Thanks for your interest and support of my work in Rwanda and (hopefully) the Congo. I have been remiss for some weeks on blog updates because of internet and virus problems. So this will be a long entry - with a table of contents.
1. Discussions with Aimé, from a Congolese Quaker youth group
2. Plans for video conferences with children from Gisenyi Friends Church
3. My work with Gisenyi Peace Center
4. Gory details of my internet and virus travails
1. I have been talking with Aimé MUDATEBA KAMANZI, a law student in his final year at the Université Libre des Pays des Grand Lacs à Goma, DRC. Aimé has been an AVP facilitator twice, at a 3-day workshop in Kanyabayonga and in IDP Camp Mugunga, both in 2008. He speaks perfect French, along with Kiswahili, Kinyarwanda, and English.
He has been a member of Quaker churches for fourteen years. He began with CEACO Katindo, the first Quaker Church in the DRC, in Goma, and has also lived in Burundi and Kigali. Pastor Etienne Nsanzimana, my host here in Gisenyi, knows Aimé well.
Aimé crosses the border every week or so for various errands, and has been meeting with me. He is part of an energetic group of about ten young Congolese Quakers, who are interested in connecting to the larger international body of Quakers, and to other international and humanitarian groups as well. Aimé and his friends have some relevant and timely ideas on current peace-related initatives in the DRC and North Kivu. I will follow up on these extensive thoughts in my next post.
2. The 15th St. Meeting / Gisenyi Friends Church videoconferences
Thanks to the consistent and enthusiastic interest of many members of the 15th Street Meeting and Gisenyi Friends Church, it looks like this idea will finally come to fruition. On Sunday Jan 23 at 11:15am EST and 6:15pm Gisenyi (tomorrow), we will do a dry run. Then, the next week Jan 30 at the same time, we will run the our first call. Leading up to it, I will distribute the greeting cards from 15th St Meeting to Gisenyi Friends Church tomorrow. This will be exciting.
3. The Gisenyi Peace Center will be a one-story building with one large hall and a few small side rooms - about 12m x 28m overall. The foundation is complete and the brick walls and concrete support columns are about 70% done. The walls and columns, roof, and finishes are remaining. I will be working with Francis and Jean-Baptiste from the church to update the existing design, and plan the remaining work. This will include completing updated plan drawings, determining remaining quantities, finding updated prices, and planning a schedule for the remaining work. The drawings are currently in Kigali to be scanned.
There will be a 2-week AVP conference with representatives from Burundi, DRC Congo, and Rwanda, from Febuary 28 to March 12. We will be upgrading some of the current (makeshift) finishes of the Gisenyi Peace Center to support this conference. I have been working with Francis to review the existing items and determine what remains to be purchased.
4. I have soon to emerge from a frustrating bout with virus and internet problems. After using a flash drive on Friday Jan 15, my computer was suddenly slammed with nasty viruses. After three restarts and 15 minutes, every time I opened Windows it would abruptly shut down. Last week I took the computer around town and found Imam, an experienced computer and cellphone repairman extraordinare known throughout town. He fixed my computer and I bought Kaspersky Antivirus from him. One week later, my communications are finally functional again.
However, internet is a different story. I started my visit off by buying a MTN modem, but service is far too slow and intermittent to support scheduled skype calls, and especially not video. Typical download rates are 1 or 2 kbps. This is fine for email with image-downloading disabled on the browser, but hardly for anything else. This last week I tried to switch to Rwandatel which will be faster, but Rwandatel is having problems right now and cannot register any new sim-cards for internet customers. So I plan to buy a webcam to do this trial run on Sunday at an internet cafe, or else try to plug my computer into an ethernet cable at the internet cafe that allows that.
Eventually, though, I think that will be the best solution for the inter-church conferences in the long term, expecting the church to keep a laptop bug-free and available is a tall order.