Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Christmas & New Year


Happy 2021!

It's been a nice start to the year so far.

Got some lovely prezzies for Christmas. Dad managed to DHL a couple of parcels out with clothes and chocolates, my friend Harris sent me some Gog games, and my neighbours bought me a lovely hanging basket for the kitchen with some personalised mugs.  I placed them under the Christmas Piano, as we don't really do decorations.




Reciprocated with a hand-painted pot from a lovely nursery in town. From the picture, I thought it was just a little thing, but I could hardly lift it when it arrived! Pretty, though.

Presents for kids and friends

Christmas day was lovely. There are tight restrictions on gatherings at the moment and an 8 p.m. curfew, but everyone there had either got off a plane or was getting on one so had a negative COVID test, except me, and I hadn't left the house in almost two weeks. 

There was a lovely spread with food from China, Spain, England and Germany.



(panoramic, click to enlarge)


Christmas dinner in Rwanda: roast potatoes, sweet potato filo pastry, pilau rice, tofu,
olives and feta cheese, Chinese dumpling bread with pork, mulled wine and mince pies.






Then we decamped two doors down to Jo's garden to sit on the lawn and continue drinking.


Marginally disturbed by this new craze the kids are into, called Slime. Someone described it to me as 'what happens if you mix glue and contact lense solution.' Hmm... lovely.


My lovely friend Maia bought me booze and a feather boa... ah, she knows me well. 

(Drinking responsibly - COVID free!)

Christmas day view near the sunny equator.

A couple of days later, I caught up with my friend Cathy, who lived here for eight years but is moving back to the States. Bought a stack of books off her and a couple of nice tops. We decided to check out a Korean restaurant I'd been meaning to try. I wanted to taste how my kimchi compared... and I think I prefer mine!

Mostly, for the days either side of Christmas, I've been  replacing all the springs on a Korean piano. A lady whose piano I tuned a few years back had moved house. I went to tune it, but it had been damaged in the move and needed a hammer replacing. On further inspection, I saw that the springs were really worn out, so decided to do that, too. Now on the loooong wait for the hammer replacement to arrive. Post here is glacial, but pianos are pretty.

 Old spring in front, new spring behind.

New Year's Eve was a quiet one. I'd been invited to a friend's house for a drink but declined because the curfew meant that I wouldn't get home in time and would need to spend the night. As we were going away the following mourning, I opted to spend it at home. Had a lively Zoom with dad, Marilyn and Aunty Jean, then was on the phone to mum when it turned midnight here. I'm two hours ahead of the UK, so it's like time travelling, being in 2021 before them. Just wish you could get Jools Holland here as that's a lovely New Year's tradition, though it would have been 2 a.m. before the countdown and I was asleep by then. 
The next afternoon, Maia, Cindy, me and the girls set off for a serene retreat by Lake Muhazi, in a little AirBnB. It was the first time I'd been out of Kigali in absolutely ages and the amount of green sent me into shock.

We eventually arrived at the cottage, which was right by the lake, with its own little boat. 

Bee Hives 

My Little Bed

There was no electricity in the house, though we did have solar lights, and the water was drawn up from the lake, so we used hurricane lanterns and tiki torches for light in the evenings. On the first night, we went down to the dock to watch the sunset, then came back up to eat pasta and drink wine around the fire pit. It was rather magical.

Floating Fish Farm   
Sky or water? You decide. 
The night was so alive with noise. There was a tree full of weaver birds, and so many frogs that sang all night. Most delightful of all were the fireflies. I remember, years ago, walking at night from Jambo Beach, which is further up the lake, to my friend's house, and the road being thick with mist and fireflies. It was the first time I'd ever seen them with my own eyes and they were everywhere. Really beautiful. Here, they were flying about the shore, and quite a few small bats were swooping down to collect the evening bugs. There were also beautiful acacia trees up by the house, and their branches glowed in the firelight.

Morning was a little less magical, with this arsehole rooster setting off before the sun broke. There were hardly any mosquitos, but I didn't have netting, so got dive-bombed by a couple of moths instead. The house is in the process of being done up for visitors, so we got the rough version.


This was Maia's second birthday. She was born in Australia to British parents, so she was a day ahead when they phoned back to the UK to tell their families she had been born. As such, she gets two celebrations because she was technically born on both days. We had a leisurely breakfast of coffee and croissants and sat on the pier a bit before guests arrived from Kigali for a socially-distanced BBQ.

Unfortunately, you can't swim in Lake Muhazi because it's teaming with these little water snails, which host parasitic worms that cause bilharzia (schistosomiasis). It's a real shame as the lake looks so inviting, but Maia and I filled up our wine glasses and went for a little boat ride. It's a barrel boat, so basically planks of wood resting on large plastic barrels, with an outboard motor. Safety on the lake is well regulated with every boat being licensed and registered, and police periodically checking that vessels aren't overloaded and that everyone is wearing life jackets. The president has a large house at one end of the lake so safety is taken seriously.

(panoramic, click to enlarge)

That evening, we sat around the campfire again and cooked noodles with fish we had bought from the fish farm. 


Afterwards, we started an innocent game of Ibble Dibble with the leftover charcoal from the BBQ.

Then the makeup artist arrived and things got a little out of hand. She decided to give everyone a unibrow like Frida Coal-o (gerrit? Because of the coal?).

The last words you ever want to hear from a nine-year-old aspiring artist is, 'can I do your makeup?' By the end of the evening, we all ended up with blackface! The photographs of which will never make the internet - careers have been ended over less. It was a particularly socially awkward moment when someone appeared out of the night to connect the house to the local electric grid! I hid in the bathroom, desperately trying to wash it off with cold water. Honestly, some things you just couldn't explain if you tried.

The next morning, we decided to take a walk up the road to find the bar we had seen on the boat trip the day before. It was only a five minute walk from our place and turned out to be a really amazing camping site in the making, using old cars as bedrooms!

As we were sitting there having a mid-morning beer, the owner appeared and we got talking. Rwanda is such a village! Turns out he was one of Maia's Spanish students about nine years ago! We ended up with drinks on the house and a free breakfast. He even showed us his secret beer stash, which is how he cooled the beers before they got electricity. Surprisingly effective.
We took a wander back along the road.
(panoramic, click to enlarge)

Then it was back in the car and home to Kigali. Happy Birthday Maia! It's always an adventure when she's about. Definitely a lovely way to break in the New Year.

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