Day 4 The Mount of Olives

It had to be done. Well I suppose it did. Can a Christian come to Jerusalem without viewing Christ’s supposed tomb? I think not. But neither it seems can most other religions, agnostics, atheists etc. which is why you have to get up early. 6.30 in our case and arriving at The Church of the Holy Sepulchre at about 7.30. Dani and Mike had gone to a 6.30 mass and it was pure luck that we joined the queue to get to the tomb directly behind them. The queue was not moving. We stood an chatted. Still no movement. At about 7.45 some thing seemed to be going on up ahead and sure enough the queue moved. Slowly we inched forward until at about 8.20 we got to view the marble slab on which he supposedly lay in the tomb. From there it is but a short walk and a short queue to view the supposed limestone mound which was Golgotha. Of course it didn’t have to be that high as being on a cross made you all to visible ‘pour encourage les autres’. There is a gilded hole above the stone which I assumed was to put your arm in to feel the stone. I was somewhat surprised to find it full of litter. Then it dawned on me that these were bank notes. How better to commemorate the death of our Saviour than in dollar bills or shekels?

 

We did not linger and headed back through empty streets to our hotel and breakfast. At the Damascus Gate Christine noticed a woman n a red coat and bobble hat standing absolutely still in front of it. Christine had noticed that she had been there at 7.15 when we had passed through. Very odd.

We met Dani and Mike for breakfast and then set off to the. Mount of Olives. We headed back to the Damascus Gate. I was now 10.00 but the girl was still in the same pplace. I asked her what she was doing and apparently it was some form of independent film project. Her cameraman was on the steps to her left.

We walked down the Via Dolorosa looking for Lion Gate and St Anne’s Church. I mistook one of s number of arches for the fate and then got us completely lost. Eventually we found St Anne ‘s and it was heaving! The church is Romanesque and beautiful in its simplicity. It has a remarkable acoustic and an American Choir was trying it out with Amazing Grace. If sound quite impressive, in spite of their pronounciation. Once they had left we had the church to ourselves so I gave a quick solo of ‘Lord we beseech you.’, and yes the acoustic is quite remarkable:even  my voice sounded passable!

 

It is hard to work out what is what outside the church so many generations gave built over and around the pools. Add to this the vast numbers of awed Americans and clamorous Chinese and the whole experience becomes hard to enjoy. However they do stay with their leaders, few wander from the throng, so we found a walkway around the other side of the site and enjoyed some relative peace. The pools, north and south, I was particularly keen to see having written about them in both of my religious monologues, Febronia and Mary, particularly the latter. I was not disappointed. With the help of a simple guide and some plaques we managed to piece together what would have been there in the time of Christ. I imagined Mary in one of the rather posh rooms situated between the pools, favouring the northern one where the water was cleaner and the common people did not enter.

Outside the Lion Gate we entered a Moslem cemetery which gave us good views across the Kidron Valley towards the massive Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives. We crossed the Kidron or Valley of Jehoshaphat, dodging the multitude of tourist buses and taxis and eschewing the Basilica of the Agony, we found a quiet road up the edge of the Jewish cemetery to a viewpoint at the top of the Mount. The sun was beating down and it was quite a climb, but well worth it. As we passed the Jewish cemetery I pointed out the stones piled on many of the graves. “Why do they do that?” Christine asked. I reminded her that at our Family Remembrance Service only a couple of weeks ago I had based the service on this Jewish ritual and we had all laid stones around the font. It clearly had made quite an impact!

 

We treated ourselves to a cereal bar as we looked across to the walled city and then after using the impeccable toilets we headed further up to the Mosque of the Ascension. Within its grounds is a beautiful little chapel dating from about 1200. Inside is a piece of stone with a supposed footprint our Lord left behind as a left for heaven. If so, he had surprisingly large feet.

 

We descended via a much busier road and enjoyed an overpriced, but delicious pomegranate juice at a small cafe at the bottom. Back through the Lion Gate we navigated our way across the old city to the Jaffa Gate. The Via Dolorosa was blocked in places by thrombosises of tourists, clustered around their guides, drinking in every word and quite oblivious of everyone else. Eventually we struck off away from the crowds, but met them again as we approached the Jaffa Gate.

 

Our aim was to walk on the walls which run between Jaffa Gate and Dung Gate. It cost 18 shekels each, but I produced my senior railcard and got in for 8 as a senior citizen! The walk was lovely but hard work. Every tower had massive stone steps up and down and by now our legs were feeling like jelly. At Dung Gate we set off in pursuit of refreshment, but decided instead to buy some cakes and head back to the hotel for afternoon tea on our terrace. We bought some delicious cakes from a stall near the Damascus Gate and as we passed through there was the girl, standing in the same spot. Christine asked if she had had a break and was released to hear that she had. She was still being filmed, so I presume we are now part of an art installation to be screened in the future!

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Tomorrow we leave Jerusalem for the Sea of Galilee and hopefully a less frenetic and cheaper few days.

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Kagera 5

Kagera 5

Saturday

A leisurely start to the morning was very welcome. We had decided that we would go to the big Saturday market on the hillside on the edge of Ngara, so set off just after 11.00. It is a lovely walk down into the valley bottom and then up the other side. The river is full of beautiful purple water lilies and several children wanted s to take their pictures. We climbed up the hill and followed the new road to the main Ngara road, turning right to go to the bank as Tim and Esther wanted some money. At the bank we met Christela and her sister. We also asked about the lost keys, but none had been handed in. Then we were approached by a young man on a bike – Wilbert (Wilbard – not too sure to be honest!) from NAPS who insisted on accompanying us to the market.

We were glad of his company as he could make sure that we weren’t paying ‘muzungu’ prices. We entered at the top of the market and wandered down to where the kangas and kitenge are sold. We looked around but nothing grabbed Christine’s attention, so we went down into the fruit and veg. Area, Wilbert explaining what various vegetables were. We ended up buying some lemons and some unusual looking avocados.

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Christine eventually settled on a couple of kitenge at a suitable price and after an hour or so, the heat and exertion started to get to us so we beat a retreat to the petrol station for some cold drinks and a Mars bar. A poor woman, who clearly had mental health issues, followed us from the market and turned up in the petrol station shop. She wanted money and proceeded to make a nuisance of herself as we bought our treats. Wilbert tried to deal with her, but as we headed back to the road she decided that she was on a hiding to nothing and went back to the market.

We took the earth road down the hillside and Wilbert eventually left us as we rejoined the tarmac road. Apparently he lives nearby in rented accommodation. I have feeling we haven’t seen the last of him as he was dropping hints about his need for sponsorship for his M.A.! We walked down into the valley bottom and then up the other side, sweating profusely in the heat, but grateful for the extra energy the Mars bar had given us. Half way up we met the headmaster of the ‘Good Shepherd’ coming down on his motorbike. He was keen for a chat and has promised to have another look for the lost keys. Then we bumped into Naomi on her way downhill and several of our students. It seemed that everyone was heading for Ngara! As we reached the bottom road there was a great deal of honking and a cavalcade of cars approached all decked out in ribbons. It was the wedding party from the cathedral with the bride and groom standing up through the sunroof of the third or fourth car waving at all and sundry and the choir packed into a cattle truck bringing up the rear. It was quite a sight. As we approached home we realised that the Mothers’ Union building was where the reception was being held. The noise was deafening as several speakers inside were clearly turned up to 11 or beyond. We had not been invited to the wedding (why should we be?) but the wedding had definitely come to us.

At about 6.00 p.m. Tim joked that they would almost certainly stop celebrating about 8.00 so that the children could go home to bed. Weirdly at 8.00 p.m. everything went quiet save for a few cars heading off and the sound of voices as people headed (with their children presumably) homewards. The rest was silence!

We went to bed early as we have to be up at 5.45 a.m. to get ready for our departure to Mahabwe at 6.55. No lie in tomorrow!

Sunday

The exercise meant that I had a really good night’s sleep and woke refreshed if rather surprised as the alarm went off at 5.45. Bleary eyed we got ourselves together. Absalom arrived at 6.55 and we headed off to Ngara and then westwards to Marabwe. The journey was along a ridge with spectacular views either side. The road was relatively quiet although here and here family groups in their Sunday best were heading for church. We arrived more or less at 7.30 and were greeted by a relieved Pastor Samson who we had last met at KTCT in 2013. Tim robed up and we were taken to our seats behind the altar. The clergy processed in and the service got underway. A female choir sung beautifully with just a drum accompaniment; indeed there was no electronic music in the church which was a blessed relief. Tim preached an excellent sermon on faith and religion based around Matthew6 1-16 which Absalom translated.

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Then, after the announcements, I was invited to say something, which I duly did. Thankfully it seemed to go down well and we were then ushered out to enjoy breakfast at Pastor Samson’s house – tea (or chai) and bread. We went for a short walk around the church and school before witnessing the end of the service as everyone came out into the open area at the west end of the church.

A quick turn around and we were back inside for the second service, billed as a ten o’clock but now running a little late. We found it hard to keep awake, it has to be said, even though Tim once again preached his excellent sermon. This time we stayed on for communion and the auction of gifts at the end of the service. Tim had the idea that we would try to out-bid each other for 3 eggs and hopefully amuse the locals. We checked with Absalom that this would not be seen as us showing off our wealth and with his blessing we did just that with me pantomiming outrage at every new ridiculous bid from Tim until I got three eggs for Tsh10,000 (just over £3). Some people found that amusing, but I have to say that I’ve played to easier audiences. We filed out and shook everyone’s hands before we broke up to head for the pastor’s house again for lunch.

It was quite a spread with a massive bowl of rice, an equally large bowl of mtoke (which was very tasty), beans and some beef for the meat eaters. However we Brits. are a disappointment to the locals when it comes to eating as we can never match their prodigious appetites. We did our best but looked on in admiration at their bowls piled high not once but often twice! As Absalom pointed out you need all those carbs. if you are spending the afternoon on your shamba.

We headed back to Murgwanza, the air blowing into the car redolent with the scent of coffee in flower. This is a major coffee growing area as Ngara coffee is making a name for itself. A large sack of dried coffee cherries sat in the vestry at Mahabwe church. They did not seem of the highest quality, but who knows. This is a fairly new and expanding enterprise and in time ………

As we turned down the road from Ngara to Murgwanza there was a very ominous hissing sound and the rear nearside tyre of Absalom’s car was flat. We pulled over and began the process of changing the wheel. This proved more difficult than anticipated. The jack was very stiff and the suspension very slack, so that every turn of the jack meant the suspension sagged a little more and the tyre remained firmly on the ground. Absalom, Tim and I took it in turns to work the jack which was hard work in the heat. Eventually we worked at the ground under the tyre trying to excavate a hole under it to be able to slip it off and put the new one on. After about 30 minutes we had succeeded and we were on our way.

The afternoon was spent drinking tea, reading and sleeping. A short walk gave us stunning views of the setting sun and then it was time for dinner. Teaching again tomorrow, so not a late night. I wonder how much the students will have forgotten in two days?!

Kagera 4

Thursday

Thursday morning, Thomas arrived early and quickly sorted out the buying of more wi-fi time using m-pesa. I hope we don’t run out again before he returns, although he assured me that any one can do it – well anyone who speaks Swahili and is under 40 I suspect! Thomas invited us around for a meal tonight at 6.00 p.m. to see his new house.

No more new students, and a good morning’s teaching although it is obvious that Joctan, Philipo and Flora are more advanced than the rest. Elias is really struggling. Beatrice supported our request for another room in which to teach the advanced trio and so tomorrow I will go next door with them.

After lunch, Absalom took us to ‘The Good Shepherd’ Secondary School which seems much improved since we last went there 6 years ago. The head, Mr Kibiriti, was very pleasant and clearly on the ball. They have 150 students, 14 teachers and 9 support staff, but could take up to 320 students. They need to rebuild the school’s reputation after the last few years. The last head had to be forceably removed from the school! It costs parents Tsh1.1 million (about £370) a year to send a child to the school, so only the richest can afford it, unless they make real sacrifices. The school is supported by the Diocese of Wellington in New Zealand. There are both Christian and Muslim pupils at the school so Bible Knowledge is offered as an optional subject. We looked in at a Standard 4 class and were impressed by the work in their books, although the cynic in us wondered if it wasn’t largely copied.

We moved on to NAPS where the school day had just ended. We went up to the new dormitory and were impressed to see that it is almost finished. It needs a thorough clean, some paint and the fittings. Outside workmen were busy finishing off the cesspool. The school mini-bus was ferrying pupils home in batches. There are now 234 pupils and it is hoped that the dormitory for 40 pupils will be opened for the next academic year.

On our way home we stopped at the bank and were able to withdraw cash without a problem. Tim had tried before without success. We got home to discover that the house keys had vanished from Tim’s pocket. We searched the car but without success. Tim was mortified, but of course it could have happened to any one of us. Absalom went and got the only spare key from Naomi. Now we have a new mortis lock on the door, as well as the old Yale. Apparently you cannot get a key cut unless you go to Mwanza. I think there is money to be made if someone set up a key cutting business in Ngara!

Thomas duly arrived at 6.00 p.m. and took us around to his very smart new house. It really is very impressive, with a very comfortable lounge and a small, but pleasant, dining room. We were greeted by Joan and Asante, who were playing outside. When we came in Christela appeared with Noela who is even more beautiful if that is possible – doting god-father speaking here of course! However Noela, still got rather upset and wouldn’t look at us, but at least she didn’t cry! We were invited into the dining room and a banquet! The table groaned under Thomas’s home-grown bananas and beans, more beans (also home-grown), peas, a spinach dish, rice, avocados, pineapples, water melon, passion fruit, and oranges. It was a wonderful meal and conversation flowed with the relative merits of socialism and capitalism being amongst the topics. There wasn’t room for the children, nor for Christela, her sister who was soon to be going to University and another young girl.

We managed to make it back into the lounge and collapsed. We gave the girls their presents for which they all said thank you, but they weren’t opened but taken away into another room to be opened later. Thomas took us on a tour of his house which has 3 bedrooms, toilet and bathroom, an indoor kitchen and then an outdoor kitchen with the charcoal stove. Tim was so impressed with the stove he is going to buy one from Thomas and take it home! We returned to the lounge and Esther’s pencil case became the object of interest for Joan and Asante while Christine and I tried to get Noela to smile. She had stopped hiding at least and was looking at us wit those big eyes. Eventually Thomas suggested that perhaps we would like to go home so we piled back into the car and drove along the pitch dark road back to home.

Friday

Absalom opened up the classroom next door for my three advanced students to work in. They moved their desks and chairs in and a desk and chair was found for me along with a whiteboard on a stand. A new light bulb was also needed and there was a brief health and safety moment as Joctan balanced on a desk and tried to remove the old bulb from a very dodgy socket. Eventually Absalom managed to put the new bulb in and there was light. The teaching went well, although it took a while for me to realise that the reason the whiteboard kept falling over was that no-one had put the latch on at the back. We have discovered that jungle formula insect spray is very good at cleaning the board after use. We managed to get up to ‘telling the time’, but I think that will need some reinforcement on Monday. Beatrice took over while I went to teach computing – no power cut this time so only 2 students to each machine. I wish I had had time to prepare for this and fully understood what they need. Still they seem happy!

The afternoon was spent marking. I had asked my pupils to come at 4.00 p.m. to collect their work, but all the other students turned up as well! There was one of those awkward moments as they stood half in and half out of our room, neither of us quite sure what was going on. Once I had explained that my group was getting their work back and Christine had said her group could have their work back at 5.00 p.m. it was all sorted out. Tim and Esther had spent the day with Fareth up on the Burundi border which at time sounded a bit hairy! When they returned Fareth, Tabitha, his wife and a cousin had brought them home and stayed for tea and biscuits.

Later we went for a walk and when we came home we found an English/Swahili teacher from NAPS called Wilbert visiting Tim and Esther. He had been telling them his life history (becoming an orphan at ten, drifting around for a time, fending for himself and then persistently asking a rich family to take him in which they eventually did – they now regard him as a son.) He is now looking for sponsorship for a Master’s degree and based on his track record I would be surprised if he didn’t get it! Absalom was also here having bought us some provisions from Ngara.

Christine baked a cake for Tim’s birthday (belatedly) which turned out rather well. We had a meal and then read and talked until bed time. We slept well and thankfully there was no reason for an early rise on Saturday

Kagera 3

Tuesday

Tuesday started with an 8.00 a.m. communion service in the KCTC chapel (actually one of the classrooms). These are always uplifting services as the singing is wonderful and there is a real sense of communion amongst the students and staff. Once again, Obadiah and Fareth translated for us and helped us find our way through the service. It is interesting how you can sometimes tell where you are at by the rhythm of the prayer or responses even though they are in Swahili. Absalom welcomed the students at the start of their new year and made the point that we have to be humble in our relationship with God, not trying to compete for a better position. We took communion and then Absalom asked each course group to stand up so that the others would recognise them. That is when we discovered that our English class had doubled in size to 8! There may even be two more joining, but who knows? We were asked to introduce ourselves and I couldn’t help but tell them that today is our silver wedding anniversary – cue much applause and delight.

This required some rather drastic rethinking of our lesson plans over breakfast and we decided to reinforce yesterday’s lessons for those that were there and introduce the new people to the course. We managed to find extension material for the two advanced students, so I think everyone got something out of the lesson. It was exhausting again, however as we taught from 9.45 until 1.20 with only a 10 minute break! Nevertheless the students worked hard and concentrated very well. Our new students are Elias, Reuben, Jeremiah and Timothy and all are starting from a low base. Today we focused quite a bit on pronunciation and did lots of practising in pairs while we listened in.

Still no word from Rwandair. I tried phoning, but after hanging on for 3 minutes I gave up. I have emailed them and then noticed a live chat thing on their website. I never got past third in the queue so gave up on that as well. I suspect that Christine’s case will be staying in Kigali!

As we have been trying to sort out the luggage issue on line, Tim has been secretly organising a surprise celebration meal for our silver wedding anniversary. Naomi came back in and cooked a delicious combination of rice, cabbage, macaroni something, chips and peanut sauce. It was excellent and we ate our fill.

However the bag hung over us like a bad dream. I had eventually got the phone number of the manager of the Lost and Found Office of Rwandair, one Antoinette and had a full and frank exchange of views with her. Her bottom line was that if we could get a taxi to pick up the bag she would give the driver $80 to defray costs. I tried to argue for the other $20 to go to Rusumo but to no avail. I was to email her with his name and she would make sure he got the bag. I texted Peter, our driver from Kigali who replied that he would pick up the bag etc. I asked him to give me his surname and he also sent his ID number which I then sent on to Antoinette. He was so keen to please that he went straight to the airport, where they then demanded photos of Christine’s passport and the form we had been given when we reported the loss. I tried to text these but they wouldn’t go so in the end I had to ask Peter for his email and managed to email them to him. Then we sort of lost contact.

By now I was feeling frazzled. As I went to bed my Tanzanian phone rang and when I answered it all I could hear were some men shouting in the distance and distortion. Thinking it was Peter trying to contact me I phoned back and got someone talking in Swahili who then hung up. I texted him and got a very strange text back in English. I think it was someone at the place we had bought our SIM cards from. He had phoned my phone to test it and so I suppose my number was in his phone. All very strange, but I turned the phone off and so far there have been no more strange calls. Peter then emailed to say that he had received the pictures, but no news of the bag.

Wednesday

I found it hard to get to sleep, but eventually dropped off and slept well through to about 4.00 a.m. which seems to be a pattern. At 6.45 we got up and found a message from Peter that he had the bag and was already on his way to Rusumo! I phoned Thomas who arranged for Imam to drive to Rusumo to pick up the bag leaving at 8.30. Tim and Esther kindly agreed to go with Imam as we had to teach.

On arrival at the classroom we discovered another student, Philipo. So now we are nine. He seems quite able and probably needs to be fast-tracked along with Joctan and Flora. Christine led the lessons today. At our short break about 11.20 Christine was delighted to find that Tim and Esther had returned with her bag – drama over – well at least until I start writing letters to Rwandair to try to extract the rest of the costs of their mistake. I suspect I will be whistling in the wind, but still.

I had to go to teach computing at 12.50. I wasn’t at all clear what was wanted, but Absalom had said that the students needed to know how to lay out an essay, so I took them through the basics of how to lay out a document using titles, subtitles, headers, footers and references. 15 of them crowded around my laptop was not the best way to learn, but there was no other option. When I had finished, I said that if they now liked to try this on a computer I would come around and help. A young man with glasses piped up, “Excuse me Sir, but some of the students do not know how to turn the computers on.” Oh dear, I had pitched the whole lesson at too high a level. So I went through basics such as switching on, opening two windows at the same time and the basics of the keyboard. Then they went off to try it themselves. There seemed to be only two computers working. “What about the others?” I enquired, “I saw them working yesterday.” “There is a power cut Sir, so we can only use the two which have batteries.” The barriers to learning here are just so immense! We had found a laptop in a cupboard in Tim’s room which seemed perfectly fit and when we had asked Absalom about it he had said, “Oh yes, we must do something with it.” Now seemed the time, so I went and got it and now there are 3 laptops in the computer room that can run on batteries – only 5 students to a computer – quite an improvement. As I went around helping, I was impressed by how much they had remembered but concerned about their fine motor skills. Many of them found moving a cursor to a particular icon quite difficult. Unlike our children who spend their time on mobiles, tablets and laptops from an early age these do not, although most have mobiles now.

The lesson was quickly over. Now I know what level most students are at I shall modify my lessons accordingly! There was a good lunch waiting for us on our return and then it was time to settle down to a post-prandial. Lesson preparation followed and then a walk. The rest of the items sent by Valerie to the Ruzubelas had now arrived in Christine’s bag, so we took them round to their house. They were delighted and we were invited in. We sat and talked with John, while rose disappeared. After about 15 minutes we made to go as it was getting close to sunset and we wanted a walk. However Rose had made some tea and we were invited in to the living room to meet her mother who was sitting on the floor with some grandchildren of her son’s. The poor woman was almost blind and apparently is quite ill with high blood pressure. She shook our hands and kept saying ‘Asante sana’, although why she was thanking us I wasn’t sure. Feeling a bit embarrassed, we asked if we could pass on the tea and come back another time, as we had little time left for a walk before sun down. Making our excuses and promises to return we left.

We walked briskly past the hospital and found that today had been market day in Murgwanza. The stalls were being packed away. We headed for the path around the back of the hospital as the sun set and just made it home before darkness fell. Who knows how many more we shall have in the class tomorrow! We wait to see.

Kagera 1

It was all going so well. A leisurely rise; some last minute packing; a sandwich for lunch. Tim and Esther arrived in plenty of time and we waited for Roger, our taxi to the airport. He arrived a little late, which gave Christine cause for worry. Getting all the luggage in proved tricky and Tim ended up with a case on his lap, but we were soon hurtling down the motorway. We arrived in plenty of time, went straight through check-in and security, had a bite to eat and then boarded the plane. We were about 30 minutes late leaving, but it was a good flight and we even managed a little sleep. On arriving at Kigali we sailed through the visa business and waited for our luggage, and waited. Eventually three of our cases arrived, but that was all. Christine’s smaller case was lost in transit! We went to an office and reported it missing and left contact numbers etc. We were assured that it might be on the next flight. When we said we were going on to Kagera they said that they could get it to the Rasumu border for us. Frankly I’m not so sure! Tim and Esther had gone through and met with Eugenia and it was good to see her when we eventually came out. We looked carefully at the print out I had been given but Eugenia’s number had not been recorded, even though I had given it. We tried to go back in, but of course the security team were not keen. Eventually I was allowed through and Eugenia’s number was duly recorded.

Not a good start, but an afternoon visit to the Kigali Genocide Museum but everything in perspective. Two taxis were waiting for us at the airport, one for our luggage and me and everyone else in the other. Kigali really is one of the cleanest cities you could visit. DSC_0011

There is very little litter. Everywhere there are street cleaners with their besoms. Plastic bags are banned. Parks and green spaces are all around. New houses are going up on the outskirts and there is a real sense of prosperity. Scripture Union looks magnificent and we were shown to some very pleasant rooms with balconies. Sam greeted us and made us feel so at home. Today was actually a public holiday, so Eugenia and Sam had given it up to look after us which was very kind. We had a rest and a shower – icy cold, but refreshing and then lunch. Somehow the message hadn’t got through that we are veggies, so some chicken legs awaited us. However the beans, carrots and chips were delicious as was the fresh pineapple.

Tim wanted to show Esther the Genocide Museum and we needed to restock with necessaries that were in Christine’s suitcase. Peter, our taxi driver, drove to the Museum and dropped off Esther and Tim, then took us to the shopping mall where we had been before. The supermarket has an eclectic range of items. Lots of women’s clothes, but no knickers (bloomers were available, but Christine declined), toothpaste, but no brushes, cosmetics and perfume but no deodorant. On the way out we passed a women’s dress shop and decided to try there. Success and we no longer had to call Christine, Nicholas! A toothbrush was acquired at a pharmacy and we proceeded back to the Museum.

The entrance has been moved since we were last there and now includes a brief introductory film and the gift shop. As always, the whole thing is a very moving reminder of the brutality we are capable of inflicting on each other.The mass graves are set in beautiful and peaceful gardens, a fitting resting place for those so brutally murdered.

DSC_0016We took the audio tour which was clear and informative. We didn’t venture upstairs to the children’s room as we couldn’t take it last time, it was too distressing. We met up with Tim and Esther and Peter arrived to take us back to S.U.. We had time for a brief nap before a delicious veggie dinner including a large number of passion fruit! By 8.30 we were settled down to sleep and saw little of the night until about 7.00. The wnew Scripture Union building is quite something and we had a very comfortable en-suite room with a balcony overlooking Kigali.

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Saturday

We breakfasted at 9.00 and we’re away by 10.00. Peter agreed to take us via the airport although the security is so tight there it is not that easy. We had to get out on the approach road and go through individual security, while the car went under some very modern machine that apparently checked all our bags while they were in the car – amazing! We arrived to find yet another level of security to get through to get to the Lost and Found office. They would only let one of us through, so Christine went on her own. I was banished outside. Thomas then phoned to say that he was already at Rusumo and was expecting us! I had to tell him we would be another three hours at least. When eventually Christine returned it was to say that her bag was in Brussels and would be in Kigali on Sunday. I said that we needed it delivered to Rusumo not left in Kigali. So Christine went back in and returned with Grace who insisted she could not make a decision, but would have to speak to her boss. We should phone her before 3.00.

We set off and made good time . Tim had bought some sandwiches for us to eat for lunch, so at a toilet break in a garage, he gave these out and we happily ate as we continued our journey. The road deteriorated as they are rebuilding it and there are lots of roadworks. However Peter drove very well and we arrived after 3 and a bit hours. Thomas had phoned to say he would meet us at the Rwandan side of the border, but we went through to the common border post. So we had to phone Thomas again. He arrived and it was good to see him and Imam again. It took us about an hour and a half to get our visas, mainly because there are not enough border staff. However we were beginning to relax into African time, so it wasn’t a problem.

This time we drove on the main roads to Ngara avoiding the ferry. The roads were as bad as I remember with axle-shattering potholes. We arrived in Murgwanza to be greeted by Absalom at Principal’s House. It is the same as ever! We shall be looked after by Naomi who had left us a very tasty pizza of sorts. Before we unpacked I insisted that we walk to the ridge to see the view – it is breath-taking! DSC_0061

Then we walked to the cathedral and met Fareth. We unpacked and had our dinner. We were just sitting down to have coffee when who should call but Rose and John – we could have laid odds they would be first! But it was lovely to see them and hear their news. Tomorrow is the ordination day so we need an early night if we are to face a 4 hours plus service!

Sunday

O.K. 4 hours was an under-estimate, 6 hour’s was nearer the mark. Tim went off before us to get his instructions. We arrived just as the Bishop’s procession was entering the cathedral. Bishops Aaron and Darlington gave us friendly waves as they entered and we felt rather awkward bringing up the rear. DSC_0068

Still no-one seemed to mind and we were shown to an empty bench near the back. It was a lovely service full of life and celebration. Not only were there 8 deacons being priestess but also some officials of the Mothers’ Union being inducted including a new president who looked very splendid in a white and blue outfit with a hat to match. Bishop Darlington spoke very well. Obadiah came and sat behind us to translate for us, although at times it was hard to hear him as the microphone was so loud. The bishop talked about using resources wisely, about change that was going to happen and about the deacons being sent out into the world like the disciples. It was very uplifting and the congregation clearly loved it. The choirs were superb, singing and dancing with great enthusiasm. Then a deacon and his wife were brought to the front and we were told that their house had burnt down and they had lost everything. Gifts were asked for and it took a long time for everyone to bring their gifts up and to say a few words! The Vicar General tried asking them not to speak, but there was nearly an open rebellion so he had to let things continue! Finally we got to the ordinations, each of which took about 5 minutes, then there was communion and finally about 3.00 p.m. we were released, aching, hungry and thirsty into the outside world.

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We rushed back to the house as Tim was bursting for the loo. Then we went to the Mothers’ Union building for a hefty late lunch of potatoes, bananas, beans, two types of rice, cabbage and, to our great delight, peanut sauce!

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We sat on the top table with the bishops, while the rest of the invited guests sat on chairs in rows. After the meal we came home and collapsed. Later Christine and I went for a walk along the ridge in the evening light. It really is just the most beautiful view, but very hard to photograph well.

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When we got back we found the Mzebeli boys, Esau and Jonathan, being entertained by Tim and Esther. They were delighted to see, Jonathan remembering us from 2 years ago. Esau is a very articulate young man and we had a very interesting chat about education in Tanzania. Eventually they left and Tim cooked us a delicious spaghetti with tomatoes and onions. After reading for a short while we were ready for bed. Our new mosquito tent proved O.K. although it is a bit tricky to get in and out of. It also has to be said that it is positively cool here at night, if not actually cold. I wish I had brought thicker pyjamas!

Monday

It was very windy in the night and we were woken by leaves and twigs hitting the roof of the house. At Christine’s insistence we rose early to prepare for our first teaching day. There was some confusion as we tried to get photocopying done and sort out what was in Dotty’s trunk, but eventually we made a start. To our surprise there were only four students. Absalom thought more might arrive during the day, but the number remained persistently at 4. It soon became clear that 2 of them were relatively advanced and able, while two were struggling. Four meant that with three teachers they were getting almost individual attention, but it also meant that it was very intensive and by the end of the day I.e. 1.30 we were exhausted. However they are very pleasant students and we had some good laughs as they struggled with the oddities of the English language. Jocatin is very advanced and quite impatient and wants to know everything at once. He is 25 but still rather impetuous and boyish. Flora is about the same age, perhaps younger and is quiet, thoughtful, keen and able. Ananea is married and quite serious, already a priest of sorts, but without any training ( perhaps an evangelist?) and really struggles. Deus likewise is married, 30 years old and has virtually no English. He is, however, very keen and has a big smile. Tomorrow we shall divide them into two classes- beginners and elementary!

We returned exhausted to find a lunch of rice and beans cooked by Naomi with a fresh fruit salad. We settled down with a book after lunch and had a nap. Tim and Esther had been in town in the morning and had come back with supplies and some money, but had not managed to get a SIM card for the WiFi hub. I decided to ask Thomas to accompany us into town and help us get it sorted out. We also needed new phone cards as it was costing us a fortune to phone Kigali to sort out Christine’s luggage. Promises to phone back rarely materialised! The luggage is in Kigali, the problem is getting it to the Rusumo border. I found Thomas who was eager as ever to help and ten minutes later he drove us to Ngara.

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In just under a week we will be heading back to Kagera to begin three weeks teaching English at KCTC (Kagera Christian Training College) in Murgwanza. We are really looking forward to seeing all our friends there and of course my god-daughter, Noela. She is now two and a half and has grown a lot since we last saw her, if the photos are anything to go by. I have no idea how frequently I will blog – certainly not everyday – but if you would like to follow what we get up to then please do. Our last week will be spent visiting projects and so should be more varied.This will be our house for the next few weeks.199 Principal's House - Nora sweeping

N.E. India – Day 13 – Darjeeling to Kolkata

 

Another travelling day today, driven by 3 of the shortest drivers imaginable. When clustered together they look rather like a tea bush and I half expect a tall woman in a sari to pluck leaves from their heads. The worst thing is that our one barely looks old enough to have left school. However they are remarkably skilled drivers, treating their vehicles as a second skin, squeezing them through gaps where surely only a motorbike would fit. With consummate ease they brought us swinging around the curves, spiralling down to the plains below.

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From there it was a straight forward run through the Indian equivalent of Salisbury Plain (one of the biggest army camps and training areas I’ve ever seen) to Bagdogra airport. It was crowded but we soon got through check in and security and into the departures lounge, where it was standing room only. Mark led the British charge and laid waste to all in his path as he headed towards a coffee and snack bar, the rest of us following in his wake. Somehow he got wind of a further lounge right next to our departure lounge which was almost empty so we formed camp there.

The flight was a little delayed and we had got there early, so we had about a 2 hour wait, but at least we were sitting in reasonable comfort. When our flight was called we walked to the tarmac and were then herded into buses for a 100 metre (I kid you not!) drive to the airplane’ steps. I disobeyed instructions and walked, only to find an empty plane as everyone was being held captive, nose to sweaty armpit on the buses. I settled myself in and was soon joined by the others. It was an uneventful flight – which of course is just what one wants!

We were met at Kolkata ( what a lovely airport it is – 4 visits now and it really does grow on you) and taken by bus to our hotel, a mere 10 minutes away. Tomorrow is an early start as our flight back to Blighty is at 9.45..

This will be my final blog on this trip, so if you have been following, then thank you and I hope you have found it interesting. We have thoroughly enjoyed the 4 weeks and there have been many highlights, nevertheless I think we’ll be glad to return to the U.K. and get back to some sort of routine. Saturday morning I am doing some filming, then there are church accounts to finalise before the APCM, a family service to plan for the following Sunday, rehearsals for the Freedom from Torture evening, a script to finish, ……actually I wonder if Christine fancies going on somewhere else. Japan’s quite close……..darling, how do you fancy……….?

N.E. India – Day 12 – Darjeeling 2

A rather wet and foggy start to our last day of pure sight-seeing in India. The minor irritants of this ‘luxury’ hotel did not get the day off to a good start. The shower was luke warm and we discovered the same was true for everyone else in the group. Furthermore our breakfast coffee was Nestle instant. No fresh coffee was available. While we would quite understand if this establishment was at the lower end of the market we are paying a great deal to stay here and so little things like these are quite annoying.
Anyway, we said goodbye to Karen and Tom, who are returning early for a wedding, and then got into 3 cars and headed for Tiger Hill in the rather optimistic hope of seeing Mt Everest or at least some of the lesser peaks of the Himalayas. Instead we visited a building site with a good view of Darjeeling. It appears they are building a viewing platform for those who come to see the sunrise, which apparently is not as good as it once was due to climate change. Optimism runs deep in India.

We came back down the hill, squeezing between parked cars in the last few yards with barely a Rizla between us. We crawled in heavy traffic along the route we had done yesterday in the train. We crossed the town and went up another hill road to the Centre for Tibetan Refugees. This is a pretty grim place, made worse by the rain. The toilets must be the worst we have encountered on any of our trips to India. We visited the shop, but saw nothing that Christine and I wanted to buy and I went around the photographic exhibition which was quite interesting. It was very cold and so wet, and a little miserable, we returned to town. We walked onto the Mall and visited the bookshop again. Christine and I went into a shop that sold tea and artisan goods from small producers and bought first flush tea at a fraction of the price that we could have at yesterday’s tourist shop. We also went into the oldest shop in town which is like an Aladdin’s cave, fully of jewellery and artefacts.

Once more we went to Glenary’s for lunch and some real coffee. It really is very good value for money.

Now our party split, some going back to the hotel and us two and David going to the Botanical Gardens. Rather ominously this involved a great deal of walking down hill, which would a great deal of up hill later! The gardens are in a pretty grim part of town and are approached along a street lined with washing hanging up to dry. However the gardens were well worth a visit with some stunning orchids and a beautiful hot house. The whole place had been allowed to deteriorate over the years (it was established in 1878) and had become the haunt of courting couples and those who were keen on that rather common species ‘Inflagrante delicto var. al fresco’. Now there are guards on the gates and you have to pay admission, so if it is still a outdoor bordello, at least it pays its way!

We set off back up the hill, taking it very steady, but David was clearly finding it a bit much. When we got to the informal bus station, he asked if we could take a taxi the rest of the way. Our guide immediately set to work to find us one, but the whole area was in utter chaos as it was the end of school and it was heaving. How we didn’t get flattened by a bus or taxi I don’t know, but somehow we survived. Our guide found us a taxi which was willing to take us up to the hotel for 250 rupees (about £3.00). Whether it was capable of getting us there looked unlikely as it was in a considerable state of disrepair. Still it was nothing if not game and its little engine laboured bravely under the strain of three large Europeans. We gave our driver 300 rupees in the hope that the extra 50 rupees might be spent on maintenance.

Tomorrow the long descent to the plains which promises to be a nerve shredding and bowel opening experience – I apologise for the coarseness, but I promise you I do not exaggerate. Forget coffee fir breakfast, we’ll break out the Imodium. Tomorrow night in the big city – where? Oh, Calcutta!