Saturday, 24 August 2019

The Returnee

L-R: Nadine, me, Maia, Ian, Lan and Cindy

Ooh, it's been a fun week. Met up with my cousin Conner, who was in town working for the Body Shop. Just a flying visit before Kenya. Like my cousin Tamsin, I'd only known Connor in passing, from my family's hugely extended annual gathering. So, it was really nice to get to know him properly. He's a cool guy, and we had a lot of laughs. 

The day before, my friend Maia's partner, Ian, arrived from the UK. He'd arrived a couple of days ahead of Maia, so I took him and Connor to PiliPili, which was packed, then back to Conner's hotel, Mille Collines, for a last drink. It was a really nice night, and a great way to meet everybody.

Me and my cousin, Conner

Also received a shoe shipment from my dad and Marilyn. Much appreciated, as shoes are something I get through here and are quite difficult and expensive to find in a style you like. This should keep me going for a while.

Been doing some more editing. There's a Lebanese café right next door to my house, and they do the most amazing lemonade. Perfect for a warm afternoon.


Since the restaurant in Gisenyi, I've started stocking jaggery in the house, but realised that's a bad idea as I can't stop eating it. Terribly sweet-toothed. It's supposedly got a whole load of health properties, but at the end of the day, it's still sugar. 

Any health benefits it might have bestowed were undone last night. Maia has returned to Rwanda and we welcomed her back in style. Got the girls together and went out on the town. First to our friend's bar, 514, then to her nightclub, Envy. There was a lot of gin involved.

We started out with the posh stuff, but soon descended into coconut waragi.

Completely randomly, bumped into my friend Isaac, who I hadn't seen in a couple of years. Actually, living in Kigali, these random coincidences happen quite regularly - it's a village. But it was so good to see him. He came with us to Envy. 

Got to envy about two, left around four. They still have the man sculpture, but this time also an incredibly cool dance floor which lights up when you step on it. I've included at the end of the highlights.

The other highlight was Ian getting up on stage and playing the guitar like a fuckin' pro. He's a musician, but to have the confidence just to step on stage and join in is very impressive. 

Man Sculpture

I vaguely remember some form of tequila cocktail and some cheesy potatoes in the wee hours, but it's safe to say that I was suffering this morning. Crawled to the kitchen and made a big cheesy omelette.

Haven't started on the cat food yet.

It's just gone 5 p.m. and I'm starting to feel okay. Which is good. Due to Ian's stunning performance last night, he was invited to play Marriott Hotel tonight with the band, so probably head over there later to continue what I suspect is likely to be a week-long boozer.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Long Weekend

It's been a good couple of weeks. The mango tree in my garden came into bloom. Unfortunately, mangoes don't really grow well in Rwanda and rarely get bigger than the size of your thumb, but the flowers truly smell like the fruit. 


Caught up with Pieter again and went for lunch at Terra Café next to my house, which is fast becoming a favourite. They don't scrimp on the houmous.

In cat-related news, Gizmo has discovered the joys of the washing basket.

Can you spot the cat?

Dad and Marilyn sent this lovely 3D cat card. If you haven't checked out my dad's blog, it's over here.

Just another day in paradise.

Monday was a public holiday for Eid al-Adha, so I took advantage of this to visit my friend in Gisenyi. Since my mum and Merrick are coming to visit next month, I took this opportunity to rent a car and get some driving practise in. I've only driven once here a few months back, so thought I should brush up. Hired this lovely RAV4 automatic and headed up via Nyaringarama to collect my friend Nick, who is a Peace Corps volunteer. He was meeting friends in Musanze, which is a town I pass through to get to Gisenyi, so I dropped him off and had coffee. It was really nice to catch up.

Very fond of that car, it looked after me there and back. It's safe to say I have my driving confidence back, though car rental is a real problem here. It's extremely expensive, made more so by the fact that most of the car rental places are based in Kigali with no offices in major towns like Gisenyi, Butare, Musanze or Cyangugu. This means that usually you have to hire a car for all the days you're away from town, which adds up quickly. You can't just drive to wherever you're going and drop it off. 

Thankfully, my friend Emmy knew a guy who was willing to rent it to me and come to collect and drop off, so I only had to pay the days I was driving. Very grateful to him.

It's been a lovely few days. Arrived Saturday and just got back today. Had a wonderful meal with neighbours, Vikram and Helaine. Picture at the top. Vikram also works on the tea plantation and they were recently married, so she's moved out to join him. It was an evening of fabulous food and a lot of laughter. Oh, and copious quantities of Old Monk rum. Their house used to be the estate club house, and although all the houses have a mini bar, theirs is a little bit impressive.


I still find it a little complex getting used to a house with staff. My friend has a cook, a maid and a gardener. Although he says 'just ask them for anything you want,' I never do. Thankfully, he bought a kettle last time he was in Kigali, so I can make tea in his room without having to disturb anyone. Did you know, Yorkshire Tea - which sources a lot from Rwanda - now comes in biscuit flavour?

Also went out with Vikram and Helaine to a bar on the lake and discovered this incredible flower called Bengal Clock Vine. It's huge and very pretty.

And had fun with beetles. This would have been an amazing shot if it had been in focus, but he's much better at photography than I am, so check below.

Also went to his friend's restaurant in town, Indian Spices. It's really quick, affordable food. Comes in little dishes that don't look like a lot but are extremely filling, complete with jaggery to help with digestion. Going to have to pick some of that up from Sharma's. The rose lassi was absolutely to die for. It had little, crunchy ice crystals in it, which were perfect for a warm day. Absolutely worth a visit.

We also stopped off to buy some local fish. We were going to have a BBQ, but ended up frying it instead. The reason I mention this is that, one, it was fantastic fish, and two, my friend has an ice box in his car. Where the spare change box usually is - it's an actual, electric cooler box. I mean, seriously.

Driving home through Gisenyi with our frozen fish.

Whilst we're on the topic of Gisenyi - in Ebola news, what a difference a week makes!

When I drove up, I brought him some supplies from Kigali, including a thermometer gun. The estate has just put in place measures to help prevent the spread of Ebola, should it ever cross the border from neighbouring Goma. There was an outbreak there recently. A really sad case of a gold miner returning home on public transport, who picked it up on a bus and unfortunately infected his wife and baby daughter. Really awful story. Rwanda even briefly closed the border until the situation was fully understood. 

Anyway, we were playing around with the thermometer gun on Saturday, when I arrived, trying to work out how it functioned. Curled up to watch an Al Jazeera panel report on it Monday night, and by Tuesday morning - Ebola is curable! Science is a fucking incredible thing. Such amazingly good news.

Just a note on the Al Jazeera panel report, though. It is a little bit odd listening to a crisis report on a town five miles from where you're watching telly, but what really struck us was that the three specialists they had on talking about Ebola were all white Europeans. One of the points they brought up was the lack of trust among many Congolese people towards health workers. A lot of distrust for the vaccines. Would it have killed them to find a Congolese health professional to participate in the discussion? Might have gone a long way to helping to build trust. Al Jazeera - your programme airs in Congo. People watch your show there.

Anyway. Doesn't detract from the wonderful sense of hope at there possibly being an end to this awful health issue. 

In non-Ebola related news. I spent a lot of time editing another novel. I have one out tomorrow, so this will come after that. It was so nice to sit on the porch with my proof copy, marking changes. Beautiful sunny day, my mug of biscuit brew in front of me.

It was a shame to drag myself away this morning and return to Kigali. My friend has just been transferred to another estate near Karongi today, to cover for someone on leave. He'll be there around a month. On the upside, it's only about two hours from Kigali, compared to three to Gisenyi, so more chance of partying in Kigali. Took a final snap of the processing plant before driving home today.

In other news, very excited that my friend Maia will be back in town soon. She sent me a picture this morning. She's currently on a friend's boat, swimming around the Greek islands. Jealous? Moi? Bet your ass I am.