Friday, 3 November 2017

Up High


White sangria. It's a thing in Rwanda. Packed with mango and strawberries. Very refreshing.

Baby bunnies are also a thing. Packed with cute.

Rock night. That's also a thing, but not so cute. 

Had a fabulous, drunken night out with Maia, Lynette and our friend Manu, the Spanish guy who was living above Maia's place. Then she had to kick him out so her bar manager could move in. Now I have both Spanish Manu and bar manager living in my house - temporarily.

Not entirely sure how that happened.

Actually, Manu runs a very cool expedition business. Check out the video on his website.

Maia convinces me to do a lot of things. Not all of them entirely sane.

"Wouldn't it be fun to waitress here?" she once told me, talking about her restaurant.

"Sure. That would be kind of fun," I said. "I must have been about twenty-one the last time I was a waitress."

Me: What's the dress code?
Maia: Not too goth.

Fourteen hours later...

No, seriously. I worked for fourteen hours straight.

Right from breakfast orders through to washing the final dishes.

It was physically exhausting, I ached the next day, but spiritually fairly rewarding. I have huge admiration for her staff who work (sensible shifts) every day. It's also fun to see the reactions of expats and Rwandans alike, to be served by a white waiter who isn't the owner of the bar. I don't think I've ever been  served by a white person in a bar or restaurant in Kigali. You get very few backpackers here, so no budget travellers looking for bar work. It highlights the expectation that mzungus are all NGO workers or business moguls. Not that I'm suggesting outsiders should take local jobs, but I like to challenge preconceptions.  I also think the diversity of a capital city's bar staff is a good indicator of how multinational that country is in general.

Also - broke the tip jar.

Got paid in food and gratitude.

Baked in Banana Leaves on a Bonfire

Got to see yogurt being made.

And Maia made me the coolest thing, whilst impressively tipsy. It's amazing it didn't take her eye out. 

It might not look like much, but it's revolutionised my life. It's not Uri Geller's calling card, it's an iPhone stand for when you want to Skype your family. Stops my arms getting tired. 

Towards the end of my shift, we took in two nice blokes who showed up on the doorstep very lost. Porrick and Tony were camper-vanning around East Africa. They'd heard there was a campsite near us, but it must have closed a couple of years ago. They ended up staying a couple of nights at the restaurant and treated me to a nice meal.

Maia's other bright idea was to turn my old, awful pit latrine and guard house into a swanky self-contained apartment.



The most impressive thing is the bed. As it's a small hut, Maia suggested saving space by creating a floating bed. I was sceptical at first, but it's worked out fantastically.

I've been getting really crafty. I made this little box for my undies, and glued some nice fabric to the back of the shelves. Solved the problem of curtains with my new best friend, Velcro.

The mosquito netting proved a bit of a challenge, but I've got it sorted. My neighbour now has a fantastic tailor working at her shop. With a little translation help, she managed to hem an old net I had and I velcroed it to the ceiling. Ironically, I did manage to superglue myself to the superglue tube in the process, but hey, who needs three layers of skin?

Pretty Damn Cool, Right?
From the Inside
Mosquito on the Outside

I was planning on renting it out, but it's so nice that I've decided to move in here myself. Hence the two guests in the main house. I'm deciding whether I want to let rooms. I've lived by myself since moving in here in 2015, so it takes a bit of getting used to having people around, but with my own bathroom and miniature kitchen (I'll photograph that next time), I think I could cope. 

I've already had one visitor pop by.

Terrified Mouse Attempting to Evade Cats.

The only question mark over this is my neighbours from hell. Back in August, a charity moved in next door. They decided the best way to help street children in Rwanda was to open a cafe to raise funds. They found a Danish donor who agreed. So, a group of young men, having had their rent paid for them, set about doing what all conscientious young men do, and turned it into an ear-splittingly loud late-night music venue. They've been making life miserable ever since.

It got to the point where I called the police out. It was either that or I was going to be arrested myself for setting fire to their sound system. The neighbours didn't give a damn about the noise. Their donor didn't give a damn about the noise. It was a last resort.

All I can say is that the local police and Kigali City Council have been absolutely sterling on this issue. Really excellent. Took the complaints seriously, sent people out, gave numbers to call if it happens again. They really have been extremely good, threatening to remove the sound equipment and even close them down if they don't sort themselves out. Rwanda is strict about noise pollution. It's not that I don't enjoy a good night out myself - total rock fiend - just not in the middle of a residential area. 

So, we'll see how that goes. 

Meanwhile, I'm enjoying pretending to sleep in a tree house.

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