Monday, 30 March 2020

End of Week One

Well, midnight last night marked the end of week one in lockdown. 

Doing okay. Found myself randomly dropping messages to old friends I hadn't spoken to in years, and receiving a few from people I hadn't heard from in years. Spent a lot of time looking at bugs. Found this visitor above in the garden the other day and it obligingly sat very still whilst I took a few pictures. This little fella tried to help me fix a piano action today so I relocated him to the garden.

Also discovered my first Rwandan centipede. I've seen loads of millipedes, but this was the first speed walker I'd seen. A tiny thing having a lot of problems navigating the slippery tiles.

Staying home hasn't been any hardship, though I miss make-up a bit. It was only a couple of weeks ago I was dressing up to go out. Certainly don't miss bras or shoes, but maybe missing the glittery eyeshadow just a smidge.

The only people I've seen the entire week are my neighbours, who dropped by - at a safe distance - last night. They came to cut amaranthus from my back yard, which is a type of leafy green. They explained how to cook it, so I can have some too. They also offered rice and potatoes in return, but I've still got a good supply. It's so lovely to have neighbours who check on you and offer to share. My avocado tree is slowly fruiting so, once it's ripe, there will be plenty of avocados for everyone. The government has also started distributing food to poorer households. We've only got 70 cases so far, but it's rising slowly. Definitely a shame that this has happened just as they've announced the Ebola crisis is over.

I'm very lucky that one of my closest friends is a doctor. I've been asking him pressing health questions...

Apparently the struggle is real and I should probably rest.

Cleared out my handbag the other day and found £450.

My aunt sent these out a year or so ago. I smiled politely at the time as no one tends to use it. I'm now smiling with extreme gratitude as I'm definitely using it. 

Been working away on pianos a bit as I have a friend's action at home and some of the keys need fixing. Took the opportunity to empty out my kit and sort through it all. It's nice to have something to tinker with.

Also been lighting some candles in the evening. Talking to my imaginary voices. Been doing a bit of writing again, which is nice. Conjuring characters. I hope everyone else is making it through the isolation okay and has enough to eat and drink. The initial lockdown was for two weeks, but I expect it will be extended.

Friday, 27 March 2020

Pastie Point of No Return

Almost one week in lockdown. Feels longer but really not suffering for it. Rather enjoying the peace and quiet without traffic or bars, although aware of the human cost of this. 

Decided to pass the time by attempting to bake. Set up a baking table in the back yard. At the same time I found the muffin tin, I also found a plastic pastie shaper, so thought I'd give that a go. It was a nice sunny day, and the equipment was easy to clean - just throw water over everything.


Started out by putting a bit too much filling in, but got the knack of it. Kidney beans and cabbage with ginger, garlic and soy sauce. 


Clockwise from the top you can see the improvement in my technique. All baked in the bucket, as always. Entertaining way to pass an afternoon. Also resurrected the crepe maker and have been eating a few of those.

I've decided that cabbage is the way to survive an apocalypse. They're huge, if you put them in the fridge they don't seem to go off, and you can slowly peel your way to the centre. I've been eating a lot of stir fries. Again, with tons of garlic, ginger, sesame seeds, honey and soy sauce, fried up in a bit of butter. Trying to ration the chocolates and biscuits since I can't go swimming anymore. In the evenings I tend to put on a playlist and throw myself around the room for a while. Usually whilst cooking. My friend set up a group where we just post songs that make us happy.

In other news, there was a bit of a stir on the internet yesterday when a news story broke that police had shot two people for breaking the C19 lockdown. The police quickly responded with the tweet below and the story has since been changed. Apparently the police were attacked. Though, coming from the UK, the sight of so many guns on the street does make me feel very uneasy, especially during times of heightened tension.

However, it does appear that one guy was eaten by a crocodile whilst breaking the rules. No mention of why the crocodile was out and about. Serves it right if the guy he ate had Covid-19.

These are indeed strange times.

I've come down with a cold, but just your standard head cold. No coughing or fever, just a bit bunged up. Things just plodding along. We're having an emergency Skype meeting next week at work to try to figure out what to do. We run a few elderly care homes, some health clinics, lots of workshops and youth camps. Most of our funding is to conduct community work, which we can't do much of at the moment. It doesn't affect me directly very much as I mostly deal with the paperwork, but when there's no activities, there isn't much paperwork either. 

Passing the time playing the piano, playing Call of Cthulhu, cuddling the cats and making endless cups of tea. Broke into my supply of UTC milk today. Everything is going to be just fine so long as I can make a nice cuppa. 

Saturday, 21 March 2020

Full Lockdown

Well, that's interesting. I was having a chat on WhatsApp with a friend and saying that we still had some freedom of movement. Went out to get a beer. Came back to this. No freedom of movement at all.

Don't mind. Completely sensible. Was just a bit sudden. On full lockdown for two weeks.

I can't help feeling slightly fortunate. I did a little bit of shopping last week. Not masses, but I have some tinned and dried food to see me through. Enough for a couple of weeks. I also had my cleaner over today, which seems ridiculously fortunate as she won't be able to come now. So I'm sitting in a really nice, clean house. Good way to start a lock-in.

I help out a lady with her sewing business. She just paid off a loan for a sewing machine, so I made another loan and she gave me some nice pillow cases as a thank you. She's really lovely. My cleaner made the bed with the new pillow cases.


So, clean house and a freshly made bed.

I wasn't expecting this to happen, but I feel like I'm prepared for it. Really going to miss swimming, though. There was never anyone else at the pool first thing and it was so relaxing. Have to find another way to get the endorphins. Plenty of time to practise the piano, and Harris pointed out Gog has a sale on, so stocked up on games. Lots of old classics on there like Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle. Got my Netflix subscription.
Though had a tough evening. The electricity went out for ages and my laptop died. Felt a bit apocalyptic sitting here in the dark, waiting for zombies to appear at the window.

Finally got electricity back but lost freedom of movement. Ahwell, can't have everything.

Let's hope these measures kick the virus and people stay safe. As one meme pointed out, the longer it takes people to comply with the rules, the longer we're going to have to stick to them.

Seems our Last Brunch was kind of prophetic. We were only joking about it at the time.

Before Rwanda had any cases, my friend was joking that it was good news for local consultants because Rwanda wouldn't be flying in any external ones. Essentially, we'd get all the work. Then we got a case and the party ended - yes, we'd get all the work, but there wasn't any work! Bitterly ironic. Christmas lasted a day.

You've got to laugh really, because there's been some awful stories coming out of places like Italy and parts of the US. I already know someone who lost a family member to it. Another friend's wife and child are stuck on another continent. Starts to drive it home when that happens. Fingers crossed Rwanda's quick reaction and consistent policies are going to pull us through with minimal damage.

Stay safe everyone.

Friday, 20 March 2020

Sudden Goodbyes

My dad made this picture. Hah, priorities.

Well, I guess updates might be a bit more regular from now on.

Quite a bit has already changed in just a week.

I have a funky new look. Got on a bike the other day to discover that all visors have been removed from passenger helmets. A really good move. You're also supposed to cover your head. Just discovered I should have been doing this for years as it makes the helmet fit. Slid on some shades to stop bugs getting lodged in my eyes.

In truly wonderful news, my Christmas package from dad finally arrived. Think he posted it about four months ago. Packed full of chocolate, so my C19 hoarding is going well. I now have chocolate and dried beans. I'm going to survive the apocalypse.

We're not on complete lockdown yet. Restaurants are still open but bars have been told to cancel live music and DJs. It's pretty quiet. My friend Giulia remedied this buy buying a piano from a couple who are leaving. Me and Dés helped move it and I fixed a couple of keys. Going back to tune next week. It's always heart-in-mouth watching them shift pianos, but they haven't dropped one yet.





As of midnight tonight, Rwanda is closing its airport to all commercial flights. This is because the majority of our eleven cases so far have arrived with travellers. This is an attempt to stop that happening. It's left a few people stranded, so myself and a couple of friends are opening up spare rooms for people who are in desperate need. Most of the guest houses in Kigali are also discounting their rates, some offering rooms for $10 a night which is pretty much unheard of. Rwanda is known as more of a luxury tourism destination, not the sort of place to get stuck on a backpacker budget. 

This morning, I went to say goodbye to my lovely friend Nick. He's a Peace Corps volunteer and they've all just been evacuated back to the US. Going to miss him. He still had about another six months to go, but it's leave now or maybe never.  

As we weren't allowed to hug or touch, we took this cute photo with him standing a few meters back.

Our first attempt at optical-illusionary photography didn't work out so well...

Took this photo on the way out. There were about a hundred suitcases piled up outside, ready to go. 

No idea when I'll see him again or where in the world. Wishing him a really safe journey home.

It's definitely strange times. It hasn't been a hard decision for me to stay. I've survived malaria here a few times and if I'm going to be sick, I'd like to be tucked up in my own bed in a nice compound where friends can throw food over the gate. And community is a huge part of it. There's so many development workers staying because they have families or just because they have a lot of faith in the government to handle this. Rwanda's been on high alert for Ebola since 2015. Some of these health steps aren't new to us, just on a larger and more rigorous scale. I feel safe in Rwanda, I have a lot of friends here and we're a good group of people who look after one another anyway. I have food, shelter, cats and health cover. Just going to ride it out.

It's going to be interesting with April approaching. That begins with Genocide Memorial Week, and gatherings have been banned to help stem the spread of C19, so people might not be able to come together for memorial services. Churches are also closed. Bars and restaurants are open but with social distancing and no music events. 

It's a time of uncertainty, but I must admit, I feel okay about it. A bit concerned for my parents, as the UK's response doesn't seem that on it. I think Rwanda's doing a better job. But there's nothing I can do now. Can't leave, just got to ride it out. Do the best we can for each other. Turikumwe, komera (we are together, be strong).

Sunday, 15 March 2020

The Last Brunch

Had such a lovely brunch this morning. It was my friend's birthday so we met at Heaven in Kayovu as they do a really nice spread. Just a group of gals chewing the granola. 

It was a slightly weird atmosphere as Rwanda declared its first coronavirus case yesterday. Apparently someone who flew from India and had been in the country for several days before testing positive. It possibly explains why all flights from India were cancelled recently. The person was working at UNICEF, so their office is now shut and being disinfected. But whilst we were sitting eating, a friend received a message that one of her colleagues had also tested positive, so it looks like this isn't a contained incident. 

The government's response has been excellent so far, and there's hand sanitiser outside pretty much every public building and shopping centre.

(click to enlarge)
Most people are now working from home, but we haven't seen the panic buying that people have been doing in Europe. There has been a bit of increased shopping, but most people in the country don't have the income to bulk buy supplies, so it's never likely to get to that point. I was thinking of buying a few tinned goods, but I'm not about to go overboard. Though I do think that ugly will happen in any country if food supplies start to dwindle. 

The only questionable move so far has been tour companies offering discounts on gorilla trekking. It's usually ridiculously expensive. I might be wrong, but I think the discount was a bid by the tourism board to boost tourism despite Covid-19, which seems like a really bad idea. You're not allowed to go if you have a cold because you can pass it on to them, so it seems like a bad time to encourage people to go up a mountain and sneeze on a gorilla. It would be awful if it turns out they can also catch Covid and, in an attempt to boost tourism, the gorilla population gets wiped out.

But this is really a blow for Rwanda as the country has put so much into marketing for tourism, even sponsoring Arsenal football club for a large amount of money. My friend runs a small tourism company and said that all his bookings for the next month have now cancelled. It's going to be really tough for a lot of people.

We called this morning The Last Brunch because we really aren't sure how things will be affected here over the next few weeks. Most people are talking about self-isolating and the government has banned large gatherings, discouraged groups from exercising together on car-free days, and looks set to introduce further measures.

In non-Covid related news, I had a lovely four-hour lunch with my friend Pieter last weekend, too. We went to The Hut and finished up with a spectacular dessert. All chocolate-brownie drizzley goodness.

Also had drinks on Friday at Sole Luna. They do a very special gin and tonic. It comes with a whole finger buffet going on.

Went home and admired this moth on the wall. Black and white with really delicate wings.

Talking of delicate wings, this gorgeous praying mantis flew into me the other day. Sat there a bit stunned for a moment. Don't worry, its wing wasn't broken. It popped it back into place when I put it in the hedge.

My yard has had a complete makeover the past week. There's been builders traipsing in and out, and two days of hammering on a new tin roof to protect it from all this rain we've been having.


One of the biggest changes was taking down a mango tree in the front garden. There were two, but one was infected, so to save the other we cut it down. The branches went to CasaKeza to use as firewood during their music nights, and my friend Désiré is a carpenter, so he's taking the large logs once the driveway is dry enough to roll a truck over.

Had to put a root barricade around this palm tree as it was starting to push through the garden wall.

Strange experience at the post office this week. I turned up to discover I had been cancelled. You're supposed to pay around £30 each January for a year's PO box subscription. I had paid. The computer said I'd paid. I had the receipt and everything. But turned up to find my padlock had been tied shut. When I cut it open with my key, the box was crammed full of ancient, undelivered letters. Like that film, Dead Letter Office. None of them were addressed to me, event though I've been waiting on parcels for over four months now. Ominous.

I had to go have a very lengthy discussion with someone who promised to clean the box and reinstate it. Though my friend Jo pointed out that you don't need a PO box to receive parcels, so why bother? She has a point. I'm not sure why I still subscribe. Nothing ever arrives nowadays.

There were so many letters, I couldn't even pull them out.

Consoled myself with a shopping trip to Sharma's. There are so many strange corners to that shop. In one of them, I found a cupcake tin and, in a moment of wild abandon, decided to try it out with my bucket oven. I made sweet plantain muffins. I took a wild guess at the ingredients: sugar, egg, flour, milk, baking powder - something like that - and plenty of cinnamon. They were absolutely delicious.  I almost died of delight.