Hakuna Matata!
December 6, 2010

Last Friday evening was my last in Nyakarambi, my home for the last three months. It could only be spent at KMC especially as Msafiri had promised me one final ‘special omelette’ on the house.  

A week or so before I had been chewing the fat with him whilst sipping my Mützig and  somewhere along the way I had suggested a number of marketing strategies that I thought he could usefully introduce at KMC to increase his turn-over. He listened politely and thanked me for my input.

As  Mark, Abdel-Illah and I arrived on Friday I was amazed to find Msafiri had not hung around when it came to implementing the ideas we had recently discussed.

At the entrance my eyes were immediately drawn to a hand written notice proclaiming ‘Happy Hour’ prices! We were then shown to a single table laid up with a red and white gingham tablecloth and finally our drinks were served with a bowl of home roasted peanuts – bless him!

We all ordered special omelette, salad and chips and during the evening drank a couple of beers each. On asking for the bill we were told there was nothing to pay – a generous and much appreciated gesture.  

As promised, Msafiri did not let me down either when it came to my get away on Saturday morning. He turned up as planned with a car belonging to his friend Napoleon (a doctor from the local medical centre who not surprisingly could only speak French!).

Msafiri drove the Toyota saloon while Napoleon fed compilations of dodgy French pop songs into the CD player.  I sat in the back drinking in the passing Rwandan countryside for one last time. Three hours later we arrived at Kigali Airport and over a final coffee Msafiri and I exchanged email addresses.

I shook him warmly by the hand, thanking him for his hospitality at KMC over the last three months, his generosity the previous evening and for organising my airport transfer. Being a Tanzanian he replied as always, in his native Swahili, “Hakuna Matata” and as we parted he thanked me for being such a good customer and friend. I’m sure we will keep in touch.

Twenty eight hours after leaving Nyakarambi, including six hours between flights in Addis Ababa airport (at least I can say I’ve visited Ethiopia!) I touched down at LHR terminal 3. It was 07.30, an hour earlier than the arrival time printed on my e-ticket, which meant I was able to catch the 08.45 National Express coach to Cheltenham.

As I headed north a foggy, grey Sunday morning soon gave way to blue skies and a wintry English landscape bathed in sunshine. It was so different from the Rwanda I had left behind but it was home!

Chris and I were reunited at Cheltenham Spa coach station, thirteen weeks after saying our goodbyes at the same spot. By 11.45 I was back in the Shire and being welcomed home, quite unexpectedly, by Nicci who had travelled across from Oxford.

Sunday afternoon was largely spent catching up, by the warmth of an open fire while savouring the welcome taste of real ale, at our local ‘The Bluebell’. I couldn’t help thinking it was a million miles away from KMC and wondering what Msafiri would have made of it!     

Advertisements

Hostel Rwanda!
September 11, 2010

Torrential rain welcomed us as we touched down at Kigali Airport, around 14.00 hrs on Sunday 5th.  It was one  of the first downpours of the wet season and something that we have now become accustomed to each day, usually during the late afternoon or early evening.

The Ethiopian Airways flight from LHR had included a scheduled transfer in Addis Ababa but our onward passage to Kigali had taken us, unexpectedly, via Entebbe in Uganda, where we sat on the tarmac for an hour being refueled! On the up side, Entebbe airport is set next to Lake Victoria and there were terrific views as we came into land.

The total journey time from home was about 23 hours, which included the stop over in Entebbe and 3 hours sitting on the floor in the Addis Ababa departure lounge. This, at least, provided a bonding opportunity for the VSO recruits from the UK.

By the time we had cleared immigration and picked up our luggage, all of which thankfully arrived, the rain had stopped and the air felt fresh.  

We were welcomed by VSO Rwanda staff, including the country director, and transported to our current accommodation, the Hostel Amani. During the drive we were able to take in our first views of the Kigali skyline.

The Rwandan capital city straggles over several hills and valleys, spanning altitudes of between 1300m to 1600m. Our accommodation is close to the VSO office but about 12km from the main commercial city centre.      

Most people are sharing rooms but I somehow managed to get one to myself, which is a bonus. There are mosquitoes around so I’m taking daily malaria tablets, smothering myself in tropical strength Deet and sleeping cocooned within a net, which is something I’ll have to get used to over the next three months.

We are being rather spoilt at the moment with meals three times a day. The typical Rwandan meal is a melanje which is served buffet style and consists of a selection of salad, green vegetables (imboga), rice, fried potatoes, and fish or meat, usually in a tomato sauce.

There are a number of local bars and our nearest is just a couple of hundred metres up the road. It is in effect a converted metal container with a lean-to corrugated roof. There is a small courtyard, fenced off from the road, which houses colourful plastic patio furniture.  

The beers of choice are Primus and Mutzig , the taste of success as the slogan goes. A large bottle of inzoga ikonje, chilled beer, costs between 600-700 Rwandan francs (60-70p) and provides welcome relief from the somewhat oppressive heat.

The in country training is mainly taking place at the hostel although there have been outings to the VSO office, which is nearby, and a brief familiarisation visit to Kigali city centre which included a tour of the polyclinic.

The schedule includes a daily two-hour session of Kinyarwanda and has also covered more practical aspects of life such as how to light a kerosene stove and lamp. We have also had an informative and candid talk, from the British High Commissioner, Nick Cannon, who provided useful cultural and historical background information about Rwanda as well as a summary of the current political situation.

On our first full day here Paul Kagame was inaugurated as president, for a second time, following the recent election in which he gained 93% of the vote! A national holiday was called at extremely short notice, which apparently is a not uncommon occurrence. A couple of us managed to visit a bar to watch the final stages of the ceremony, which was attended by many visiting heads of African state.  

On one of our outings we were driven through that part of the city which houses the presidential palace and most of the foreign embassies. We were suddenly confronted by the headlights of motor cycle outriders flanking an official limousine which had  tinted windows and was sporting the national flag. It is highly likely it was the president who, apparently, chooses to drive himself around.

On Thursday we ate out and were treated to the omnipresent local favourite, ihene brochettes na ifiriti, (goat kebabs and chips) at the very originally named ‘The Bar’. The VSO staff put on a pub quiz and my team, the Mutzig Muzungus, won!

Your starter for 10!

In November 2009 Rwanda became the latest country to join the Commonwealth. It is one of only two member states that do not have a British colonial background. What is the other country?