Monday, 11 September 2017

Family Fun

Did a shop before my cousin arrived and thought I'd take a picture of this nice mural on the wall at Frulep.

Got the house all tidy for Tamsin & Guido's arrival. Well, as tidy as a building site can be. Then went over to Maia's to use the internet at her café. Had a beer. Maia came to chat. Had another. Her friend Ash was arriving from Kenya and his plane didn't land until 1 a.m. so I stayed to keep her company. Before I knew it, it was 3 a.m. and someone had produced the rum. The only picture I have from that night is a toothbrush stuck to the fridge door.

This was not technically strategic as Tamsin & Guido texted at 9 a.m. to tell me they were on the bus from Kibuye. My neighbour's kids had already woken me at 5:20, so I was functioning on about two-and-a-half hours' sleep. The bus takes around three hours to reach Kigali, so I went to Nyabugogo at midday to meet them. Nyabugogo is the main bus station, but it's crazy town. People and buses everywhere. This is someone else's photo from Google, but it accurately sums up the situation. It ranks very high on the list of  places not to go with a hangover.

This was a really interesting meeting because, although Tamsin and I are first cousins, we've hardly ever met. When we were much younger we sometimes saw each other at the annual family gathering, but we come from a very large extended family, so there would be about fifty people there. Although her dad and my mum are brother and sister, we've never actually talked to each other. It didn't take long to realise she's just as daft as I am - you could definitely tell we're related.

One thing they really wanted to see was Kigali Genocide Memorial, so once they'd dropped off their stuff, we went for a quick lunch in town, then up to Gisozi. I've posted about the memorial before, so won't go into it here. Afterwards, we finished with a drink at Mille Collines (Hotel Rwanda).

That evening, I took them to CasaKeza to meet my friend Maia. I also called up my other friend Maja, who took over the GYC Human Rights programme after me. I thought it would be interesting for them to get the chance to talk to her after the memorial. Maja grew up in Bosnia during their genocide. It's often important after visiting Gisozi to have the chance to unwind, ask questions and just talk about stuff, but the atmosphere didn't stay sombre (or sober) for long.

Back L-R: Vincent & Maja, Tamsin & Guido, Ineke (Airbnb guest at CasaKeza), me, Maia
Front L-R: Maia's friend Ash from Kenya, Lan

It turned into such a good night. So much laughter and a lot of sangria. After CasaKeza closed, the rest of the guys wanted to go clubbing, but I was still nursing a fairly wobbly head. Hair of the dog certainly helped but I excused myself, knowing that if I didn't get a decent night's sleep I'd be in no fit state for the rest of the weekend. Tamsin & Guido were well up for going out as they hadn't had the chance to do much clubbing. They've been travelling around Africa for the past seven months, but often in very remote areas or with people they don't know. So this was a nice opportunity for them to experience the nightlife. Maia attempted to kidnap me when she gave me a lift to the end of the road, accelerating to chants of 'drive, drive, drive,' but I threatened to tuck and roll so she stopped.

I got a blissful night's sleep and woke to find the party bunnies impressively sparkly-eyed next morning. They'd been out at Sundowner and Envy until 3 a.m. We were considering going to Nyanza Mwami Palace, but decided on a lazy day around town instead. We went to see Habyarimana's Palace, had lunch at Sole Luna Italian, went to Ikirezi bookshop and took a leisurely stroll home in the rain.

Maia and Ash invited us out for drinks at Pili Pili, so we sat by the pool with beer, food and a stunning panorama of city lights twinkling in the valley. I opted for chocolate crepes.

After that, we headed to Kisimenti looking for live music and caught the tail end of an open mic session at Rosty Club.

Had a bit of a boogie and headed home via a strange little detour. There's a really spooky abandoned fairground by the lake at Nyarutarama. It's been there ever since I can remember, so probably over ten years or more. Someone was going to open a theme park, but for some reason it never went ahead so all the equipment is lying there by the lake, overgrown. There's a bit about it in this article, but the comments aren't accurate, they're talking about a different theme park out of town. This one never opened. We went for a torchlight expedition.

Well, what do you know. I found my cousin in an abandoned
fairground and she's just as bonkers as I am.

We got home around 2 a.m. and the next morning it was off to Nyamata and Ntarama memorials, just out of town.

Grave of Antonia Locatelli
Approach to the Mass Graves

New Church in the Background

We made it back just in time for them to pack before beating a speedy retreat to the airport. They decided to go by moto instead of taxi, and the sky was turning black. They've been able to witness the start of the wet season - and it's been very wet. Got a text saying they made it okay and caught their plane to Dubai. They're exploring for a couple of days, then on to Nepal, Sri Lanka and India. It was so lovely to share in a little of their adventure, and to be the very last port of call after seven months on the continent. It's exciting to think where we might meet up next time. You can follow their round-the-world adventures on their blog.

Howl appreciating the blanket they left us.

[UPDATE: I forgot to mention, before arriving in Kigali, they went hiking and managed to wangle their way into Kwita Izina, our annual gorilla naming ceremony. They didn't realise what it was at first, but got front row seats to a very dapper looking President Kagame! Jammy.]

Monday, 4 September 2017

Piano Girl

My cousin Tamsin and her partner Guido, currently cycling down the Congo Nile Trail with my friend Jo's company, Rwandan Adventures. Should be arriving in Kigali on Friday. Really looking forward to hosting them for a couple of days on their round-Africa tour. We've only really seen each other in passing at the annual family gathering. We're from a large extended family, so never really talked or got to know one another. It'll be fun to do that over a few drinks.

In other news, I've been to church this week. Just to finish tuning their piano. No downpour this time.


Continued the musical theme. Was invited to my friends' daughters' joint 6th birthday party and decided to go as Music - or a piano - whichever. It was a sweltering hot day so lots of fun was had with garden sprinklers.

Maia (dressed as a cloud) and Jo (dressed as a mum)

Fun with Chocolate Fountains

Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate...
Seriously, Chocolate. Now!

Music Being Attacked or
'The Day the Music Died'

Much alcohol was consumed. It was great to catch up with Jo again. Hadn't seen her in ages. Her house has a spectacular view of the valley and we munched late-night gnocchi, watching the lights twinkle.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017


Fun couple of weeks. I was called out to fix a piano in Nyarutarama. Turned out to be a very unusual Dutch Rippen (Google Image above, actual one below). I think it's made to look like a grand piano standing on its side, as it was fashionable to call uprights 'upright grands' for a time.

It was a bit of a struggle getting into it, but the problem was easily fixed. Someone had packed it away with a long plastic pole between the hammers and strings, perhaps a damp-prevention method. I removed the pole and pushed back the hammer rail - the whole thing burst into life. Sounded lovely in the tiled room.

Also been tuning this American Kimball piano at a Korean church, and also fixing up the action on a Japanese Kawai from the 1960s.

Had to take a break from tuning for an hour as the first rains arrived. The sound against the tin roof made it impossible to hear the  strings. We were all very grateful for the drop in temperature, though.



We've been busy sending out the Indiegogo gifts to those who backed our crowdfunder campaign. We're picking up our first string frame today. Need to focus on ordering the strings next. Spent yesterday at CasaKeza organising the old bass strings and the steel wires to try to work out what we need to get.

African Sunrise

The past few days have been a bit of an endurance test. A group just moved in next door. Apparently they're an NGO, but they're extremely loud. They celebrated with a weekend bender: drumming all day, earsplitting music until 2 a.m., then again most of the next day. With the golf course down the road, it's easy to think this is a secluded spot, when it's actually a residential area. The worst part is they've got a serious subwoofer. It produces low sounds, so it seems quiet to people passing by, but it reverberates around my house. I do a lot of editing work and it makes working from home very difficult because it's like someone constantly tapping their finger against your skull. There's also been a few instances of loud shouting and drumming late at night.

My neighbour suggested going to the police, as noise pollution is taken fairly seriously. I'm going to see if I can track down the owner first and talk with him. This has always been a lovely, quiet area. I'm hoping it will be again.

We're getting our own back at the moment with building work. Turning the old guard hut into a self-contained apartment. Replacing the pit latrine - and all the spiders - with a water-fed system and electric shower. Thinking of Airbnbing it, but it'll be really nice just to have a second bathroom. My other one is attached to the guest room, which can make ablutions tricky when people are staying.

All feeling quite creative. Building pianos and extra rooms. The avocado tree has just started fruiting, too. Soon be chocolate avocado mousse season.