Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Volcanoes and Vocational Training

L-R: Ian, Harris, Me, Sameer & James

Just got back from a lovely weekend in Gisenyi. Went up to see Sameer with Ian and Harris, who are both in country at the moment. We also met up with our friend James, who used to work for Jo's bicycle business. Cocktails at Calafia because, hey, daytime drinking is fun.

James took this picture using his phone, which is showing a preview on his watch. Some rather fancy technology.

So, where did I leave off last time... hmm. 

I'm drawing a line under the past month and consigning it to the bottom drawer of forgotten things (old diaries, half-eaten sandwiches and at least two novels).  

Fella got back a week last Sunday. Stepped off the plane, through the shower and over to a local restaurant for beer. He only had a couple of hours before heading north to Gisenyi, so we kept things light. He returned with a huge box of sweets and an equally huge bottle of Amrut whisky. 


The week began with a field visit to a new healing and careers centre for genocide survivors out in Bugasera. It's run by GAERG, the graduate survivors organisation. I'm helping them with their website content, so wanted to understand the project better. Fidele kindly showed me around.


In one half of the building they deal with trauma therapy, counselling and addiction recovery, whilst in the other half of the building they work on life coaching, career guidance and business start-up. The building is sponsored by the Energy Utility Corporation and they opened in January, but the careers side is still a work in progress and they could use some help with resources. I'll link to its website once it goes live.

Also made a new friend whilst I was there.

The road to Bugasera is currently being widened as they're building a new international airport out that way, so lots of diggers and steamrollers.

I took myself back to the clinic to get my throat looked at. I'd had tonsillitis for weeks and antibiotics hadn't resolved it. Apparently no bacteria causing it, but blood test showed no virus either. Seems to have finally resolved itself now, though. Just one of those weird things. Treated myself to lunch at Marriot whilst I waited for the results.

Then Friday rolled around and Harris and Ian agreed to a weekend away in Gisenyi. Ian had just arrived the night before and was staying at my place as all the rooms at CasaKeza were booked. That's my friend Maia's restaurant. Ian's her partner and here to help with some management consultancy to get things working smoothly. Despite only just arriving, he was up for the adventure. We decided to take a taxi rather than driving, which was a relaxing choice as we didn't leave until almost 5 p.m. and it was dark by the time we arrived. 

Stopped off at Nyaringarama, a service station, for a wee and potatoes. Saw this fountain and had to take a photo. I recently released a novel retelling the ancient Irish legend of the Children of Lir, who were turned into swans by a wicked stepmother. Because of this, my eyes tend to spot swans, and this fascinates me because I've never seen a swan in Rwanda in my life. I'm pretty sure we don't have any.

We spent the evenings on the porch with generous helpings of gin and Ian entertaining us all on the guitar. He can really play. Renditions of Summer of 69, Oasis, even a bit of Metallica. We were all singing along.

I went back in for a top-up at one point and found a slug perfectly colour coordinated with the tiles. I took a photo, so I'm fairly sure it was real.

I relocated it to the garden.

The next day we woke up lazy and went for lunch at Calafia, where we met up with James, who is visiting for a few weeks. Indulged in mojitos and Golden Gate cocktails. Sameer unfortunately dosed up on cold medication - but his cocktail had a lot of ginger in it, which helped. 

It was a really lovely afternoon. Then we all piled in the car to go look at the tea fields, as Ian had never been to one. We went out to the edge of Gishwati Forest, which is a really beautiful spot. It was a bit of a cloudy day though, so the pictures are slightly dark.


Sameer explained how the tea is grown and we wandered around having a nibble of the leaves and admiring the mist. Gishwati is a forest full of native trees and it looks Jurassic in this weather. You half expect a dinosaur to come stomping out.

How Tea Works


Chewing on a Tea Leaf

That evening we drove out to the stadium to take a better look at Nyiragongo. It's a live volcano just over the border in Goma. It has the largest active lava lake in the world and on a clear night it lights up the sky with an unearthly glow. Sameer and Ian managed to get these shots of it. It's difficult to photograph it because it's quite a dark glow, so I think they used long exposure.


Sunday was another lazy morning. We headed down to the beach for beers around midday.

Pied Wagtails taken by Sameer
Couple of Lovebirds

Then it was time for the long journey home. Emmy came to collect us after lunch and drove us back to Kigali. We had to stop a moment along the way whilst a digger cleared a path through a landslide. The rain has been pretty relentless the past few weeks. Some incredible clouds covering the mountains near Musanze.

Not entirely thrilled to be back in Kigali, but hopefully see my guy again on the weekend.

I finally got my visa renewed and they've only given me a one-year pass again. I'm feeling pretty demoralised by it, as this is the second year it's been one instead of two, and the price has gone up from 100,000 to 150,000 francs. It's the same money for a one or two year visa, so it feels like they're just wanting me to reapply each year so they can milk the extra cash. It's still much cheaper than anywhere else in East Africa, but it makes you feel horribly unsettled. When you have two years, you feel secure and you start planning your business for the future. When you get one, you put a hold on things and think, 'well, what happens if it doesn't get renewed next year?' Rwanda bangs on and on about how easy it is to do business here, but there's a lot of little things that just don't make you feel secure. And there's no way to find out why they've done this - you try asking and get met with a complete blank. 

It also makes things difficult because I'd like to spend Christmas with family next year but I can't leave the country if I have to stay and renew my visa, which is supposed to take three days but always takes weeks because they inevitably lose something, or ask for more information, or just generally faff about. It has never, ever been processed in three days.

For the first time, I'm starting to wonder if I've run my course here. I really like my new job and the organisations I'm working for, but the visa situation is tiring. I've been here a long time now, maybe there are other places to see. I'm in desperate need of a holiday, so maybe I'll reassess after I take one.

Meanwhile. I have a big bag of freshly-picked tea to drink.

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