April was a difficult month for us, with schools on holidays (which got mysteriously extended by a week), our audience was markedly smaller than usual.
We are now back into the think of it…well, kind of since the arrive of volunteer Tom who is on a mammoth rugby coaching tour of Eastern and Southern Africa. We welcome his enthusiasm!
We promised to hold some tournaments for U15 players so headed to the schools rugby heartland of Gitarama to see how many U15s are involved and organise them for the tournament on 10th May. Unfortunately, due to the unforseen extension to school holidays, this turned out to be week 1 of school, whereby students gradually filter back. So, not only was it a struggle to get on a bus on Monday morning but we found the school fraternities to be smaller than expected.
The Rugby Champions, St Joseph’s have a strong team of small boys who receied specialist coaching from Tom, but the neighbouring schools are slightly behind. We hope to have a mini-tournament with St Joseph’s and St Leon tomorrow, Labour Day holiday.
Our travels in Rwanda are drawing to a close and with only 34 days we have had to make a precise plan to fit in everything that we want to do and to set up carefully for the 3 UK volunteers arriving at the end of May.
We will keep you updated, all plans are subject to change in Rwanda!
Arrived at Kigali airport 1320 very long wait through customs. Met by Emma. Went to the bungalow where Emma & Deena live (very basic). Emma and I went to a rugby match between the Red Cross and Essi Nyamirambo teams. Considering that rugby was first introduced in 2001 by Emma the standard was far better than one would have expected. There is an enthusiasm amongst the local youngsters which is wonderful to see and must be held on to for the advancement of rugby. The team Essi Nymirambo were the winners which totally upset and annoyed the Red Cross team (they lost for the first time). Observation. The teams play with lots of energy but too much kick and rush. These teams require coaching to create a more controlled game. Also the refereeing was fair but needs more knowledge of the game. Considering that these guys have never seen a rugby game the results are fantastic considering the timescale.
Early morning we had a surprising experience when we met a young Rwandan boy by the name of Alex Sibomana who had travelled for one and a half to two hours by public transport just to collect two rugby balls. He was going to use these balls whilst training two secondary and two primary schools. Following the collection of the balls he was making the trip back to his village again taking another one and a half hours for the journey.
It is amazing the amount of time and effort that is being put into rugby by youngsters who have been trained by Friends of Rwandan Rugby, his enthusiasm towards rugby was a pleasure to see.
Went to Emma and Deana’s friends apartment taking the rugby kit kindly donated by Kingswood RFC in Bristol. This was added to a number of bags of kit donated by clubs: –
O A SAINTS
SHANGHIGH HAIRY CRABS
A meeting was held between members of the Federation of Rwandan rugby namely: –
Vice President Gerald Nsenga
Technical Director. Heavy Hategekimana
Trustee in Rwanda Emma Rees
Trustee in Rwanda Deena Aiken
FoRR volunteer Mike Nicholas
Reason for meeting to was to establish a programme for Mike to both coach youngsters (age 13 and upwards) in the skills of rugby, and referees in some of the finer arts of refereeing.
A programme was agreed for the following two weeks and the names of the schools recorded.
Following the meeting a visit was made to a potential site for a rugby ground.
The access to the site was arduous, difficult and a distance for travelling school children. We were informed that this very dusty and heavily rutted track was due to be turned into a road but the timescale was unknown. The site would have been ideal for two rugby pitches side by side, work was needed to level both pitch sites. The cost was on the high side and too expensive for the project.
Further studies to be carried out by Emma and Deena.
An observation, time is not an important factor by the local community this leads to frustrations when trying to speed up a project.
Day 4 Wednesday 23rd February 2008
This was the day that we were going into the rural areas to visit a number of schools. Travel in this country consists of three standards motor cycle (phutt phutt) bus, taxi or a lift. The motor cycle is positively scary you get onto the back of a small bike and keep your balance whilst going across roads that are little better than farm tracks in the UK. The fear of falling off is ever present. Secondly, the bus. These buses are similar to our mini buses that carry about 14/16 people, not over here they are designed to carry at least 22 people, and the bus does not leave the bus stop until full. Thirdly, the taxi this is a much better way to travel but expensive when travelling long distances. Finally getting a lift by far the best mode of travel but based upon the generosity of the Rwandans, bearing in mind not many Rwandans can afford cars. We started our journey by bus into Kigali where we were catching the express Gitarama. A passenger in the front of the bus was bribed (approx 10p) to move so that because of my size I could sit on the bench seat alongside the driver. This is also called the suicide seat. The guest house is run by the Catholic Church and is extremely clean with running water (rare) we stored our unwanted gear and went to meet the two teams that were playing a postponed game from last weekend. This had been cancelled due to the non appearance of a referee who had been booked but for some reason couldn’t find the ground.
Day 5 Thursday 21st February 2008-02-24
Following breakfast at the guest house we re-packed our belongings into our haversacks and waited for a bus outside the church. We were travelling to Butansinda, where there was a technical school run by an Australian by the name of Mark O’Kane. No bus was forthcoming so it was decided to thumb a lift. Luckily for Emma and me we were able to get a lift but unfortunately there was insufficient room for Deena who agreed to follow later.
The Rwandans who gave us a lift were very kind and seemingly interested in the project to introduce Rugby to the schools of Rwanda. When we arrived at our destination Emma and I went to an internet cafe (there are many in Rwanda) whilst waiting for Deena. An hour later Deena arrived looking very hot and bothered having survived a journey cramped into the local bus service. We walked to Marks house where we had been kindly offered accommodation for the night.
Due to the fact that two schools required training/coaching it was agreed that I would stay with Marks school ETO Gitarama and the two girls would go to train Lycee de Ruhango school.
It is only possible to train these children at specific times due to their education timetable, and also the availability of the fields. The children have a basic knowledge of rugby so any coaching session is arduous but not impossible. The major problem is language this being kinyarwandan and French so when you are coaching you always require an interpreter, the children are learning English but this will take time to percolate through the system. A very good session was held until we were told that the field was now required for football training. Following every training session all we are asked is “when can you come back again” We spent the night at Mark’s house it was wonderful to sleep in a bed have hot and cold running water and to be looked after by his houseboy. We will be sorry to leave.
Day 6 Friday 22nd February 2008
Following our stay at ETO Gitarama we travelled to Nyanza and were extremely lucky because as we were waiting for a bus a motorist joining the major road alongside the bus stop offered us a lift to our destination. Believe me this was absolute heaven. We arrived in Nyanza and travelled about three miles by motor cycle to see a replica of the King’s Palace this dating back to the eighteen hundreds. The Palace was of circular appearance and very well designed and built, on a warm day it was beautifully cool inside. Leaving the King’s Palace we had to walk about a mile before we were once more able to hire motor cycle taxi rides back to the centre of the town.
The school that we were assisting was “College Maranatha” and we had arrived early, this meant that we had to wait in the sun for about thirty minutes. We were awaiting Daniel, a teacher at the college who is keen to introduce rugby to the school.
Wherever we went a crowd gathered to see out of curiosity what we were about to do. The teacher and pupils arrived and the teaching session got underway, Emma and Deena have a wonderful way of introducing the pupils to rugby, starting from simple passing to gentle tackling. At the end of the session these boys looked as though they had played or trained before. The field that we trained on was in part dangerous due to hidden ant hills in the grass. It was agreed that we would make a further visit within the next three weeks. Once again the enthusiasm was absolutely fantastic and everybody wanted to play rugby every day. We collected all of our belongings and walked across the road to catch the bus into Kigali which when it came was virtually full but they did manage to squeeze (this being the operative word) us in this bus took us about two hours to get to our destination. We spent the remainder of the evening at Jo’s, a friend of Emma and Deena’s in her apartment, sitting on comfortable chairs and eating red hot pizzas with a cold beer is some kind of luxury never to be forgotten.
Day 7 Saturday 23rd February 2008
The last Saturday of every month is a day of community work (Umuganda), and everyone must stay in their community and do local voluntary work like filling holes in the road. The population are not free until 12.00hrs this is strictly adhered to and the police have the authority to stop anyone not complying with this ruling. This is a serious offence. When the curfew was lifted we moved some of my belongings to a small guest house the Chez Rose, this was both to give the two girls a break from me and also for me to enjoy some luxury. The hotel is about a mile away from their accommodation so it is still convenient, this is only for Saturday and Sunday Night. The girls are travelling around Rwanda trying to find a piece of land suitable for a rugby pitch and clubhouse, this is an arduous task due to the difficulty of finding suitable sites and the endless negotiations. Emma had the task of meeting a potential landowner whilst Deena helped me to move to the hotel. During the afternoon Deena collected me and together we went to meet Emma at a small orphanage in Kicukiro. There was a delay whilst some of the children changed into football boots, when ready the rugby party walked approximately two/three miles to a suitable (questionable) field. The day was one of the highest temperatures I had experienced in my seven days in Rwanda.
Coaching these children is an absolute pleasure to see their faces when they are trying so hard, but the most special part is the way in which they assist each other to overcome the language barrier, when one or more do not understand what is being asked of them another will help them. These children are at the bottom of the pile when it comes to love and goods but they give of themselves to everyone who is around, this is a very humbling experience. On the way back to the orphanage we made them late by taking them all for a cold soft drink and to see them all sitting quietly drinking and talking, I am told that this doesn’t happen very often. I returned to my hotel rested until late evening approx 22.00hrs (Rwanda is 2 hours in front of the UK) when I went for an evening meal with the hope that I could convince the restaurant owner to change from watching football to watching my game rugby. He tried very hard but unfortunately he was unable to locate the correct channel. I was extremely pleased to hear the score of my international side but very annoyed that I missed seeing the game.
Day 8 Sunday 24th February 2008
To day there is nothing in particular that happened in the morning so it was a bit of a rest from the hectic but enjoyable first week. A summary of my week would be classed as extremely active, the biggest time waster is the transport system, the most annoying, is the poor time keeping by everybody Rwandan. The biggest pleasure is working with highly responsive children, who have nothing but their clothes on their backs and very little to look forward to in the future. That is why all of them put so much into learning and playing rugby. The fields that they play on are generally just areas where there is some grass but large areas of smooth red clay. Some of the scrapes on their knees and elbows after they fall down are painful just to look at, yet they just get up and continue training for as long as we are allowed to coach them. The charity “Friends of Rwandan Rugby” are very important in this country as they continue rugby coaching for both school children and youngsters to further their knowledge, and to further the expansion worldwide of rugby football. During the afternoon we three went to the Red Cross ground to watch a game between APREDNdera and the Red Cross team. The Ndera team are known to be a superior side but the Red Cross side were showing a lot of courage and determination which went a long way to them keeping the score down. Some of the Ndera Team looked extremely old to be playing for a school side, but I was assured that all players must produce documentation regarding their ages. Other than some unruly supporters from Ndera who needed to be controlled it was an interesting game of rugby football. We were given a lift to our respective abodes and went to bed early as we were off to an early start to travel to the north west of Rwanda.
Day 9 Monday 25th February 2008 Travelling to Ruhengeri (North West Rwanda)
Today we had an early start as we were going to Ruhengeri to an Agricultural University which was approximately two hours by bus. We travelled into Kigali centre by the inevitable taxi bus full to the brim of people travelling into work. At the central bus station (this bus you buy a ticket to your destination) it’s still full to its limit, I don’t mean UK limits, I mean Rwanda limits, two totally opposite points of view (roll on Health and safety). We met up with a Rwandan by the name of Alphonse who was helping with the rugby training at I.S.A.E university. Once again I had the dubious pleasure of sitting in the front (suicide) seat two places from the driver, now this must be explained, in Rwanda we drive on the right but the vehicles such as buses, lorries, and cars etc have steering wheels on both the left and the right, now this makes for very interesting driving actions especially if you sit on the left front of a right hand drive bus. Talk about ‘your life on the line’ also the roads at times have very big potholes and most of the drivers think that they are budding ‘Lewis Hamilton’s’ the formula one driver. Fear is just another ‘brown pair of trousers’.
During our two hour bus journey I got to know some of the life story of Alphonse, the genocide started when he was eight years of age three days after it started his father was killed, he was some kind of manager this meant that Alphonse his mother and sister had to flee Kigali and avoid any contact with anyone for fear of being killed. He said that he had walked the length of Rwanda through the grassland and jungle foraging for food wherever they could get it, all the time avoiding other people for fear of reprisal. When the country became more stabilised he and his family returned to Kigali, he left home to fend for himself. He believed that he should get a good education to this end he went to school in the morning and during all other spare time he bought and sold things to pay his way through life and school. He has worked and worked has had a serious road accident which the doctors thought that he would never recover.
He wants to become a doctor and to this end he worked his way to university, for some reason which I could not understand he hasn’t been allowed to continue his studies (I believe it to be money) he gets all the course notes and studies at night hoping that he can take the exam. The course started in January his total financial requirement for the year is approximately £250.00. In his course last year he got a distinction. In his spare time he has trained two rugby teams. We arrived in Ruhengeri mid to late morning and booked some rooms in the local church hostel, very cheap but clean and ok for sleeping in. Following this we grabbed a bite to eat and caught another inevitable taxi bus (I must add that in my humble opinion none of these vehicles would pass an MOT in the UK) to the university. We arrived at the university our bags checked and we were allowed to go to the football field and await the team, and wait and wait. Eventually they arrived around 16.00hrs in dribs and drabs, and the introduction and training session began. A good session was had but then we had to move because the pitch belonged to the football team and it was their time to train. A discussion was held with regards to training times and we were informed that the team would be prepared to train at 6.00 hrs in the morning and at 16.00hrs in the afternoon whilst we were there.
Day 10 Tuesday 26th February 2008 Ruhengeri university
Today was an early start we were even up before the dawn chorus which is something to hear in the mornings Deena is not a great bird lover and to her it is just a massive noise. We had slept two to a room Emma and Deena in one and Alphonse and myself in another. During the evening we had an almighty thunderstorm that continued for hours and seemed to circle the guest house lots of noise but a distinct lack of flash. The accommodation was pretty basic the toilets and showers were very questionable and they were mixed no modesty here. We awoke at 5.00hrs dressed and walked from the Guest house in the dark along an unmade track (I kept tripping over loose stones) into the town about 5-10 minutes away. We were so lucky a taxi bus stopped to let us board (lucky me I got the suicide seat again) This driver enjoyed two things in life, driving like a maniac and secondly having his radio on full volume playing local music. This we put up with for about 30minutes until we arrived outside the University. As we got off our heads were still ringing with the pleasant sound of music. It was still dark and damp at the university gate our rucksacks were checked before we could enter, we then walked to the ground. At approximately 06.20 the first person arrived followed by others in dribs and drabs, (to be fair I know of a lot of university students in the UK who think that the day starts at 12.00). We had an excellent training session because we were able to communicate with the students either in English or Kinyrwandan through Alphonse. The players about 20 altogether 19 guys and one girl (who reminded me of the small police officer in the film Police Academy) who were split into different groups for the various rugby skills. It was obvious that they had been coached by someone as their basic skills were there. We continued coaching until around 07.30hrs when the students had to leave to go to classes at 08.00hrs. It was a very good session and they agreed to meet us again at 16.00hrs later in the day. This was market day and this area of Rwanda is known as the agricultural area of the country, it is possible to see various crops growing along the roadside. As we returned to Ruhengeri during the early morning both the road (cyclists, few cars) and alongside the roads were people male and female (majority female) also small children carrying produce from carrots, to pieces of wood about one and half metres long on their heads. These people are streaming into the markets to sell their produce. How some of the cyclist rode those bikes defied gravity and all laws of balance.
We had lunch at the guest house very expensive by Rwandan standards I was informed, I only had soup (very nice) but I didn’t know what it was, it was called fresh fish soup, but I think that they have a pet fish who swims through the soup leaving a trace of something but it definitely was not fish. We rested for a time until 15.00hrs when we once again caught the taxi bus back to the university. The afternoon session was held on a different field from the morning it appeared to be a football pitch shared with the local village. The field is a slightly grass covered rock with bits sticking out of the ground definitely not a rugby ground but suitable for coaching. Earlier it had rained and there were puddles everywhere, these students are the best prepared for sport but all they have on their feet is second hand trainers. This was very dangerous when it came to them stopping at speed their feet would disappear and they would crash to the ground, luckily no body was hurt. We coached for about two hours when it was time for the students to eat. Once again it was a very good session with these guys showing such eagerness to learn and play rugby. Back on our favourite “Joyride” to Ruhengeri where we ate in a local eating house where we ordered our main meal of the day, this consisted of pieces of fish on a skewer and good old frites (chips) after a long wait about thirty five minutes we were informed that they had no fish but we could have chicken. By this stage who cared anyway so we accepted chicken, another long wait and our meal arrived. The taste was great (as most meals are in Rwanda) and as by now we were absolutely starving it soon disappeared. We walked back to the guest house in the dark with all types of vehicles driving past you sounding their horn in your ear. In Rwanda every time that you pass or approach someone you sound your horn it’s quite noisey. We arrived at our guest house cleaned up and went to bed tomorrow is another early start.
Day 11 Wednesday 27th February 2008 Returning to Kigali
Wake up ‘dicky birds’ we are off again on our little jet taxi bus from Ruhengeri to the University so that we can arrive before 06.00hrs for early morning rugby coaching. Once again the road and by the side of the road is filled by people taking their produce to the market either locally or to Ruhengeri town. Most of them weighed down by the weight of the produce but still managing to carry the items on their heads. I doubt if they suffer from stiff necks in the morning. We arrived at the University went through the gates to the field it was very cold and wet because once again it had been raining and there was still some rain in the atmosphere. I felt sorry for Alphonse as he did not possess a rain resistant coat and it was so cold that he was shivering. Me coming from deepest Forest of Dean “I’m were used to the cold he was” so it didn’t affect me too much. Again the inevitable wait until everyone arrived so that the coaching session could begin. We had about 18 guys (the girl didn’t arrive) to coach it was an excellent session and we achieved so much within that hour and a half. Emma and Deena decided that this team had reached such a good standard that they were now in a position to play other teams. To that end a university rugby tournament has been set up between three of the universities, this should be an interesting afternoon.
The students all left to go to their classes whilst the rest of us went to see the Sports Director. Whilst we were waiting I looked around at the farm animals, they have the usual, sheep, pigs, cows, turkeys, ducks, chickens, and rabbits. They were extremely well looked after and we were told that they were not eaten but kept for study only. I lay odds that someone has a bit of pork occasionally. Emma met the director and following her discussions we were invited to meet him, he would appear to be a person who was prepared to back the rugby team and to this end he has agreed that he will attend their forthcoming match, this is great news for the development of rugby within the university. We had informed the students that we would not be returning that afternoon as we were returning to Kigali. Once again the taxi bus was our mode of transport rammed in with my knees up to my neck as there isn’t much legroom and squashed into a seat that would normally hold three, holding four and hanging on for grim death. What fun! We arrived in Ruhengeri about 10.30hrs Emma booked an Express Coach this guarantees the ticket holder a seat on a higher standard vehicle than the taxi bus. Emma, Alphonse, and I went to see the local market where I was told that they sold clothing that was not very expensive. I had in mind to purchase a rainproof coat for Alphonse, which I did this only cost me the equivalent of £3.
These clothes shoes and trainers, were by the labels obviously British and second hand. We had some lunch and got seated on the bus, I must explain the seating arrangements it goes as follows people sit on the normal seats and then within the aisle where we would stand at home, there are fold down seats which are filled by more passengers. Heaven help anyone if there is an accident or a fire. We arrived safely!!!!! As an aside the countryside is absolutely beautiful it is called the country of a thousand hills and it is true. When I am walking most of them appear to be in Kigali. We said our goodbyes to Alphonse who was still wearing his raincoat (he hadn’t taken it off since we bought it) and the sun was beating down. The three of us caught a taxi bus to their home and I picked up my belongings from their house and walked to my Hotel for a well earned rest.
Day 12 Thursday 28th February 2008
Because we had left Ruhengeri mid afternoon yesterday this day was un-planned so it was decided that I would go to The Genocide Memorial whilst Emma and Deena went to a land meeting. We travelled into Kigali together by Taxi bus and walked to the City shop (a large super market similar to Tesco’s) It was agreed that when I returned from the memorial we would meet here. Deena made a deal with a Taxi driver on the cost to the memorial (prices must be agreed before entering the taxi) as me being a muzugu (white person) would have been charged double that of a Rwandan. The taxi drivers name was Felix and after arriving at the memorial we agreed that he would return in two hours to take me back into Kigali. Outside the memorial there is a concrete world map which some Rwandans were in the process of demolishing, through gestures and animation I borrowed one of the sleigh hammers and broke up some of the concrete much to the delight of those guys. I then entered the memorial which leads patrons in a circular movement around a sculptured art exhibition as a centre piece. There are photographs and commentaries on the walls explaining the history of the genocide that took place within Rwanda. After seeing these photographs I went into the garden of remembrance where there are said to be 258,000 people buried in a mass grave, I defy anyone to leave that memorial without it touching both your eyes and your heart strings. This is the time for reflection and hoping that we the Friends of Rwandan Rugby
are giving some pleasure and happiness to the children who survived this horrific episode in their very recent history. The taxi driver collected me from the memorial and returned me to the City shop where I met with Deena and Emma. Their day had been less than successful with regards to purchasing a suitable rugby field site. It would appear that for a white person to purchase land the cost is far higher than the same piece purchased by a Rwandan.
Following lunch I went to coach the Red Cross rugby team. This is a team that I have seen on a number of occassions both training and playing a game. They are termed as “Street Kids”. From my observations the Red Cross are doing a fantastic job by giving these boys skill training such as woodwork, and metal craft, etc, so that they can earn a wage and lead a normal life. I enjoy coaching these guys as they are so keen to learn and play rugby to the highest standard possible. I started to coach at 15.20 and I was told that they must eat at 17.00hrs. The sun was scorching but these guys just kept on working at their skills and because they kept going so did I. At 19.00hrs I tried to stop the session but they insisted on my carrying on, the stop came at 19.45hrs I was on my knees from lack of water and energy. I returned to the hotel via the dreaded taxi bus and motor cycle. The rest of the evening was spent at Jo’s flat. Jo had cooked the two girls and me a beautiful meal which was gratefully eaten. Jo is a nurse Training Officer at the local King Fisal hospital she is absolutely wonderful to the girls and myself allowing us into her home, and making us so welcome.
Day 13 Friday 29th February 2008 Rest day
To-day was going to be a rest day for us all. I liesurely rose from my bed went for breakfast, this is the same each day and consists of a plain egg omelette, three slices of bread, and cups of tea or coffee. There is very little milk drunk in Rwanda so the only milk for coffee is powdered milk which tastes similar to that which my children were fed on when they were babies not bad but not my favourite. The sugar is raw sugar, not as refined as ours and is a light brown in colour. The hotel that I am staying in is classed as middle priced, that means a bed and breakfast amounts to 25$ (£12.50p) per night. The currency here is either Rwandan Francs or American Dollars, the pound is unknown. Everyone who is staying at the hotel has breakfast at the same large table, I have been talking to a very pleasant guy from Malawi, he works as a quantity surveyor and to date we have had some very interesting conversations. Following breakfast I went back to my room to catch up on the daily blog that I missed whilst travelling to Ruhengeri and back, I do not take my computer with me as we have to carry all our needs on our backs in rucksacks, so what with my cameras and clothes that is enough. I was writing my blog when Emma phoned to ask whether “I wished to assist her in coaching two sides in Nyamirambo. One of the teams was named “New Kids” and the other was a school side ESI Nyamirambo., during that afternoon.
Obviously I agreed and subsequently we travelled to Kigali in the bus this time it was a real bus unfortunately it was standing room only. In Kigali we caught another taxi bus to Nyamirambo as we were early we stopped at a local café for a cold drink and a rest. It was another very hot day of which there are many, it’s fascinating to see the length of your own shadow which is very small due to the position of the sun. The ground that we were training was within the grounds of a Muslim school there appeared to be hundreds of kids up to the age of about twenty both playing and training for football. Eventually a Doctor Alfred Jahn (this guy has a fascinating history which I will relate later) arrived with a number of his orphans to be coached whilst he had a discussion with Emma. These are two teams normally train together. They were due to be trained by a guy named Heavy whom I have met on a number of occasions and works with the Rugby Federation. We received a phone call from Heavy that he would be late so I started the session with great difficulties until Dr Alfred introduced one of his boys to me as someone who could be my interpreter. This certainly made my job easier when you consider that I had been operating by gesture or by moving each guy physically. Once the interpreter was in place the coaching session continued without too many hitches and about an hour into the session Heavy joined me which by then I was knackered the temperature being 27 degrees but felt like 50. The session lasted about two hours non stop. I was then invited to have a meal with the Doctor and his street kids to which I accepted with pleasure.
Doctor Alfred has approximately thirty orphans that he looks after in four different houses. He lives in his own house whilst the houses where the orphans live are controlled by an overall boy who supervises each house this being looked after by another boy called the house supervisor. It appears to work wonderfully and the children have great respect for the Doctor. The meal consisted of a piece of meat and a large amount of vegetables such as carrots, cabbage, spring onions, and some other green vegetable that I didn’t recognise. The meal was very nutritous and very filling but on the quiet I sneaked my piece of meat back onto the plate of one of the orphans.
Doctor Alfred is seventy years of age, a paediatric surgeon who performs many varied operations on tiny children. He still manages to operate from 8.00hrs to 16.00hrs (he informed me that he had reduced his hours) every day with the exception of Fridays and the weekends. The weekends are for the children and he says that they are all a family.
Doctor Alfred’s story is that he was born in Germany of a very poor family. After the war they became part of the communist bloc where he went to University to study medicine. He practiced in his local area for a number of years during that time went to Vietnam at the height of the conflict. He said that this was personally very painful to operate on people with bullet wounds, napalm burns and many others only met in a war zone. He came to Rwanda in the 1990s returned to Germany but decided that his love for the Rwandan people was so great that he returned in 2001 to set up an orphanage (with his own money) to look after these street kids. He told me that he has never gone looking for orphans they find him. He has strict criteria for entrance into his homes which means that he makes certain that they do not have parents, that they have certain ambitions and they are prepared to stick by the rules of the house. Anyone breaking these rules must answer to all of the other boys and repent, if this is done he is given another chance. I left the orphanage and Dr Alfred feeling very humble hearing what he has done in his life for the benefits of those children. I travelled back to my hotel by taxi the price having been negotiated by one of the orphans. I was told he was the best negotiator amongst them. It cost me 4000 francs about £4. Without help it would have cost me about £6. So ended another interesting and mind searching day.
Day 14 Saturday 1st March 2008 Referee Seminar.
The refereeing standards in Rwanda are by nature as it is a new sport not of a very high standard, so in an attempt to rectify this problem, Deena had, sometime in the past asked the Rwanda rugby Federation to organise a referee seminar. Nothing happened, so Deena organised it herself by asking the federation for ten names of people to participate in the coaching. Names were given and a location agreed, and the time set by the federation was 08.30hrs on Saturday morning. Emma and Deena were asked to provide food, water and monies for transportation. Two local school teams had been asked to turn up so that actual situations could be assessed and discussed.
On the Saturday morning Deena and I made our way to the ground and we arrived at 08.15hrs. Meanwhile Emma and their very good and supportive friend Jo were at Jo’s flat cutting up fruit and making food for the participants of the seminar, and were arriving at lunch time. All this work was to save cost.
The first person to arrive was a man by the name of Charles he had not been seen before by the girls. Eventually Deena started the seminar at 10.00hrs under a tree with a distinct threat of rain in the atmosphere. Meanwhile one of the teams (or should I say a number of players) from K.I.S.T. University arrived and I started a coaching session that lasted about two hours. For the other team only two or three arrived so a game was totally out of the question. Because of their studies the students had to leave and return to their university without being used for demonstration.
The seminar finished around 12.30 hrs and Emma and Jo arrived just after with the food for everyone. Deena had informed the participants that there was going to be a game between New Kids and ESI Nyamirambo during the afternoon and asked if they would be prepared to stay and help. Most declined the offer with the exception of Charles and a Guy called Booker he had been at the training of the New Kids and I believe that he plays and coaches.
Whilst waiting the arrival of the two sides a thunderstorm arrived and the heavens opened the amount of water over such a short timescale is tremendous. Luckily we were able to shelter in the school next to the playing area.
By the time that the teams had arrived the storm was over and a game was started, considering that New Kids had only played three previous games and the ESI Nyamirambo Team were more prepared it was an enjoyable game to watch, with the New Kids losing but only just.
Day 15 Sunday 2nd March 2008 Coaching girls
Coaching girls is a totally new experience to me here in Rwanda the problem being that when I coach the lads I can physically turn them to face the ball etc! but how do you deal with young ladies? Emma asked if I would like to go with her to coach some girls (street children) at the Red Cross, this was a new experience for me. We caught the taxi bus an d then walked down a steep red clay track to the Red Cross ground. We were to be there for 09.30hrs, they arrived about 10.30hrs we were just about to leave. There were six girls only one in a tracksuit the others were wearing skirts (all the clothes that they have) and flat shoes, which some of them took off.
We coached passing which they picked up quite quickly but when it came to teaching them how to tackle I left the arena to Emma. We were very lucky in the fact that we received help from a guy I had nick named “Georgeous” he is a lovely guy a street kid who is always smiling and is so helpful even though his English is limited (a darn sight better than my kinyarwandan) and he plays for the Red Cross boys. The session ended and considering that this was their first time appeared to be very constructive, the biggest problem for the girls is that they need shorts or training bottoms to train properly. After training Emma and I returned home and did our own thing for the rest of the day. I spent time on the net at a nearby internet café it’s lovely and necessary to keep in contact with the people you love.
Day 16 Monday 3rd March 2008
This was my first day of rest since I had been here so I was able to laze around in the hotel, and write my blogg for the past week. I would like to describe the hotel at which I am staying, it is in the shape of a quadrant with rooms (two floors) on three sides. In the centre is a small area with a table built around a tree stump that has been long dead and a planted area with small trees and shrubs. The side where there are no rooms is a bit like a stable in shape with a bamboo wall behind which the guests eat their breakfast in one area and watch Rwandan television in the other. The choice of programmes is Rwandan TV news or Rwandan TV news, (not a lot of choice) therefore reading material or your Laptop plus DVDs is an absolute must. This hotel is as I have written previously is mid price range £12-50 per night this includes breakfast. The room is quite large containing a double bed a table and chair, a wardrobe, and the most important mosquito net.
Adjoining is a toilet and shower but suitable flip flops or similar are required. The hotel is extremely clean which includes the bedclothes, the room, and the ground within the fenced area of the hotel. The roadway (if you can call it that) is the inevitable red clay and very heavily rutted, a nightmare walking at night when there are no street lights. The guys who operate the hotel are hard workers always cleaning and also only too keen to help. I went to the internet this afternoon it is marvellous that we are able to pick up messages from all over the world instantly and then reply to our loved ones.
I had my evening meal at a local eating house this consisted of fish cooked on a stick plus chips I must say that the Rwandans have certainly managed the art of cooking lovely chips. I don’t go much on the boiled bananas (these are not sweet ones) pretty tasteless I am told that it is an acquired taste I don’t think I ever could.
Day 17 Tuesday 4th March 2008 Nyanza
This is the day of my great adventure going to see two schools in the Nyanza area accompanied by a guy called Juma who is a twenty one year old and lost his parents when he was eight years of age. This is an experiment to find out what the problems are associated with volunteers travelling alone across Rwanda. Juma is a rugby player and has also been responsible for teaching some of the teams to play rugby. I am therefore trying to coach Juma at the same time as coaching the schools. My day began very early catching a taxi from Emma’s house to the centre of Kigali where I met Juma. I had large rucksack on my back containing rugby balls, vests, marker discs, books on positional play, plus all my clothes and toiletries, I know how a donkey feels when carrying his load. We caught an express bus from Kigali to a place just outside Nyanza. The express bus is designed to hold about eighteen people, but unlike the UK they have installed extra seats in the aisle, lucky me, I got one of these, to describe them would be to say that they are similar in height up your back as a child’s seat. What outstanding pleasure to sit on this seat for approximately one and a half hours. We arrived at our destination a guest house about two miles outside Nyanza, this was going to be our humble abode for the next two nights. Once we had seen the rooms they were not too bad we paid and settled in, first problem, the water is turned off to save wastage. The water was turned on and after waiting for about half an hour the water was running out of the taps. The only difference between hot water and cold water is the colour of the tap, what comes out is the same temperature, cold. We met at College Maranatha having travelled there by Motor bike, after haggling over the price we got it for 100Fr (10p)
We met the Discipline Master, Daniel who informed us that we could use a field “just down this dirt track”, now “just down” to me is far different from “just down” by a Rwandan. I had my rucksack minus my clothes on my back and the “just down” turned out to be about 2 miles. All the time I was being told it was just around the corner.
There were about 12 lads there for coaching unfortunately the pitch was also being used by a football team, we trained in the corner as they played on the rest of the pitch. It was a good training session that lasted two and a half hours with a lot of work being done by Juma and myself. The time was now about 18.30hrs and it gets dark around this time, this meant that we walked this long and winding track in semi darkness, seeing the potholes were nigh on impossible. These young lads (mostly orphans) were looking after me like an old man (which I am) and were so concerned about my welfare that one of the guys carried my rucksack. What a gentleman. We ate at a roadside restaurant (a bit of an exaggeration) a friend of Juma’s who lives in the area and living rough came with us to have a meal, the usual goat meat and chips. To get back to the guest house was about 2miles it was pitch black and no motor bikes in sight so we proceeded to walk me with an absolute dread knowing the distance. Luckily I thumbed a lift from a guy in a private car who took us to our guest house, what a relief. I discovered that I didn’t have a mosquito net over my bed and the only guy to speak to appeared to be a guard. He must have been about 80 so what guarding he could have done I leave to your imagination. Anyway Juma explained my problem re mosquito net, and the answer was “That they only have nets in rooms 1 and 2 but not in the others (mine being no 8)” because “You don’t get mosquito’s in the others” That was it no mosquito net. I went into my room and the first thing that I did was to ‘splat’ a mosquito against the wall covering with blood. I sprayed the room with insect repellent and I must admit I never saw another mosquito in that room. Once again to cold water, but I slept well until the dawn chorus which is something to behold its absolutely beautiful.
Day 18 Wednesday 5th March 2008 Nyanza
The guest house we were staying at did not provide breakfast so we therefore had to go into Nyanza to find somewhere to eat. Juma who was supposed to know the area set us off walking in the direction of a place called Butare. I had a suspicion that this was in the wrong direction, but hey I am not a local. After walking between 2/3 miles (up and down hills) Juma asked a young guy on a bicycle how far to Nyanza and was informed that we were on the wrong road and we should return to our starting point. I was so pleased that I was going to have the pleasure of walking all the way back up and down those hills again. When we got to the crossroads it was my decision to ride the scary motor bikes, into Nyanza. We found a small eating place (termed restaurant) and had breakfast at the exorbitant cost of 60p each this consisted of 3 chapaties a small container of fruit and a large cup of milky coffee.
As we had nothing to do until 16.00hrs we returned to the guest house, once again the water was turned off and we asked for it to be reinstated, cold but at least it was on. At 15.30hrs we returned to the first school where we had agreed to meet the lads who were going to take us to the new school which was ‘nearby’. If you ever hear the word ‘nearby’ or ‘close’ in Rwanda totally ignore it and put on your hiking boots. We met up with Daniel the sports director of College Maranatha who gave us the name of the person we were to meet at the other school, and his potential players would be waiting for us. We trekked to the new school which was an orphanage run by the Catholic church, the church is very large by any standards, has a dark blue roof and overlooks Nyanza from a hill.
We went from football pitch to football pitch (every child plays football in Rwanda even the girls) until eventually we arrived at the right pitch, the grass in places was up to the knees, ideal for teaching rugby! I met their sports master a very nice guy by the name of Dominic and about 15 of his lads. I had brought the lads from the first school to demonstrate the coaching lessons that I wanted them to learn. I started by showing them how to pass which as we all know is alien to them as they play basketball a lot. We were succeeding slowly when after 30minutes Dominic said that they would have to go because they all needed a bath. They all trooped off with the two rugby balls that I had given them with their promises that they would practice on a Saturday the only day that they had free. Juma and I continued to coach the first school team until it started to get dark. We walked back into town (one of the guys kindly carried my rucksack) where Juma and I had an evening meal comprised of Goat brochette and chips (I could have had fried banana but I find them tasteless) and a fanta. Following our meal we returned to our guest house to read and rest.
Day 19 Thursday 6th March 2008 Nyanza
Today was similar to yesterday in as much that we travelled into town on the motor bikes had breakfast went on the internet, walked through the market that mainly sold clothes, there were many common labels from the UK amongst the goods on display. We returned to the guest house collected our belongings had a brochette (goat) for lunch. For those who have never tasted goat it is very chewy, certainly tests the jaw muscles, and gristly, not too nice but cheap, 50p each at the cheaper eating houses. Met the guys from the first school, this time we got a motor bike ride to the ground, the journey was similar to that which you see when the guys are scrambling over rutted fields great fun! We had an excellent coaching session and this side is looking like a real rugby side in terms of formation and knowledge. They are ready to partake in their first rugby match, I am well pleased.
Following our session Juma and I walked (one of the guys carrying my rucksack he insisted) into the town. When the taxi bus arrived we fought to get the suicide seat for our journey home, I was staying at Mark’s house the Headmaster of ETO Gitarama School whilst Juma was travelling to Gitarama.
Juma told me when to get off the bus and where I should find a gap in the hedge and to walk from there to Marks’. Much easier said than done, to start with it was pitch black, yes the stars are shining but not much light. uckily there was a guy with a white stick (not blind) walking on the opposite side of the road who asked my destination and then suggested that I follow him. This guy proceeded in front of me and used his phone to light up his path, unfortunately it made my path impossible to see. We were walking uphill on this path and I kept slipping over which whilst wearing a rucksack is easily done. I then feel a hand on my rucksack and a voice that said I will help you, talk about a brown trouser job, this he did when I was in an area that I could see he was gone (maybe it was the hand of god ha ha!) with the help of the first guy I arrived at Mark’s house. Neither the girls nor Mark were there as they were watching a game of rugby at the school. When they returned we had an evening meal which had been beautifully cooked by Mark’s houseboy, then retired to bed.
Day 20 Friday 7th March 2008
Today we were off to a very early start, we went to see a piece of potentially good land on which to turn into a rugby pitch. We travelled quite a distance and turned up the inevitable dirt track road arriving at a plot of land that had been tilled (dug up) and had banana trees along one of its sides. The land had been worked and the soil pushed up into a plateau away from the road. To level the land will require the use of bulldozers as there is a large quantity of soil to move, at the potential cost this seems (according to Emma and Deena) a good proposition. Within travelling distance for a number of the schools and the walk along the track isn’t too far by Rwandan standards. There are further negotiations to take place. We returned to Gitarama where we caught the Express Bus into Kigali. We stopped at some friends’ of the girls Des and Jen to watch a rugby match (Super 14s).
Des is over in Rwanda with a company developing a rice production plant. We were made extremely welcome in their beautiful house and for the next two hours enjoyed the luxury of sofas whilst watching the rugby.
I left the girls and booked into the Chez Rose the hotel I usually stayed at whilst the girls went home. Later in the day I met up with the girls at Jo’s after which I walked to the girls house to get some more clothes that had been beautifully washed by the house boy who worked for the family that owned the house that the girls lived in. I was quite proud of myself I walked to their house and back to my Hotel carrying a rucksack and clothing a distance of approximately a mile without gasping for breath. When I first arrived I struggled to walk up the hills near their house and the girls had to carry my belongings. I went to the local eating place for brochette and chips returned to the hotel read and went to bed.
Day 21 Saturday 8th March 2008
To-day was a day of rest, nothing required on the rugby front so I had a leisurely breakfast, egg omelette but today I had tomatoes(yahoo) in it plus three slices of bread and coffee. I met three very interesting people, all doctors one from Egypt, and a husband and wife from the states, they are all over here working for different agencies concerned with the health and welfare of the Rwandan people. I spent most of the day writing my blogg and reading.
I tried to get on the net at the internet café but unfortunately there were no free computers and I refuse to use my own due to the viruses that I have been informed about. I would have loved to have watched the Six Nations, but unfortunately this clashes with premier league football and that is an absolute priority to the Rwandans, they are charged an entrance fee to watch the games. I went for a meal at a place called High Noon and had the inevitable goat brochette (no fish) and chips with raw onion and mayonnaise. Returned to my room to watch a DVD on my computer and went to bed.
Mike with Buffaloes on his last day
A girls team in Byumba, one of many
The school finalDay 22 Sunday 9th March 2008 Rugby tournament
Today there is to be the Schools Rugby Final which has been extensively advertised on both radio and television. Later there is to be a tournament between three Universities namely, Butare, Ruhengeri, and KIST. The tournament is due to take place at 10.00hrs on the Red Cross ground (a football pitch) formal permission had been requested, and promised, that the ground would be available at the times requested. We all arrived at the ground before 10.00hrs to find a ladies football team marking out the pitch, discussions were held and it was agreed that they would play for thirty minutes each way, unfortunately Rwandan time and Western time have no bearing on each other. This meant that they played for at least forty five minutes per half, thus putting the rugby programme back. Eventually the school’s final between APRED Ndera and St Joseph’s Kabgayi got underway the referee being Deena.
It is very difficult in Rwanda to age the players because some people attending the school are around twenty one, they carry identification cards that must be produced before they can play. No card no game.
The standard of rugby by the two finalists was very good and made an entertaining game, I hadn’t seen either of these sides before so I was therefore pleasantly surprised, at one time the rain came and everyone dived for cover nobody here has raincoats. St Joseph’s school were the winners by 28 to 5.
Rwanda television recorded the final and afterwards interviewed a member of the Rwandan Rugby Federation and Emma. Whilst the final was in progress the team that I had helped coach in Ruhengeri arrived and I went to greet them it was lovely the reception that I got (this makes the cost and the trip well worthwhile) they were saying Mr Mike which was fantastic to me. This was to be their first competitive game of rugby. The first game was between Butare and Ruhengeri who played very well considering this was their first game and had only trained in the past. Butare are a well organised side who play against the senior sides in Rwanda. They also have three of the national side within their ranks, it was easy to see which ones these were.
Day 23 Monday 10th March 2008 Rest Day
Today I stayed in my Hotel and completed my blogg from the previous week and generally rested. I received a call asking whether I would be interested in watching the Buffaloes train that afternoon. Obviously this would be my first time of watching one of the senior sides train, this would give me an insight into the rugby standards in Rwanda and the rugby standards in the UK. They did their warm ups and I was asked if I would like to take the back division whilst the forwards trained together. This I did and the backs were very impressive with their passing and switching between the centre and the fly half. I worked with the back line until the decision to bring the backs and forwards together. I had watched the forwards and made certain suggestions which appeared to be taken on board. A game between the backs and forwards was refereed by me which was good fun. One of the guys took me to a local restaurant where Emma, Deena, Jo and a number of their friends were having a farewell meal as two of their friends were returning to Australia for five weeks. A good evening was had by all, we then all returned to our different abodes.
Day 24 Tuesday 11th March 2008 Byumba
A visit had been arranged to travel and coach some of the schools in the Byumba area. This is the area where a young guy by the name of Alex Sibomana travelled to Kigali to collect two rugby balls, at the time he said that he was training a number of schools in that area. I was travelling with Alphonse who had been with us on our trip to Ruhengeri, he was to coach, interpret, and generally get the best prices whenever we wanted something ie: – taxis accommodation, or motorbikes. I met up with Alphonse in Kigali and purchased our tickets on the taxi bus (oh good) and arranged to sit in the “suicide seat” again. We travelled for about one and a half hours where we alighted from this bus and got on another which would take us to a small group of businesses close to the Ugandan border. Unfortunately, it sounds wonderful but, in reality it doesn’t work we sat on the bus for about two hours waiting for it to fill up. When ready off we went to this collection of small shops. Alphonse asked the way to the school and we were informed that the only mode of travel was by the ever faithful motorbike. Alphonse and I were carrying our rucksacks with all our gear in so on the bikes we got, thinking it was only a small distance to the school, these motor bikes have a 125cc engine capacity and the beautiful tea growing area is very mountainous and the roads are just dirt tracks with massive ruts where the rain runs down. The distance was seven kilometres which meant that on one or two occasions I had to walk up the hills as the there was no power in the engine to take me the rucksack and the driver. What a way to get fit and lose weight I recommend it to anyone. The other problem is breathing, as the altitude is higher than Kigali which took some getting used to. After many trials and tribulations such as when these guys are travelling down hill they disengage the gears turn off the engine and coast, relying totally on their brakes, (talk about a brown trouser job) when tearing around corners on loose shale. It had also started to rain which added to our total discomfort.
We arrived at the school to be greeted by Alex and the assistant headmaster. Introductions were made and agreed that we would attempt to coach some of the players, as it was raining heavily we agreed to try to teach in a classroom. We waited whilst this was being set up and then went into the classroom to be confronted by approximately 50 children all eager to receive information on rugby. Meeting these children is an absolute delight a) because they don’t see many muzungus and secondly they are so polite. We tried to demonstrate the positions on the field, people within the scrum, and passing the ball correctly. Following on from the classroom it had stopped raining so we were asked to go to their playing field to coach another school. At this playing field there was a number of players but at the same time the primary school children finished school, this meant that they all wanted to touch the muzungu, total chaos. We attempted to coach but gave in under the pressure. A game was held between the two schools (seven a side this is what they had been taught by Alex) it was very much basket ball with a rugby ball at least they tried to pass backwards. This completed we made contact with the headmaster who is so committed to playing rugby mainly I think because he wants to beat the schools in the surrounding area. We left promising to return tomorrow and continue coaching. Alphonse contacted the two motor cyclists to return and take us to a recommended guest house, which was about 12km away from the school. We arrived at the guest house to be greeted by an old guy who found the people to sign us in to the guest house. We hadn’t eaten or drunk much all day so we asked for drinks the old guy sat by us and ordered a beer (I thought that he was the owner) anyway we asked if they supplied food and the answer was positive.
We ordered brochette and chips and sat down to wait, and wait, and wait. After about an hour they came to us and told us that they had no brochettes so would we have omelette. This was accepted so they went off to cook our meal. We were then shown our rooms, followed by this old guy, the rooms were £6 and £5 respectively. As we came back out of the room the old guy asked for money and I gave him a very small amount by our standards (in Rwanda a lot of the smaller children ask for money all the time and it becomes a nuisance). We then waited and waited for our meal about two and a half to three hours later our meal arrived. The first lot of eggs were ‘off’ so they had sent for some more, I think to Kigali. The chips were freezing cold and the omelette was mildly warm yuk! But we ate it. To describe the room is to say the bed and sheets were OK I had en-suite this comprised of a small room with a shower head (no water) which pointed to a large hole in the ground to which you can imagine. I was brought a large plastic bowl for flushing purposes. The bed was cold and felt damp (I am told this area of Rwanda is always like this) but I was so weary I would have slept anywhere. At 5.15hrs I am brought upright by the wailing of a woman’s voice calling everyone to morning prayer, what a shock to the system!!!
Day 25 Wednesday 12th March 2008 Byumba
As you can imagine we had an early start, breakfast consisted of a number of chapaties and tea. We then requested the bill only to find that the old guy had charged his beer to our account after deep discussions it was removed.
We then waited for a taxi bus to take us back to the small area of shops where we were to get motor bikes to the next school. The bus arrived but turned around and headed for the Ugandan border where a number of passengers got on carrying a large number of items which took ages to load, we then start driving down the road only to be chased and stopped by a police vehicle, the driver (who carry guns) insisted that the bus returned to the border. At the border everyone, with the exception of Alphonse and myself were made to get out complete with their goods so that they could be searched for none payment of taxes or contraband banana beer (I am told that this stuff is lethal and the government are trying to ban it from Rwanda). The bus proceeded without most of those passengers, the way that the bus driver was acting it seemed as though he was in charge of the smuggling, anyway, it was nothing to do with us. The journey that should normally take about 15-20 minutes took nearly an hour. At the drop off point we got two bikes to take us to the next school the distance was 16km over dirt tracks once again, this time I had given my large rucksack to Alphonse which meant that the bike that I was on was able to take me to the top of these hills. When we arrived my backside was so sore and painful. Alex met us at the school gate and we asked the bike riders to wait for us, as once they had gone we were so far out in the bush that we would have had difficulty getting to the next school.
The time was now about 10-30hrs we were introduced to the headmaster of the senior school who said that he wanted his school to play rugby, after meeting his staff we walked to the field to start coaching, we had about 20 students, these we through the passing and scrummaging exercises with some deal of success. This was all watched by the headmaster with great delight. They then asked if they could play a game, once again seven a side rugby, this was refereed by Alex. Whilst watching the game I was introduced to the headmaster of the primary school who said that he wanted his school to learn rugby as well. He then invited me to see a class of his children, this was an honour to me to see the way the children aged about 9 behaved and they also sang a song to say ‘Welcome’. It was a very moving event for me. I returned to the game which was being watched by lots of children who were cheering their side on. Due to the time restrain we had to take our leave, as we had arranged to return to the first schoolboy a certain time. Once again back on the bikes for a 9km ride. Back at the first school we had to go to their sports field where there were over a hundred students, we took photos of about 15 teams including two teams of girls. Alphonse and I tried to coach as many as we could, this was very difficult but what was surprising was the headmaster started to help with the coaching (he got much more aggressive than we did) obviously there were too many students to be effectively coached by just the two of us. The headmaster asked for us to organise four games four teams of boys and two teams of girls. By this time I think that I was suffering from the heat and lack of water and felt unwell, I sat the games out. They were once again playing rugby basketball with tackling, which was enjoyed immensely by the watching crowd.
Because the headmaster’s team won he was on cloud nine. After nearly two and a half hours the motor bikes came to take us back to the crossroads. As an observation Rwanda and this area in particular they want to play rugby, they are enjoying playing and also the students watching are giving it their total support, fantastic! We travelled back to the cross roads on the bikes. When we arrived here the army were in force stopping everyone carrying goods once again checking for contraband. We stood for ages waiting for the bus and I was tired we had quenched our thirst in a small bar, but I still felt a bit low. The Rwanda army have vehicles where the seats in the rear (on a open back truck) face to each side of the road, and there was one of these vehicles at the crossroad. I went up to the Major (I found out later) and asked whether I could sit on his truck which he said it was OK. I had a discussion with him about the army and his years of service. None of the Rwandans standing by could believe that I was both sitting on the truck and talking to the major. Eventually we got on the taxi bus to Kigali once again crammed into a small place for a journey that took about one and a half hours.
We arrived in Kigali had a meal it was now about 19.30hrs so I got a taxi back to the Chez Rose where I had been staying had a wonderful shower and crashed out.
Spent the last week with my Mum and Dad who braved Kenya airways to fly into the sprawling (not) airport of Kigali! I have been dying for them to visit since 2001 so it is great to finally show them around this country. I think that they have enjoyed the visit, they’ve been rugby training with me, and helped to teach the small children on the sideline how to pass. The highlight so far was a trip to Akagera National Park. The tinned soup in the restaurant was extremely disappointing and over-priced (really shouldn’t have been described as exquisite cuisine!) but it was worth it to see Zebra, Giraffe, Buffalo, Impala, Hippo and to touch an elephant!!! We are off to my old village, Shyogwe tomorrow.
This isn’t to say that all rugby activities have ceased. The very active Buffalo rugby club organsied a 7s tournament for 13 teams including most Rwandan clubs, a Burundian club, girls and U14 boys. It was a roasting hot day and FoRR staff were responsible for most refereeing and for making up numbers in the girls’ game. It was a great day and relly reflects the intention of the new Federation to really increase the profile of the game in Rwanda. This is a massive help to FoRR as the last committee was not as active. We look forward to moving rugby ahead in partnership with the Federation with more young people getting into the game as ever.
The school league continues this weekend with 2 games in Kigali and 3 in Gitarama. We also welcome our first volunteer of 2008 who arrives the same afternoon.
Past few days have seen earth-shattering events. Not only did the ground rumble due to sizemic shifts, but after individual coaching sessions, finally the schools are making thunderous contact on the engagements of their scrums. Slowly by slowly we are imparting the correct techniques to eager forward packs. This skills set should be further enhanced with the arrival of the Canadian prop, Sarah Formiglio. The up-coming weekend sees the first mens/womens’ 7s tournament of 2008. The schools league takes a break after 3 incredibly successful rounds. The Federation of Rwandan Rugby finally held elections for a new committee and congratulations are offered to the new President, Alexi Kamanzi, we look forward to seeing a closer working relationship in the future. We are looking forward to welcoming several visitors to Rwanda, not only are Emma’s parents taking the plunge into Central Africa, but also other volunteers whose coaching skills will be greatly received.
As I am sure you realised from our last blog, we were SO excited about sending the team of under 14’s to London for a week to play in the TOURAID Nations Cup. It had been a very long and arduous time organsing all the paperwork and training the boys who had very little experience of rugby. We really put the majority of our time and energy in getting the boys on the plane. Therefore, when we heard that 1 player and 1 coach legged it and did not return to Rwanda, we were devastated. Their incredibly selfish act has destroyed all chances for any future tours. To make matters worse we have been informed that it was common knowledge that the player was planning to run. NO ONE thought to mention it to us though. In addition we had given the coach, who we have known for 6 years our camera to take photos of the tour for mementoes for the boys. Needless to say no camera returned.
This was a week ago now but we are still recovering from the impact this has had on our morale. We completely trusted the coach, Vedaste and did so much for him in the run-up to the tour. We had even planned to work with him long-term as a rugby coach. I am quite concerned for his future in the UK, he cannot speak much English and has no passport or visa.
He has also left 4 rugby teams in Kamonyi (very rural Rwanda) coach less. These teams will be hard to maintain as their knowledge and experience of rugby is limited, and their area is hard for us to access.
In addition we have been without electricity for one week. Therefore the choking kerosene fumes have become, yet again a familiar presence in our humble home. We hope that it will come back on come today, but no important people live in our street so it doesn’t seem to be a priority of Electrogaz!
On a more positive note, we have managed to enjoy some of the Rugby World Cup Games thanks to our friendship with the Fijian family, Luc and Elenoa. They have welcomed us into their home on a weekly basis to enjoy their satellite TV and even provided Deena with a soothing cup of tea following the Aussies outing from the tournament. Also, the Red Cross Street Kids and Christ for the Nations have played a couple of games over the last few weeks. Red Cross have so far managed to win both but the skills and enjoyment of both teams is very pleasing to see!