Monday, 20 December 2021

With So Much Love

This post is in memory of one of the kindest, most caring souls I have ever known. I received the news today that my dear friend Kwizera Emmanuel, Emmy, passed away. We met a few years back through a friend. He was a driver and tour operator. Mum and Merrick got to meet him when they visited in 2019 and he took us to Akagera. 

Emmy, far right

Everybody who met him loved him, he was just one of life's truly genuine people. He came to my rescue more times than I can count. Once, when I was sick, I texted from the hospital to ask if he could pick me up, but I was too ill to check my phone again. He drove around the clinics until he found me, and he took me home and bought medicine on the way. I was in a perticularly projectile-vomity state and terrified of messing up his car, but he just laughed and told me to get in.

Another time, I was in a car crash in Kigali and he came hurtling across the city to find me, and then proceeded to drive me all the way to Gisenyi (a four-hour drive), because that is where I had been going. 

I have so many stories about his kindness. Any time I was in trouble, he was there to dig me out. He would go above and beyond for his friends. During the first lockdown, our friend Andy needed to take his family to Burundi and Emmy managed to pack up their entire house in his car and get them to the border. He was just that kind of guy.

Such an incredibly kind and gentle superman. He dropped me off at the airport two months ago, as I was returning to see my family in the UK. The thought of stepping off the plane in Kigali and not seeing his big smile in the crowd is absolutely heartbreaking. He loved elephants, he loved nature, and he loved rain. Whenever I would complain about the wet season, he would just smile and say 'it makes everything grow.' I will miss him very deeply, as I'm sure all those who knew him will. It was an absolute privilege to call him my friend. We'll raise a glass again someday. 💔

Saturday, 4 December 2021

Pavlova and Yorkshire Pudding

Oh, my lovelies! Such a long time since an update.

Well, I made it to the UK!

There was a minor mishap, in that I thought I was taking a direct RwandAir flight to London, but turned out it switched to a Brussels flight at Brussels, and I ended up doing the two-minute-mile dash from one end of the airport to the other. Skidded through duty free (which goes on forever there!), teddy bears, chocolate and perfume bottles flying. Made it by the skin of my teeth and, hilariously, looked over from my passenger-side window to see a Rwandair flight stationed right next to mine. A weird, surreal vortex in time and space. Had I stepped off my RwandAir flight into a parallel universe with twisting, turning corridors where every second travelator was broken, and wandered, sweating and panting, through the wilderness to arrive at my flight which was, in true reality, less than a minute away? 

Not dwelling on that too closely.

My fabulous friend, Emmy, dropped me off at the airport after a warm goodbye to my catsitter... more on that later. 

I undertook a little experiment. Last time I took a flight, I bought a bar of chocolate at duty free, and the overzealous RwandAir security guard tried to take the chocolate off me before I boarded, claiming it was food and therefore banned. I had literally just bought it at the shop in the airport. He eventually let me through, but when I mentioned this to a group of British expats, they said that they had always been able to take snacks on RwandAir flights, no problem. So...

Kigali Airport



The flight from Rwanda to Belgium was absolutely lovely. RwandAir has lovely planes for that route and it was practically empty. I got to see Birds of Prey, which I'd wanted to, and started watching Cruella, but unfortunately fell asleep. The sun came up just as we were approaching Brussels.

The hop over to London was cramped and without any comforts, but I did get one last glimpse of the sun. Both Brussels and London were grey and drizzling, but above the clouds it was still beautiful, bright-blue sky. It's always a sunny day if you can just get above the clouds.

I was utterly knackered by the time I arrived and slept for hours. 

On a weird and spooky note, when I was putting my bag in the overhead holder on the Brussels Airline flight to London (not the RwandAir flight from Kigali), I discovered that someone had left a painting behind - and look what it was! Very definitely Rwandan. That's an agaseki basket in imigongo colours. A little bit of Kigali came with me.

I have been very invested in eating since I've been back. Loving new flavours and old favourites. Merrick has been treating me with his masterful sandwich arrangements. 

And mum's cooking is simply delightful! So many amazing meals.

Welcome Home!

Yorkshire Puddings

English Breakfast

Homemade Pavlova

When I return, I usually go straight for blue cheese on hot, buttered crumpets and a dose of oily fish. Big fan of smoked mackerel with black pepper, and smoked salmon, of course. Forgot the cream cheese this time, but you get the picture. 

So, as mentioned in my previous post, I had to jump through a few hoops to get back. At the time, the UK were being arses and refusing to recognise Rwandan vaccination cards, which meant that the day after I arrived, I got a threatening call from the government's Track and Trace programme, warning me that if I set one foot outside the house, I was liable for a £10,000 fine, and that they might send someone round at any time to check on me. I am ashamed to say, I was a bit arsey with the woman on the phone. I know she was doing a job no one wants to do, but I was knackered. I'd just got off a very long flight, was adjusting to the biting cold, and I'd already been through so, so much red tape to get back. I had followed every instruction to the letter, so to be called up and spoken to as though I was public enemy number one was a little bit much. 

I had to spend ten days at home and pay about £90 to take two lateral flow tests. This was a bit crazy as home test kits - which do the same thing and give results in minutes - were being given away for free at my mum's swimming pool. She thought you only got one in a box, but you get seven, so we have half the world's stock of lateral flow tests in our house. I also tried to take an antigen test, but I didn't have enough blood.

Anyway, about two days after my ten-day quarantine ended, the UK decided they did recognise the Rwandan vaccine certificate after all, and Brits coming from Rwanda no longer needed to quarantine for that long. 

How very predictable. 

I arrived just in time for memorial day, which was the 100th year of the British Legion this year. Merrick is head of the British Legion in our area and he and mum were busy organising the parade and decorating the church.

Merrick is also Tower Captain of the belfry, so I accompanied him and mum to Monday night bell-ringing where locals were practising the Christmas handbells as well as the main bells.

Since I've been back, I've been on a technological spending spree. My hard drive crashed just before I left Rwanda and it took a whole load of documents with it. I had to ship that off to a data recovery centre, courtesy of Big ICT. It wasn't cheap, but they were much cheaper than anywhere else I'd tried, and they managed to get everything I needed back. Also highly recommend Rowland at RS Computers, who was a huge help and can deal with anything short of a mechanical hard drive failure. 

But I've gone wild since then. I now have an Acer Nitro 5, which I purchased so that I could use Insta360 and DaVinci Resolve with my new Insta360 One x2 camera. I've been having an absolute blast learning to use it. Even tried putting it in mum's fish pond. It's so much fun and I'm going to make some much better videos of Rwanda when I get back. Perhaps try to tap into the stock footage market. It films in 360-degrees, meaning that it's filming all around you, in every direction, at the same time. Then you choose what you want to focus on in the edit. So, you never miss anything. It even comes with a special selfie stick that the software automatically removes, so the camera appears to be floating in the air. It can look similar to drone footage when done well. 

Speaking of which, my brother is completely into drones at the moment. Check out his channel for some stunning images.

I've also been checking my physical health. I've done the dentist, optician and a private blood screening so far. First two were excellent, waiting on the third to come through. Just an MOT to make sure everything is in good working order. Wanted to get my split Achilles seen to, but waiting times are pretty dire at the moment so probably won't manage it this time around. When I went to the optician in Market Harborough, I stopped to peer through the window of the local Theatre, to see what was on - and who should stare back from the other side, but my Aunty Muriel! I do have a huge extended family in the area, but that was hilarious. I blinked at her a few times as it's been years since I'd seen her and she was so completely out of context. But she volunteers in the café once a week and invited me in for a coffee and a look around. It was a really lovely surprise.

Harborough Theatre

On the drive back - the UK has some funny place names.

Spent an afternoon working in my local, The Witch and Sow, staying warm beside the fire. It used to be called The Ward Arms, after one of the local families, but was renamed a few years back to try and tie in with local folklore. Transitioned from a really traditional country pub to something a bit gimmicky. Could definitely do with some more comfortable seating and a bit of carpet or curtains as, if there's more than five people in there, you can't really hear what anyone's saying. Feels more like a school hall than a cosy pub. I've been going there almost my entire life and seen it through all of its incarnations. Sadly, there's a new landlord every time I go back.

One cute addition to the village is that someone's turned our old phone box into a book swap.

Had some nice surprises since I've been back. I've got a short story in an anthology.

My friend Audrey sent me a copy of her poetry collection, and my friend Vikki hand-knitted me a hat to keep my head warm whilst I'm here (later followed by a pair of socks).

I've also been soaking in mum's jacuzzi bath, which is bubbleicious. My first bath in three years!

So, it's been a good break so far. Only problem is, my incredibly reliable and down-to-earth catsitter has turned out to be a bit dramatic. She's decided she doesn't like Rwanda and, having assured me I had nothing to worry about and that she wouldn't just leave over Christmas, then announced she's leaving over Christmas. Monday, in fact. I had my suspicions when she turned up having not watched the cat care video I sent her, and then asked me a load of questions about things I'd covered, in detail, in the house guide I'd sent her. She seemed a bit too good to be true. I've managed to arrange cat cover for the rest of my leave, but now she's not responding to confirm what time she's leaving. Definitely didn't need this headache on my time off, but sod's law. Just hope the house is still standing. Sure there will be more about it in the next update.

Monday, 18 October 2021

Going Green

Had a visitor to the garden. Little agama.

This is going to be a super quick update. I'm about to throw myself int he shower and head back to the UK for the first time in three years. Spending Christmas with my family. It's been a tough ride getting this far. My computer hard drive crashed - possibly irreparably - the other day and so much to deal with in terms of COVID regulations. I'll let my former self explain it all.
So, that's where we're at. What else has been going on? Well, did some piano restringing. I've picked up a fabulous apprentice, too. I had the opportunity to teach him how to restring and he also knows how to tune, so now he can deal with tunings when I'm away. Unfortunately, he has just move to Gisenyi, which is about three-and-a-half hours north of Kigali, but he pops back occasionally.


Found a lovely little branch of Camellia café in the UTC car park, which does a fabulous breakfast. Went there after my PCR test the other day. Full of plants and great service.

American Breakfast

Executive Breakfast

Went for an outstanding brunch with the girls the other day. Cindy took us to Tung for a traditional Chinese breakfast and we ate until we burst. It was wonderful. And they even have an aquarium! unusual to see tropical fish on sale in Rwanda.



Went to check my postbox for the last time. I still find the post office fascinating - all those boxes. All the mail that must have passed through it over so many years.



Did some washing and grew some avocados.

My lovely friend Solv took me for a pedi and we ate a giant and very yummy wrap.

My housesitter, Chelcie, arrived on Friday and she's absolutely wonderful. I found her through Nomador, and it was so easy. I feel happy leaving the cats in her care. It means the world to me that she got on a plane and came here. I couldn't leave if she hadn't.

Then it comes down to the last few hours. 

 Last night, my friends Chantal and Sean took me for a final meal and plenty of mojitos at The Hut, one of our favourite restaurants. It was a brilliant night, full of laughs. Perfect send-off, and reminiscent of Harris taking me for Mutzig the last time I left.

Fried Avocado

Finally cleared my entire house. It hasn't looked this nice since the day I moved in!

Then I treated myself to a final pedi and lunch at Kigali heights today, with a double dose of Delizia ice-cream. I'm home now, all my bags are packed, about to throw myself through the shower and then it's off to the airport for a flight at midnight. Arriving in the UK at 10:15, all being well. Signing off for now x