Friday, 27 February 2015

Nobody Talk to Me

I'm not in a good mood today. I slept okay, though I'm having crazy, crazy dreams lately. Ever since quitting smoking, which is normal, and a good sign that my brain chemicals are flowing unimpeded once again. 

The other night I had a dream in which I actually felt pain. I dreamed I was hiding in a room with an Asian lady and her son and there were people with their faces burned off who were coming to kill us. They'd had their faces burned off by this paper napalm substance falling from the sky (think Anne McCaffrey's thread). It had taken off their skin, and their eyes were totally hollow. It was like Vietnam War meets 2D from Gorillaz. Anyway, we were hiding up a tree when the fire started to fall from the sky. When it touched me it actually burned! I don't remember dreams physically hurting before.

Then there was some art exhibition in the woods the night after that. Someone had made black frames with rice paper taut across them and Chinese symbols in black. It was pretty, though the trees were bare and the woods foggy. Desolated art.

Then last night, before I went to bed, someone had tweeted that they'd been sitting opposite Nick Cave on the train and posted a picture. I downloaded it, coloured his right hand red, and reposted it. (Which self-respecting Peaky Blinders fan wouldn't?). Anyway, last night I had an epic dream that I was talking to Nick Cave. He was telling me Red Right Hand was the best song he'd ever done and he was worried about his career. I told him not to worry, messed up his hair and told him to get back out there and make people love him! (This pales in comparison with the dream I had in my early twenties where Kiefer Sutherland told me to shoot myself in the head after seeing Predator stuck up a tree - so I did).

After that, I was on a beach and that was really, really weird. Two of my closest friends from my Cardiff days were there: Suki and Gedge. You'd have to know our gang to get the dynamics of all of this, but I was there, abandoned on the beach. 

There was a haunted house involved before this - epic haunted house, Manic Mansion stuff, but I don't remember any of it, other than that it happened. We'd escaped from it, I think. And I was there on this beach thinking they were lost, when they come running over the sand. I'm overjoyed to see them. Gedge is with his partner Linda, and Suki's on her own. She's now married with two kids, but everyone looked just like they did ten years ago. 

Only, for some reason (I really don't know where this comes from, we only ever snogged once coz we were drunk and she was trying to turn some guys on in a club), she was like the love of my life! Something had happened. Lynda was supposed to be really pissed off with Gedge and I was supposed to be really pissed off with Suki. Lynda forgave Gedge immediately, she ran up and gave him a big hug. For a split second, I saw how easy it would be to forgive Suki (or whatever the hell she's supposed to represent in my inner psyche). I was about to do it, then that horrible mood descended. You know, when the MDMA wears off and cold rationale eclipses love? I got narky with her. "I came back for you, I've been trying to find you for ages," she said, and all I could reply was "But you left me." I couldn't forgive her. Everything she'd done to find me couldn't make up for the initial abandonment. It was a yucky feeling. Like I could see love and happiness right in front of me, but my own ego wouldn't allow me to claim it.

Weird few nights. Does feel good to have my double life back, however nuts that sounds. I wrote a book once about dreaming. Almost all the dreams I put in there were taken from my own. I used to dream prolifically, and I have been concerned recently because I noticed I'd stopped dreaming. Glad to have that back, though some nights it can be exhausting.

Nice to have a mosquito net, too. There certainly are a lot more of the buzzy bastards in this house than the last.

I love mosquito nets. It's like sleeping inside a bubble and waking up in the mists of Avalon. I'll never forget the time I was caught in an earthquake. Woken at 4am. Didn't know what to do: get under the bed, brace myself in the doorway? Eventually I just shrugged and pulled up the duvet. I reasoned anything that fell would bounce off the mosquito net. (I knew that wasn't true, it brought down the roof of the hotel opposite, but somehow it was the most comforting thought I could muster at that time of night).

Anyway. I'm fucked off, to be honest.

Mostly with my new landlord.

"Sure, no problem with water or electricity," he told me. What he forgot to say was "except when they're mending the roads." Which they're doing at the moment. Thirty minute blackout last night, water highly temperamental today.

"When do they finish mending the roads?"

"You never know. When they finish with one, they attack another."

Also, when I was viewing, he said "Yes, hot water, no problem. You just plug in the water heater and it's ready in ten minutes."

What he forgot to tell me was that the water heater is broken. Also, the shower isn't fitted with a water mixer, so it's only a cold water shower at the moment.

He's promised to get all of this fixed.

"You moved in two days earlier than we originally agreed," he told me - as though two days makes any fucking difference. He knew which day I was moving in more than a week before I came. He said it would be fine. Yet they were still moving furniture out on the day that I arrived.

Something else that got right up my nose was that he called me mzungu twice. "I know it's impolite, but you know, when we heard a mzungu was moving in..." "You're right, I don't like that word." "Oh, you know, you mzungus, Europeans-" Oh, so you do have another word for us, you just choose to use the one you know I won't like?

He also hates cats.

Cherry on top of all of this - he won't let me set up an open plan kitchen as per the video. He insists that you can't cook in the front of the house, I must turn one of my bedrooms into a kitchen. Apparently the gas (not the smell, I did clarify) gets into the ceiling (!?)

What is it with houses in Kigali? Between daft landlords, crap layout, missing water, electricity and - now - kitchens, trying to find somewhere suitable and affordable to live is like trying to sing tenor with your balls in a vice. 

I'm worn out by the entire experience.

I need to go get money out for a gas bottle tomorrow, so I've decided I'm going to treat myself to a full on buffet at Novotel. 

I almost cried earlier. I haven't got much food in the house, or any way to cook it at the moment. Damascene got the charcoal stove going and when I poked my head out to say how good it smelled, he brought me a huge plate of potatoes and beans - then went and bought me a coke!!! 

Honestly, I was welling up. 

Tonight, I really, really, really wanted hot chocolate.

Dined on the finest Cadbury powder and Joanna's digestive biscuits.

The next stressful situation was my friend IC.

He's a lovely guy, he's had a shit time, he's trying to get out of the country. He applied for a French student visa, passed all the exams and has scraped together something like €2,000 of the €3,000 he needs to secure his place.

Despite telling him I was working tonight (more Skype interviews dictated by US time zones), he turned up exactly when I said I was starting work, and proceeded to ask me for the money. I knew it was coming, he'd hinted as much in a Facebook message.

I had to say no. I don't have that kind of spare cash in my account. I feel bad, because I understand his situation, but he's also a guy who spends $300 on really bad paintings, and tries to rent a house he can't afford because he thinks he can sub-let it. (It was a terrible house). He says he'll pay me back, and maybe he would, though he still owes me 8,000 francs for a meal I bought his friend a while back. Still doesn't alter the fact that I don't have that sort of money.

Next thing I know, he's posting on Facebook all this stuff like I need to find a way. I can't watch my chance vanish and The last person I had faith in said no. So confused.

Confused because he took all of the good stuff (passing all the exams) as a divine sign that he was meant to get to Europe. The fact that his friend doesn't have €1,000 to give him, and can't raise it by tomorrow, doesn't fit into his worldview. How can God have favoured him with France, but not favoured his friend with the money to give him to get there.

What annoys me so much is that he knows I don't have that sort of money. So why ask me? I think he took the fundraiser for Damascene's house as a sign that The Bank of Mzungu was open for business. That's a really harsh way to put it, I know, but that's how it feels. It took sixteen people two days to raise the money for Damascene. And that was a totally different situation. Damascene lost his house overnight, and I know how much he earns because I pay him. IC has had months to think about where he'll get the money for his visa, and he has a full-time job. He is a nice guy, he's helped me a lot, but he doesn't think things through.

In all good conscience, I sympathise hugely, but I refuse to feel guilty about this (she said bravely, when she usually feels guilty about everything). Not to put too fine a point on things, but I have already shown my solidarity for his plight by moving into a house without a freakin' kitchen.

I just hate it so much when friendships become conditional. How can I feel comfortable going out and drinking with a guy who clearly thinks I've held out on him? 

So, really, the only sensible thing for me to do now is to have a long lie-in tomorrow, stuff my face at Novotel, then head up to Gisenyi for a leisurely stroll by the lake with Joanna and Zuba on Sunday.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

New Nest

Well, that's my new home.

Weirdly everything went very smoothly.

I started my new job last night. Five hours of interviews on EST, didn't finish until almost 2am, but productive and good.

This is me in New York.

Turns out I did have slightly more stuff to move than I was expecting.

To think, I arrived with one suitcase...

Finally finished packing when Jo arrived around 2pm. Did two trips. Turned up to find men fixing the driveway, so had to carry everything down to the house. But my landlord's sons helped, though they were still moving some of their own furniture out when I arrived. Little annoying - they knew I was moving in on this day last week. Leaving everything until the last minute.

Never mind. They're really nice chaps. Plus the entire house has been repainted. It looks really nice. It's not as grand at first glance as the other house, but it certainly has its charm. There's some mood lighting in the living room, plus a hot shower (haven't had one of those in about seven months!)

Damascene came with us on the second trip. Really touched that he agreed to move with me. He likes the place, and he's got his own room out back with shower and sit-down (rather than squat) toilet. He's gone back to the old house to clean and lock up. I've put the light on in his room so that he can find his way back okay. Put some Quality Street in there too, which Jo gave me for my birthday. Really hope he settles in okay as he does know a lot of people in the neighbourhood we've just moved from.

Only problem is that we don't have a kitchen - yet. I'm going to make one, but I need a table and shelves. Need to get permission from my landlord, then set the carpenter to work. Also want a writing desk in my room. Before, it was bucket baths, now it's a bucket kitchen. Having a proper kitchen sink makes such a difference, but I'm sure we'll figure it out. I managed before, years ago in Gikondo. At least water and electricity won't be a problem anymore.

So, first night in my new home. Without bedbugs. I kinda miss the li'le critters. Who am I going to talk to in the mornings?

Very glad I purchased the sofa and beds from my landlord before moving in. I think it would have been miserable to turn up with nothing to sit on. He's also left the fridge here, tempting me to buy it now that it's made itself indispensable.

I think I'm going to be very happy here. It seems like a nice house. A bit more homely than stately, but perfect for my needs. Thinking of renting out one of the bedrooms. Need to think of something to do with that weird box room next to the bathroom... a meditation room, perhaps?

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Roll With It

My entire life was revolutionised by the concept of rolling rather than folding.

My preferred method is to dump everything into a black bin liner, but you can't get plastic bags in Rwanda.

I finally found work I enjoy doing less than packing. So I started packing.

Beads of nervous sweat formed across my brow. I couldn't work out whether I had a lot of stuff, or not too much stuff. Turns out it's not too much stuff, just spread over a wide area.

Minus kitchenware, bedding and wash bag, which I'm still using, this is pretty much my life.

It took over an hour to clear my office, yet it all fits into one cardboard box. Perhaps the box is secretly a TARDIS.

I hate, hate, hate packing.

Writing strategies is pretty pants too. I enjoy the workshops, but typing up logframes and Gantt charts - *yawn*

Been a funny sort of day. Had a surprise client in the UK. Nice, unexpected, income for the day (it's always a good day when I make more than I spend). Fingers crossed it'll turn into proper work. Also remembered another client owes me some money. Funny, I spend most of my day wondering where I'm going to get money from, then go and forget something like that *rolls eyes*

Life at the moment feels a bit bitty. Too many plates in the air. Gone from having nothing to do to having too much to keep track of. Next week is likely to be manic, but after that things should settle down again, and I should be settled into my new place.

Hopefully going for a leisurely stroll in Gisenyi at the weekend with Jo. Could do with getting out of Kigali for a bit and gazing on the ocean (well, it's a lake, but it's the size of an ocean).

Monday, 23 February 2015

Glitter Cat

Zuba made me a lovely birthday card.

It's a portrait of her cat.

It's made of glitter.

There is glitter all over everything I own. My bag. My phone. My makeup. My hands. My face. Everything.

It was pretty in the club.

Now it is slightly regrettable.

Ho hum.

Still, I shall treasure it always.

Well, what a few days it's been.

In the face of Damascene's misfortune, I felt I really had to do something to try to help. So I launched a fundraising campaign amongst friends and family. You'll be glad to know we've made back all the money he lost, and enough for him to re-build in one go, plus a roof so it doesn't flood again, and a compound wall and garden.

Still a few donations trickling in but I transferred the main bulk today. He's taken it back to his village to give to his wife to manage. I'm definitely moving house on Thursday, as it's the only day my friend can lend me her car. It still doesn't feel like a reality yet because I haven't started packing. But Damascene has made the brave decision to come with me. So, we're moving as a family. 

I'm very glad about this. I would have employed him even if he wanted to stay at this address, but logistically it makes things a lot easier. Plus, I do feel safe when he's around. I caught him doing martial arts on the lawn once, and the guy has a solid twelve pack. I wouldn't mess with him.

Really glad I could help out. So grateful to everybody (sixteen people) who reached into their pockets and their hearts to donate. Going to go and take some pictures of the new house when it's all done.

It scares me sometimes how easy it is to fix things with a little bit of money, and how many people in the world don't have access to that little bit of money. 

Things at the moment are hectic. I'm in a state of denial about moving. I need to pack, but I haven't started yet. Mostly because work happened.

I am now officially the Country Director for a small human rights programme based in New York, Cambodia, Bosnia and Rwanda. I handle Rwanda. Or, at least, I'm about to. It's a youth program in post-genocide countries. It takes paying international students and subsidises local students. Lady Luck (LL) was one of them a while back. Young people who are committed to human rights, including refugees from Congo. 

I'm determined to do a good job, but it's a lot of work and responsibility. Lot of logistics to figure out. But it all begins with interviewing potential participants. I'm up to my eyeballs in CVs and we're starting the first interviews on Wednesday night (9pm my time as there's a seven hour difference between here and New York), then I'm flying solo on the second batch next week. 

Had a couple of UK clients with issues they need resolving, plus I am still beavering away at this three-year strategy I'm developing for a local organisation. Meant to finish it today, but haven't.

Electricity went out 7pm last Friday and didn't come back on until 4pm Sunday. Then went out a couple of hours later. It's been like a disco - lights on, lights off, lights on, lights off.

Analogy for my love life right now, but I'm not even going into that. 

I am fairly stressed at the moment, but I've decided to see how things are after the move. Reckon it'll settle down a bit once the interviews are over and the housing situation sorted out. Hopefully get some time to write again.

Deep breath. Time marches forward, you can't halt it. Just gotta loosen them shoulders and roll with it.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

B 34

Happy Birthday toooo meeeee.

Workshop went swimmingly the other day. The day before my birthday. Reminded me that I do enjoy doing development when I'm working with an organisation I believe in and who get all enthusiastic. 

My actual birthday has been a bit weird. 

In the tradition of Christmas & New Year, I really didn't feel like a party, just a quiet drink with my friend Jo, who's just got back from the UK.

It rained heavily all morning. It's been raining heavily all week, though it's supposed to be the dry season.

Been having real problems with electricity. Always seem to get a black-out right when I need to type up some work or print something off. Having to ration the use of my laptop. Had no electricity most of yesterday, all of last night and all morning so far.

Still, that's a minor issue compared to what happened yesterday.

My housekeeper, Damascene, lives in a small self-contained house behind mine. The one you can see above. 

Being my birthday, I couldn't be bothered getting out of my PJs. I was just messing about online, drinking coffee. He appears in the living room looking really distressed. The problem is that we don't have a common language - he speaks Kinya and Swahili, and I only speak English and a pitiful handful of sentences in Kinya (mostly to do with moto directions and ordering beer). 

"My house." He managed to say, then made a gesture which, in no uncertain terms, translated as disaster

I run outside, thinking his house has fallen down - it doesn't look very stable, but it is standing.

So I call my friend IC who translates for us.

Turns out his house has fallen down, but not this house. Damascene is extremely frugal. He saves every penny he has for building a house out of town for his wife and son. IC says that even when he got married, he didn't hold a big ceremony, as is the custom here. Instead, he called all his friends round and announced "Now we are married". They had a quiet house party and celebrated as friends without blowing a fortune.

He is one of the most hard working, trustworthy people I know.

To hear this misfortune was tragic. Apparently they were just putting the roof on. The house was almost finished. Then the rains came hard and the whole thing collapsed.

In the UK or US, if you contracted builders to build your house and the house fell down (thank goodness there was nobody inside it!) you would sue the building company for all they're worth. Here, anything that happens to a house is the responsibility of the owner. The owner didn't build the house, but if it falls down, it's the owner's fault. 

Years ago, I had a friend with a violent husband. The husband beat up their house girl, then ran off. The wife was left to pay the hospital bills for the girl because the incident had happened on her property. No regard for the fact she was an abused wife. No regard that her husband had run off leaving her without any money. It happened on her property, so it was her fault. The husband wasn't around, so she had to shoulder the blame.

Damascene has lost his house. He saved for years to build it. He hugged the life out of me when I gave him a little extra money at Christmas towards it. He didn't build that house with his own hands. He hasn't got any experience of building. So he hired people who did... yet he, with no building experience, is responsible for his house falling down, even though he didn't build it.

Sometimes standards of justice here go right over my head.

It would be like me getting sick. Knowing that I am not a medical professional, I would go to a doctor who is. The doctor accidentally chops off the wrong leg, and it's my fault. I have to pay to correct his or her negligence.

So, that was a sad start to the day. There wasn't much I could do but offer comfort and give him time off. He just sat on my porch, head in hands. It was very sad to see.

Went out for a lovely meal with Jo in the evening. Did pizza and wine, and I made a new friend.

Cutest little thing, came and sat with us, right between my feet. (Possibly doesn't have the best sense of smell...)

Also found a baby gecko on my porch. Rare to see them on the ground. They're usually on the walls. I love geckos, and this one was only the length of my little finger.

Had some lovely presents. A huge amount of chocolate. Unfortunately the Guylian shells had melted a little. But, where there's a will... I managed to dig them out of their casing with a penknife. Bear Grylls eat yer heart out.

Jo had put together a beautifully wrapped hamper set, including quilted toilet paper, Marmite, Quality Street, baked beans and soup, all arranged in two beautifully woven Rwandan baskets.

The biggest surprise of all came from IC. We picked him and Fidens up after pizza and went to Nyamirambo for a drink. When I arrived, IC was in a fluster - "Wait, wait," he told me. "Your present is on its way." Ten minutes later this guy arrives. "Close your eyes!" IC tells me. Errr... okay. "Open them!"

With the artist, Augustin.

I have never in my life had my portrait done! It was taken from a picture my cousin took of me for my first ever book publication. I was completely stunned. It's so well drawn.

Truly is one of the most amazing presents I've ever had. 

It's IC's birthday next month, so the pressure's on to think of a good present...

Headed off to a nightclub after the bar, but I was pretty knackered by then. It was like that Cinderella pumpkin moment. I hit 34 and suddenly I lost the ability to find all those grinding bodies and thumping music attractive. Fancied putting my feet up with a cup of hot cocoa and reading a good book.

Took a wander through the deserted back streets of Kigali and made my way home.

Was passing Death Junction (my pet name for a big crossroads near the airport where the traffic lights never work) when I witnessed a horrible car crash. A taxi went straight across just as a black car coming the other way turned into its path. I heard the brakes at first and, in my slightly inebriated state, braced, because I thought they were our brakes, or a car in front, and that we were about to hit something. Then I heard the shatter of glass, looked to the right and saw the taxi bounce and hit a curb, bonnet all crumpled up. 

It was a strange flash-back to something that happened a few years back. I forced my driver to stop, ready to run over and help, but, unlike last time, the driver was very much alive. He leapt out of the taxi and ran over to the other car. Thankfully the occupants of both vehicles seemed to be okay, so we drove on.

You gotta give it to crumple zones. They look dramatic, but they really save lives. (Said the girl zooming around town, drunk on the back of a motorcycle).

Anyway. It was a nice birthday. Got home in time to Skype Mum. Wasn't a great connection, but good enough to say hello. She's sent me a photo of my nephew and his brother eating a birthday cake they bought in my honour. Little scoffmongers that they are! x

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Sing Out

Gosh. I can't believe it's been almost a week since my last post! 

Two since I quit smoking. Feel like my normal self again. Though I was reading On Writing by Stephen King the other day, and he spoke about the writing/smoking link. I've always known it. It ain't good for you, but it puts your brain in the zone. 

Things are slowly better, but I think I'm more upset about moving again than I was willing to admit. 

This is my new place.

Three bedrooms. Only one bathroom, but this one has a hot shower! My first in six months. I shall no longer be stinky, and I can wash standing up rather than crouched over a bowl. It's behind the President's Palace so no problems for running water and electricity.

We've been having a lot of periodic blackouts lately. Went through a week of about mid-30s, now a week of spectacular thunder storms. They don't call Kigali the lightning capital of the world for nothing. Nose-to-nose with the gods.

Also got a front garden and small back garden. Nice and private. Only disadvantage is that it's unfurnished, so I've struck a deal with the landlord to buy some furniture off him. My friend and (soon to be) former landlord was trying to convince me to buy everything new - which actually would have been cheaper than what my new landlord was asking. But I used those prices to knock him down to less. Plus I'm tired. I just want to move into a house with a bed and a cooker. I don't want to have to go buying everything and having nowhere to sit, even for a few days.

So. I'm okay.

I'm torn in half at the moment. I very rarely speak about writing on here. Two separate lives. But this past week has been a bit of a whirlwind. Finally wrote something top dollar. Got to #6 in its category on the Amazon best sellers list. Been inundated with articles to write from my publisher, to help promote it.

I'm halfway through another novel at the moment but I hit a wall. I was sailing through - 60k - and now I can't get it to budge. Hit a tricky plot issue and can't see a way around it. 

The house move and Real Life (tm) got in the way. I find it hard to write when I don't feel settled, and I don't feel settled. Got turned down for a couple of contracts I was hoping for, so decided to clear my backlog of 50 e-mails, clear my in-tray of all the shit, everything that isn't important, file my tax return, and focus solely on writing.

I started offering mentoring and red-pen critique. Got one client right off the bat. Doesn't pay well at all, but felt there was nothing to lose. And, of all the things I do, writing is something I love. Development I can really take it or leave it. It's a means to an end. 

So, mind made up, that's what I focused on...

And had three e-mails through about potential contracts.

Taken up my whole day already.

Probably won't lead to anything, but I have to respond.

It's that sucky wheel of fortune shit. You lose a bunch of contracts, so you reason it must be the gods saying 'right, forget about that - concentrate on writing.' So you do, and then they're all 'only kidding, back to the grindstone!'

Which is no less than you deserve for thinking anything is preordained.

It's all what you make it.

I'm still determined to get on with writing, but I have so much on at the moment. Resigned to getting through the house move first, then setting up my room so that I can tippety tap through the nights. That's part of the problem. I write best at night. Leaves me in no fit state for work the next day. 

I've just really enjoyed the past week. The reviews have - to some degree - knocked my socks off. But in another strange way, I'm not so surprised. Without arrogance - I know that it's good. It's on another level to everything I've written before, and I want to chase that. See where it leads.

Meanwhile, got a workshop to deliver on Thursday. Quite looking forward to it. An NGO devoted to literature. Definitely a cause I can get on board with.

Just need to find a way to channel more of my time and energy onto the page. Cut back absolutely everything else that isn't either making money or inspiring me.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015


Okay. You'll be pleased to know I've finished throwing my toys out the pram. Still feeling irrationally irritable, but the bone-crushing tiredness started to lift a little after lunch and I no longer feel like the answer to every question is to sob loudly and pull the covers over my head.

Just completed a six-hour house hunting marathon with IC.

Little heads-up here people. There's two factors to renting a house:

  1. You wish to rent your property to a tenant.
  2. A tenant wishes to rent a property from you.

Both of these require a key.

We turned up at three houses today that we couldn't look inside of because no one thought to bring a key! Houses advertised on the city e-list, so presumably not short on viewers.

Take this one for example. Stunning view of the city centre...

But this was as close as we got to looking around.

Quarter of an hour spent painting a vivid picture of the interior in Kinyarwanda just isn't really the same as opening the freakin' door and letting people inside. 

Then we headed out to Kacyiru (I think?). Uphill at the Sonatubes roundabout, first left by Rainbow Hotel sign, just keep going. I'd never been down that end of town before and it was gorgeous. Beautiful, quiet, pretty area. 

Almost died laughing when we saw the apartments, though. Brand new build. Tiled and everything.

The problem?

An en-suite room you could not physically fit a bed in. You could hardly fit three people (me, IC, and the agent he was trying to chat up). It was comical, especially as the agent looked highly affronted and didn't seem to see (or refused to admit) what the problem was. 

Still, had a lovely lunch of chapati kandi ibishyimbo (chapati and beans). Three plates of beans, a pile of chapatis, one pint of ikivuguto and a bottle of water for £1.50! Can't remember ever eating that cheaply. Was a lovely place, too. Small bar with a gorgeous garden. Kacyiru Dairy or something.

Then saw a place behind RDB for £150! It was fascinating. Completely unlivable in. Well, from what we could see from the outside, as they couldn't find the keys. It was right on the main road, no garden, tiny little place with another house right behind. But the possibilities that ran through my head were endless. It was the perfect location for an art gallery or a small theatre. 

Went to see another place for £300. Same problem as the one for £250 - it was tiny. Tiny, dark and depressing. There were four of us in there and we had to squeeze around each other. The rooms were like cupboards. Even if you could build a bed small enough to put in there, you'd never be able to lie down flat. Permanent foetal position. I'm gobsmaked anyone would pay over £90 for it. 

But everyone's trying their luck with house prices here at the moment. It's not far off UK prices sometimes. People seem to think you can throw together any old shoebox and someone will pay a fortune. I guess someone must be paying a fortune, otherwise they wouldn't keep charging it.

Next, we viewed a two-bedroom luxury apartment which is likely to be finished in a few weeks.

Random picture of a baby goat.

Luxury apartment.

Still being completed.

Hot shower!!!

Stunning rooftop view.

(panoramic, click to enlarge)

Another random goat.

Studio apartments for around $600, two-bedroom fully furnished and all-inclusive apartments for around $1,000. Swimming pool and gym. It was very impressive. If you have that kind of money to burn, I strongly suggest going for a look round. It's right opposite USAID Land Rights, down the road from RDB. Enquiries to Rubare: / 0788300025 

I was truly starting to despair. Everything we'd seen in my price range was simply appalling. Everything I liked was well out of my budget. Was there no affordable, quality housing in Kigali?

The gods took mercy upon us. Turned up to view another uninspiring hovel. I gazed around glumly as IC made the 'hmmm, uh-huh' noises required of polite prospective tenants. As we were leaving, the lady suddenly said "Or there's this one, next door..."

Cue heavenly choirs as the gate swung back to reveal a secluded three-bedroomed house at the bottom of a garden, with a guard hut for Damascene and running (cold) water!

"Is it an apartment?" I whispered.

"No. It's the whole house."

My face turned to stone. I remembered everything IC taught me - all the mistakes I made when I rented a place off him. I hid my enthusiasm behind noncommittal shrugs. I nodded occasionally, but let them get on with negotiations in Kinya whilst I stared, expressionless, at the floors or the ceiling. I bordered on rude. 

At one point IC asked me whether I thought the walls needed repainting a different colour. My lip jutted, my heartbeat raced - was this a genuine question, or some ploy to reduce the rent? 

"No..." I said, eyes narrowing. "I think the paint is okay?"

It had actually been a genuine question, and he laughed so hard when I told him why I hadn't answered him properly. 

It is not as grand as this place. Nowhere is as grand as this place. It is a mansion, and I have loved living here. But this new house has more bedrooms, it's quiet and secluded, and it's over £100 cheaper. 

This time I am determined to rent one of the rooms out. Possibly to IC, but I don't know if that's a fantastic idea. It felt like we were a married couple today, off on our house hunting adventure, but moving in with friends is always tricky. People you love, you can't always live with. We'll see.

The problems are that there's not really a proper kitchen, just a traditional cook hut. But I can remedy that by bringing a table, freezer, gas, water butt and bowls into the main room and creating an open plan kitchen. I've had one before. Sadly there's no view of Kigali. Plus it's unfurnished, which also means I need to buy beds, a freezer and a gas cooker. Initially a little more cash, but the landlady told me she'll buy it all off me if I leave. There's also only one bathroom, and it's fairly small. But because there's constant running water, I'm planning to splash out on an electric shower head. A hot shower! Haven't had one of those in six months!

We adjourned to Mille Collines for a well earned beer.

Traditional agaseke baskets.
Peace Baskets.

As we were leaving, IC got a call to see one more house just down the road. Knackered, but willing, we went. IC preferred it to the last one and tried to talk me into it. Larger bathroom, still three bedrooms, dedicated kitchen and only about £200. I flatly refused though. On first glance, it was nice. But no garden. It has a view, but that view is of the main highway through Kigali. It's surrounded by a city sound that I find depressing. It was all concrete and tiles, whereas the other one was garden and greenary.

So, I'm signing the contract on Friday.

That's that done.

Just need to organise moving assistance and sign that Country Directorship tomorrow. 

I feel like a weight has been taken off. I was panicking, that was all. Not having house security is horrible. You can cope with most things so long as you have a lovely quiet place to come home to, where you can close the gate on the world.

I'm truly hoping Damascene will choose to come with me. He is the most trustworthy and terrifyingly fit guard I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. I would feel much safer with him around. But I've told IC not to pressure him. It's entirely his choice. If he doesn't want to relocate, I'll probably still hire him to come clean the house and do my laundry twice a week. 

So, I feel a bit better about things now. House sorted. At least some employment, even if it's not as much as I'd like. Just want to curl up in bed and stay there for a few days. It's LL's graduation tomorrow. I feel like a complete shit, but I probably won't go. Need to let myself recover from whatever bundle of blah this has been. 

I wonder what the world will look like in August?