Friday, 22 May 2009

Both Ends of the Candle

Some pics from the wedding:

Me and Cathryn in Mushananas.

Amanda, my programme manager,
looking lurvley.

The crowd dancing to live reggae.

Butare Deaf Intore Troop Dancing.
Me hangin' out with some guests.

First, we begin this belated blog entry with some very sad news, Marilyn's (my dad's partner's) mum died in the early hours of last Monday morning, 18th. Marj was an absolutely lovely lady and I have fond memories of exploring local standing stones and country pubs with her. She was an avid follower of my travels both in Australia and Rwanda. She shall be very much missed and loads of love and good vibes home to Dad & Marilyn.

In home news, Kitoko's song is still causing controversy in the disability movement, and that quality paper that is The New Times is still referring to Deaf people as 'deaf and dumb.' Derogatory terminology is a big problem, even within disability legislation itself, so I'm honoured to be helping to edit/proof-read the FENAPH three-year strategic plan at the moment. They're the National Federation of People with Disabilities, so hopefully they'll help tackle some of these issues.

A couple of charity announcements!

My ex house-mate Sonny is cycling to Paris in July with friends. You can sponsor them online and follow their blog too! Should be a fun adventure provided they don't break any more bikes or sprain any more ankles in practice ;)

Also, my good friend Vikki O'Brien (nee Bishop) and her lovely husband Dai are doing a ten mile charity walk for the National Deaf Children's Society (NDCS) on 5th July. NDCS have already, through their International Deaf Children's Fund, sponsored previous volunteers (Karen & Antonia) to set up parent support groups in Rwanda. If you would like to sponsor them, just drop me an e-mail and I'll put you in contact.

So, what have I been up to the past week?

Party... party... work... more party.

I'm suitably singed at both ends from the amount of fun that has been had :op

Lies' wedding was fantastic. It really was a spectacular day as outlined in my last post.

Unfortunately, I'm having trouble remembering what's happened since then. There was rather a lot of 'Good Time(TM)' involved.

The past couple of days have been totally outstanding. Jo & Pierre are back in town and are my next door neighbours since I live in Rujigiro now. Literally, I cross the road, go down a path, and there they are!

Soooo... Last Saturday I ended up outside Amahoro stadium at 8am to help set up the Single Parents Network stall. It was Kigali Marathon Weekend and a really nice guy called Mark Larson was in charge of co-ordinating the Amahoro Peace Weekend. Amahoro being Kinyarwanda for 'Peace', actually. It was part of the international campaign to End Violence Against Women and Children. It was a fantastic day - pics below. First time we'd rolled out our banner which D made (although our relationship since his return has totally drifted - looks like I'm done. Again.) and met a wonderful single dad from Kicukiro who is raising five kids by himself and just seems like a really lovely and committed bloke. There was also a single mum who is part of a women's work co-operative who brought loads of stuff to sell. Sadly, none of the money goes to us, but it was excellent that she could make some money and it brought a lot of attention to our stall.

Funnily enough, I'd also told the Union of the Deaf about the event and they rolled-up and set up a stall right next to ours, which was great as I got to be on both stalls! :) It was a really fun day but the weather was so incredibly hot. Sitting in the marquee we baked a bit. Cathryn turned up about 1pm and we had lunch at Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant over the road, then headed home. I vow that's the last ever Saturday I get up and put myself through a freezing cold shower at 6am :op

Rose displaying our new banner!

Information flyers.

The Stall

The Deaf Association with the Dictionary
(L-R: Emmanuel, Claire, Goreth)

So that was a really funky day, however I was somewhat knackered as Cathryn, Brad and I had been out until about 2am at Bar Stella opposite my old house on the Thursday. It culminated in a spectacular display by a Rwandan contortionist who could go into crab from standing, literally bent double backwards, pick up a bottle of beer with his teeth and return to standing in order to drink it. He could also do the trick where he put a lit cigarette in his mouth, drank beer, and returned it still lit! Was very cool.

The thing was, before arriving at Stella to drink heavily with Brad and Cathryn (and their extremely interesting friend Baudouin who has promised to take me to an umupfumu), I had actually been to Hirut's as she was leaving for Ethiopia. Me and her sat and spent a good couple of hours drinking up her gin (Bombay Saphire!) - without any mixer. So I was already pretty darn sozzled by the time I got there. Which made Friday rather painful. I was still recovering from that hangover on Saturday at the Peace Weekend. Not exactly strategic, but a lot of fun.

So, then, Saturday night after the stall was packed up and I'd been home for a nice looong snooze, I met up with Cathryn, Rose, Peace, Sarah, Giudi and Maxime at the bar up from Stella and we started all over again, culminating in a surprisingly still-rather-sober night out at KBC in honour of Brad's last Friday night in town - he flies home to New York early this Saturday so no night out Friday - which resulted in me falling into bed around 4am.

So, Sunday was largely spent sleeping. I woke around 11:30 and called Jo. Jo used to be on the Disability team when I first arrived and taught me the ropes. She also used to run Salsa at Passadena, which is now hugely popular. Then she and her partner Pierre went back to London so that Pierre could do his master's degree. Anyway, they're back for a two-week holiday and live literally over the road from me with a huge pizza oven in the garden.

They were having a pizza party but I didn't think that I would make it because I wasn't sure what I'd be up to on Sunday. However, when I woke nothing in the world seemed more appealing at that moment in time than a slice of free pizza to soak up the alcohol.

I ambled over there around 1:30. I got a bit lost en route as it's down a mud track. When I stopped to call her I saw a band of li'le urchins coming toward me. I thought I'd have enough time to make the call then start walking away quickly, but I mis-timed it and by the time I hung up they had surrounded me. About ten kids all shouting 'muzungu muzungu amaferanga amaferanga!' When you're horrifically hungover, just woken up and lost, it's the last thing in the world you want. Ashamed to say, I did end up shouting at them very loudly in Kinyarwanda *sigh* I haven't done that in a long time but c'mon guys, step back. It wasn't nice pestering either, pretty full-on.

Anyway, I got there, it was a blistering hot day for the first time in weeks of intermittent rain. There they were, stoking the fire on the pizza oven as if they'd never been away. It was so wonderful to see them.

Giudi and Maxime came, Anja and Coco - the whole gang back together. It was just perfect. Free food, and booze from a fridge! Although, Anja brought a bottle of rosé with a cork instead of a screw-top and we didn't have a bottle opener, so Pierre ended up getting the power tools out. With a sublime group effort we opened it with an electric drill! Huzah! :op

It was just the most wonderful day and we all stayed well into the evening and watched the sun sink over a panoramic view of Kigali. All the little lights came on whilst we set out candles. The boys played the Rwandan version of omweso whilst us girlies just chatted away.

Jo walked back to mine with me to see the cats and we sat outside my gate catching-up. Truly memorable day and not a more relaxed Sunday ever lived I don't think.

Monday was an extremely slow day as my colleagues were preparing for a trip to Cyangugu and I was continuing with the disability document. Jo and Pierre picked me up in their 4x4 around mid-day and took me for a slap-up lunch at New Cactus! Then presented me with an entire bag of chocolate and glossy magazines. Two days of full feeding and no paying - I was somehow in heaven :op

They've headed to Gisenyi for a break but they will be back on Friday so I'm going to try and drag them out to KBC as the best jazz/blues band on the continent are playing: Black, Blue, Uzungu. Giudi, Maxime, Anja, Coco and Cathryn should be coming too.

Then, last night I was settling down and watching a film that Dad sent out: Priceless. It's gone straight to the top of my favourite films ever list. Really very good, which helped even out The Duchess with Kiera Knightley, which had to be one of the most singularly depressing films I've seen in a long while, though it was nicely shot.

I'd got within about twenty minutes of the end when Cathryn called to say Brad had invited us over to his place ('his' now that Hirut's in Ethiopia) for spag bol and fun with a perforated coke can (don't ask). So I got cleaned-up and headed over.

We had a most excellent night just relaxing, giggling, and being silly. The three of us together is more than most people, even ourselves, can stand on the hyperactive, hyper-manic scale and it's best we remove ourselves from polite society once the beer starts flowing. It ended up at 2am with Cathryn and I crashing out in the spare room upstairs.

Not your typical Monday night, but we got up silly early. Brad was going to give us a lift up the hill on his moto but we both decided we needed to leave a little earlier as I had to be in the office by nine and desperately needed a shower before that. So we walked up the biiiig hill from Nyarutarama and hailed motos in our respective directions.

I felt surprisingly good, actually. Went to the office, there was nobody around so I invited Cathryn and Brad to MTN Bourbon for lunch where I planned on doing the rest of my work, but, after an hour-and-a-half wait almost for food, and then Cathryn dashing off to her next meeting, I decided to come home and get on with it. Which I have.

Brad will be sorely missed, as will Jo and Pierre. The past week I have been partying hard to make the most of my friends before they all leave again. One of the major down-sides to an ex-pat life, people are always on the move and you just have to groove with them whilst you can.

So, should be a bit quiet now until Thursday, when we'll have farewell drinks for Brad, then Friday when we're off to Black, Blue, Uzungu and possibly Torero where Kivu Writers are planning a showcase event :)

Should all be good. Bring it awwwn.

[NB 2013: My friends Vikki and Dai are currently on a round-the-world tour. They've already done Asia, Australia and they're on their way to Fiji. Sonny got married in September and also completed the Marathon Des Sables in aid of Cancer Research! Jo and Pierre are in the process of moving back to Rwanda permanently with their daughter Zuba.]

Friday, 15 May 2009

Two Person Lock-In

Is I beautiful?

Ooooh, what a hangover I had this morning.

Last night was Lies' hen night at SoleLuna but I was meeting up with Cathryn beforehand so that we could go together.

I met her at the Goat & Gorilla, which is the pub inside the British Embassy. It's open every Thursday but you have to be on 'the list' to get in - i.e. know someone who works there. I'd never been on the list before, so this was my first time and I was extremely curious. Managed to get Jane to put me down - very kind of her.

So, you go into the Embassy grounds and it's right round the back. You wouldn't know it was there. It's a lawn with an under-cover bar, a BBQ, and a small seating area. It's fab. You buy tokens for either FRW 2,000 or 5,000 but the beer is incredibly cheap! It's FRW 750 for a small draft Mutzig (so I guess 1,500 for a large - it's 2,000/2,500 elsewhere) and whisky for FRW 500! And if the guy behind the bar likes you, the token never seems to run out. I think there may be room to park a tent on the lawn...

Really lovely atmosphere, very relaxed, and they even ring a bell for 'last orders' like back home :op The brochettes (fish and goat) are outstanding, too.

Giudi, Anja and Alicia's sister Sarah (who is here doing research) were there, and so were Kieran and his lady, Jane, and a few other faces I recognised. We drank rather a lot and then headed to SoleLuna.

Loads of people were there including Meg, Isadora, and Lies' friends and sister. Not often you sit down at a table surrounded by people you don't know and have such an excellent night. I was talking to Karen, who works for the UN department that Isadora's with, Brittany, who is one of Meg's volunteers, and another lady who used to work for Meg and now works in Uganda. They were a really good laugh and much fun was had by all.

When they eventually left, Cathryn and I decided to stay for one last beer and a catch-up. We were the only people there by this point and weren't sure if they'd serve us. But they did... and then left! All the staff went home :op

About twenty minutes later the lights went out!

So, we sat and finished our beer in the dark and then let ourselves out and got motos home! Really weeeird.

Today, I suffered slightly. Not as much as Cathryn, who had to get up at six to go to work. I just had to go to the bank then swing past Lies' for a final dreading session. Her family were all there and, whilst I took care of her hair, a guy gave her a manicure and pedicure whilst two women were drawing mendi patters on the bridesmaids' hands.

Afterwards, I came home and met up with D who had the Single Parents Network banner from Kampala - it's fantastic! Seriously excellent banner, can't wait to put it up at the stall and take some photos for the website :)

He's also got 500 flyers printed. Not bad, great to have something to hand out, but a few spelling and content issues I could have done without. Even though I'd given him the content he still changed a few things and there hadn't been time before he left to print a draft. It's really nothing major - I'm just a bit of a perfectionist with things like that. We'll correct it for the next batch. As I say, it's just excellent to have something to hand out. Not folded yet though, so I'll be busy each evening doing that until the event.

So, after he left I've just been prepping myself for tomorrow. Cathryn and I will be helping out with 'protocol' at the reception. We get to wear Rasta coloured mushananas! But it does mean being at Saint Paul's for 8am. Hence the face mask. Setting my alarm early to be ready for it. It's going to be an excellent day - the Deaf Intore troop will be performing. Hope to have some pictures eventually. Really looking forward to it.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Ineza Pictures

Pictures from Ineza Guesthouse in Butare where Martine and I escaped for our weekend away.

Martine, looking lurvely.

Yes, I know, smoking - but it was a lovely sunny day, and umuganda. Just chilling out waiting for the world to roll back into action.

Traditional Rwandan bee hive made from banana leaves.

Avocados in their natural habitat.

Li'le spirit hut?

Gorilla in the Trees!

Pretty Flowers

Around the yard...