Tying Up Loose Ends…(150 up!)
November 27, 2010

I’m spending my final weekend in Kigali.

Yesterday morning I caught the 07.30 International Express  from Nyakarambi and at 10.15 I arrived at the VSO office. Two hours later I left, having completed my ‘exit interview’, claimed my final expenses and said my ‘goodbyes’ to the office staff.

Down town I called in at the Ethiopian Airlines office to confirm my flights for next Saturday. All sorted but I can’t say I’m looking forward to kicking my heels for six hours in Addis Ababa airport before boarding the 02.00 flight to Heathrow!

Earlier in the week, back in Nyakarambi,  I had met up with Msafiri bemoaning Arsenal’s mid week defeat in Europe. He also confirmed that he has acquired a vehicle to transport  me to the airport next Saturday morning.  I think he is going to drive me there, which is a really nice gesture, considering it’s a six-hour round trip and Saturday is a busy day for trade!    

I was delighted to log on last night and find that Forest have pulled off two superb loan signings, Marcus Tudgay, a decent striker from Sheffield Wednesday, and Aaron Ramsey, an exciting and precocious midfield talent from Arsenal. Ramsey is recovering from a nine month lay off following a very nasty injury but hopefully during the eight matches, he is available for, he will help Forest cement a place in the top six of the Championship.

It’s less good news for Dexter Blackstock, a striker who I have a lot of time for, who will be out for twelve months following his injury in the latter stages of our win at Cardiff. At least the ‘acquisitions panel’ have moved quickly to replace him.

It’s less good news on the ‘Ashes’ front where England might struggle to come away with a draw from the First Test, down under. The pre series hype was never going to favour them. We don’t wear the ‘favourites’ tag very easily and the Aussies were never going to roll over despite what the media wrote.   

Hopefully things will turn around, as one of the things I’m  looking forward to on my return  is a few late night/early morning sessions of play courtesy of Sky Sports.

There was a rather surreal feeling this morning, sitting in my T-shirt sipping coffee in the ‘Isimbi’ bar as CNN announced severe weather and snow alerts across the UK. As long as it doesn’t interfere with flights I don’t mind, but below freezing temperatures will come as a bit of a shock.

It’s umuganda today so I’m confined to the hotel this morning, hence the opportunity to update the blog, at some length!  According to the stats this is my 150th posting, which is quite amazing. I have to admit I have rather surprised myself at managing to keep it going for that long.

Given this landmark posting and the weather conditions back home perhaps I should have followed the time-honoured Dandy and Beano format of coating the title font with snow and wishing all my readers a somewhat premature Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Anyhow I think at least celebratory lunchtime drink is called for. It’s warm and bright here in Kigali, the bars are opening up now and I think I’s better make the most of it!

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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?