Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Muahahahahaha

I have been sneezing solidly for two weeks now and I want to gouge my nose out with a spoon.

Clears up whenever I leave the house, but I seem to be highly allergic to something here. I have no idea what, but I think it's the time of year. Jo's had it too, and I remember getting crazy hay fever  at the start of rainy season in the past. Unfortunately I can't take antihistamines as they knock me out completely. Just having to suffer through. My energy levels are shot.

Finally, finally, finally managed to pay for my laissez-passer today. Oh my gods, what a trial. It used to be that you went to Immigration, paid at the Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) booth there, then processed your papers - all conveniently in the same place. 

Now, due to some 'let's put everything online' madness that seems to have gripped the country, you have to apply to pay for it online, take the receipt to your bank, pay for it there, then go to Immigration to start processing. Such a silly system.

Causes massive problems, especially as it's end of year tax return mayhem. I filed mine a while back, thankfully, but look at the queues outside my bank! 




All the way around the yard. Reckon over 100 people, easy. I took one look and ran away. The booth for paying RRA is the same if you're trying to pay your tax or Immigration. Totally crap. So I went in to speak to Customer Services at my bank. They were aggressive and insulting (when not playing with their mobile phone). First time I've ever had to ask a Customer Service person not to raise their voice at me! They told me 'why try to bank here? You could go to another branch, like Remera.'

Oh, well, sorry - I bank here because it's in the centre of town and that's where I happened to be. I assumed the largest branch of the largest bank in Kigali might also be the most efficient. But, okay, let me fork out for transport across town to your other branch, as you seem to think that will be better...




Oh, gee, yes. What an improvement.

I gave up and went home.

Bank of Kigali having a total meltdown.

"Everyone always leaves their taxes until the last minute" Customer Service said.

"Really?" I replied. "Yet you do nothing about it."

"What do you want us to do about it?"

... seriously?

That afternoon I called up Jo and suggested lunch and a rant. 

We went for melange at a place near her house. The waiter promptly threw a glass of pineapple juice over me. What a week.

Ended up back at Jo's, where she was desperately trying to complete her annual tax returns for the business she bought this year. The former owner hadn't made life easy, and there were two A4 envelopes stuffed full of receipts.

I'm one of these strange people who quite likes menial administrative chores. They give me a sense of calm. So, I opened up an envelope and started numbering the receipts whilst reading the details (from whom, how much, when) to Jo, who entered them into an Excel sheet for RRA.

We did about an hour's worth, then she dropped me home to change my pineapple-smelling jeans, pick up Zuba from school, and buy a bottle of wine. We headed back to hers and continued whilst watching Frozen. The wine was incredible. It was a sweet Argentinian red called Birds & Bees, like drinking liquid honey. 

Munching on chunky chocolate chip cookies, we packed Zuba off to bed and pushed towards the end of the second pile.

Then I found this...





"Oh, my god!" I said. "I have got to stay there!"

Silent Hill was one of the first movies to be adapted from a computer game. It's a horror.

"Oh, I remember that," said Jo. "Did it have a woman and her kid?"

"That's the one."

"Was there a happy ending?"

"Nooo."



We started giggling. Then the next receipt was...




"Twenty-eight thousand three hundred, thirteenth of March twenty-fourteen. Hotel MUHA.... HAHAHAHAHAHA."

That was it. We completely lost it. We were bent double, sobbing with laughter. I think we've both been so rundown lately we just desperately needed a release. Once we started laughing we couldn't stop. Best giggling fit I've had in so long.

Who knew filing tax returns could be so much fun?

Pulled up my old returns and talked her through the final submission process. It's such a ridiculously convoluted system. Well, not such a bad system as a totally dire website. It really is like a Rubik's cube. I once asked RRA if it was deliberate, suspecting they probably made more money out of fining people for late returns (because they couldn't work out the system) than they did from honest tax payment. Swear to goodness, this was their reply:



Aaanyway. Enough griping. It's finally done.

Finished up my glass of divine red and took a wander to find a moto. Love Kigali at night. It's been voted the second safest city in the world for women to walk alone at night, and the first in Africa. It's really easy to see why. Never get any hassle at night in the burbs.



Used to live down that street on the left.
Please take a moment to marvel at the street lights.



My debit card runs out tomorrow, so today I decided to head up to Novotel to take out enough cash to see me until my new card arrives. It's a fairly posh hotel in my neighbourhood. After all the craziness of the past couple of days, I decided to treat myself to their expensive, but utterly delicious, buffet. Needed the vitamin hit, and for pudding they had these gorgeous little cakes dripping with chocolate sauce. It rained heavily once I arrived, but I took my book and huddled up with after-dinner coffee until it stopped.




On a total whim, I popped into IM Bank in the hotel. I produced my online receipt for RRA and asked whether I could pay it there. I'd just assumed that I had to pay it at Bank of Kigali. There weren't any queues in IM Bank and it's a small branch, so I reasoned they couldn't possibly make the transaction...

... they could!

Immigration is a fifteen minute walk down the road.

I took my payment slip and my forms and I was served really quickly!

In about half an hour I'd achieved what I couldn't achieve in three hours the day before.

That's just the way of things in Kigali.

Nobody will volunteer helpful information. If you don't know the question to ask, you'll never get the answer. But every now and then, like a LucasArts roleplay game, you'll make a chance discovery that shortcuts you through the bullshit to the final prize! 

The moment you submit the form to Immigration, it's 24-hours to process. Super quick. The fact it had taken me 48 hours to get to that point was forgotten. I was so chuffed at finally getting what I wanted. I suppose the harder it is to make something happen, the more satisfaction is derived in finally making it?

It's been a trying, yet strangely good, few days. I just wish I could stop sneezing. 

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Rainy Days

video

Aaaah. The rainy season is well and truly here. I love this time of year. It's the closest to British weather you get - grey, overcast, raining and chilly enough to warrant slippers and a jumper. My favourite type of weather. Nobody goes out when it's raining, so no chance of surprise visitors. There's something really cosy about waking to the sound of rain on the tin roof. Hot chocolate weather. Also writing weather.

Not, however, washing weather. Damascene put my clothes out on the line and they remained there for two days until we saw enough sun to bring them in again.

I've also changed bedrooms and it's made life much pleasanter. I originally took the bedroom with the en suite, but next door's dog barks all night and there's a little shop over the road where people sometimes drink and get a bit loud.

As I have three bedrooms, I decided to switch to the one I was using as the main guest room. It's totally devoid of barking dogs and drunkards. Instead, there's this glorious night chorus of frogs and crickets. It's so soothing. Sleeping much better in there, on my brand new mattress.



Due to the cold weather I had a go at comfort food last night. First time I think I've bought and cooked meat at home. Christiane once made some stunning pork chops, but I just never buy the stuff. The other day I saw they had sausages in Ndoli's, so decided to see how edible they were. I must admit, my poor tummy is screaming for something different. Decided to cook them up with onions, tomatoes, peppers and a ton of garlic, served on a bed of couscous. 

Hit the spot.




Sadly, doesn't look like I'll be seeing my friend B in the DRC. Despite agreeing it would be 'like a dream' to catch up after all this time, I just can't get to him. It's about a thirteen hour bus journey according to Google (read 20), through a highly unstable zone. There's an airport, but I checked SkyScanner and it couldn't find any flights. When I asked, he said planes sometimes go less than once a week and there's no real timetable.

I just can't afford to get stuck out there. I have my job to do.

I'm thinking, maybe if I wrap everything up in September, I might just go see if I can get there before I head back to Blighty.

Monday, 23 March 2015

CEPGL

Whisky Mac in a Pesto Jar
So Bad, It's Good

Eeeeep!

I'm all excited.

Firstly, I've been implementing my 'everyone sod off' policy and I'm feeling much better for it (though better is relative, I still have a stinking cold that just won't shift). 

I'm focusing on writing, which is going very well. Interspersing writing chapters of my own book with reading chapters of other people's books - very pleasurable, especially horizontal on the couch. I'm in discussions to bring a partner into my business to help me cope. I've cut back on seeing people entirely (What's that missus? You bail on me with five minutes notice and now you want me to drop everything and go drinking? Old me, sure, no problem. New me - not on your nelly! And not just because I need to snot into a tissue.) Up with this I will not put! Here beginneth Hermit Girl.

I like writing more than I like people.

There. I've said it.

Well, except maybe Jo and Zuba. I like them about the same as writing. They can stay.

But, but, but... *excited wiggle* I'm applying for my CEPGL!

Yeah, I can't pronounce it either.

But it's way cool.

Basically, it's sharing the East Africa love. Early this year Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya had a big hug and made themselves a single visa zone for people like me (ex-pat rez). Means I shouldn't get charged at the borders when crossing. 

Then, thanks to friends, I discovered I can get a CEPGL (laissez passer) which allows me to do the same for the DRC and Burundi! I am so stoked at this. I really wanted to visit Buj, but I thought I had to pay $90 for a three-day pass. Apparently, with this, it's a free thirty-day pass!

However, I'm currently DRC bound. 

The UK client I mentioned in my last post has offered me a tour of Goma! 

Yes, the place with the giant volcanic cloud factory!

I've stared at it from Gisenyi, but never been. Along with Burundi, it was on the list of places-you-get-sent-home-for-going-to back when I was a VSO. Since I got back, I've never had the courage to go on my own (there's a border curfew, 6pm-6am, if you don't make it back in time, you're stuck). So the offer of a comfortable car trip with a guy who grew up there is way too interesting to pass up.

Provided I can get well enough by then. 

I didn't realise how many people I know over in Goma. At least two former VSOs are resident. One lives there with her husband, and another's in the process of moving. Back in 2012 it was a war zone. Apparently, after Goma fell, it was going to be called The Volcanic Republic and made into a new country! It's apparently settled down a lot since then. Not as safe as Kigali - but then, where is?


(click to enlarge)


I just feel ridiculously happy at the prospect of seeing somewhere new.

I also know a guy from years back, a distant cousin of the Sharmas of mumugi, who lives somewhere called Kindu. Apparently it's an hour's flight from Goma. 


(click to enlarge)


It's been years since I last saw him, and I'd love to see him again. I'm going to check how much the flights cost and whether I can realistically take the time out. I've always wanted to see the DRC, specifically the Congo Delta, but I'd happily make do with Goma and a rural sojourn. I know my friend B doesn't get many visitors, and he had a shocking time of it during the war. I think it might be fun to catch up. I'd be as safe as I could be with him.

So - something to look forward to, hopefully. Health allowing. (Fuck you health! I don't need your permission!... though I do need LemSip...)

I'm still desperate to go home for a bit, but I might as well amuse myself in between. DRC and - if I can find someone to go with me - Bujumbura before it implodes. (There should be a giant digital clock above the border counting down to elections - or lack of). 

"You have three minutes to reach the border before this country consumes itself..." tick, tick, tick

I am sick as a dog, but I feel totally uplifted. 

Going to stuff my face with a cheese and pesto toastie (I need more jars to drink whisky from...) and wrestle my kettle off this guy so I can make a cup of tea.


Friday, 20 March 2015

Reclaiming My Time


Saw this in the lovely little internet/stationary shop up the road in Kacyiru where I buy my electricity and airtime. I've never seen a customer service notice in Rwanda before. I think every shop should have one. 

To be fair, this guy, Emmanuel, is pretty special. He sells me stuff in advance, texting me the codes, and I pop in to pay him whenever I'm passing. Extraordinarily useful when it's raining or, like now, when I'm laid low with a cold and can't be bothered to crawl up the hill. 

In other news, I'm weirdly quite happy at the moment. Got the most incredible book review and a couple of authors started big-upping my work on Twitter. Resulted in a few more book sales, hopefully. Was supposed to have a dinner date today, but she stood me up - again. Which, oddly, despite dragging myself out of bed and making myself smell nice, wasn't a disappointment at all. The last thing I feel like doing at the moment is entertaining anybody. So I've had a really lazy day. 

Also excited as I took on a UK client a year or so ago. I got a bit suspicious the other day because he has the same last name as my landlord. Turns out they don't know each other, but he is Rwandan, and he's coming here en route to Goma this month! Truly excited to meet him, as we've been working together (virtually) for a long time. 

Last night I had a really long chat with an old friend. We talked for ages, whilst the cutest baby gecko eavesdropped by my elbow.


Spot the Gecko?


I love them even more than millipedes. Wee boggley-eyed geckos are so cute. They don't say their names (gecko, gecko) like the ones in Laos, but occasionally they chitter at each other.

Anyway...

This friend of mine runs an online database of standing stones and ancient sites. I've known him for years - he is one of my oldest friends. A few years ago we started talking about turning his passion into something a bit wider-reaching. Basically converting it to a nonprofit so that we could develop projects and get more people involved with it.

It's taken a couple of years, but we've now got a really good team of trustees and committed volunteers involved (including his daughter, who is brilliant). Everything's moving forward well. That's part of the reason we were talking. 

It made me nostalgic for standing stones and sweeping glens. For being able to walk out into the middle of nowhere without being chased for money or having the word muzungu screamed at me. To enjoy the perfect silence of the lochs, and watch the deer and the birds of prey. 

I'm having a real life/work evaluation at the moment.

Decided to cut out everything that I'm not really enjoying or that doesn't further the things I enjoy. 

Things I really want:

  • To keep writing
  • To read more
  • To invest my time in my friend's project, because it makes me smile and it's actually delivering results


Things that gotta go:

  • People who keep you waiting or leave you hanging. I'm audi. Seriously, done.
  • Doing free stuff for people. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. I'm terrible at offering free stuff (websites, consultancy, training) or grossly under-charging. (Exceptions made for incredible friends who have done stuff for me in the past - the givers not just the takers.)
  • Development work - on the whole. You know what? I don't actually enjoy it.
  • Being tied to my business. Time to either a) bring on a partner b) give it to someone c) close it. Administration here is 24/7. I want an extended break in the UK come September (perhaps even repatriation). I don't want to be worrying about tax returns or chasing contracts whilst I'm there.
  • My UK charity, which was another 'for-the-sake-of-it' project. I don't have the time or the passion to invest. As it's not doing anything, might as well not exist.


I think that's it to begin with. I've already started my friends cull. Going to get a lot more jealous over my time. I've realised just how much of my day is spent waiting on other people to get back to me so that I can complete the favour I offered to do them. 

What a waste!

Planning to wind everything down towards September. Going to get up in the mornings and write before I so much as glance at my e-mails. Tried that today. Got 5,000 words down!

When I do reply to e-mails, I'm going to read them thoroughly and answer them succinctly. In no more than a few lines if they're work-related. My aim is to cut down the amount that comes through my in-box by being efficient in answering, and - unless absolutely necessary - asking no questions that might solicit another back and forth. 

I'm so totes in the zone.



Finally Looking Like a Home
Thank Heavens for Damascene



Monday, 16 March 2015

Foot 'n' Mouth


Sad news as more than 100 cows in Eastern Province have been affected by foot and mouth. I still remember the huge outbreak of this we had in the UK back in 2001. The air stank from the smoke of burning cow pyres. Truly awful. It's bad news here. Rwanda is a country that worships cows. It's joked that one of the few rules in the highway code is: should a car and a cow reach a narrow bridge at the same time, the cow has right of way.

Even female intore dancing is nicknamed 'cow dancing' as they raise their arms to mimic the shape of the cows' horns.

It's a rather balmy 32c in Kigali today. Just been into town to post some stuff and treat myself to a Karibu buffet (perhaps the only place in the whole of Rwanda you find crispy cauliflower cheese). Damascene is here cleaning the house after a couple of week' absence to sort out his own house. So nice to come home to everything so clean.

I've been sneezing solidly for days now. Bunged up, sniffly and absolutely exhausted. I'm waiting for him to leave so that I can take a nap on the couch.

In a fit of suspicion, I decided to wash my mosquito nets yesterday. They came with the house and one of them was a strange shade of yellow. Turned the water brown when I washed it. Don't think it'd been washed in years. I've been wheezing like a tomcat the past few days, surviving off steroid spray and VitC (probably better used to plug up my nose...). Lying there awake at stupid o'clock, I began to wonder whether I had dusty mosquito nets and that's what's causing the problem? So I cut them down and cleaned them.


Re-attaching the one in the spare room involved standing on top of a chair, on top of a thick foam mattress, on top of a rickety wooden bed, looking like a circus performer and trying to fight the notion that if I fell, there was a very hard concrete floor beneath me.

The nets definitely smell better now, but I was still sneezing last night.

Perhaps Damascene's efforts will help. He's certainly helped to evict the mass ant population. I had an entire train of ants running across my table last night. They were very considerate to go around my laptop rather than over it.

I was so lucky in the old house, we hardly had any insects. There are loads of ants and baby millipedes here. Which I will admit, I completely adore. I don't know why. I've always felt a strange affinity with millipedes. Think they're such cute little things the way they curl up when they're frightened or sleeping. Harmless wee things. Don't like centipedes though. Move a bit too quick for my liking.

I've even developed a silly song I sing when I see one.

Which is fairly regularly.

Hey millipedey, little millipedey. Hey millipedey - yay!

Ugh. I am so tired.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Crawling Towards the Weekend

Oh my god, I am so full of snot!

I'm going to curl up in bed early and make love to a LemSip.

My nose hasn't stopped running since Tuesday. Christiane came - my first visitor - and I proceeded to fall ill on her. Local toilet paper is cousin to sandpaper and my poor snoz is red-raw from blowing. LL was supposed to come over today but all I could manage was a pathetic whatsapp announcing my demise. 

Everything hurts.

In other news...





Reconstruction of Damascene's house (which got washed away in the rains recently) is in full swing. He's extremely happy, though only working for me once a week at the moment as 1) I don't need full-time staff and 2) he prefers living in Kanombe where he knows loads of people and gets occasional work. So, we've renegotiated the arrangement and everyone's happy. Saves me some money and I still get someone I trust working in the house. 

Found this weird caterpillar with a predator head! Was well scary.




Decided not to take him in and hatch him like the last one, for fear he might rip off my face in the night.

Got a papaya growing.



Incredible sunset over Kigali the other day.



And a rainbow when I got home.



Jo had been driving me about Kigali, helping me to get my gas bottle refilled. Bumped into a guy at the petrol station who was really upset. Turned out he'd been using the ATM. It was just in the process of counting the money when the electricity went out. No one knew when it would come back on again, and he didn't know if the money would then dispense to whoever was standing in front of it at the time.

Tough situation. No idea how it ended. Wasn't a number or anything inside the ATM to call in case of technical difficulties. (That would be too much like customer service, and Bank of Kigali don't do that, as I'll get to shortly). Though we have just added 28MW to the grid, which is fantastic news. Hopefully that should help prevent such things in the future.





Such a beautiful sight! Plus it's got an internal flint so I won't get through so many matches. After Kanombe, where I had a fully kitted kitchen, it does feel a little like camping in my front room.

Celebrated by cracking open my birthday tin of Heinz Baked Beans. I also have the toaster and kettle set up. Never had an electric kettle before. It used to blow up.

Out of sheer curiosity, I did explore the traditional charcoal cooker outside. Damascene left a bag of charcoal under the sink. He made me an incredible meal on it before, so I went and bought a big pan with notions of resting a thick stew to simmer over the embers. Decided to test out my new purchase by boiling peas and rice. You have to give peas (amashaza) a head start as they're hard as marbles.





  



Sadly, I think the charcoal had grown damp. Try as I might, I just couldn't get it to take. Made me supremely grateful for my gas cooker.

Dragged myself out of bed today to go pay my quarterly VAT return at the bank. RRA were actually really good at responding to queries this time. Sent them an e-mail late at night and there was a reply waiting first thing in the morning. Like a plonker, I'd filled out my return in GBP. Basically, to convert between FRW and GBP, you just knock off three zeros. So instead of putting in something like FRW 100,000 I'd only put in FRW 100. Major error. Thankfully it turned out to be easily rectifiable.

Yet where RRA is improving, Bank of Kigali are just as hellish as ever. I swear to gods I'm leaving this bank. There are far better banks about. If I decide I'm definitely staying, I definitely will. Otherwise I only have to endure them until September.

Basically, you're supposed to be able to pay your bills online. Yet when I went to set it up at BK, they scribbled down a password on a post-it note (!!!) and when I got home it didn't work. Surprise, surprise. So I'm still having to go to pay my bills on foot.

And when I get there, I'm still met with a wall of people and an hour's wait just to hand over my cheque.


This is the back of the queue. When you get to the chairs you're allowed to sit down. Well, until someone goes to the counter, then everybody moves along one chair. It's a system they used to use five years ago in the worst banks. BK switched to a ticketing machine instead, but the ticket machine kept breaking and didn't work in power cuts, so it appears they're back to the chair system again. When you get to the last chair on the back left, you then have to stand up and walk around the entire front row to take up the empty chair on the front right. That's if one of the dozen queue-jumpers doesn't take your seat first.

I get so mad at that. Being British, I was born queueing. We've made it an art form. Yet Rwandans often complain how 'poeple in the West are so rude, they never look out for each other. Here in Rwanda we always look out for each other, we are a community.' *coughing into hand* I'm sorry, but that's blatant butterballs. Every time there's a queue it's every wo/man for her/himself. Elbows at dawn. Forget the elderly, the weak and infirm, it's survival (or service) of the fittest. The people behind the desk don't give a hoot either, they'll happily turn to serve someone else in the middle of serving you, if that person speaks louder or leans across your window. Same goes for buffets and - on the whole - driving. S/he who dares, wins. Being British, I am genetically incapable of pushing someone out of the way or jumping the queue. I am fated to die here from starvation, clasping my revenue cheque to my weak-beating heart as it finally fails.

Plus, this: 


The biggest bank in Rwanda can't even be bothered to print out a clear list of account numbers for its customers. You need these numbers on the back of any cheque, so that you deposit it into the right account. Yet, look at this! I couldn't even make out the numbers on the middle row - had to ask the guy standing next to me.

Bank of Kigali now charge FRW 2,000 every time you make a withdrawal from one of their ATM machines, yet they can't print a simple sheet of paper, and I have never, ever had a response to one of my customer e-mail enquiries. 

They really are utterly dreadful. Top tip to anyone contemplating coming to Rwanda, check out Access Bank, GT Bank and IM Bank (my friend swears by IM's local branch in Kibuye, but I wasn't that impressed by their mumugi branch). I like Access at the moment because they don't charge to use their ATMs.

So, yes. I crawled out of bed to go deal with that (totally lost it with a woman who just pushed right in front of me - breathed cold over her in retribution), then got a moto home ('Oya - no mobile phone whilst you're driving!'), got within sight of my house when the heavens opened.

Staggered through the door looking like a drowned rat, sloshing water across the floor.

*AAAAACCHHHOOOOOOOOO*

*SNIFF*

Saturday, 7 March 2015

ZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzz...


Holy bologna, Batman!

Finished unpacking the house last night (during two hours of Windows updates, which I'll get to in a moment...) and the dust got right up my nose. Decided to pop an antihistamine around 11pm as I was headed to bed. 

Forgot those things work like horse tranquilisers on me. Woke up at 1:30 this afternoon!

Now that's time travel.

Also forgot they last for twenty-four hours. Trying to get our of bed was like trying to lift a ten ton truck with my teeth. Slowly coaxed myself back to life with coffee and chocolate.

Had the most incredible epic dream about a former tutor of mine. I won't recount, it'd go on for pages and pages. The brief synopsis is that we ended up walking through the back streets of London, getting mugged by three evil-as-fuck Millwall supporters, I stuffed my phone down my bra and legged it, and we ended up in a twelve-step program for abuse victims, talking about a revolutionary new building material for making steps down the side of waterfalls. 

Also had my first asthma attack in years. Ended up pumped full of antihistamines and steroids. Say what you like about smoking, but I never had asthma problems when I smoked. Not sure what's so great about sharpening all your senses, sometimes you dull them for a reason.

Anyway, yes, one month smoke-free, I think.

Honestly very grateful to be dreaming again. 

It's been a truly stressful couple of days. Everything was going great until my computer decided to update itself to Windows 8.1, wiping out my entire Office suite, all my programs, including PaintShop Pro. Cost me a fortune to put everything right again. On top of which Airtel, one of Rwanda's sucky excuses for an internet provider, put their prices up (no such thing as a competitive open market here - price wars in favour of the customer? Dream on.) from £10 to £13 for 5GB! Ouch.

You need 3GB to download Office. Went round five shops here, all with Airtel above the door. Not one of them sold Airtel. But, in the tradition of local shops in Kigali, you could buy a lot of Jambo tinned sardines. Might try stuffing one of those in my USB hole next time. 

Finally befriended a lovely guy up the road who runs an internet cafĂ©. Enterprisingly, he also sells airtime and electricity using a little machine. Any time I run out, I can just call him (for airtime or electricity), he'll text me the codes and I can pop in and pay next time I'm passing. Very useful when it's raining, or when I simply can't be bothered to leave the house. 

Interestingly, Kagame's just won an award in France for his service to broadband. I'm going to jump in here and say that the people of Rwanda don't need ever-increasing speed and expense. No one needs super fast broadband for the elite. What Rwanda needs is adequate, affordable internet for all.

If we're truly trying to build an ICT nation here, let's walk and then run. If it's expensive in Kigali, I can only imagine how many people in the rural areas can afford it. Faster technology is a quick money-grab for companies, makes headlines in The New Times, but builds little lasting infrastructure of use to the impoverished (majority) working class.

It's so sad to see this incredible technology that has the power to transform minds and nations, restricted to the rich. Absolutely not in the spirit of Berners-Lee. EDCs following the hype of the West without thinking whether things could be done differently. Better. More egalitarian. The future education of a nation surely comes before the immediate profit of Airtel/MTN/Tigo? If Kagame is a leader in new technological frontiers, he could certainly go one step further and become a pioneer of open access, prompting the self-education of a people. That is, after all, what internet is all about. Access to information, to enlightenment and to personal development.

Who can afford the type of money companies are charging for internet? Why does the cost keep going up? Why does the cost of a basic package not drop when new technology comes on the market? Why do prices appear to be fixed, without healthy consumer-based competition?

And, being honest, who really gives two hoots about broadband when most of the time you can't get water or electricity to stay constant? That was my immediate thought whilst reading the New Times article, in the dark, without a flushing toilet.

Priorities, people. Priorities.

So, I've spent most of the week cursing Microsoft and Airtel in equal measure. Crap bunch of companies.

Finally got everything working again after necessary software purchases, four hours of updates, and enough ire to light up a nuclear power plant.

Been up for about two hours now. Almost time to go back to bed.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Fairy Chain


Had a lovely surprise at the post office the other day. Late birthday arrival from my friend Cassie back home in the UK. Wee Ryanman did me a card. I was with them for my last birthday.

Truly the most beautiful gifts. The journal is awesome. It's full of activities like stamping on it with muddy shoes, ripping the pages, gluing them back together and stabbing holes with a pencil. Highly therapeutic. The necklace is totally beautiful. It's got a tiny bottle of rose petals attached! And a little silver disk saying dream.



I wore it tonight with purple eyeshadow to match.





Did some present wrapping of my own. Today was a very special day. It was my friend Joanna's birthday, and also her nationality day. My friend Christiane got her nationality last month, and Jo got hers this month. So I now know two white Rwandans. That confuses people a bit. 

I included a few bits and pieces in my parcel, but the key present was a cheese board and a bottle of nice white wine. It's very hard to find good cheese here. It's a bit of a treat, and I know she loves it. Camembert, Edam, a nice garlicky soft cheese and something like a Red Leicester. 


She instructed me to head to the top of T200 (tay deux mille), which is this massive Chinese supermarket in town. I was a bit baffled, but didn't argue. It was Jo's birthday after all. If she chose to spend it in the booze aisle of a shopping mall, who was I to protest?

Message in the lift.
Aw, bless Rwanda.

I was absolutely amazed when the lift doors opened on the top floor to reveal a rooftop Chinese restaurant. It's absolutely gorgeous up there. Done out like a rooftop garden with a beautiful view of the whole city.







It was also her niece Lara's second birthday, so there was cake and presents a-plenty.

To Rwandan Jo










Totally lovely night. Always a pleasure hanging out with Jo, Pierre and Zubadoo. Talking about doing another stretch of the Congo Nile Trail soon.