Tuesday, 2 June 2020


I ended the last update with a praying mantis, so thought I'd start this post with another. What a cutie. Not as cute as these wee bairns. The baby mantises put in another appearance. I lost the last photographs but managed to get one this time. They're absolutely tiny, tiny. About the size of my little fingernail.


In less pleasant insect-related news, I had my second encounter with a blister beetle, which I think we've now specified as Nairobi Fly. You may remember my boob incident a couple of years back. This time the fucker got me real good. I think it must have been on my knee when I crossed my legs. And, yes, if I'd known I'd be showing you all, I probably would have shaved.

It really does feel exactly like you burned yourself and it stings for days. So, if you see one of these shits crawling about, give it a wide birth.

They're really tiny though, so it's quite hard to spot them. If you do get stung, this topical cream worked pretty well. Took the red out and prevented infection, though didn't do much for the sting. Once it starts to crust over you can use aloe.

In socially-distanced news, when the lockdown restrictions were slightly eased, a friend came to store some items as he was moving house. We stayed very far apart and masked at all times, and he only touched the stuff that's now in the storage cupboard - which I plan not to enter for ever. Last time he stored some stuff there, he didn't come back for it for about two years. Had to get this very quick picture though, as he made my treble cleff sculpture. You can see more of his work here.


When restaurants were allowed to open last month, my friend Jo and I went for a socially-distanced G&T and a bite to eat at PiliPili. We followed all the rules but it still felt a bit naughty, so I haven't been out again. The swimming pool was looking a little green. People with pools have been complaining it's been impossible to maintain them in lockdown - or 'rockdown' as my friend recently texted me, as L and R are interchangeable in Rwanda.


The whole socially-distanced thing is proving a challenge. Many places are going cashless in favour of tokens which you can by with card, or mobile money. We bought some tokens, but they still handed the tokens to us with ungloved hands... which sort of defeats the point. Mobile money is just a headache in that you need an eidetic memory to use it. It's all about remembering lengthy codes. For instance, if I want to check my airtime balance I type *131#, my internet balance *135*5# and if I want to pay for a drink...

They were planning to bring motos back on Monday, but that's been postponed due to our first COVID death and a spike in identified cases. So far one death out of 377 cases. They're planning to make motos cashless. Necessary, perhaps, but highly inconvenient. Another suggestion is this, which just looks terrifying.

Meanwhile, at home, the cats remain pragmatic about it all. Sen has been contemplating her foot whilst I have discovered the joys of Kigali Farmers' and Artisans' Market, who make amazing ice-cream, bagels and sweet potato bread.

My neighbours have started growing green peppers in my garden and the avocado tree is fruiting, so I can live off avocado on toast and chocolate mousse for a few weeks.


I ran out of whiskey again, so I've been trying to fathom ways to drink Bacardi. I tried infusing it with rosemary but slightly overdid it. It's just about palatable with sugar syrup and plenty of ice.

However, I have discovered that dark rum with milk, sugar syrup and cinnamon is acceptable, and milk is the one mixer I have plenty of.

I'm open to further suggestions. I also bought a pot of Ambrosia Jam from the farmers' market, just to find out what it is. According to Google it's 'tropical jam', but in the context of a tropical country, I guess it's just jam...? Nice jam, though. Very good on cinnamon bagels.

To pass the time, I have started recording an audiobook. However, there have been some issues setting up a recording studio and I also had a rant about online payment systems and access to production software. Recording is on hold today whilst my neighbour attacks his wall with a pickaxe. Nothing like being stuck in lockdown between a building site and (what sounds like) a teething infant. 

Oh, and I also did an addition to my post on improvised ovens, as people seem to like that one.

I've also started building a cat fort out of all the crisp boxes I've been collecting. I enjoy it more than the cats do. It's a work in progress.

Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Ninja Number One

Ninja Number One reporting for duty. 

Work sent a car for me this morning and I had a socially-distanced meeting with colleagues at opposite ends of a very large table in a cavernous hall. It was my first time out of the house in over six weeks and took a bit of adjusting to. I haven't worn makeup or a bra in all that time. My first attempt didn't go so well, I tried to apply eyeliner directly to my eyeball. Felt so good to get home again afterwards and back into comfortable clothes. Hoping I don't have to deal with the Real World (TM) again any time soon.

Sorry, I did take excessive photographs as I felt a bit like a ninja. Most of the masks are made from igitenge, which is bright patterned fabric. I deliberately asked for a black one so that I could wear it with anything and look professional. More sort of professional killer, though. 

The world was kind of normal out there, though there were a lot of people not wearing masks. I was extremely grateful to have a driver as it was warm out and I could see people struggling to walk in the heat with the masks on. Many were pulling them down past their mouths or letting them hang round their necks. Not easy if you have a distance to walk.

We've been on lockdown since 21st March, which is why I haven't posted much, because not much has happened. The restrictions have been eased as of yesterday. You can now go out between 5 a.m. and 8 p.m., but there's no motos and the pool is still closed, so there isn't really anywhere for me to go. The government still advises non-essential workers to stay home and I'm very happy to abide by that. For me, the lockdown hasn't been a hardship. I've enjoyed the time to myself and thankfully it hasn't really affected my job as I work from home a lot anyway. 

A lot has been happening at the office, though. We've had a major food drive on and the Israeli Ambassador dropped by to donate 2,000 face masks.

Mostly, I have been spending a lot of time with these furry babies.


Oh, and the house got possessed. I was alone so long that the teddy bear Harris and Rob bought me for my birthday actually started to communicate with me...

I've also been doing some kitchen stuff. Living mostly off stir fries, quiche, roast vegetables and stew, though I discovered dumplings the other day and now I'm addicted. Don't know why I never made them before as they're super easy. My first attempt I used a bit too much baking powder, so they looked a bit like cauliflower but after a while they smoothed out. I then added cheese to future attempts. They just help to bulk out the vegetables.

Too much baking powder.


Sweet potato and chickpea stew with slightly underdone dumplings.
It got better with practice.
Mushroom and aubergine quiche.
Plenty of garlic - good thing I'm self-isolating.
Vegetables roasted with honey and sesame seeds.
Good with rice, drenched in soy sauce.
Marshmallow Christmas Tree in Hot Chocolate
(Thanks dad.)
Banana bread for afters.

All of the above meals were baked in my tin bucket. I'm pretty adept at cooking with that now. A friend gave me a gas oven, but it seems so much hassle to hook it up that I use it to store cat food in and continue with my bucket. 

I have definitely drifted back to vegetarianism during the lockdown. I was vegetarian throughout my childhood and up until my early 20s. Then I went through a very long phase of just not questioning where my food comes from, because I felt I had enough to think about in day-to-day life. But partway through lockdown I made a conscious decision to go without eggs rather than buy battery. I still buy meat for the cats once a week, but I only order fruit and veg for myself. I never cook meat at home, so I never eat it at home. Mostly because I'm lazy when it comes to housekeeping and I can't really poison myself with a cabbage. But, also, I just don't feel the need for it. I feel like my palate has reset itself, though I don't know how long that will last once the lockdown is fully lifted.

I ran out of chocolate about three weeks ago, and whiskey about two. I have Bacardi, but no matter what I try to mix it with, it still tastes bad. Not a rum fan except when professionals make mojitos or a daiquiri. Although I am partial to Oakheart. I think the only thing a layperson can mix rum with is coke and I'm not a soda fan. Before the lockdown, every shop was full of giant £25 bottles of Jameson's, but no one seems to be delivering it. Can't even find Bond 7 in the shop opposite.

Attempted rum and pineapple punch... not so good.

So, vegetarian and mostly teetotal. The day I finished off the whiskey I was up talking to a friend on the phone until 3 a.m. and suffered horribly the next day, so don't miss that either.

I do miss swimming a lot. I used to go two or three times a week. I was starting to get a bit fitter, doing my pull-ups on the diving board, but now I'm flabby as hell. 

Dates, my kryptonite.

I have been doing a lot of reading and audiobooks, and watched an insane amount of Star Trek. Seriously insane. So much so that I even took a screen shot, because this amused me.

For non-Trekkies, that's the same actor playing his own father.

Not much else to report, really. Been up to my eyeballs in Excel spreadsheets. Lot of donor reports and baseline studies to complete. Busy putting together a large bid at the moment, so no lack of distractions. Caught a locust the other day, but no sign of the swarm that was promised - yet.

Little bit upset because I adore preying mantises and, for the first time ever, I saw some teeny weeny baby ones. I took loads of pictures but then my phone crashed and took them with it. First thing I need to do is go and replace my phone next week, but I did find a fully-grown family member holding its own against my cats a few days later. The photograph was a moment too late. In full defense mode, its mottled brown wings beneath were fully out like a fan, making it look twice the size. Very impressive. And, yes, I did take it out of harm's way. My cats know full-well that if I catch them with anything, it gets rescued.