Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Dining in the garden

Not sure what time of year it is here, just south of the Equator, but it's balmy - with temperatures of around 20 to 25 degrees or so. Warm enough to have breakfast and dinner in the hotel garden! The mosquitoes seem to be keeping a low profile, thankfully.

First day's work was very interesting, with chats with a range of donors. Different donors have different attitudes, and sometimes one feels that the recipient country suffers a lot for the money it receives; price to pay, I suppose. Most donors though are genuinely interested and only too willing to help. There is much willingness to develop structures and systems, though it also seems that the different donors (who contribute 75% of the existing social protection budget) do not commmunicate much with each other - but this is entirely normal and happens everywhere, even within the same ministry in the same European or other country.

Kigali is set on a series of hills, and we kept having to duck from one hill to the other hill. In the evening I went out to buy a simcard for the phone, what with my own not working (I am hoping someone will tell me my number soon....). When I changed some money, the bank provided a variety of notes - finally arriving at the 100 francs notes. it looked like it had been buried in the red soil! Torn, filthy, dark brown notes (originally beige) - seems that this is the most commonly used banknote (worth about 20 US cents). Interesting what you find out from changing money.

Went for a run in the morning. Even at 6.15 lots of people were about, walking to school or to work. There seemed to be no problem with a middle-aged woman with very white legs cavorting about Kigali - I ran along a main road, then turned into a very posh residential area - where the 'boy' and the maid were already hard at work attending to the outside of the houses. Then the neighbourhood abruptly turned into a poorer area with smaller houses not behind high walls (though with brick walls and tin roofs, so it was still a very long way away from 'slums').

Was writing this sitting outside a cafe near the UN offices. They do some lovely samosas, either with a meat filling or a vegetable filling (both mildly spicy). It's really very pleasant here, but life must be really tough - though the poverty rate of 60% is not that different of the poverty rate of Armenia a few years ago. Everywhere there are lots of people selling things on a tiny scale, like phone cards, handbags, newspapers - people are milling about everywhere... some people, but relatively few, openly begging, and fairly assertively so.

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