Sunday, 26 May 2019


A picture of my street. Don't think I've posted one before? Local shop to the right. 

And a nice view of the sky over the rooftops the other night.

It's been a really nice week so far. A few friends are back in town. Solvejg is back with a view to returning permanently. We went out to our ladies' lunch club, about ten or twelve of us who meet up on a very irregular basis for food and conversation. I'd already had dinner, so I went straight for the chocolate mud cake, which was gloopily delicious.

Had a movie night with my neighbour, Didier. He's as hooked on Game of Thrones as I am, so we gathered together with snacks to watch the last ever episode.

What can I say? It happened.

Everyone who knows, knows what I mean.

My friend Harris is also back in town. We met up at PiliPili and amazingly our friend Andy was there playing a gig. He's the guitarist for Viva Beats, our favourite band in Kigali. He also put a string on the piano a while back. 

We did more live music at CasaKeza, where a band rocked up playing Bella Ciao from La Casa de Papel, one of our favourite series. They also had a cute little gecko audience.

Braved the wet season to go see Habyarimana's Palace, which he hadn't been to before. Really disappointing. It used to be this very strange house full of secret gun cupboards, snake pits, rooms for witch doctors and interrogations. Now, they've stripped the whole place down, declared that nothing of its history be told to tourists, and just hung paintings about the place. 

They've moved the art gallery from Nyanza to here. It really doesn't work. No information about any of the artists, no proper lighting, no cafĂ©, no art-related gift shop. It's just a place to store art. The tour literally goes: 'painting, painting, painting, plane crash, painting,' with no context for why you're looking at a plane crash or what the house was all about. Personally, I think it was much more interesting before, but luckily it was National Museum Day, so we got in for free. 

Once the rain stopped enough that we could leave, we headed to Kisi for tilapia and a fair amount of daytime drinking. This was much more satisfying.

Harris works outside Kigali a lot, so often hires a car. I'd been talking about my mum and Merrick visiting later in the year, and considering transport options. I love driving in the UK, but don't own a car in Rwanda and have never had the courage to hire one. As Harris was back early and had some time before giving the car back, he offered to take me for a spin. He took me to collect some pet food from a clinic in Kicukiro, as it's situated along some really quiet back streets. 

It wasn't just my first time driving in Rwanda. It was my first time in an automatic. A truly mad experience. You can simply roll to a stop on a hill and it just stays there. No clutch, no gears, no handbrake - it's some form of witchcraft. 

It appears physically impossible to roll backwards into something, but knowing that and believing that are two separate things. After a lifetime of remembering to put the car in neutral, using the handbrake whilst parked, finding the bite and easing off the clutch, it felt like a total mind melt. It's supposed to make driving easier, but I felt anxious that I'd forgotten to do something. 

I did get used to it a lot faster than I was expecting though, and I have to say, I like it. The only thing I found a bit problematic was that there's not much control over acceleration for overtaking and pulling away from speed bumps. There is a sort of break point on the accelerator which, if you push down hard enough, thrusts it up a gear, but when you're used to controlling acceleration with a flick of your wrist, it's a little unnerving. When you really want the car to go, it sort of thinks about it. On the other hand, that makes it an excellent car for braving Kigali traffic. After a couple of laps  around the leafy suburbs, we headed for the open road. 

We did a little off-roading down a dirt track, which was excellent. It's a really great car for that. Then we got tangled up in the thick of a moto cloud at an unmanned junction where the traffic lights weren't working. About a thousand motos and thirty cars all bustling to get across the intersection. Fairly terrifying. Mirrors didn't help, because all you could see was a wall of motorbikes surrounding you. It wasn't so different from driving in London, though. Everybody moving so slowly you're unlikely to hit anything. I even practised my reverse parking (pictured). Harris was a star. He hardly screamed at all, and I only drove on the wrong side of the road once.

Last night was awesome fabulous. Went to Pacha Club in Kimironko with Maja and Vincent. Viva Beats were playing and Andy was on top form. I'll post some clips here later, once I have time to go through them. We danced until around 1 a.m. There was a large group of Burundians celebrating a birthday, so a lot of dancing going on. Had such a good time and burnt off a lot of energy. I'm finally feeling back to my old self again. Whatever I was sick with has passed and I'm back to normal.

Harris and his research assistant, Rose, are off visiting hospitals over the next week, and very kindly invited me along. They're going to be training, I'm going to be holidaying. Headed down to Cyangugu, then back up through Karongi. Will be nice to get out of Kigali for a bit. Proof copies of my latest novel arrived the other week, so I'll take them with me and get editing. 

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Just Sign Here

Had a productive day, yesterday. Became a founding member of EBAR, the European Business Association Rwanda. Established to strengthen business ties between EU countries and Rwanda, and good for networking and sharing information about doing business in the country.

We were all there at 9 a.m. for the signing, so afterwards I headed to Kigali Art Centre and treated myself to a yummy breakfast.


Recovering from a month of being unwell. Shivers, aches and general yuck. All the tests came back clean so not sure what it was, but been dewormed for good measure.

It's currently avocado season, a half-hundred ton falling off the tree in my garden, which means I'm eating this for the next month:

Unfortunately, my cats have been lunching on the local wildlife. Brought in two birds this month and sadly neither survived, despite my attempt to build a safety nest for them to recover. People say you should just leave things once they're caught, but cats play with their food for hours.

I've been working on a lot of pianos lately. Bugesera Lodge just out of town has a 70-year-old piano they brought with them from Tanzania. It's not in great shape, so I'm trying to get it playing again. 

 In return, they feed me the most delicious meals.

The trip out there is lovely and green, with dramatic wet-season skies.

I've also started teaching technical English to one of my editing clients. I took a TEFL course about twelve years ago and this is the first time I've used it. It's actually quite good fun as we're exploring more advanced aspects of English and how to present complex information in an easy to understand way, rather than beginners' English. The classes are indoors when it's raining and outdoors when it's sunny.

There was a beautiful rainbow in the sky when I finished teaching yesterday. On the moto home it stretched right the way across the valley, but I was carrying a lot of stuff so couldn't take another photo.

Due to being ill, I went a month without alcohol. My friends Sameer and Justin were in town on Friday and helped remedy that with fabulous passion fruit mojitos at The Hut. I was worried one drink might floor me, but I survived.

So, it has been a time of good food and recovery lately. Hopefully got my mum and Merrick coming out to visit later this year. If you would like to visit Rwanda, RwandAir has a special offer - 30% off flights if you book before 20th May 2019.