the little things

day three of showering out of a bucket. woo hoo. electricity is solid though and there’s a strange lack of mosquitos up here on our mountain-top so i have no reason to complain. occasionally the toilet makes odd gurgling sounds, as if the water were trying to make it but just couldn’t manage the hill. ah well.

it’s strange how noting down the few things i’ve accomplished in the last two days can be so comforting. yesterday i opened a bank account and boiled water. today i cooked pasta and observed a class. not much else. so why am i so exhausted you ask? these simple tasks are not so simple here. let’s take ‘open a bank account’. to open a bank account in rwanda, you first must have a letter from vso, a copy of your passport (which is of course locked in a safe 45 km away), and two passport photos (which are in the hands of someone who should have known you’d need them and is of course not available). you then have to get to the bank with your employer, the director of the school. at first, this seems easy. he offers to drive you to the bank in rwamagana and help you through the process. no problem. we’ll meet at 7:30am and we’ll be there when the bank opens.

so you arrive at the appointed time, which happens to coincide with the daily school assembly, at which he of course must be present. so you wait. after the assembly, he has an hour of surprise meetings. so you wait some more. now if you’d expected this, which you should have, you’d have brought something to do, like plan your lessons. but you don’t have a curriculum yet so you can’t really start planning. so you chat with the other teachers and feel very useless. then miraculously the director appears and you drop your conversation (you were just starting to network with your colleagues and were feeling a bit proud of yourself for making the best of the situation), and he says he just has to drop in on a few classes and then we’ll go. ok. half an hour later, he’s back and you’re going (you’re actually going!).

but wait. the director doesn’t have a car. so he goes in search of one. he comes back fifteen minutes later (the waiting’s getting shorter, this is a good sign) with two other people, one of whom has a car and will drive you and the other who just wants to come along for the ride, neither of whom are introduced, nor can they speak french or english. but you don’t really care because after two hours of doing nothing you are in a car and you are driving to rwamagana to open a bank account and nothing can stop you now.

wrong. you arrive in rwamagana via bumpy dirt roads and you see that many of the shops are closed. oops, the bank is closed too. hmmm. the driver says something in kinyarwanda and you hear the word ‘gacaca’. bad news. gacaca is the traditional community court system that’s been reinstituted here to deal with the enormous amount of trials for crimes committed during the genocide twelve years ago. they handle only petty crimes- theft and property damage mostly. but they are never announced in advance and close down the whole town when they happen.

not to worry. your director has a plan. he calls the bank manager (using your phone because he’s out of minutes) who opens the bank just for you. and while it takes a good hour or so, the director is there with you and without any phone calls or meetings to attend and so you find yourself building a friendship and discussing some of the issues related to classes you’re not qualified to teach and missing curriculums and even your lack of kerosene and food and water. you solve many of these problems, you open your account, you drive home and fall dead asleep from exhaustion. it’s been a productive day.

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~ by aliciawolcott on January 26, 2007.

2 Responses to “the little things”

  1. Well, it’s good to hear things are going so well. Many, many people ask if I’ve heard anything, and then they say the same thing I usually say – “I should really check her website.” So I did.

    Anyway, I’m thinking of you, and I’m not the only one. So keep writing!

  2. Great blog. Grandma was SOOOO excited about it she called everybody to tell them to log on.

    I love that they opened the bank for YOU. Must be a VIP around there.

    Really glad you have a buddy/compatriot there. Have fun!

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