Friday, 18 June 2021


Vogue or Blues Brothers?

Had so much fun the other night at my friend's birthday party. She ran a murder mystery. We all received character cards beforehand and arrived in character. The premise was a film wrap party. The birthday girl was the director, who was poisoned halfway through the night, and we had to hunt for clues hidden around the grounds and try to figure out whodunnit. Finally got a chance to wear the feather boa Maia gave me for Christmas.

Lydia Schwarzvogel, at your service.  Deputy director and murderess... or not?

Really entertaining evening.

And a beautiful setting.

Turns out I didn't do it, but I did win! I managed to collect rather a lot of clues, so teamed up with others to share what we'd learnt and interrogate our main suspects. Four of us guessed correctly, and it came down to the luck of the draw. I won a very nice thermos flask. Such a fun night, and plenty to drink. 

Bought the birthday girl a bubble machine and received a picture the next morning of it being put to good use. Breakfast and bubbles! 

Prior to this I hadn't done anything social in over a month. I've locked myself away to write stories. Though it's been tough lately. I just feel really tired all the time. I downloaded a sleep tracking app which monitors your sleep cycle, and I'm getting enough deep sleep and a full eight hours most nights, but I still feel drained. I haven't smoked in over a year and a few weeks ago I stopped drinking coffee, which was actually just as uncomfortable as quitting smoking - exact same symptoms of extreme tiredness and general 'yuck.' The main caffein-related symptoms have worn off, but it hasn't done much for my general sense of wellbeing. Most days I don't drink alcohol, and most of my food is rice, noodle or pasta with veg. I've upped my intake of water. I have been pretty lax about exercise recently though, and need to get back on the boxing bag.

Overall, though, I'm doing everything you're supposed to do to feel wide awake and chirpy... only, I'm not. I'm not ill, either. I'm just really tired. I've even got these big black bags under my eyes. It's rather upsetting. I'm going to ride it out a bit longer, build up about three weeks' of sleep data, then maybe introduce coffee again at a lower dose. Do some more exercise. See if it changes anything.

It makes it hard to concentrate on writing. 

Sunrise Over the Garden Wall

Also took this to the party. Discovered it in Simba and thought it looked entertaining. It's not. It tastes like rubbing alcohol. Novelty value in the label only. Anything the colour of absinthe is best avoided. It doesn't really say 'hemp flavoured - what,' but Google seems to think Vodka.

Also, interesting fact, there's a Christian bookshop in Kigali Heights. One side is wall-to-wall Bibles. The other side is wall-to-wall Stephen King. Make of that what you will.

Had an exciting time the other day when I tuned an 85-key piano. This is really unusual. Even by the end of the 1800s the standard 88-key piano was common, so to find this one, which dates to around 1957 with only 85-keys is really strange. More about that here.

The weather has been absolutely blindingly hot lately, as illustrated by this beautiful picture of the Wedding Roundabout outside Kigali Heights.

I've been sweltering away, which might be one reason for the sleep issues? We had a little rain last night for the first time in weeks and today has been blissfully overcast and cool. As usually happens when it's either too dry or too wet, the water has cut out a couple of times. Sometimes it goes out completely, but mostly it dribbles.

When this happens, it's time to crack open the bucket bath. I have an emergency water bucket out back and I stand behind a bamboo screen and wash in the garden. It can be quite refreshing on a hot day, but not so much fun on a misty, cold morning when you're late for a meeting.

Ever feel like you're being watched?

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

Nyiragongo Erupts

Late intermittent update, as usual. 

Things here have mostly been dominated by the Nyiragongo eruption, which has thankfully calmed down now. All of the lava in the crater has apparently disappeared, which is disturbing. We had a few days of continuous earthquakes in Kigali, but back to normal now.

Humanitarian operations are underway. 

Otherwise, it's been a quiet month here. I've been focusing on writing - managed to win the Bet Tuppi's Near Eastern Historical Fiction Prize and did some musing about the origins of Rwandan imigongo art, which has kind of captivated me during my current WIP (work in progress).

There's been cat cuddles.

Though they are still as murdery as ever. Managed to rescue this from them the other day.

I was bitten by a palm tree whilst putting out my washing. No one told me they have teeth! Caught my finger on them - blood everywhere! Sharp little critters.

Spent a couple of days writing and bookcrossing at my friend's restaurant. And far too much time getting to grips with YouTube.

My lovely friend Jo made some homemade pesto. It was such a treat. I adore pesto, but it sells for around £8 a jar here (even with the £1.20 label still on it) so I never buy it. 

Also found a great new veg supplier, Samy's, who do boxes of fresh vegetables and delivery for a really good price. He's still working on his website, but you can WhatsApp: 0785 643 938.

Finished off with this, which doesn't look amazing, but tastes fantastic. Used up my stale bread making bread pudding, then slathered it in caramel.

And treated myself to this impressive pizza from Sole Luna.

Went back out to Bugesera Lodge to tune their piano. Got another tuning tomorrow. Made some piano parts with a 3D printer.

And just hanging out at home with my temperamental fairy lights which sometimes come on and sometimes don't. 

Sunday, 9 May 2021

The Final Curtain

Right, now that's out the way...

I really haven't posted in a long time. 

What's been going on?

Well, still love my boxing bag. Feeling really guilty that I haven't called my personal trainer up recently, but just love being able to slip on the gloves and exercise when I feel like it. I'm way more awake in the evenings. It's just really nice. Someone asked online recently which subject you hated most in high school. Without a doubt, it was PE for me. Cross country in the freezing cold. It put myself and so many other women off sports for life. If it didn't involve a horse or a pool, I wasn't interested. Neither of those options is particularly cheap or something you can do at home, so to discover that there's a form of aerobic excercise that I really like is great. Just pop on the music and away we go. Even learned to do my own wraps.

Seems to be having a bit of an effect on my waistline. Not as much as it looks, I've needed new jeans for ages, but no chance until I get to the UK. Unfortunately, I have a nickel allergy and both my belts have metal buckles, so mostly I wander around with my hands in my pockets, keeping them up. I could get them taken in, but the moment I get back tot he UK I'll stuff myself stupid, so doesn't seem much point only to have them taken out again. It's over a year now since I quit smoking and I definitely put on weight in the first few months after that, so it's nice to see that was just a phase and that my metabolism has evened out again. It's also interesting that, although I've slimmed down a small amount, I haven't really lost much weight. Not that I've ever really cared about my weight, but I must admit, I do like the new muscle. I've always had really strong legs up until I snapped my Achilles - now I have one strong leg - I just never really thought much about my arms. Turns out they're pretty easy to firm up. They don't bulge, but I'm starting to feel them and I like it. It's nice to know that, even over forty, your body can still kick it (or punch it in this case).

Another thing helping me to stay trim is Rwanda postal service. Faithfully delivering parcels months after they were sent. I received a Christmas parcel from my aunt. She sent it last November to make sure it arrived in time... oh, the optimism.

Chocolate that's been in the post way too long.

My handmade soap arrived! It's actually much darker than it looks in the picture. Black patchouli. Can't use it for another few weeks, though. Needs six weeks to dry out and harden, otherwise it just disintegrates in water. That was such a fun day, and I have enough soap now to last me the rest of my life.

Had some fun with bugs. Check this out:

Totally gorgeous and slightly scary, huge bug with a massive stinger. Can't work out what it was. Too big to be a dauber and can't find anything that colour with a stinger like that (1.4 cm). 

My garden has also turned into a hatchery for a hundred baby mantises. They're about the size of my little fingernail and they're cute as buttons... unless you're an ant. Then they're terrifying.

In cat news, Howl's tail has completely healed. I'm astonished by the biological ability to mend. I thought he'd lose the tail at one point, it was stripped down to the muscle. But it's all good now. Just busy growing his fur back. And everything is peaceful since we removed that aggressive tom from the area.

Yes, mum?

Agama Cat Rescue

COVID measures in Kigali have been cautious but starting to ease a little now, although no one's too sure when they'll get vaccinated. I think we're waiting on another shipment. Had a few nice meals with friends.

Coconut Waragi!
Tastes like sunscreen.

Created a montage whilst drunk-cooking at home, to prove to friends that I was able to blow out a match without burning the house down... It was a close call.

And had so much fun cooking kookie black spaghetti. Usually imported food here costs a fortune, but I found this for about £1.50 and I fell in love! 

Best food ever!

Received a knock on my door one afternoon to find a giant UPS parcel delivery. Sent by the wonderful Mr. Harris & Mr. Rob, who thought that I deserved some adult glasses to drink wine from. I think they're being optimistic that these will see out the year, but I'm taking it one carefully bubble-wrapped day at a time. Each one can hold a lake of plonk.

I've made a few other little home improvements, too. 

I went and got curtains! Actual, proper curtains. 

The reason for this is because I've opened up my guest apartment again. It's a little self-contained place with a mezzanine bed, an en suite and a kitchen behind the main house. even got a brand new sofa made to compliment the deco.

So, the issue was that, to get to the guest apartment, people have to go round the front of my house, right past the window where I sit at my desk pretty much all day every day, and I only had these flimsy net curtains to cover my shame.

As you can see, they don't even really close properly because they're on these old plastic rails and most of the curtain hooks fell out years ago. My bedroom wasn't much better - just a piece of green fabric hung across the window. So, I decided, what with being forty now and everything, I should probably woman up and buy some proper curtains. That's what you do, right: turn forty and buy curtains? That's normal? Like, some sort of adulting right of passage?

Wow, it was really hard work. I contacted so many people. Some came but didn't understand what I wanted, others understood but then never sent me a quote, and many just didn't turn up at all. But, eventually, I got there. It was a real learning curve. I thought you just measured the windows and bought that much fabric. I didn't realise you need twice as much fabric because they concertina it on poles. 

Originally, I thought I was getting two sets of curtains: day curtains (netting) and night curtains (normal curtains) as they call it here, but there is only one type of curtain that anybody can have: split curtains. This is where you have netting in the middle and normal curtains either side, both on the same pole. When the netting is all scrunched up at night, no one can see in, then you open it in the day. I really didn't get it at first, as I have never seen these in the UK, but they actually work really well and I'm extremely happy with them.

I was a little less pleased with the workmen who asked me which colour poles I'd like, then promptly brought the opposite. I also had to call them back after they hung dirty curtains and one of the poles came out of the wall, plus they rearranged my furniture without putting it back, left a blanket of dust behind and nails all over the floor - which I stood on! But, the curtains themselves, are amazing and I wish I'd done this years ago. It completely changed the feel of the house. It's quieter in here, and warmer - which isn't always a good thing in a tropical country - and darker in the mornings. The sun used to come right through my flimsy piece of fabric, but now I sleep later into the morning with the darker curtains. I like it a lot. And, most of all, I get privacy. Even the netting is thicker, so no one can see in, day or night. 

Treated myself to a fire pit for Beltane, but need to wait for the dry season before I can use it. Wanted one for ages, though.

Also made a new friend, Laura, who owns an organic farm out of town. There's a few families who are not from Rwanda but have been here for generations, and hers is one. I was on the hunt for free-range eggs. Most eggs used to be free-range here until deep-litter poultry farming took off, now they're quite hard to find. She delivers once a week to Kigali and I put in an order. when she turned up on the gate, she remembered me as I went to check out her piano a few years ago. I had completely forgotten, until she reminded me I fell in love with her pet parrots. She looked like she needed a drink, so I invited her out the following week and we sank a few at CasaKeza with Solv. Had a really good laugh. She's off to see family in Europe for a few weeks, but looking forward to visiting the farm when she returns. So good to be able to support healthy, happy chickens. 

Talking of breakfast, had brunch with the usual suspects (Solv, Jo and Chantal) the other day at NowNow. The full English in Rwanda - was very good.

American Breakfast

A new bike shop has opened at the top of the road, though won't be calling in any time soon. You know, there's a reason they call this The Land of a Thousand Hills, eight? Still, it's nice to know it's there, just in case I go through a spell of self-harm.

So, there's been quite a bit going on recently. All good. Decided to take a couple of weeks off to focus on writing a novel because why not?

And relax...