Fresh strawberries in November
on Bruce's Rwanderings (Rwanda), 01/Dec/2009 07:29, 34 days ago
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November 30thClaude has asked Soraya and I to go into the office for a meeting, but when we arrive we find the meeting doesn’t take place. Also the internet is down. At least Claude seems to have shaken off his malaria and is back in the saddle. The problem is that he’s now besieged with people all morning, and there’s the big meeting of everyone who works in the akarere after about eight o’clock. So Soraya and I are left to our own devices.At eight o’clock I take a moto out to Mushubati and pay the remaining money into Nyarusange’s school so that they can complete their water tank. That’s the absolute last slice of water money – three complete systems, and about five repairs or improvements in other schools. 8500 pupils with access toclean water.It is turning out to be another of the beautiful mornings at the end of the rainy seasons, the visibility is pin sharp. Muhabura volcano is clear and well defined from my lounge window, and the mountains around Gitarama look inviting. If I had my own moto I’d be sorely tempted to cut work today and go off into the hills for a good walk.I have to wait a while at the office for some money I’m owed, but then I take off back to the flat and pack a bag with clothes that I won’t be using any more. I’m going out to Rutarabana to say goodbye to Delphine and her family (in Rwanda goodbyes are very formal occasions), and I might as well give them my unwanted clothes. The alternative would be to give the clothes to a market trader to sell, or leave them in Tom’s FHI office for his suppliers to pick through. But I decide if I’m going out to Rutarabana to say goodbye to her family I might as well give them my cast offs and save time. With eight children there’s no questionbut that they need them, and even though I’m twice the size of some of them they’ll either cut and adapt them or sell them. I’m welcomed like a hero and fed.Delphine repays me the loan she took out from me to buy beans a couple of months ago. I lent her 100,000 francs and she bought a huge consignment of beans at the height of the season when prices were low. She has since sold them to secondary schools with boarding accommodation in Ruhango District to feed to their pupils and has made a return of 30% on her outlay. She’s what we call “une bonne commercante” – she’s got a head for money. Clarisse, the next youngest sister, has just finished secondary school and has applied to join the police. She’ll be fed, given a uniform, accommodation and generally well looked after if they accept her. (It’s very competitive; at least 74 people are applying for around 12 places). The oldest son is in his final year at ETEKA technical school and will also be looking for a job soon.In the afternoon we take lots of photos, and I’ll print some off when I get home and send them to the family via Moira (Delphine is Moira’s domestique). I notice that getting photos printed here is hideously expensive, so photos become a luxury. Everyone has a small album which is trotted out whenever there are visitors. Even at Claude’s house, all the pictures of Keza which I printed off last time I went home are up on the walls in places of honour; it’s as if the only pictures he has are the ones Soraya and I have taken of her.As we walk back home we pass the family’s patch of strawberry plants; they are just coming into fruit again (in Rwanda most growing things have three or even four seasons a year), and we stop to sample the crop. Just imagine – fresh strawberries on the last day in November. Britain is bracing itself for frosts, snow and goodness knows what else; I’m sauntering around in shirtsleeves with my hands stained red from strawberries!In the evening I go round to see Helen and April and we swap pictures from the weekend, as well as stuffing ourselves with honey pancakes. Then April tests my hearing (she’s an audiologist and for all I know may be the only one working in schools in the whole of Rwanda). I have significant high end hearing less, which is apparently normal for someone my age. It explains why I’ve been finding it difficult to follow conversations in noisy bars where the TV or sound system is at full blast, or where there are bare concrete walls and very echoey sound. It’s tough getting old and decrepit!Teresa rings and we talk through the final lists of what to bring and so on. I’m running out of time fast, and really need to start throwing things into the suitcase tomorrow.