Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Soaps 'n' Suds

Gorgeous clouds over Kigali the other day.

This one looks like there's a snow-capped mountain growing out of it.

As promised, more quiche pictures. I bought a new pot to bake in. Seems to work well, though it's a little larger, so I'm still getting the hang of timing.

 Bought a proper flan tin, non-stick. Makes a difference.

Also had a go at making banana bread. Wasn't bad - very moist - but the bottom cooked much faster than the top. 

Will definitely be doing that again.

Even had some guests turn up. I heard my doorbell go. When I opened the gate, this is what I found.

I think they got the wrong house. Foghorn Leghorn lives two doors down.

Anyway - what a week! And I'm not even halfway through yet!

On Sunday I interviewed a new house helper. I now have three. Damascene, my helper since I returned to Rwanda in 2014, is still in service now and then, but he lives quite a way out, so it costs me in transport. I have Emmanuel, who is a local security guard by day but a great gardener on weekends. They both speak Kinyarwanda with very little English, and I'm the opposite, so communication can be a challenge, and sometimes you just really want things done a certain way. Like, for instance, I want to colour coordinate the cleaning cloths so that I never accidentally end up using the toilet cloth to do my dishes. I'd also like people to put things back after cleaning. When Emmanuel does it, he spends one day cleaning and I spend three days trying to find where he's put everything. Then there's the timing issue. People like to show that they are working. When Damascene cleans, he can be at it for five to six hours. It's very hard to explain that the money is the same, however long it takes, and personally I'm happy to have it done quickly and everyone can relax. 

So, I put out an andvert for an English-speaking cleaner. In the advert I asked people to SMS or WhatsApp in the first instance, partly because I didn't want calls at all times of the day and night, partly because I wanted to check their English, but mostly because I wanted to see who could follow instructions. 

It was a little awful. I had a couple of begging messages 'please, I really, really need this job' (a lot of people out of work at the moment), and one who was a qualified Agronomist who couldn't find anything else!

One lady was streets ahead, though. Her English was good, she was professional in her approach. So I invited her over. She turned up exactly when she said she would, and was really lovely. I'm going to try her out next week.

Monday was a bit of a disaster. I woke up to find that my fridge had died in the night. There was a swimming pool where my kitchen used to be. I tried to clean it up using the brand new mop I'd bought from Nakumatt. One wipe and...

Typical. It's wholly depressing to know that what people pay ten quid for here, you could get better quality in a pound shop in the UK. 

Then I attempted to do my washing. The washing line snapped twicePlus I suffered third degree burns in the sunshine. I usually enjoy doing my washing, but that was a bit of a chore. Still feeling sore for it. In the dry season I do my washing in the evenings and leave it out overnight, but during the wet season you have to take any hours you can get between thunder storms.

Finally, my water filter started leaking.

I decided to try changing the fuse on the fridge to see whether that made a difference. Never underestimate the power of a pointy-ended butter knife. Lefty loosy, righty tighty.

I had to hop a moto into town to the electrical shop. After the events of the day I was worried I might end up in a moto crash or, at the very least, it would get a puncture and I'd have to push it up the hill into Kigali.

But, no. Life puncheth and it giveth. The man at the store gave me two fuses for free, saying 'they are just small things.' He parted with a world-stopping smile which left me blushing from head to toe. 

Unfortunately, that didn't solve the problem. I think it's the compressor.

Today, the fumigator came to sort out the cockroach problem I've had in the bathroom since getting back from the UK. The stuff they use is like board marker or creosote. It's probably dreadful for you, but I just want to inhale deeply. 

Whilst his friend was nuking roaches, I told him about the broken fridge.

He's giving me £40 for it, which is more than twice what I paid for the fumigation. I thought I would have to pay someone to come and take it away, so to get paid for it - win!

Then I had to go appliance shopping. 

It began with feeling pissed off at Nakumatt. I was there to buy a fridge, and they were pissing me about over four quid's worth of mop refund. It took three members of staff almost half an hour to issue a credit receipt after I declined their offer of replacing the crappy mop with another crappy mop.

Fool me once...

Still, with the £4.50 from that, the £40 from the old fridge, and the 15% discount on the model I wanted, I wasn't feeling too hard done by.

Plus, the delivery guys were excellent. Helpful, friendly, and able to carry really heavy appliances.

This is my brand new silvery fridge-freezer, next to the old vintage model. See how it catches the light?

I feel bad getting rid of the old one, but it was already old when I bought it, and it's done me well for two years. Plus, this one is supposed to be a lot more energy efficient - it's got an A rating (whatever that means). Plus it's nice and tall, so I don't have to squat down every time I need the milk. 

Then I went a little crazy. I still had money left over from last year's contracts, so I splashed out on a washing machine!

I've secretly wanted one of these for a while. Also, there's going to be three people in the house in May, and it seems rather unfair to ask my new helper to handwash that amount of clothes. Plus it takes the issue of washing other people's dirty underwear off the table (and dirty underwear should never be on the table in the first place).

I'm really excited. It even has a dryer function! 

Plus, the lady in the shop told me I can fill it with a bucket. I can't hook it up to a water supply, but the old guard hut does have electricity, so I've put it in there. I can fill it up manually and drain it back into the bucket.

The washer has a one-year warranty, and the fridge a two-year one. These sort of things always retain a resale value in the expat community. More than that, I think it will just improve my quality of life. No more trying to fit in washing around the rainclouds, or worrying about abusing staff.

So, let's see what the rest of the week brings, because, with all of this running around, it hasn't left me much time for writing.

Tomorrow I'm off to meet a potential mentee. There appears to be a real demand for creative writing, I just need to figure out how to tap that.

Then LB's back in town and we're going out Thursday. He's flying back to the UK soon and I feel strangely deflated at that prospect. I socialise very rarely at the moment, but happily drop everything I'm doing to go for a drink with him. Think I need to sit down and talk to myself about that.

After an inauspicious start to the week, all is happy and well in Kigali.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Climb Aboard the Happy Plane

No sudden movements.

I have a hangover.

I do have more pictures of soup and quiche, but later, later...

Last night was so much fun.

My favourite priest was back in town, and we went for dinner at India Khazana (I think it's called Khaza Khazana now). It's one of the best-loved restaurants in Kigali. 

I have a friend called Keza, who was on the human rights program last year. She's looking at setting up a disability charity. I suggested they meet as LB has a charity for young people based in the UK (which is how we originally met). He brought his friends Valerie and Grace.

We had such a good time. Didn't stop laughing all night (well, laughing and heated debates about politics - then laughing). It can be quite difficult to make female friends in Rwanda. In DRC and Burundi (where Keza's originally from) people tend to show their emotions a lot more freely, so you know if someone likes you or not. But here, people (and especially women) are quite reserved about showing their feelings and engaging in open conversation, so it does make things tricky. Last night was just brilliant though, we all gelled (and drank!).

After food, we retired to the lounge to carry on imbibing. At one point a waiter came to take our order. After he left we all just looked at each other. "Why are they dressed as flight attendants?" I asked. Turned out everyone else was wondering the exact same thing. We couldn't hold it together. They were all dressed like the guy in the top photo - really odd. Wondered if they might bring through a mid-drink meal and tell us where the emergency exists were.

LB also recounted our trip to DRC. When he told them where we'd been, his friend Grace looked at me and asked, "Weren't you afraid?"

"I didn't know I needed to be until after."

"I knew that if anything happened we'd all die," LB replied.

"That's not entirely true. You did say that if anyone was going to be kidnapped, it would be-"

"You. Yeah, that's right."

"Yeah," I said. "You know you're in a safe place when the streets are lined with coffin shops." 

What coffin colour would you like?
Red, green, blue - leopard print?

"Weren't you afraid?" Has been the most common response I've had since that little outing.

Honestly, no. Well, a little bit, when we outran the police checkpoint and then got stopped by the coked-up bloke with a big gun. But LB has a horrible ability to make you feel completely safe, even when jumping into the back of a van shouting "go, go, go!"

I'd forgotten what a crazy adventure that was.

Woke up at the mad time of 5am this morning, still grinning like a moron. Then took a nap at 8am and didn't wake up until 1:30!

Such a crazy time ahead. Having trouble keeping up with writing. 

I'm going to have a full house next month. Paul, mum's colleague who quit his job to go travelling, is arriving on 14th for three weeks.

I'm busy booking gorilla permits at the moment. Managed to talk my friend Senga into coming with us. He's a driver, and you have to be at the park stupid early in the morning, so it makes sense for him to come see them too. It's only about £30 for locals (£265 for residents like myself, and £530 for internationals), plus accommodation. But at least we'll have cheap transport in comfort. Also asking Keza if she fancies coming, she's one of the few Rwandans I know who has voluntarily been hiking. 

She once told me: "The whole country is full of hills. So when you suggest to someone 'Do you want to go climb a hill?' they ask 'Why?'" 

Can't fault that logic.

Really looking forward to that as the first time I saw them was in 2008, so it's been a while.

Also trying to decide on other things Paul might like to do: a few days in Kibuye by the lake, the genocide memorials and Habyarimana's Palace, a trip down to Nyanza to see the Mwami (King's) palace and national museum, a few days by the pool.

Then, my former Program Assistant (now Country Director) Maja is back in town. She's looking to stay long-term, so I've offered her my other spare room whilst she gets set up. 

Team Mayoga
L-R: Rose, Me, Maja and Vincent.

So, it's going to be a bit hectic for a few weeks, but also hopefully a lot of fun. Which is why I need to get my liver in training. I'm such a home bunny these days. I'm worried I won't keep up.

LB's back to Goma tomorrow I think, but flying home from Kigali, so hopefully we'll get one more sesh before he leaves. He lifts my (holy) spirit.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Rainy Rainbow

Gotta love practicality. Sunshine soap: for laundry, for dishes, for people.

Well, I'm taking a little break from the kitchen at the moment.

I started branching into herb-based pastry. Very yummy. Even had enough left over to make a little cheese pasty with a dollop of homemade hummus.

Unfortunately, the pasty broke the oven.

Yes, sad to report, my improvised oven is no more. Dead, deceased, disintegrated.

I had a sneaking suspicion it might do that. It's an old pot and I could see the flames through the bottom. I kept an eye on it to see whether it was melting. Seemed stable enough, but then it just gave way. Thankfully the pasty was cooked to perfection when that happened.

I've since been out and bought a new pot and a professional loaf tin and a pie tin. I do intend to try it again shortly.

Had a fascinating delivery from Fresh Basket last week. A banana leaf, and when you open it up...

A selection of chili peppers. So cute. Unfortunately they're of the local pili pili variety. I tried cooking a curry with them, but they're too hot even for me. I prefer the long ones. These are the type hospital trips are made of.

Also received two plantain, which I was super excited about. You don't see these often here - or maybe I just don't know what I'm looking for - but they are so yummy. I first had plantain in Sierra Leone and tried to replicate the experience by frying them in butter. 

Then I put them in a crepe with avocado chocolate mousse. 

It was a good day.

Plantain are slightly harder and tarter than normal bananas. Imagine banana in a Haribo Sours flavour, but they're still quite sweet, and have much more flavour than savoury matoke, which are the huge ones you boil like potatoes. 

Moving from food to wildlife. I'm a little ashamed of myself. I'm usually extremely tolerant of wildlife. I had an amazing experience yesterday where a teeny weeny baby gecko fell into my sink and couldn't get out, so I rescued it on the back of my hand. We stood there looking at each other for a while (geckos are some of my most favourite creatures ever) then released it onto my garden wall. 

I also made friends with this lovely moth at Novotel the other day. Moths need friends because geckos really aren't their friends. My porch geckos regularly dine out on them.

I also scooped that one up and put it back outside.

So, on the whole, I'm really amazed by wildlife and try to rescue it whenever I can. But unfortunately I have become a murderer. 

I have a friend coming to stay in a few weeks. Ever since getting back in February, I've noticed an increase roaches in the bathroom. Most of them are absolutely tiny. I know this sounds stupid, but when they're very, very small, cockroaches can be kind of cute. They sort of wander around in circles. 

But they also poo on everything - your soap, your sink, your toothbrush.

I do plan on fumigating, but before doing that I decided to buy a bottle of Doom. I sprayed the floor and sink, and in the morning there were a couple of dead roaches. I was mainly using it as a deterrent.

Then, the other night, this bugger flew into my house. It's the biggest roach I have seen so far. It was probably a little longer than my middle finger.

No. I didn't kill it. I trapped it in a juice jug, then threw it - and the jug - across the garden.

The one I killed came later that night.

I woke up at maybe four in the morning. Something had run across my arm. In a moment of psychic wonderment, I knew exactly what I would find when I turned on my phone light.

It wasn't as big as the one above, but it was big enough. Sitting at the end of the bed, inside my mosquito net.

This is the second time this has ever happened to me. The first time I battered it senseless (with a juice jug) and threw it into the back garden. This time it went on a run around my room. I could hear it scuttling around boxes in my cupboard. It was four in the morning, I was utterly knackered, and traumatised. I went and got the Doom.

I felt horrifically guilty afterwards and buried it under a hedge. Partly out of respect, but mostly because I didn't want a bird trying to eat it and poisoning itself.

Really, I can cope with a lot, but a cockroach sharing my bedsheets - that's just a step too far for my comfort levels. I couldn't take the risk of it snuggling back up.

On to brighter news. This week's weather forecast looks much the same as last week.

I'd just finished hanging out my washing about an hour ago when the heavens opened.

But there was a very pretty rainbow, and I think that's what we should all focus on. 

Welcome to the rainy season in Rwanda.

Friday, 1 April 2016

April Foolishness

I have fucking nailed this thing.

By thing, I mean my improvised oven.

By nailed, I mean I can now make a pretty decent quiche without setting fire to the kitchen.

Also made rosemary oil for cooking.

And bought a crepe maker.


All of which came in handy today as I've had a hilarious time with Jo.

Since I got back, I've been wanting to visit Christiane's grave, to pay my respects. Jo's off to the UK on Saturday and had a child-free day today as Zuba's at school.

It's been tipping it down the past couple of days. It's the start of the rainy season, and it isn't letting up.

Although Christiane lived in Kibuye, she was in Kigali when she died, and is buried not far out of town. So, we set off in the rain.

The plan was to have a picnic there, but within about five minutes of the place, our car experienced technical difficulties and we had to pull over. The rain let up just long enough for Jo's mechanic to get a moto from Kigali to where we were parked.

We continued with our picnic whilst we waited. This was Jo's Facebook post and pictures.

My car has broken down on the side of the road outside the capital. Happily M has provided bucket-baked quiche and mango jam crepes. She just happened to have them on her.

We had such a laugh, and I could just hear Christiane exclaiming "Oh, my God," in a thick Quebecois accent. Her idea of an April fools, I have no doubt. So, we didn't make it this time round, as we needed to give the mechanic a lift back to town and Jo needed to make the school run, but we're going to try again in a couple of weeks when she gets back - hopefully in better weather.

Cinnamon and Mango Jam Crepe