Despite arriving in the early morning, all of the tickets to Kigali for the next several hours had already been sold. The volunteer from Butete and I secured the earliest ones possible, and went to get some breakfast. We were headed to Kigali for a meeting concerning the judges project, in which PCVs could help teach English to judges, lawyers, and other members of the Rwandan legal world. As we waited for our meals, we were joined by Stephanie (also on her way to Kigali for the meeting), and Genevieve (who was setting up the groundwork for a cool photography-related secondary project of her own). We all caught up for a bit and then enjoyed our meals- and then just as suddenly as we had gotten together, we were all going our separate ways.
When the volunteer from Butete and I arrived in Kigali, I was informed that the place where the buses had previously parked in order to fill up with passengers had recently relocated inexplicably… to somewhere. We happened to bump into another PCV from our group, and he told us he could give us directions to the new stop, but that we were certain to get lost. Providentially, just at that moment a Peace Corps range rover happened to appear, and the traffic light forced it to stop right in front of us. Getting the driver’s attention, we asked if we could bum a ride. He told us to hop in.
The Peace Corps office now boasted a “case de passage”- sort of a house for PCVs who need to stay overnight in Kigali, and this was my first time seeing it. “Palais de passage” would have been a more accurate name for it. The entry room had large cubby shelves on the left and right as you immediately stepped inside, a flatscreen television and dvd player, couches, a coffee table, an enormous bookshelf stocked with: games, a lending library of books, a non-lending library of PC resources, and DVDs. Through the doorway straight across the room was a kitchen equipped with pots and pans, a stove, an oven, and even a refrigerator. The other portals of the case led to the four bedrooms, each of which holding eight to ten beds. The case also boasted a supply of contingency mattresses and extra sheets, pillows, and mosquito nets.
Going from room to room, I soon discovered that all of the beds appeared to be occupied. The PCVs who had arrived before me told me that some of the beds would likely be vacated before evening, so I decided not to stress about it. Instead, I enjoyed a nice, warm shower in one of the case’s bathrooms. Emerging squeaky-clean, I went to reconnect with the PCVs I had not seen since IST.
Mark was already there and so I took a seat on a couch near him so we could catch up. Once we had covered the term’s highs and lows, we spent some time reading magazines, and the Peace Corps newsletters which were bumming around. More and more volunteers continued to arrive. A girl named Caroline who was in my group entered the case with her arms full of things she was getting rid of. One of these items was a colorful lightweight scarf, and no sooner had she asked if anyone wanted, then I claimed my prize!
Incredibly, the PCVs who were hosting this meeting had arranged for dinner to be delivered to the case, and we all got to enjoy lasagna, garlic bread, and a bit of salad. It was a treat to get tasty food, but even more of a treat to not have to pay for it. Many of the PCVs decided afterwards to put the money they saved on dinner to an evening of drinks and dancing, but Mark and I responsibly remained at the case with a few other people. Those of us who remained played a few rounds of catchphrase and then swapped embarrassing stories from our service for hours.
The first group of PCVs to return were assisting a PCV that had had one too many, and got her to bed before filling us in that they had found her on her own while walking to find a cab- luckily she was safe. They left a pot from the kitchen at the floor by the side of her bed in case she got sick during the night.
One of the PCVs who had helped rescue her was my friend Kay, and as she sat next to me on the couch, the other PCVs commented that we looked related. Kay is also a be-freckled ginger, and at the moment, our hair was roughly the same length and style. We were also both wearing scarves, as well as tortoise-shell colored glasses. It was pretty funny. Kay and I plotted to have some identical ibitenge outfits made for us to wear at the same time to the upcoming midservice training.
Several hours passed and small groups continued to trickle in, displaying various levels of intoxication or sobriety. Those of us who had not gone out mentally checked off each PCV who returned from our list of who to worry about. One especially entertaining group of PCVs came back and told us the story about how they had gotten drinks at a club, but their server did not bring them a bill for hours, so when they were ready to go, the server hastily handed them a non-itemized tab for the group, and demanded that it be paid. One of the volunteers had seized the bill, crumpled it up, and thrown it back in the man’s face, saying it was unacceptable. Eventually they were given an itemized receipt, but it included drinks on it that had been paid for, so a bunch of PCVs in the group left and found a cab. The server chased them to argue with them, and their cab driver refused to leave- so the PCVs left that cab and found one that would take them back to the case.
“It’s not our fault!” One of the girls said. “They never even tried to give us a bill.” A minute or so later, the same girl reached into her pocket for her cell phone and withdrew a clump of folded paper- wouldn’t you know it, it was an original itemized receipt and about half the money their group had owed, which this girl had obviously started collecting before she forgot. “Um, guys? I did a bad thing,” She said. “But it’s not really my fault because I was drunk!” They called the rest of their party (still back at the club) and explained the situation, and somehow they convinced the manager to let them come back the next day with the money owed. We reasoned PCVs would probably not be welcome there in the future.
Eventually all but two of our PCVs had found their way back, and those who had not were street smart ladies, so we were not terribly worried. Most of us at the case got at least an hour of sleep, but by now my body was no longer tired. Just before six AM, the door slid open and one of the girls who was MIA quietly walked to her room and laid down- in the morning, no one would be the wiser.
Breakfast was toast with jam and butter, and as we ate it, someone commented on how it was a good thing that everyone had returned safely. Several volunteers noted that we were still missing one… a few minutes later, the girl entered, walked past everyone as she endured whistles and cheers, and without saying a word, went to take a shower. While the rest of us who were awake ate our breakfasts, the girl who had been put to bed drunk the night before came out of her room, very worried.
“Guys, did something happen last night?”
“Guys, I really think something happened- when I woke up, I wasn’t wearing pants!”
“You probably took them off yourself.”
“No, I think something happened. Did I hook up with someone?”
“You probably wet the bed and took them off,” her friend told her.
“No, no I didn’t wet the bed”- her friend walked into the room, inspected for a second, and came back a minute later to report.
“Yes. Yes, she did.” The volunteer’s face fell. “Awww, it’s okay, we still love you.”
The volunteer was filled in on what had transpired the night previous, and while she was embarrassed, she was really grateful that she had been rescued.
As we washed our plates, I learned that a surprisingly large number of PCVs had been pickpocketed while out on the town- still, everyone reported having had a nice evening. That made me really happy to hear. We headed out of the case and toward the conference room where this meeting was to be held.
The actual judge’s meeting itself (the reason that we had all gotten together) was led by three PCVs who were soon to complete their service. My group of volunteers was going to become the vast majority of the program’s leaders, so this meeting was intended as an orientation to what the program did… a more detailed training would take place in January, right before my group began teaching our second year of school. This past year had been the pilot of this program, and my group and I would be perpetuating the work that the volunteers before us started.
The English Language Training Program for Judges and court staff will enable judges and other legal professionals from all over Rwanda to receive English training through a specially designed curriculum. The learners will be divided into four proficiency levels, and then PCV instructors will rotate weekly, keeping within our region (my region has enough volunteers that each PCV will only teach once every five weeks.) Volunteers will spend the night before they teach in the city (for me, this will be Musanze) so that there won’t be any last-minute cancellations due to bus trouble, and then will teach the appropriate lesson from the curriculum. For the most part, it sounded like this would be just more English teaching, which I felt comfortable with, but due to both the age and careers of our students, it was likely to be intimidating at first. I hoped that the January orientation would help to address that.
After the meeting concluded, we were fed another delivered lunch- pesto pasta and salad- and then our group slowly began to disperse. My bus ride back was uneventful, and I got back in the early evening with plenty of time to unpack and decompress before dinner.