Sunday, 6 May 2012

Changing Gears On the Road

As we've already said, we commute to the centre every day, experiencing the colorful local minibus culture. The exception to this is Wednesdays when an accountant who lives in the Sulfo compound is picked up by the centre's driver, Jean-Baptiste. If we get up early enough, it is our chance to get a lift and travel to the centre in pickup truck luxury.

Apart from minibuses, locals frequently use moto taxis. They are pretty much on every street corner and will pull up alongside you if you are on foot, just in case you want to use them. They come in extremely handy in the evenings as buses stop running around 8-9pm. Motos are also cheaper than car taxis. You see passengers carrying impossible luggage on these too, like TVs and even mattresses!

On Wednesday this week, we were well on our way to the centre in the truck, gliding on a nice asphalt road, when suddenly a moto taxi coming from the opposite direction decided to turn left across our carriageway, just meters before us. We were travelling at reasonable speed, so Jean-Baptiste had to slam on the brakes. I watched as the passenger started punching the moto driver's back urging him desperately to clear the turn before the bike collided with our truck (there was no way we could have stopped in time because of our speed). Hair stood up on the back of my neck and goosebumps appeared on my skin. I was so tense, I could almost hear the passenger's bones crushing on impact. Luckily, they made it. ONLY JUST though. The passenger had to leap off or they would have gone flat into the road. Still at running speed, the passenger took his helmet off and threw it at the moto driver. He was shouting in anger and the driver simply cut his losses, and took off as fast as he could. I was shocked by the whole thing but both our Rwandan driver and Indian accountant remained very calm and collected and we simply continued along our way. I have always had a certain dislike for motorbikes and considered them dangerous, but now I feel quite strongly that I will not be getting a moto taxi anytime soon.

We had quite a bit of rain this week, mostly at night. Loud thunderstorms and powerful lightning tore up the dark sky, waking us up throughout the night. With rain comes worry for the centre. Les Enfants de Dieu is located at the bottom of a hill, in a marshland. After it stops raining (usually after a number of hours) and water travels down from the hills, parts of the site are flooded, including the football pitch. The dirt road that leads to the centre from the main asphalt road running from Remera washes out completely. It is usually a good day for bicycle taxis, which take people over the water for a small fee. Some locals just take off their shoes, roll up their trousers and walk through the water. At the end of the day, most of the E.D.D. staff piled into the centre's truck. Bret ended up riding in the back, enjoying the breeze and attracting some attention as he lounged in the middle of a traffic jam.

During our fourth week at the centre we continued to focus on the storeroom and the library. Bret took on the former, I focused on the latter. You may remember from our last week's post that despite all the work already done, more donations were uncovered in the giant container and they all ended up on the floor. Bret spent this week doing something he does not like doing at home: folding mountains of clothes. There were also mountains of football boots to organise. It was a really daunting and repetitive task but he was very diligent and his hard work has certainly paid off. The room looks great. I could not believe the transformation when I walked in there on Thursday. Everything has its place and is neatly folded and put away. All it needs now is to be counted and recorded in the inventory.

During this sorting operation Bret separated the girls' and womens' clothes donated to the centre, so that they could be passed on to other organisations. We do, however, have a very special little girl at the centre named Dariya. She is the daughter of one of the cooks, Beata. She is four years old and a real treasure, as she follows us around and plays in the wake of our work all day long. Fellow volunteer Elizabeth put some of the girly things in a little gift bag for her. She was very happy (and so was her mum) with all the goodies. Dariya and I also did some modelling together when visiting Bret in the storeroom. We took particular liking to his winter accessories selection.

While Bret was holed up in the store room, I spent my days in the library cutting out numbers, taping them onto books and updating the catalogue spreadsheet. It was also a slow and repetitive process. I finally finished doing the numbers on Thursday and together with Bret we have started the process of double-checking the catalogue on Friday. We also moved many cool board games, jigsaw puzzles, flash cards and art supplies to the library that day. We will catalogue these this coming week. We also have to work on a system of labels, signing out books and rules for the library. We are devising a plan for the grand opening, hopefully at the end of this coming week.

We are definitely feeling excited now. Sorting through stuff and organising it was far from fun, but we knew how essential it was. Now we are talking about all the exciting things we can do as soon as we open the library, like organising art workshops with a local art studio. Teaching English in this nice bright room with lovely tables and great books will be fantastic. Having the boys in the library to explore, read and learn will be so satisfying! Above all, we will now have time to focus on the boys, on doing things with them and spending time together. It has been really hard to keep our heads down and work, work, work without interacting with them as much as we would have liked. We are ready for some fun now. Our friend and centre social worker Charles has helped to plan football matches with prizes for the boys next weekend too!

P.S. Bret has of course managed to have some fun when I was doing laundry. He has been filming a video with the centre's own hip-hop group, Time Boyz. He was up at 6.30am today to shoot some extra footage in the wonderful morning light. Stay tuned for some underground Rwandan hip-hop!


  1. Great photos Dorota! Keep the posts coming, it's nice to see your progress :)

  2. Ahhh!!! That moto incident sounds terrifying. It might be a good idea to steer-clear of them, especially during the day when there is much more traffic!

    I am so excited to hear that you've completed the numbers in the library! You guys are in the homestretch now! And the storeroom! Wow! Excellent job. I can't believe how many more clothes there are now.

    Can't wait to hear more about that soccer game and Time Boyz.

    All my love,


  3. WOW! Great work! I'm so excited to hear about the grand opening of the library. So many hours have been put into creating that wonderful space and I can't wait to hear how the boys take to it!

    I agree with Elena about the terrifying moto incident! SO scary!

    I'm amazed at all the cleats that have been sitting there all this time.

    Great work!

  4. the library and store room look amazing! Can't wait to see the music video
    love to all

  5. Wow. I'm not sure what scared me most, the bike incident or the heaps of clothes folding. Big congratulations to you both; the centre's looking fantastic and I am most certainly envious of Bret's African filming... Sounds like you both have an amazing week ahead and I can't wait to read more.
    Good people doing good things
    Baz :)