Leaving Maggie at the airport was so hard for me. I am so glad we got to do this trip and so hoping she is too. I got an email from her saying it was only -21 and she was walking up a hill that was covered in 2 ft of snow. I was so thankful that I was here, in Kigali, sitting on my balcony enjoying tea. I stayed at the Solace for two more nights.
I started to think about how I was going to get on with being the Rwanda Regional Rep for the Labyrinth Society. I tried one day to find an art gallery but it seemed I had the entire city helping me. Giving streets numbers is new for Kigali, most people just know where places are – the maps are meaningless to them. So when I showed the map to people it would be funny, they would point in a direction and go off with my map. I would run after them only to realize they were asking another group of people. After repeating this process about six times a little boy promised to lead me to the art gallery (I remembered the last time I followed a little boy and ended up in a labyrinth of streets with cows and whatever else and ending up with him demanding money). This little boy led me to an art gallery, Niyo. It was very interesting. The two art galleries I visited both take care of street children. They teach them drumming and dancing. The Friday that Maggie left I sat down with the manager at the Inema Art Gallery. He was very open to the labyrinth so that perked me up.
I was walking up to the library from the Solace and each time I walked up I met the same guy trying to sell me maps and postcards. He would walk beside me and I ended up hiring him to help me find the Ishyo, Ivoka and Tongo Art Centre. I told him I would pay him 8000 Rwf to guide me. He asked that lunch also be included so I said I would give him 2000 rwf for lunch but if he got me lost he would lose his lunch money. He agreed. Walking up these hills makes you tired and smarter. So I met him earlier than the allotted time at the library and off we set for Tongo Art Centre. He took me to a different area that was different. I liked it, it felt like Paris in a sense. On one side of the street was a slum and on the other was very rich houses. We found Tongo Arts but no one seemed to be home. We kept knocking and eventually a girl appeared and told us that Tongo Arts had moved. I don’t know how it happened but she said something about being an artist so I decided to continue with my talk. She was very interested. She told me she belonged to a group called GAMA – Great Art Makes All and she thought they could use the labyrinth to teach the children about Umuganda for Kids. On the last Saturday of the month every adult works to clean the city (even the President). I gave her the material and she said she would get back to me. She was very positive but as this story continues I learn more about this amazing organization and have high hopes for them.
We continued on our way and found our way to Ivoka Arts (I have pictures but not sure if I can get them off my camera). This place was amazing, the steps were painted, the art was so wonderful, and the manager and founder was amazing and so open to learning about the labyrinth. He invited me to an art show – I shall have more to say on that topic.
In the afternoon i stopped at Solace to see about making arrangements for a trip to Uganda – we made arrangements but I have a feeling I will move Uganda to the next trip. Confirmed – the trip to Uganda just seemed expensive, and I had the fear I would be stuck with someone for 9 hour drive. I had supper with Hilary that night – it was her birthday.
Thursday I visited the Nyamirambo Woman’s Centre – I made my way downtown by bus. This group of woman have a sewing group to raise money, the walk lasted 2 hours. We visited a milk bar, sewing shop, mechanical street where people come to get their cars fixed. The area is Muslim. Our guide told us that Muslims were able to hide people from the genocide because they were considered foreigners. After the genocide it was easier for them to integrate into society
On Friday I went to the National Art Gallery. I had no idea it was so far away but it was well worth the trip. Eugene my driver also enjoyed his visit there and even the monkeys like to visit.
On Saturday I met with the GAMA group and introduced them to the Labyrinth. Such an amazing group of young people. They provide art classes to children and are working hard to get art as part of the school curriculum. They were very excited about the labyrinth and using it to teach children about Umuganda – the last Saturday in the month where everyone participates in community clean up. The invited me to be part of the panel in an upcoming art exhibition on Feb 14th. I did participate and we talked about art: growth, marketing and education. Then in the afternoon i met with Jackie, a lady who lives in Toronto but travels throughout east Africa. Very nice visit and she took me to her lovely home (that is owned by a Canadian but she is allowed to stay there)
When i got back to my airb&b (did i inset picture of the patio where I spend my mornings, evenings and sometimes have an afternoon nap. The sun takes it all.
Sunday – I joined Jackie in her church but the heat and length of service got the better of me and i made my way to the MTN shopping mall. I found a bourbourn coffee shop and slowly brought myself back to life with water and plaster. I walked home but had such a headache when I got there that I collapsed on the patio. When I came about I talked to my sister and friend and then found myself in the middle of a party.
On Monday I went up to Kigali Heights – searching for something that I no longer remember. Security around the conference center was tight. I ended up sitting by the pool with my watermelon juice. Later I went to Solace guest house to meet with Hilary and Francis. They arrived with a group and we had lunch. After I moved airb&b. I liked my first airb&b because it was large, had a patio and the first night people sat around a table and talked. When I moved to the next airb&b it was excactly the opposite, very small and compact and I liked it so much better. The location was right beside the library, across from an Anglican Church and right beside my row of photo copy people and the bus. Also the woman that runs it is so very nice and accommodating but she does work long hous. She comes from Kenya, has fantastic books and the home is just so compact I feel safe to come home at night. When I came back from Kigeme I spent time with her. I was close to the art galleries and to the GAMA project.
Tuesday: I went to the library for breakfast and on my way out I stopped at reception to see if I could find Francoise. I didn’t think she had answered my last email but she had. (I am technologically challenged – or in a great fight with icloud but all my emails are not getting to me). I met with Francois and Pacifique and they have some proposals for Embrace Rwanda that I will pass along and hope we can partner with the library. In the evening I met with this wonderful guy that I met on my women’s center walk. He was very interested in the work of Embrace Rwanda and was studying to be a doctor. He was a very nice person, we managed to meet and go to a local coffee shop for African tea. It was close to my apt, flat, airb&b whatever you want to call it. Anyhow when I got home the workmen were still fixing the step outside my house and I had to enter by another gate. Such drama – I had to stay awake for Coco because I wasn’t sure she could enter the home because the steps might be wet. She came home very late, she worked from 9:00 am to 11:00 pm. She was so tired.
Wednesday – Coco (lady with the airb&b) takes off for Kenya so I have moved back to the STEP hotel. In the morning I made photo copies of all the materials I wanted as back up for the Art Exhibition, in the afternoon Coco came home and took off for India after helping me into the taxi. Taxi driver got very lost, confused Step hotel with Stipp hotel and eventually it got sorted out. I have a really cool room here at the step hotel. I have a patio t all to myself. Really enjoying it. I look at the 2 giraffes and it is fun (except when the keyboard stopped working, and the password kept saying wrong when it was right – technology can be so stressful).
In the evening I was one of the panelist at the East Africa Arts Bienalle and it was fun as well as being stressful. I had no idea of what to expect but I have to admit the GAMA group that I met with is just so wonderful, the moderator for the panel asked good questions about art: marketing, growth and education. It was really a neat evening. I feel so blessed to be involved with this group and am so looking forward to working with them.
Thursday: today, technology was sorted out by the amazing manager at the Step Hotel John. My keyboard is now working and I hope to post this tomorrow. Today I went for coffee (actually by the time I climb the hill to the city I need coffee and reinforcements) I went off to the Miles Collins hotel to see the rest of the paintings. It was really interesting, the paintings were so wonderful, and so much fun. I feel bad because they do need people to buy them but 1. The vat was 30% that was large, 2. Have no room in my apt. To hang them anyhow. Thinking about creating an African art gallery in my apt where every 4 months I change the paintings (but that requires me to speed up my de-cluttering efforts – and that might not happen for another four years). After that I started walking to the market but went past the Grande Hotel and was hungry so stopped for the smosas (with mint Garvey – best in the world). Then started again for market but stopped and bought the Imengo art that I so like. Then my bag was heavy so I had to go home, the sun was hot so I needed a nap. On the way home a little girl came up to me and said something like “near….. “ I have had so many children say the same thing to me but I didn’t know what she was saying. A young guy came by and he told me she was asking if she could carry my bag. She was so sweet and I was so happy that was what she wanted. I managed to find a candy for her. I got home, tired and had a nap, then it rained for hours. Thomas came to see if he could help with my ipad, he tried but couldn’t and asked John to come and it was John who figured out we had to turn on Bluetooth ( who knew). Anyhow it works and I can post tomorrow.
Friday I intended to go to the Natural History Museum, the market, fabric stores, nakumat (for body lotion) and a bookstore. The mosquitos are taking over the night so will have to close. The Natural History Museum is now the Environment Museum and is located in the west, the Museum I saw was the Kandt Museum (which I had seen in 2013). Takes a long time to update brochures. I spent time looking at the items on display. It was very interesting to see how the Germans treated the Rwandans when they took over. They basically worked through the chiefs, a very different picture than what I had seen in Namibia in 2013 appeared. As there was a section before the Germans I was a little taken back to find only 1 item featured the African Traditional Religion but the guide explained that they had no cameras etc. in that time.
The following weekend I spent visiting Francis and learned just a little more about Tradional African Religion. The best part of staying with Francis were the trips to the Splendid Hotel for hot chocolate with his two boys: Pappy and Bebe. They loved the chocolate and exploring the hotel. We had other adventures to the Catholic Hotel that had a swimming pool and unreal grounds and landscaping. The power went out one night and we played all kinds of games. The next day we went to church. I made friends with a little wee one who ran away from me and her parents and we went off to search for her. On our way to church we drove up that big steep hill in (what Hilary calls) the sick car. Thank goodness because it is really too hard to climb and I was so thankful when we came out and got a ride home.
Monday I was off to Kigeme to observe how Jean Claude and Felicien work. When I got there I found out I was the one who would be working and they would be taking me around to the different associations. It was so different for me. I rode the moto and taxi everywhere. When I say taxi I mean the kind that fills up with people before it takes off. The kind where the taxi takes off regardless of whether the door is closed or not. If you think the taxi is scary try riding the moto up the hills. The driver always seems to want to ride close to the cliff that drops into the valley. Why do they do that? All these drivers have been very good to this old crone who is hanging on for her life and praying Hail Marys.
The focus of my visits has been to take a stab at evaluating the sustainability of the associations. I also visited some associations that had chickens for much longer than in Shyogwe so that gave me a more complete picture. I am still wondering about the difference between manure from chickens and goats. They told me they liked the goat manure because you could use it on the garden and the fields but somehow they seemed to like the chicken manure – how I miss my Maggie. She would know why the chicken manure is better than the goat manure. I asked questions to the Associaitons and the nursery teachers. I got to play with the children and that is truly the highlight of a visit to Rwanda. The children make you melt but sometimes they are so frightened of white people, especially when they are around one year of age. Kigeme has associations that have been around for over five years which is supposed to be the time when they are on their own. I think they meant African time because they are still very active and I can’t tell the difference between one that is 3 years and 5 years.
Some of my trips have been very exciting and very beautiful. One day the taxi was too expensive and the moto never arrived so we walked. It was so beautiful – I loved it. On my last visit to Muse I wore my Embrace Rwanda shirt with my new wrap around skirt, I even practiced carrying stuff on my head (for a very short time). Everyone laughed at me.
One day I met another white person in the hotel. She was from the states and was working with bee cooperatives. We spent the afternoon seeking out cappocino and discussing the hot dog buns we get for breakfast, then we went off to the market to buy fabric and I was able to find the sewing lady and we were able to tell her that Julie wanted a wrap around skirt for the next day. We also spent a lot of money at the gift shop – the nice one on the hill. I think the staff truly wonder about me and my eating habits. When you are with a group you can hide but when you are the only one you either speak up or you suffer. So for the first time I asked for hot water in my room for my tea and only little breakfast – I just can’t eat bread, then omelette than crepe. I just ask for little crepe, lots of fruit and real milk with my coffee. Tomorrow maybe I will have a mango (that’s what I asked for tonight) with a crepe (I tried yesterday to ask for a crepe but got a chipati instead). But I got to eat in the sun for 5 minutes (then the sun went away and it was chilly) and I had real milk in my coffee (instead of powder).
The close of my trip was the Monday when Eugene took me back to Kigali and my little, cozy airbb beside the Kigali Library. On the Tuesday I met with the GAMA group and we made our first labyrinth. I bought all kinds of supplies that I thought we could use like skipping ropes, rice but in the end we borrowed chalk from the staff. They were so wonderful, so open to the labyrinth and they had such a good purpose for it. They want to use if for Umuganda for Kids. I hope I can find the pictures I took. When we finished we asked the staff if they wanted us to wash the labyrinth off but they said no “once your gone we want to walk it and see what all the fun is about”, the lady from the gift shop came up to me and said she hadn’t laughed in so many years. So a good time was had by all.
On Wednesday I met with Alice and Francis at the Kigali Public Library. We came up with ideas and met with the outreach officer who provided more suggestions. Hopefully our ideas will one day be reality. I feel really blessed to work with Alice and hope so much that we can bring resources to the nursery schools.
On Thursday I flew to London. I had braced myself for the snowstorm coming in from Russia but thankfully it stopped as I was landing, everyone stayed home. I landed at about 5:05 pm but by 6:00 pm I was on the Gatwick Express to Victoria with what I thought was a working phone. So proud that I got the Rwanda sim card changed and had the English sim card inserted. How foolish I can be.