Sunday, 10 March 2019

Lots of Goodies

Lovely picture taken by my friend Harris from the top of Westerwelle Startup Haus.

It's been a very eventful few weeks.

Each month we have an entrepreneur's lunch at a different restaurant, where people meet and network. This month I met a lovely couple, who two days later sent me an emergency text asking whether I knew a doctor who does house calls. An interesting question. Turns out, I don't. So Harris very graciously left a conference to follow me into a remote area of the city. The lady had put her back out and couldn't move. What were the chances - both she and Harris are Greek, and he has a similar back condition and had the exact injections she needed. We were able to help them out, and they gave us tickets to their tech event at Westerwelle as a thank you.

That night, I went out with another friend who is staying for a few days, and she brought her friend who was in a horrible situation. She'd come out here to work with local organisation, including the LGBT community, and was kicked out of her home by her host family for being gay. Shitty situation, so brought her home with us and she's staying for a couple of months so that she can finish what she came here to do.

I lost my last house because my landlord's family took it off him for being gay, and I refused to pay rent to someone who would do that. So, it happens a lot still. My friend Carter is holding the first trans conference here soon, he's been turned down by so many venues already and received messages from other Rwandans with the usual gumf about 'it's un-Rwandan,' and 'against the law' (which it most certainly isn't). Thankfully, there's been far more support for the event. Funny those who want to be nasty about it send a direct message, whereas those who want to share the positivity do so more publicly. Still a long way to go, though.

My friend Chris is back in the country and has become an investor in a local restaurant. Looking forward to free pizza and menu testing. Next month they're holding the EU Business Forum there. It's another business networking event, but a bit posher. This week it was held at the British Ambassador's house. Plenty of drinks and nibbles. Walked home with my friend Cecile and started to discuss joint consultancy ventures.

Also helped a couple out choosing a piano. A gentleman had two and was willing to sell one, so I went to check them out and advise. They were both in very good condition, so it came down to preference of sound quality and design. More about that here

Had lots of treats delivered. Harris brought a huge supply of chocolate, whisky, pesto and expensive toiletries with him. 

Swanky Rituals Goodies
My lovely friend Sameer went to India for a few weeks. Whilst he was there, the tea plantation he works at was sold off! So he's just returned home to see what happens to his job. All a bit worrying. Hoping he gets to stay. He brought me a box of my favourite Indian sweets and told me I had to eat them within a week. Four hours later, I'd finished half the box...

Then went to a BBQ and got talking to this lady about our mutual friend Patrizia, who left Rwanda a few years ago. So, we decided to take a selfie and send it to Patrizia...

...and Patrizia replied 'I'm visiting Kigali next week!' She brought me a whole load of lovely cheese, chocolate and numnums.

So I'm well stocked for goodies at the moment, and got to do mango gazpacho tasting at CasaKeza the other day. Part of the new lunch menu.


My local bar has started doing live music on Thursdays and Victor's opened his cocktail cart.


Also had some fabulous nights out. Harris took me to a swanky restaurant, The Hut, for my birthday. Champers was drunk, as were passion fruit mojitos, and BBQ spare ribs (which were eaten, rather than drunk). 

Last beer as a 37-year-old
Birthday Bounty Brownie
Had a grand night out dancing until 3 a.m. with friends Mac, Chris, Harris, Claudia and Antonio last week. My foot is finally starting to get a little better after tearing my Achilles six months ago. I'm still hobbling about like an elderly lady, but I can just about dance again. Really good night. And my friend Kassim came from Belgium with his friend Mario to play a Holy Jah Doves reunion! These guys were huge about ten years ago, so it was a real blast from the past. I used to go with my friend Cathryn to visit him and Lies each year.


The only weird thing here is that many of the clubs who put on stunningly good live music, just fill the entire dance floor with plastic chairs and people just sit there watching. It's really weird. Best place so far was Bar 514, which is open air and has plenty of room to dance and decent bands. 

In non-party related news, the wet season arrived with a vengeance. Actually, I don't think the short dry season ever really happened. As a result, loads of houses have damp problems. My landlord said it's happening more and more, and thinks it may be poor-quality imported building materials. Had to have two of my rooms knocked about and replastered.


During this, I discovered the most incredible moth. It's as big as the span of my hand (thumb to tip of little finger when outstretched). Incredible creature, and thankfully found its way out before the cats discovered it.

In cat news, same, same.

In food news, soup.

In home delivery news, we had quite a chuckle about what I ordered v. what I got from Horebu Supermarket recently.



In news news, things are a bit weird at the moment. There's a massive kerfuffle going on between Rwanda and Uganda, resulting in borders being closed, bridges being burned (quite literally), and troops being deployed.

We've all got one eye on the news from Goma at the moment, as they attempt to stop Ebola reaching the city, from which it could spread along lots of different transport routes. Only, dickish rebels in DRC keep attacking medical facilities, killing doctors and assaulting people seeking vaccination.

And extremely sad news this morning about Ethiopian Airlines, with the Beeb reporting no survivors. Still waiting to find out what happened.

All of this has made me realise, I should really update my blog more often.

Lazy Sunday today, contemplating making carrot cake, cuddling some cats and enjoying The Good Place on Netflix. 

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Settling Into The New Year

 My friend Sameer brought me this lovely Ganpati tea lamp.

It's been a while since I posted. Just settling into the New year. Been quite quiet as a lot of friends are out of town and I've been enjoying staying home, writing and playing with the cats.

Had my first cactus fruit the other day. I love Frulep. Every time I go in there, there's something weird and wonderful on display. Last time it was Guineafowl eggs. This time it was cactus fruit, also called opuntia. I didn't actually know what this was until I got home and Googled strange looking fruits. Watched a video on how to eat it, which was basically 'cut off either end, peel, and dig in.'

It's got the consistency of a mushy kiwi, with a much milder, watery taste. It's also got huge, hard, edible seeds inside. For that reason, it's not exactly pleasant, and don't try it if you have fillings. But it was something different.  

I've been quite healthy so far this year. I quit smoking and drinking on 3rd January when we returned from Gisovu. Since then, I've only been out drinking twice, which I'll talk about below. I wouldn't exactly say I feel better for it - maybe older. But I'm sure my liver and lungs appreciate it. I've been trying to eat more fresh food, but it's not easy. Most of the supermarkets have very limited fresh fruit and veg, and it's relatively expensive. I bought oranges, but they're dry inside, no juice. A friend explained they're a special type that were modified to grow in dry climates. I bought a mango, but it was rotten inside. I bought an onion - also rotten. I bought potatoes, soft and squidgy. The other option is to hire someone to go to the market and try to get local prices, but by the time I've hired someone to do that, I'm already paying more. So, really, the main options are whatever grows locally: bananas, carrots, butternut squash, tree tomatoes and passion fruit. Pineapples are also very good here, but there's a limit to how much pineapple you can eat. But I am cooking more at home now. Rediscovered my crepe maker and just bucket-baked a quiche.

Nakumatt has finally closed its doors. End of an era. It was the first major supermarket to open in Rwanda in around 2008. At night, the food court outside used to double as a nightclub and people used to ride the fiberglas elephant. Wonder what will happen to it now.

My friend Emma brought me sunflowers the other day. Unusual colour. She also brought honey. She and her husband work for Beeutiful, making bee products in Musanze. I'm always eternally grateful for honey as all the shops are now selling one brand called Made in Rwanda Honey, and you've never tasted anything like it. It's the consistency of golden syrup and tastes like burnt sugar. But it's that, at a normal price, or imported American honey for around £6 a small bottle. Depressing, as I get through a lot of honey. Thankfully, there's a place called Azizi Life in town that refills Beeutiful jars.

Dragonfly on my Washing Line

In cat news, they all received their jibjabs this week. Healthy kitties.

Back, L-R: Gizmo & Akantu. Front, L-R: Howl & Sen.

So, the first night out was with Emma, to jazz night at my local bar. Unfortunately, there's only really room for around 50 people comfortably, and around 200 arrived. The jazz was nice, but there was a palm tree in front of the stage, so it kind of looked like a singing tree from where we were sitting. Due to the number of people, there wasn't any food, so we headed to another bar after for a burrito and more beer. Went home at a sensible time. Drank but didn't smoke.

The second outing was a couple of weeks later and nowhere near as decorous. Met a lovely Peace Corpse volunteer who is interested in sign language. Had a good chat and a litre of sangria. Poor Peace Corp people, they're sent home if they're caught using motos. How on earth are they supposed to get anywhere? 

Went from there to meet Sameer at Borneo, then on to PiliPili, where the drinking began in earnest when Maia and Justin turned up. Somehow ended up in People nightclub around 3 a.m. after several cigarettes and far, far too many Jäger shots.


Death in a Glass

Sameer and Justin Playing with the Classic Motorcycle Display

I am in no way exaggerating when I say that I spent the next 24-hours in bed. I only got up to pee and make toast. It took two full days before I felt able to interact with another human being. My bones felt broken. It was a great night, but not drinking hurts much less. 

Probably brought on by that episode, I then suffered a horrible cold, and Howl came down with something too, so we both curled up together and suffered through it. Thankfully, I discovered chicken noodle soup from Soy Asian Table and it saved my life.

Poorly Howl
So far, it's been an okay start to the year. Mostly wondering where work is going to come from, but at the same time really enjoying having the time to write and relax. 

Major fiasco with the phone company. Rwanda's introduced a new law that nationals and foreign residents are allowed to have three SIM cards, whereas visiting foreigners who only have a passport can have one SIM card. For reasons unknown to anyone but themselves, my phone company, Airtel, dealt with this by cutting off a whole load of customers. We received an SMS saying 'you will be cut off tomorrow unless you come to Airtel to reregister your phone by providing ID.' I called their helpline asking what was going on. 'Don't worry,' the guy said, 'it's a technical glitch, you shouldn't have received that SMS, you can ignore it.'

I ignored it.

I got cut off.

So, loads of people lost their business numbers, emergency contacts etc. overnight and had to go stand in queues for hours to get reconnected. One annoying thing in Rwanda is that communication companies are really bad at communicating. 

I've been annoyed with Airtel's lack of customer service for a while, plus WorldRemit doesn't work with Airtel, or local free numbers like the tax helpline. So, I ditched them and went to MTN instead. Whilst I was standing in the queue to register, a guy was there complaining about being cut off with no warning, so it's not just Airtel, but at least with MTN I can use WorldRemit to directly transfer money from my UK account to my Rwandan mobile money account. It helps with paying bills and buying airtime, as you still can't buy internet or phone airtime online in Rwanda. Things like PayPal and online card payments just don't exist with communication and utility companies. 

All a bit dramatic, but it was the final push I needed to switch to a (marginally) better provider, even if it does mean going through all my contacts to tell them I've switched numbers, and printing new business cards.

In a nicer turn of events, I made a loan to a lady to buy a sewing machine last year. She pays me back in installments, and I introduced her to a friend who has a fashion line and employed her. She came to see me the other day and - translated by my neighbour - said it had really changed her life. She gave me a gift, which is an incredibly gorgeous bedspread. They sell for a lot of money in the shop, so I was really blown away. I'll take a better shot of it once it's on my bed. She chose that colour because she remembered me commenting on it in the shop. Truly wasn't expecting this and felt quite emotional. Very, very kind of her.

My friend Harris returns in a couple of weeks, which I'm really happy about. I'm sure drinking will once again be on the agenda, but never, ever, for the rest of my life, will Jäger shots be included in that.