Archive - April 2017

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April in review
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Knowing Kigali: Emily’s hands
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Knowing Kigali: What time is it?
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Knowing Kigali: What’s on the menu?
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Knowing Kigali: What caught my eye?
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Knowing Kigali: Something for the children
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Knowing Kigali: Shop till you drop
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Knowing Kigali: Kigali Genocide Memorial
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Knowing Kigali: This is no walk (or run) in the park
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Knowing Kigali: isoko kimironko

April in review

The top highlight of this month should be the Easter celebrations, right? It kinda of was. For some of us – the children, my mum and I – it was spending it in a new city. So, while the Easter holidays were definitely something to write and talk about, it was more of where we celebrated it that made all the difference – more exciting and interessant. Besides T celebrating double digits’ achievement in the first week of April (her birthdate fell during exams), the rest of April’s activities were taken over by our Kigali trip. And what a trip we had! Refer to all the posts prefixed with Knowing Kigali to read about our high – altitude spell in Rwanda.

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Knowing Kigali: Emily’s hands

Physiotherapy. Therapy that uses physical agents: exercise and massage and other modalities. I hoped to be a physiotherapist once; many moons ago in my teenage years. Or a masseuse. With a parlour (back then it wasn’t called a spa) of my own. Easing out tired, tense muscles. Relaxing overworked bodies. Physiotherapist. Masseuse. Either name conjured an unusual, rare profession that I wanted to be associated with. Like diamonds, there were scarcely any therapy parlours – spas – around then; it wasn’t even considered a thing. Expectedly, friends and acquaintances regarded me with incredulous looks when I voiced out my desires. What on earth is she talking about? But it was its rarity, unfamiliarity and seeming untested terrain (in this part of the world) that held widening appeal for me, as well as my amateur practices at home. I was the resident hands when all manner of pains/aches plagued my siblings or parents. Despite the temporary relief I proffered with my little knowledge of the art (no Youtube to the rescue back then), my hands needed training, direction; I was just feeling my way through every massage I gave, improvising as I went along, adopting techniques that paid off to my rough, budding skills. So, I thought: Why not study this at a university degree level and make a career out of it? This year makes it my 17th out of the university. Apparently, between that eureka moment and gaining admission into a higher institution of learning, some other passion (writing, editing…) replaced this specific skilled labour. As Emily introduced her palms, slippery with aromatic oils, to my knackered back, my forgotten career path flashed through my mind. Our last night in Kigali saw me in a spa, having a full- bodied massage. A fitting end to the holiday, if I should say so myself. I just wished I didn’t have to get up so early to begin the journey back home tomorrow, with two lovely, never-tiring, excited children. Emily was her name. My masseuse, that is. Circular motions on my upper back threw up sessions with one of my elder”more

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Knowing Kigali: What time is it?

Here in this freezing city of Kigali, the sun rises before 6a.m. Now that’s a first for me. I know this because by 5.45a.m, it’s dawn enough to set out on my morning walk. This phenomenon is no different in the evening. Twilight sneaks in, again, before 6.pm, startling those of us tourists who find it strange that by the time it’s past the hour, a covering of darkness has descended comfortably, significantly. It was temporarily unsettling, these changes, coupled with Kigali’s time difference (it is an hour ahead of Lagos). Don’t get me wrong. This won’t be the first time I’d encounter a different time zone but it would certainly be experiencing the combination of another time zone and its attendant unusual day/night occurrences. Together, they were quite unnerving to deal with. In a moment of childish defiance (and maybe to keep me anchored to Lagos or keep my wits about me, I don’t know which exactly), I never adjusted my wristwatch to Kigali’s local time throughout my entire stay there. With time and deliberate efforts, my entire being, however, adapted to this peculiar, premature, sky – changing instances. They didn’t stop my sense of awe every time I witnessed them or prevent me from whipping out my camera to capture nature’s glorious expressions. Or reduce the distress I felt (on days I didn’t go out for my morning walks) when bright, unforgiving sun rays would rudely, crudely (and without warning) at the unearthly hour of 6a.m. rouse me up from my beauty sleep. Instinctively, I’d glance at my watch and, just in time, stifle a scream at the 5a.m. it was read. 5a.m. Lagos time. One good this served was on the days I walked. By the time the sun had completed its rise, I too had completed my walk with time enough to spare to watch its brilliant ascent. Nothing beat watching the beginning of another day unfold and being thankful to be part of it. The downside? An earlier dawn meant my me-time (during my workouts, when I drive solo and other precious little time I”more

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Knowing Kigali: What’s on the menu?

Every morning, like a student preparing for final, defining exams, I study the map of Kigali pamphlet in the house. Where to go? What to do? What new phrase (in Kinyarwanda) to learn and put into practice (if I remember)? Which experience to explore? Bumbling my way through unfamiliar area names – Gikondo, Gisozi, Kiyovu, Gitega, Nyamirambo (Rambo?!), Kimimurura (the French and Spanish languages I learnt over the years have shown how deceptive they were! They were easy to pronounce! Want to learn a language? Try an African one and observe how your entire vocal cavity is not only manipulated but almost also violated as you attempt to articulate it. That’s exactly how I felt! I need to learn more African dialects though.) – my eyes skim past the various sections on moto taxis, accommodation, landmarks, sports and recreation before finally settling on the food section. I skip the international offerings – Italian, Indian, Mexican, French, Middle Eastern, Moroccan, even African – Ugandan, – until I arrive at the Rwandan cuisine. Excited, I read the text to discover what the local cuisine has to offer. Like a deflated balloon, my excitement is burst. If I was expecting to see sauces, soups, carbs/protein dishes such as we have back home, I was expecting too much. Na small these people take senior aboki, comments Tg when I initially inquire about the Rwandans. In polite terms – nomads. This means beef. Lots of it and cheaply too. Their food is, of course, beef. No mounds of carbohydrate – filled staples. Beef. No oil – saturated, vegetable – crammed sauces. Beef. No spicy, tomato – based stews (but they do have akabanga – a fiery sauce in a bottle. Add to your meal to increase its peppery taste (or lack thereof). Beef. So beef it was. Seasoned and roasted but not to the texture of our dried, suya meat delicacy. Yamachuma (as it is called) delivers a chewy, slightly moist flavour to your palate, and comes with the nostalgic whiff of the grill. Safe not spicy, and fit for any age to enjoy. Accompanying”more

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Knowing Kigali: What caught my eye?

#1. The cold I thought it rather unusual the chill I felt during the journey to Kigali, but I put it down to the annoying sniffles I had. Then again it had been raining steadily and quite heavily before we left. No respite in the form of rest or peace either during the trip; I had to keep a keen eye on both children, especially after T threw up twice. She has that ringing sensation in her ears, got it from her dad. So my sniffles continued into the chill that characterized the prevailing temperature of Kigali and enveloped us. The kind that dogs your every move, stays on you like a second skin and follows you around like your faithful shadow in the dark. It didn’t help that we arrived during the rainy season. Twice the cold. Even when the sun peeked out through the dull and gloomy weather, that chilly wind always registered its presence. As if to say, I am not going anywhere, people. My morning walks were more acts of bravery and courage than actual exercise. And I certainly didn’t want any added weight at the end of the holiday. The security guards must have thought me absolutely insane. Who wears bikers’ shorts and a short – sleeved t-shirt at 5.45am in the biting frost while they fought to keep warm in layers of clothing that were wrapped tightly around their bodies? #2. The speed bumps Perhaps I haven’t see so many speed bumps in their varying designs, sizes, heights, width, etc but Kigali’s, I must confess, are about unique as none I’ve ever seen. Not high. Nah, they don’t intend to wreck your car’s undercarriage. Wide is what they are. Almost the width of your car. I bet a car or two can adequately fit the length and breadth of that hurdle, if placed horizontally. With speed bumps like that, there’s hardly any chance of serious accident. Unless, of course, they were created because of the severity of previous accidents. Slow down, you must; if not they would stop your movement completely. Rudely. #3. Greenery”more

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Knowing Kigali: Something for the children

‘Mummy,going from one shop to shop buying things is no fun.’ Chairman blurted out at the fair as his grandmother stopped at the third stall, in a row, to check out their array of cosmetics. For his sister and him, it wasn’t. But for us women, ha!, it definitely was. Retail therapy all the way! I felt for him though. We had done this at the African market until one of the traders gave both of them drums to beat out their boredom at the exercise, and allow us womenfolk continue ogling and haggling in peace. Now, here we were again at another round of endless, tedious shopping where they’d have to tag along and bear it. Then they discovered a toy shop directly opposite the clothes stall where we moved on to from the cosmetics’ place. Instantly, the whining stopped, and there was quiet and contentment on both sides. Unknown to them though, we had plans for them. Plans that were exclusively theirs unless the adults decided to bring out the children in them. Our next outing was to Bambino, an amusement park loaded with fun games and things to do for children. We drove almost 30 minutes out of town to reach the venue so that they could have some screaming and yelling fun. When we finally arrived, their squeal of delight was worth the effort and the time. Then they descended on the attractions… P.S. Note to the management of the park: Signs, signs, signs. You need to erect a lot of directional signs to your awesome playground. Twice, we got lost trying to locate it. And when we were eventually on the right path (according to the last man who showed us the way), we were a bit skeptical until we arrived at the entrance gate whose name sign needs to be bigger in font size and proportions.

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Knowing Kigali: Shop till you drop

While on holiday in a new city, the sightseeing is always a big deal and something to look forward to.. But there exist another activity that holds a much bigger appeal than monuments, mountains, cobbled paths and the local cuisine. Retail therapy. Any traveler to a new land wants souvenirs of the place as hard evidence and/or tangible reminders of the memories of the trip. I am no different. The other day, my mum and I went to isoko kimironko , a typical local market to buy signature Kigali items. Our visit to the African market (which I tagged the Akerele of Kigali) was not only for sightseeing purposes. Unique products sang to my senses, my mum’s and my sister in law’s. And ultimately reduced our currency. Not that we’re complaining. If only we had more to spend… To round off the collecting spree, an Egypt and Middle – East International Shopping Fair coincided with our stay.Thankfully, we had see the advert early enough to reserve some money for it. We would have gladly followed the shop till you drop bidding of the fair’s banners at the entrance (of the venue) if only we had more to spend;the traders came out en masse with varied, exotic items – jewellery, bags, shoes, rugs, food, clothes, toys, furniture, lights, kitchen ware, etc. We needed more than a pair of eyes each to view all of them, and would have acquired half of the things on display if we could. All the stalls were inviting, enticing. But curb that greed (or big eye) we did and went home (after circling the venue) with an item or two that each of us was happy about. Wouldn’t you say this was a three – in – one trip then? Rwandan, Egyptian and Middle – East flavours all combined? I would.

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Knowing Kigali: Kigali Genocide Memorial

Anyone, and I mean anyone, who hears the name Rwanda would immediately think of the genocide of the ’90s. Unless, of course, the person has been living under a rock for the last 20years. Besides, who goes to a foreign land famous for something or the other — food, music, monument, fashion, event, etc – and doesn’t experience it? Even if your visit is business – related, you’d probably make time no matter how little. It’s like going to Paris and not visiting the Eiffel Tower. Or,London and not touring its signature sights – Tower Bridge, the London Eye, Madam Tussauds, etc. So two days ago, we were at the Kigali Genocide Memorial. Morbid but I couldn’t not visit and see it for myself firsthand, in all its gory details. That’s why it took the week of our departure to go there, and two days to bring myself to write about it. Even now it is taking quite an effort. The visual and verbal content on display flash clearly and relentlessly through my mind as Ndandika. The deluge of the images wane as the days go by but they are there, nonetheless. This will not be the first time I am being confronted by the graphic depiction of the genocide in Rwanda. Hotel Rwanda was a film I saw after it was released to the public. Books and short stories of the massacre I have devoured years ago. Perhaps the most poignant image, which I have added to the ones I saw at the memorial, was an issue of Time magazine in the early 2000s. The headline read ‘Rwanda Remembered’ and the cover photo was of human skulls very neatly arranged in rows and rows and unending rows. But when you’re in the city, country where it happened, standing on the grounds where so many bodies were buried, it brings the effect of the event closer to home than any words, previously read about it, can achieve. Children under the age of 12 are exempted from going inside the museum but can tour the grounds which vegetation and well -thought”more

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Knowing Kigali: This is no walk (or run) in the park

‘Mwaramutse,’ replied the elderly security guard to my greeting, walking and pulling his well – worn coat closer to his body to counter the morning chill; His tired legs slowly making their way towards the estate gate, one after the other. He’s probably thinking (in Kinyarwanda): Who is this crazy woman in biker’s short and a short- sleeved t-shirt braving this biting cold at 5.45am? I would ask the same question too if I were in his position. He is one of the three guards I come across on my daily walk each morning. Temporarily, I have abandoned Shaun T. for the lure of the alpine terrain that is Kigali. The first morning, I skipped up a stormy heartbeat rate and enough perspiration in the living room before braving the low temperature that was the breaking dawn. Once outside the gate, I took off in a sprint, up the slightly elevated lane right in front of the house. Big mistake. Huge. I almost didn’t make it to the end of it, where I stood – bent over, hands on my knees, breathless – huffing and puffing like a dog who just got outran by its owner’s faster car. I might as well let my tongue hang out while I was at it. When. Was. The. Last. Time. I . ran. This. Fast? Even my thoughts were gasping. Is this my first time, in long time, running up a mountainous landscape? Shouldn’t I take it slow from the outset? What was I trying to prove? And to whom? To the security man staring curiously at me from about 150m away? I wonder, is he wondering if I am okay or just plain crazy? Definitely not crazy. Just trying to adapt my workout routine to my new surroundings. Heaving heavily, I began to trudge slowly thereafter. Along the slightly even path stretched out in front of me, then rounding the bend on the left and continued striding leisurely on more even terrain. My breath had come back by the time I reached the home stretch – a sloppy road leading straight back”more

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Knowing Kigali: isoko kimironko

Who goes to the market with a language book? When you’re in a foreign land and want to interact with the locals, you will too. We’ve been here icyumweru kimwe now – my mum, myself and the children- visiting murumuna wanjye, muramukazi wanjye and mwishywa wanjye for a forth night. And this is my first post in a while! Nothing I’m proud of but I did have a sneezing fit upon our arrival and it lasted for a couple of days, replete with headaches, cold feelings and spitting out phlegm. We’ve done mini – tours around the city, especially within our neighbourhood, giving visual and locomotive evidence to the words that confronted us as we exited the airport: ‘Welcome to the land of a thousand hills.’ Umusozi. They are everywhere. Under your feet. At your eye – level. Down your driveway. Up the street. And I have temporarily abandoned my Shaun T. routine for the appeal of jogging, running and walking up a hilly lane and down a sloping driveway. The very next day after we arrived, I drove around our vicinity to get my bearing and be independent of a guide. That experience gave me entirely new driving tutorials on its own; the hilly landscape was as unfamiliar and it was unfriendly, testing (and at the same time questioning) my driving skills. Surrounded by peaks, it explains the weather pervading the city – cool even when occasionally sunny because it could be windy as well. Right now, it’s the rainy season. Bouts of light showers, sometimes without warning, descend momentarily leaving a gloomy, grey condition in its wake. Today is fairly sunny and hardly windy. Never have I been so glad to be bathed by sunlight. We are venturing out to isoko kimironko, the largest market in Kigali. I am not particularly thrilled at the prospect of visiting it with the children in tow as shopping, like driving alone, is therapeutic for me. Inquisitive, restless and I-want-everything offspring at my side would render the activity ineffective. Anyway, I hope to get some signature Kigali cultural, handy items. Maybe a”more

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