comment.) It was really nice to have him around, and that he was able to meet most of my friends that were in Kigali. In fact, the four days after my last day at school were decidedly busy – VERY nice busy – with friends coming to visit, and not just for brief "Good bye!" visits. A lovely time, although it was a bit sad that L was still having exams. And I was of course also a bit sad, because it will now be more than three months until I see these people again. EJ actually saw me off, with L and O, at the airport; he was planning to stay on for a few days at my place, before continuing his journey to Maputo, from where he will be flying back to Amsterdam in six weeks.

[ Thanks to EJ for the pictures in this and the previous two sections – very nice, no? ]

young Claude: lives not far away Mike: poor and funny
EJ: great to have him visit us

Cornellius: a neighbour, at our place; invited EJ and me for dinner two days later
When Sam, a friend who has been very busy setting up his own animation company, came to visit some weeks ago, L got him some beer that these days comes in bottles with the names of various international cities on it – and this is what he got, completely by chance!

The area, from Google Maps (– 'my' compound is in the S-corner of KN 2 Ave and KN 129 St):