From Rwanda, 'Semester 12'
– I don't know if anyone is still reading this, so it may be 'just for the record' ...

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 – if there is one! – are only a week, so the year does feel like consisting of two semesters. (My times here are from August to November and from February to May.) It would make sense for the school to adopt a semester-system, but the parents are apparently worried that they would have to pay school fees in two installments; (one could have 'academic terms' and 'payment terms', but ...)

late February

My new schedule, of alternating three months here and three months away, has started very well. Five plus four weeks in Berlin was much better than the usual four or five weeks per holiday that I have had up to now – after all, I live there too, and I am supposed to be retired. ;-) And I will be able to go to the US both in the summer and in the winter, (if my friends can bear it,) although I am sorry that I still can't make trips in the spring or the fall. And I had time to spend ten marvellous days in Sydney, my first time down-under after six years.

And it was not so strange to come back to Kigali after more than three months, just a bit at school perhaps, where almost a whole term had happened without me being there, although I had done some work while I was away: mostly commenting on students' ThoK essays on-line and programming, for the website and my on-line report-writing system. That is also the kind of thing that I did in my first week back, so I was quite busy already, although much of what I did was in relation to the boarding that is going to be available at the school from August 2015. I don't have a contract yet, and still only a bit of an idea of what I will be doing until May. But no problem.

In the city, the frenzy (which is what it seems to me to be) of tearing down old buildings and replacing them with much taller, shiny ones, featuring designs that I now (after a six-hour tour of Beijing on the way back from Sydney to San Francisco) recognise as being Chinese-influenced perhaps, seems to have continued. I am worried where this will lead, there simply is no need, and there won't be for many years, for so much commercial space.

I was very happy of course to see my friends again after such a long time, and that people came to the house to welcome me and sometimes to stay, although by now most of them are not so bad at keeping in touch through various electronic channels, mostly e-mail and WhatsApp. And I am looking forward to the visit, brief though it will be, in a couple of weeks, from Will, one of my new New York friends, on his first trip to Africa.

While I was very lucky with the weather on my travels, only a single day of serious rain and nowhere too cold, no time when I was, or would have been, very uncomfortable on my bike, it is of course also nice to be back in almost continuous T-shirt weather.

Some things I also want to mention here: As the summary on the left makes clear, I and – through me – my friends are heavily invested in this scheme to help people here through their education. But I should mention three aspects that are making things more difficult, and me less happy (– I promise that this will be the last time I moan):

  • As time goes on, it is becoming more expensive to keep supporting people: someone who 'costs' RwF 10,000 per term at a village school, will – if they have done well enough to be accepted – need at least RwF 70,000 per term at a government boarding school, and – again, if they have done well enough – a minimum of RwF 45,000 per month at university.
  • The scheme has to some extent become 'a family affair', so I hardly know some of those I am/we are paying for, and I am not sure that they always have the proper appreciation. I would prefer to support people who I had already known to be good people.
  • Unfortunately, with the very high rate of unemployment in the country, (and the birthrate is still way too high ...) people often cannot get a job, even with a good school certificate or a good university qualification, so I am also helping some people out further, because it is difficult for me to see a friend go hungry.

M's sister with some things she needed for school – I hope she sometimes looks a bit more cheerful. ;-)
'Termly' summary (– the academic year for schools started in January but it is the middle of the year at the universities):
  • Hadelin has just started the last term of his course at Umutara Polytechnic, but still worked at a bar near here for a few weeks during his holidays. Students have received practically none of the RwF 25,000 (= $ 34) that the government is supposed to give them towards living expenses each month.
  • Oscar was looking after a very sick aunt again during the holidays, but is now doing his teaching practice, in S1 Science, at a school in Kigali. This is compulsory, but students have to pay for their upkeep themselves and their commute.
  • Modeste is doing his second practical, again at a hospital in Uganda, but in April he will continue in the third trimester of his third year of Nursing at UCU (Uganda Christian University); Britta, my sister, visited him there in January.
  • Benjamin is in the middle of the third year of his BCA (Bachelor of Computer Applications) course at Lovely Professional University in India, so he will come back here in June. He has done well, and is looking at options for an MA, but not in India. We talked a few times on the phone when I was in Berlin.
  • Having finished his two-year degree at Tumba College of Technology and an internship with a mobile phone company, Oliver wants to continue his studies to get a Bachelors: Uganda is the most likely location.
  • Philbert is in the middle of his third year of Economics at The College of Social and Applied Sciences in Butare of the University of Rwanda. The government-guaranteed loan scheme has not started, but he too has received virtually none of the government contribution to living expenses.
  • Pascal is in the middle of his three-year course at LPU, where he is living together with B, and seems to be doing quite well too. We are trying to arrange for him to come to Europe again in the summer.
  • Flora, P's girlfriend, is continuing at ULK (Universityé Libre de Kigali: "independent", rather than "free") while still working at the same time – not easy, from what I hear.
  • Ayubu has just started his second semester of BBA, Bachelor of Business Administration, at AUCA, the Adventist University of Central Africa, where they are quite strict about attendance and performance; he did fairly well last term, but thinks that he can do better if he avoids a certain mistake.
  • Laurien has just received his results in November's National Exams, and came top of his class, with a total of 47 points (out of 60); the next best student had 43 points! He is now looking for a university that he wants to go to (and that I can afford to pay for ...)
  • Justine, B's sister, who also did Accountancy, at a government boarding school, has also just received her results, and gained 43 points – very good.
  • Louise, M's sister, did well enough in the exams at the end of S3 (Senior 3) to get a place at a government boarding school, (which of course still requires fees to be paid and a rather high investment at the beginning: uniform, mattress, and so on) where her option is 'PCM' (= Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics.)
  • Chance, P's niece, also did well, in the exams at the end of P6 (Primary 6), and gained a place at a government boarding school, (which of course still requires fees to be paid and ...)
  • And then there are other brothers and sisters, of H and M, but school fees in the villages are so low ...

As always, I am very grateful for the extremely generous support I get in supporting these students – from friends of mine who don't even know the people who their money is going to! Thank you so much.

O at his graduation last year

early March

Wow! Things have really changed, in terms of the job: I am sitting in the restaurant of a hotel in Nairobi – with a carrot soup and some bread, a glass of white wine and some gentle piano improvisation in the background – having spent some hours yesterday and this evening interviewing seven applicants for teaching positions at my school, and most of today talking to four suppliers who could provide the furniture for the boarding houses that are being built right now. Most of my work the past few weeks has been concerned with the boarding programme: helping to design posters and to script radio ads, discussing the layout of the rooms and style of the bed-side lights with the architect, writing the text for brochures, and so on. In two weekends I will be travelling to Bujumbura, in Burundi, with two colleagues to hold information meetings, and a week later to Bukavu in the DRC. Different, and great fun. But I am also still teaching three lessons of Maths each week, when I am around.

Kenya was the first country in Africa where I visited a friend, in 1993 I think, (thanks Awuori!) and not only have things have changed a lot, it is also VERY different from Kigali, in nearly every respect: the difference between a city where major roads have three lanes in each direction and one where it is still at most two is not just a difference in degree, (just as it is not between a town where roads have one lane in each direction and a city where it is two.) The traffic is amazing – amazingly bad. After we visited the last furniture supplier, the driver estimated that it would take us 1 1/2 hours to drive back to the hotel, and then he would need the same time to reach his home, so Jotham and I decided to walk, through the CBD, which took us less than 30 minutes and was fun. (J is a new friend, from Nairobi, who came to visit me in Rwanda last week for four days, despite more than 24 hours on the bus each way, and is as much fun as he is poor. He was on the bus back while I took the plane here, so we have also spent much of my time together here.)

Tomorrow morning one more interview, then some time at the hotel pool, then another walk around and lunch with J, and then I'll fly back: the trip to the airport should take only 25 minutes, but we are allowing more than three times that time. Around the time I get back, Will from New York should be arriving from Kampala, to be met at the bus park by L, to stay with us for 2 1/2 days, before he continues his first, rushed African trip, even taking in Kinshasa. I really hope he has a good time.

Back in Kigali, a few days later: I (or I hope: We) have had two very good days with Will, he has now flown to Kinshasa, continuing his quick African trip. This pic was taken by L when they went to town. – For me, school has been fun, with a lot of different, mostly new things I am doing.
'Selfie-man' J

end of March

I am just about at the midpoint of this stay in Rwanda, and have just signed a contract with the school until 31 May 2016, with a clause running: "The employer understands that the employee will be absent for more than two months during the May to August period and for about two months in the November to January period" – which works fine for me. My work has continued to be concerned mostly with the boarding that will start next year, and to be new and exciting – which is the reason that I am mentioning it more here than I have done before. As well as teaching five hours of Maths a week and helping with the uploading (by students) and 'authentication' (by teachers) of student work on the IB website, (a process which still has technical problems) I have been looking at lighting plans for the new buildings and discussing/correcting them with the architects, finalising the four different quotes we are considering for furniture for the dormitories, writing the text for the brochure about the boarding programme and working with the printing company on the design, both of the English and of the translated French version, preparing for information meetings in Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi, about seven hours by car away, and Bukavu, just across the border in the DRC, and so on.

So last weekend I got the chance to go to Bujumbura, with two more local colleagues; but I had already been thinking of travelling there for a couple of days during the upcoming Genocide Memorial Week break. We only saw two 'clients', despite posters and repeated communiqués on the radio, but they are both potentially very useful contacts. I had heard that Burundi was much less developed and much more corrupt than Rwanda, and that is what I found. Few modern buildings in the city, many more bicycle taxis and fewer taxi moto (motorbike taxis), a lot of rubbish in the streets and even, it appeared, more dust and dirt on people's clothes, and so on. At the border, our details were checked on a computer on the Rwandan side, on the Burundian side they were entered into big ledgers by hand. On the trip, we were stopped and fined for speeding in Rwanda, by a policeman with a radar gun. In Burundi we were stopped four times: the first policeman wanted us to give a ride to his friend to the next town, the second one wanted money for beer because it was such a hot day, (he was right about that ...) the third and the fourth checked everything, the driver's papers, the car lights, until they found something that was not quite right, and we had to pay a bribe to be able to continue, rather than being held for a few hours. Luckily I did not have to deal with this myself, which I would have found very difficult, even knowing that some of the money may pay for the policeman's brother's school fees or for him to visit his sick mother in the village.

I had a very good time on the trip. The hotel was very nice, right by Lake Tanganyika, (although the road going there, parallel to the shore, past a lot of fancy hotels, restaurants and night clubs, and a main road to the DRC, was in such a terrible state that I had thought we had taken a wrong turn.) On both mornings I went for walks along the beach, quite crowded with young people, mostly boys, some of them doing somersaults into the water, competing in races, everyone quite physical – a really nice scene. But I felt too self-conscious to go swimming in the Lake: even just walking there I was such a centre of attention, so I swam my laps in the very nice hotel pool instead, before it got too hot. – I also had great fun with a guy with whom I had been chatting for a few months and his cousin, who were waiting for me at the hotel when we arrived, both from the DRC, one of them working, the other one studying in Bujumbura. We went to a bar/club/restaurant close to the hotel, and again the next evening, and I was very much struck by how open and accepting the atmosphere was, not only in that place but, from what they said, in the city: very different from Uganda, or even Kenya or here!

This weekend I was supposed to go, with two other colleagues, on a similar trip to Bukavu, where the information meeting will even be hosted by a minister of the local government, but it has become difficult to get a visa for the DRC, (even at a cost of US$ 135): although the Embassy had said that one could get a visa at the border, the Headmaster, who is from Canada, was unable to cross to Goma last weekend, and when we therefore applied for my visa in advance, last week, the Embassy said that it would take ten days to issue! So that is a bit sad.

Some expected visits, visitors and moves: Britta, who has been in Kenya since November, will be coming to visit for a few days at the start of April, J from Nairobi will come again for a few days a week later, and P will – provided he gets the visa he has applied for in India – be in Europe from the beginning of June until late July, during which time (a) he will be in Berlin most of the time, but also go to visit B in France for two weeks and hopefully meet Sebastiano, and (b) I will go to the US again for 3 1/2 weeks. I will come back to Kigali in mid-August, by which time B will have been back from India for two months and L will probably be preparing to leave for university somewhere.

If the trip to Bujumbura looks a bit like a holiday – I must admit, it rather was. (The pics are from the internet, of course.)
I never saw Bora Bora by daylight, the times I went there with Tino and Christmas, his cousin, but by a nice coincidence Eric-Jan and O had ended up in the same place when they went to Burundi in November.

end of April

It's been an unusually long time: by now it is less than three weeks before I leave and I am beginning to experience what in German is called Torschlusspanik – panic before the closing of the gate. Time has passed very quickly, which surely is a good sign. At work I have continued to do only a little teaching, but a lot of work related to the boarding, like (re-)writing the Handbook and deciding on policies and rules, and to the construction work. The furniture has been ordered from one of the companies that I visited in Nairobi, and I might be going there again to check the samples before they start 'mass production'.

The main reason for time passing quickly though has been that things have been busy at home, with many visitors and sometimes friends staying: B came for a short five days from Kenya, where she has now been offered a six-month contract on a farm she has been visiting, which she feels is underused, as a 'goat- and cheese consultant', which would suit her very well, presumably to start when she comes back after spending the summer in Europe. Chr, the cousin of the Congolese guy I knew in Bujumbura, came to visit for a few days; and J from Nairobi came again: the visit was fine, but the aftermath, after he had missed the bus (?) and had an even more miserable trip back than expected, has been difficult – I don't cope so well with drama, I am afraid. (Details on request – NOT.) M stayed on his way from Uganda and will stay again on his way back there, and O has come a few times.

On the academic side, L has been accepted at Near East University, in the Turkish part of Cyprus, and I have already paid the fees for the first year and booked his flight there for early September. B is about to finish his BCA at LPU in India and will be coming back here in mid-June. And O, who completed a two-year degree (called 'A1' here) at Tumba College of Technology last year will probably continue to study at Ndejje in Uganda from September.

About the summer, P got his Schengen visa and will spend seven weeks in Europe, including two weeks with B at her commune in France while I am in the US for 3 1/2 weeks, and we will visit Seba for a few days in Italy, with whom he has kept in in touch since they met last time, 3 1/2 years ago. Before he comes I will go to London for four days in May, and in August I will of course be coming back here.

As often these days, various friends came to visit this afternoon; since they are people I have known for some time, it is no problem all talking together. One of them, N, asked me why I was going back to Berlin for so much time, didn't I have enough friends in Rwanda, what was I missing. This is what I found myself explaining:

  • Here most of the people I hang out with are poor and have difficult lives, their families struggling with illness, school fees, and so on, and although I can do something to help, the problems are by far too many and too big; and it is difficult not to feel all the time that people have expectations of me. That feeling is very wearing. Of course I don't forget these problems when I am in Europe or America, but I don't have them in front of me all the time.
  • Here I am still struggling with the ways people relate. For instance, two days ago Cornellius, a neighbour/friend whom I had not seen for a few weeks, asked me in the afternoon if we could meet that evening, but then he never turned up. Only the next evening did he send a brief message that he had found that he had to work late: I would have wanted him to let me know, as soon as he knew, that he could not make it – then I could have tried to meet up with someone else. (As I wrote above, I am beginning to feel I am running out of time. But at least he suggested another time when we could meet – people here usually don't even do that.)
  • Here so many more things are not predictable, not even simple things like that a taxi moto, or even a car, driving in the opposite direction will always be on my left: every day on the big yellow school bus or some other bus I have some scary moments, as well as many frustrating moments when it is clear that the free-for-all slows down the traffic.
  • Here, when I walk along the road outside, especially in the area of Kigali where I/we live, I pass good-looking, attractive guys all the time, often dressed quite stylishly too – very nice; but what I miss, after a few months, is walking, or cycling, amongst nice-looking, attractive buildings, like in Berlin or New York, in various styles, from different periods.

The rainy season should soon be coming to an end, but it has been unusually wet, and I still have not done any swimming since I came back from Bujumbura. – A major local concern is of course the situation in neighbouring Burundi; I know some Congolese guys who, or whose family, is there and they are worried enough to leave for the time being or stay outside.

B & K

Chr came in April, and will hopefully come again in September

L (who has been doing a lot of exercise!) at the Genocide Memorial when W was visiting

Meddy ("Starboy"), a local guy, whose family I have met a few times, now back at boarding school


I am starting to write this at Istanbul Airport, waiting for my connecting flight to Berlin, after a very busy end of the term, both at work and at home. "At work" rather than "at school": the only teaching I have done has been to help out the HL Maths class that was rather behind – for which they gave me a well-chosen book as a present, with individual notes from each: very nice to be so appreciated. As I felt I also was by my colleagues in my new role, so when the Headmaster asked me again if I could come back two weeks earlier in August than planned if the school paid for the cost of changing my ticket, I agreed. Which means that I will only be away for 2 1/2 rather than 3 months. And it also means that I will be with my Rwandan friends again two weeks earlier, and will get to see O for a day or two before he starts university in Uganda and M before his term starts again at boarding school.

Some of the friends, or people I have met, have been Burundian or Congolese working or studying in Burundi, and they have of course been affected by the unrest there, with some of them not going back, or some of their family joining them in Kigali. The issue there is the President wanting a third term in office even though the constitution limits him to two. Which could of course also become an issue in Rwanda, where the President has two years left of what should be his last term. My Rwandan friends assure me that the kind of unrest that there has been in Burundi could not happen in Rwanda, but I am not so confident, and have asked L to think of coming back from university in Turkey for the summer next year already, rather than in two years.

It was, I must say, extremely upsetting for me to hear from a friend studying at the University of Rwanda that an official had come into one of their lectures and given everyone a form on which to write their name and identity card number, and a request to parliament to change the constitution so that the President could stand for a third term, threatening them that they might not get any financial support from the government next year (which in any case is meagre and has been paid at best sporadically) if they didn't, or a government job ever. As it happens, the very next day the first item on the evening news was about a delegation of officials, though from another part of the country, coming to parliament to present 4000 such petitions.

In Nairobi, the street with my hotel, the area a bit rough, near River Road, J said even "dangerous" at night, (he had his phone stolen near there) but not too bad. Why should I stay in a more expensive/fancy place than I would on my own, just because someone else – the school – pays? Last time was different, since I was also doing some interviewing at the hotel where I stayed.
The doorman of the hotel came over to warn me not to take photos in the street, that I might be arrested: security concerns are very high, especially with the al-Shabab massacre in that university and an Obama visit in July. But there were nice views of the CBD from the top of the hotel; one of the things one can't see from up there is the traffic that Nairobi is notorious for.
And this is called work? (J came with me, and I asked him to take photos of the sample pieces of furniture for the Boarding Houses.)
Each bunk bed has two large wheeled storage drawers underneath.

The wood is local pine, sanded and varnished, edges rounded, bolts exposed – Ikea style. ;-) We agreed that the legs of the desk will have to be made twice as thick for it to be quite sturdy, the shelves would be 5cm less deep, and the distance between the bottom and the top of the bunk bed would be 10cm greater.
From the plane back from Nairobi: I have never taken a photo from a plane, but was thinking of all the travelling I and some of my friends – some of them (J, L) for the first time – have been and will be doing.
This is what the buildings looks like now: the brick on the outside is mostly finished, on the inside they have started to put down tiles. According to new regulations, the path must not be steeper than 5%, which is difficult to achieve given the slope on which the school is built.

F, P's girlfriend, at her job and at uni

Aimé has come to visit every week since he was brought along by M some weeks ago and I met his parents.
My flight was at 1am, but O, A and L 'pushed me' (= came with me to the airport, which has been largely rebuilt.) – I should here mention a major change in fashion over the past year: bright patterned trousers are now 'in', very!

The Kigali skyline

From Rwanda, 'Semester 13'
– - still at school, but doing completely different work ...


After a great holiday: 6 weeks in Berlin, 3 1/2 weeks on my own, 4 days in the UK, 7 1/2 weeks of Pascal visiting me, other friends and Europe from India, 3 1/2 weeks in the US, mostly Milwaukee/Chicago and NYC, and 4 days in Italy – some of these concurrent of course. I am back in Kigali, two weeks earlier than originally planned. The school paid for the change of ticket – and I can see why: it is nice to feel so needed, but it has included a lot of running around, mostly still preparing for the boarding that is about to start: organising 100 mosquito nets, helping the (all new) international boarding staff get ready and settle into the school, supervising the assembly of at least enough of the (not curvaceous 'new African' but simple IKEA-style) furniture that I went to Kenya twice last term to get bids on, select and get organised, showing around prospective boarders and their parents, writing an article for the in-flight magazine of the national airline, helping with the fire training for the staff, getting quotes for a small guard house and gate at the entrance to the boarding area, and so on. – I don't do stress, so it has been great fun.

By now there are a number of 'ex-supportees', who, I am pleased to say, continue to be friends:

  • Benjamin came back from India in June, with a good BCA (Bachelor's in Computer Applications). Since then he has been staying with us/me, but he is hoping to be able to continue his studies.
  • Although Noel completed his degree in Urban and Regional Planning last year, has attended exams and interviews, and has sometimes come close, he has only just been able to find a job, paying RwF 100,000 (= $ 130) a month plus expenses, doing surveying for an irrigation project.
    BUT: he won the Green Card Lottery. So he got a passport, is about to submit his police clearance and other papers, and is waiting to be called for an interview, which will be in Nairobi. (The arrangement is that I am paying all the costs, but that he can pay me back when he has a job in the US – I hope we will stay friends, and to keep seeing him there.)
  • Oscar finished his teaching practice, teaching Science in S1 and S2 classes in a school in Kigali, graduated from the former KIE with a degree in education, and also had a little party. ;-) He will be looking for a position as a teacher when the new school year starts in January.
  • Hadelin graduated this year, with a good degree in Agriculture, had a little party in the bar near our house where he has sometimes been working, but now has a 100-day contract with an NGO to do extension work in the area around his village.

'Termly' summary (– schools have one more trimester, but it is the beginning of the academic year at the universities):
  • Modeste will have only a two-week break from UCU before he starts the fourth and last year of his nursing course. He'll come to stay for some days when he is back from Uganda.
  • Philbert has just registered for the fourth and last year of his Economics course at the UR in Butare. He has ambitions to do original research, (of which there is very little here.) He came to visit last weekend.
  • After 7 weeks in Europe and avoiding most of the heat in Punjab, Pascal flew back to India and has just started his third and last year of his Bachelors course at LPU, in Business Administration and IT.
  • Because of the unrest in Burundi, Christmas will have last year's final exams only next week, and then immediately start the third and last year of his Politics course at L'Université du Lac Tanganyika in Bujumbura. (J'attends de voir ses résultats de deux années passées.)
  • A few days after I came back, Oliver left for Ndejje in Uganda, to study IT for two more years, but there have been some organisational problems, which I hope can be sorted out. And the food is not great, he has said.
  • Flora is continuing to both work and study, and about to start the third (and I think last year) of her course at a private university, ULK. She is always very busy but doing well enough.
  • Ayubu has two more weeks of holidays before he starts the second year of his four-year Accountancy course at AUCA, so he has dropped in regularly.
  • If all goes well with the visa, which he had to go to Kampala to apply for, (which it should) Laurien should be leaving for Near East University, in the Turkish part of Cyprus, in less than four weeks to study Accountancy.
  • Charles, the brother of H, came to get the school, exam preparation and exam fees for himself and his sister; they are both about to take the National Exams after Senior 6; his option is Geography, Economics and Literature.
  • Claude (now in S5, Languages) started to talk to me in the street more than a year ago and has since then dropped in every few weeks. He used to get his school fees paid by someone at his church, where he was helping with English lessons, but since that person proved unreliable, now usually by me.
  • M's sister Christine is continuing at a school in the village. Their sister Louise again did not do well at her boarding school, so she will not continue this year, but I have said that she can try a different Option (= subject combination) for one term next year
  • Chance, P's niece, is has one more term in Senior 1 at a boarding school, while her brother is still at school in the village.
  • Frank a trois ans, et il va commencer bientôt à une école maternelle à Bujumbura; il est le fils de Yannick, un jeune homme Burundais qui j'ai rencontré sur l'internet et qui m'a rendu visite ici quelquefois.

As always, I am very grateful for the extremely generous support I get in supporting these students – from friends of mine who don't even know the people who their money is going to! Thank you so much.

early September

Rather more than one third of this stay here has already passed, and very quickly too – as they say: "Time flies, when ..." I have indeed been having fun. At school things are much like last term, there are some things to finish up concerning the Boarding Houses, which have now been in use for a month already and seem to work well, but the emphasis has now shifted to the construction of a new Primary School building and the pool, and of a long over-due large storm drain across the campus. (The latter to be built by a Kenyan/US American contractor, called Joseph, a – or: the – specialist on fire alarms and protection, with whom I get along very well, but who has been frustratingly difficult to meet up with – on two occasions when we had arranged in the morning to meet, he was already on his way out of the country that same evening, having to fix something somewhere else ...)

While I cannot say that I had missed teaching, I am very happy to have two Grade 12 ThoK classes again, because of two Kenyan teachers leaving, out of the blue (= without giving notice: it is almost impossible to enforce contracts) for greener pastures (= much better pay) – unfortunately quite a regular occurrence, probably connected with the fact that we may well be the cheapest school in the world where one can take the IB. It had been a bit strange to be at school without doing any teaching at all.

On student matters, O has had a difficult start at Ndejje in Uganda, partly because of his insistence to go straight into the second year of the three year degree, because he had already completed two years at a technical college in Rwanda. But the place is apparently also very rural, and the food not great, even if the people are apparently alright. – And L has left, to study in Turkey for four years, or rather in North Cyprus; his first plane trip, of course – though he left late at night, he was 'pushed' by a whole minibus full of well-wishers. By now he has arrived and registered, I hear, and is starting to look for accomodation. – So for now it is B in the house with me; luckily he also cooks well. ;-)
Same departure, different styles of picture ...

Emmanuel, who came to the house for the first time with his friend Aimé, just before I left in May, who came for the first time about half a year ago with his friend Meddy, who is the least 'serious' of the three, is the most 'serious' of the three: here with his siblings, and at the pool (my last time there: the price has become unreasonably high;) and the view down from the path up to his family's house.

The new City Hall of Kigali: most of the many buildings in the city I don't like, they are not clear and a bit 'random', (and also I am worried, as I have said before, about the over-capacity of office space) but this looks alright to me. The road is empty of cars or people, because this is the first pedestrian precinct in Rwanda. (What for?!?)

late September

Time has continued to fly. At school, my brief stint of teaching ThoK has come to an end, as a new Economics teacher has been hired, so I am now just doing some tutorial teaching of HL Maths; and three of the small projects that we have been working on – the band room, the gate house and gate of the boarding compound, and a buried storm water drain through the campus – are (almost) completed, leaving two big ones: a new primary school and the swimming pool. The other task that is occupying me is migrating the school website, including many GB of e-mails, from an ok but expensive hosting company in Rwanda to a better and much cheaper one in the US, while trying to minimise the disruption.

On student matters, I hope that L, even if it may not be easy for him at times, is settling well enough in Northern Cyprus, (which is how Western Union refers to where he is studying: it was quite a struggle to send money to the right place, but it should be easier once he has opened a bank account.) While I don't feel like a parent at all in all this, I guess the hope that 'no news is good news', in O's as well as in L's case, may be one that parents are familiar with. (Perhaps it is my fault, for expecting proper e-mails, rather than settling for 'text bytes' on my smart phone.) – And it looks like B is going to head to Turkey as well, in January, to do a 1 1/2 year course leading to a Master's degree, in IT, from a British university; (the friend who has already paid for most of his studies in India has agreed to contribute half the cost. Thank you very much!!!)

From a recent conversation it seems that people are aware of, and interested in, a video from a human rights organisation that apparently constrasts the cleanness of Kigali – which definitely is not due to people not littering, nor to the monthly umuganda (community work), but to the large number of women employed to clean the roads every day – with the conditions in Gikondo jail, (the place where about two years ago a friend of ours was held for a weekend, together with about 100 other people, after random arrests in our neighbourhood late one Friday night, without ever being charged with an offence.) The measure of a 'civilised' society cannot just be how free its capital is of litter, but must be how free its citizens are (– it is said that even in neighbouring Uganda one is much safer criticising the Ugandan President than the one of Rwanda.) But free also of hunger, illness, and so on, as argued by Armatya Sen in Development as Freedom, 1999.

Chez moi things have been very good too, although there has been a certain amount of "win some, lose some" – but the "win some" has been winning: E has been coming to the pool with me every week – at Sports View Hotel now, since swimming at the Mille Collines has become not only expensive but unreasonably so – determined to learn how to swim, he is willing to watch movies that I have chosen, like Diva (1981) last and Star Wars (1977) next weekend, has started to learn some HTML, and has invited me to visit him overnight at home, where he lives with his family, not too far away. – A year or two ago I was a bit worried if, when I stop working at the school, there would be 'enough' for me in Rwanda for me to spend half of each year here, but now I am not, especially since some of my friends are also coming back soon. It would still be a good life.

So when I think that I will only be here for less than seven more weeks this time it is a case of the good news also being the bad news. This time I have booked my flight from Kampala/Entebbe, so that I can spend a few days with friends in Uganda before I leave. In December I will be in the US again for 3 1/2 weeks, and before and after that I will spend 2 1/2 weeks in Europe, mostly of course in Berlin. In mid-January I'll come back to Kigali, and be here until early May.

The back of the girls' block of the new boarding facility at the school, during the construction of which last term I was acting as 'client representative'.

The front of the boys' block.

Progress on the new 2-storey, 20-classroom Primary School building.

Some contacts first made on the internet work out well: I had been chatting with Omar – partly Malian, formerly Muslim but now Christian, headboy of his school in Goma, just across the border in the DRC, where he is studying Pédagogie – since the summer when he came to visit for a weekend: feels like he could be a good friend. And he can sing too. ;-)
It was great to spend time with Andrew, who is now working in Côte d'Ivoire, when he came on 'a mission' to Kigali for a week. We hadn't met for three years and had a lot to talk about, but he also met some of my friends and visited the Genocide Memorial with two of them. (In the picture, what he has in his hands behind his back is coffee that he had bought to take with him.)
late October

Time has continued to fly, things have continued to go well, at work and at home. Only a few weeks left before I leave this time.

When I was talking to Chr some weeks ago when he was visiting from Burundi – where the situation seems to be getting more tense/dangerous again – about birth rates and immigration, he suggested that Westerners don't like children, and that that was why they only have so few; that if they liked children they would have ten, if they could afford it, like people here. To which my almost unthinking response – that I then needed to justify/explain – was that people only have few children precisely because they love them: because they want to spend an hour of quality time with each child every day, because they want to play letters-and-numbers games with them when they are two or three, because they want to read each one a story at bedtime; because they don't want to abandon them to the care of semi-literate houseboys and maids, or even just to the street, and they don't want to leave the education of their children only to the school. I have talked about this with some friends of mine before, both here and there, but I have recently noticed more how when a child is being picked up after school, by a driver or even a parent, I don't hear the kind of chatting that I am used to outside schools and kindergardens in Europe and America, like: "So how was school today? What did you learn?" [The same point was made in an article in The New Times on 14 October, which starts: "Parents have been urged to get involved in their children's education in order to promote the reading culture in Rwanda. The call was made by Bethany Erikson, the Education Programme Director at Save the Children during ..."]

I have heard it said that the best job is one where you write your own job description – which is roughly the siutation I find myself in these days: I keep myself fairly busy, but can mostly set my own priorities. Lucky!

B has received his acceptance letter from Sakarya University in Turkey, where he will be studying for 1 1/2 years for an M.Sc. in IT, awarded by a UK university; (there are more and more such 'off-shore' programmes.) He'll be going there in January, just after I will have returned, and I am happy that Ay has agreed to then stay at my place; he'll move in at the end of November. So I am all set.

I was not happy recently, when a friend, one of the people I/we have been supporting, after I had done something for him that he really needed, ended his text message with: "Blessings." First of all, since he knows that I am not a believer, he wrote something that he knew is meaningless to me, a bit as if I started to write to him in German – as if he did not want to communicate with me. And secondly, it suggests that rather than appreciating me for the kind of person I am and for what I had done, he may be thanking God for 'letting us meet' and for 'creating me' the kind of person I am. Hmmm.

mid-November, on the way to Berlin, via Kampala

As always, things speeded up a lot at the end, both at school, where there were some things to complete and others to get started before I left: one of the nice aspects of the work is that I feel that my contribution is appreciated by everyone, including – or especially – the Headmaster. My role is a bit odd, in that usually the client (i.e. the school) does not work with the contractor (the building company) directly, but works with the consultant (the architectural firm) through the project management team (a firm from Mauritius) – and I have ended up doing some of the work of all of those: for example, formulating the requirements for an audio system in the new building, getting a quote from a German firm but declining it, for reasons of cost, meeting with the site engineer and the school's IT guy, who set up the system that we are using in the old building, to decide what we could do, and writing a long e-mail – copied to everyone – with the plan, (which will cost about 1/3 of what the German firm was proposing, which included s.o. flying out to set it up, for € 6000!) – I am looking forward to being back in January.

And at home: B will only be in Kigali for two days after I have come back, before he goes to Turkey; there were other friends whom I still saw a lot, some of whose holidays had started; and people came to say Good bye! – I am greatly looking forward to being back in January, even though there has also been, as I wrote before, some "win some, lose some" this term – perhaps I am not so good at maintaining friendships with young, (overly?) success- (or in one case apparently even car-) oriented professionals ... Sam, Joseph Ch, Cornellius, Valery. And when I feel a bit homesick for my life there, and my friends, I can listen to a song about the area where I live in Kigali, which colloquially is known as Nyamijos.

It was a long trip to Kampala, almost ten hours on the bus, quite comfortable though it was, but no rest, because of endless stretches with painful speed humps. Before we set off a pastor was preaching to, or more like shouting at, the whole bus, which felt a bit like charming 'local colour' – until I remembered the murderous bombs that had gone off in Paris the night before. – A nice surprise at the border though: I did not have to pay $ 50, or now even $ 100, for a single-entry tourist visa; probably because I presented my Rwandan ID, though it does show that I am a foreigner, together with my passport.

Uganda looks and feels very different from Rwanda: up to three people on motorbikes, usually with no helmets, often going on the wrong side of the road, or even the wrong way around a roundabout; crowds rushing and endless traffic jams on roads that are breaking up at the edges, roads with few street lights that seem like markets which the buses, trucks and cars have to negotiate their way through; a shanty town on the side of the road as one comes into Kampala; prices at petrol stations, unlike in Kigali, that are not all the same – in brief, more typically African. ;-)

M had come to Kampala to meet me, and we took a 'taxi' to Mukono, (short distance, long ride: the jams are bad) where his university is. Which is where I felt my holiday started – that night I slept more than nine hours, very deeply, the first time in 3 1/2 months that I slept more than 7 1/2 hours, I think. – The next morning M joined me for breakfast and we relaxed at the hotel, where we were joined by O, who came from his university, a couple of hours away. The three of us spent the day together, walking around UCU, where M is studying, and going to his 'student hostel' – more like a nice compound, single rooms, each with toilet and (cold) shower. – The next morning it was raining heavily, so I did not go to Kampala with O but went for a walk along Jinja Road and had a quiet afternoon on my own. In the evening I met with M again and with a friend whom Tony (whom I know from a website and Berlin) had introduced me to. – The next morning Ben, whom I had been chatting with on-line for two years, came to greet me, and he came with me to Kampala: Ben has been unemployed for many years, but does a lot of work with disadvantaged youth. After he went back, I walked around on my own, then took a 'taxi' (= public minibus) from the Old Taxi Park to Entebbe, near the airport, to wait at a very fancy hotel that had been recommended to me, because it would be safe, (safety being something that apparently one always has to worry about in Uganda) for my very-early-morning flight.

So that is it for this year.

At the Nyabugogo bus park – the two pushing and the one being pushed:
The UCU Library, with M:
The UCU Library, without M:
The 'hostel' where M is staying, about 10 minutes' walk from the university:
In Kampala:
  • Kampala Road, with Barclays Bank near the main intersection,
  • Speke Hotel, which still has a colonial feel to it, remembering my first time there, with JPH ('Junior') and his father, in 1994
  • the Hindu Temple (?) near the city centre
  • the Old Taxi Park, from where I left for Entebbe and the airport – it is more organised than it may seem ...