Sep 232012

We landed in Kigali through towering banks of cloud, a herald of the almost daily downpour for an hour or so which stops traffic and all activity. But the climate here is actually wonderful if you can shelter from rain. It is warm but not too hot and the light is soft, reflected from the forests and hills all around. Kigali sits on several of these hills, so it was hard to find the centre as really there are lots. It is also undergoing rapid redevelopment with new building going up everywhere. I thought I had won my intrepid traveller in the traffic badge by getting on the back of a Moto taxi (a 125 cc motorbike) and holding on for dear life as five of them raced each other down bumpy roads into the city. The helmets don’t fit by the way.

But in fact these trips were just a trial run for motos in Giesenyi where we are doing our placement. Everything here has to be hacked out of volcanic rock,usually by hand, so apart from the main road serving the big hotels on the lake and a few other routes, the roads are rocky. Really very rocky thoroughfares for pedestrians and traffic alike. As so few people have personal transport, most walk. They walk long distances from the villages into town, often with heavy loads, on their heads if women, as well as a baby on their back, an enormous bundle on their head. If men they also use buckling bicycles. Brian has more than once offered to stop a bike careering down hill because the weight is so heavy.

We are both involved in a garden project for the poorest women.There are several women’s co-operatives in the villages set up to support genocide survivors and other victims of gender violence. This means hacking up the rocks out of the black and very fertile soil to create new plots for vegetables. I have been given the special job of planting the carrot and cabbage seeds under the watchful eyes of all the neighbours and large groups of children who regard us with awe and suspicion until you chase them for tickling when they decide the Mzungus, the white people, are strange but not frightening.

Our reward for labour has actually been the displays of traditional dancing. They sing, sound the beat by clapping or banging an empty water carrier, and dance with a joy and sense of fun that lifts the whole day. And this dancing may happen inside a house of mud walls, a mud floor, a patchy tin roof that definitely does not hold off the rain. And a house with no decoration except old posters, no electricity, no facilities of any kind. Maybe only one chair. It puts into perspective our return to cold showers in the volunteer house.


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