Sunday, December 1, 2013

Hiding in/at the Papyrus

On Friday night I went out with an Egyptian and two South African telecommunications workers to a night club complex called "Papyrus".  It was just breathtaking.  It was the best night club I have ever been to in terms of atmosphere. 

Here is a photo of the overview of the compound.  Of course, I didn’t take this, but it was the best I can provide.

Additionally, here is a review on my favorite Rwanda blog, I have linked this blog before, and it is my go to for finding places to go in Kigali:

We arrived at 8pm and went, from the side of the hill we were on, up stairs to the “second” floor of the complex, or the top floor.  There is a ground floor and a “basement”, again depending on which side of the building you are on. 

Here is a photo of the first floor which contains the restaurant.

We go straight into the “lounge” area.  It has the VERY best furniture for sitting and chatting I have ever seen.  Of course, I didn’t take a photo and I can't find one online, but really.  It is all over sized and very comfortable and made of the heaviest and gnarliest and most beautiful cut wood trunks for tables and planks for the couches.  I adored it immediately.  The view was extraordinary and the lighting was so good that I honestly can't remember the light themselves.  They were ambient and didn’t call attention to themselves but lighted everything intimately and perfectly.

We sat down and ordered beers and commenced rapid fire talking for HOURS!  I really loved these guys.  Some of the most interesting people I have met here.

The music was like manna from heaven straight to feed my sad starving ears…soul and rhythm and blues from the 1960s in the USA.  Oh my god.  I was so happy!  After a few beers and a more lubricated conversation where the Egyptian and I told the stories of our lives, professional lives really, in brief, then he ordered a drink with this Ugandan millet gin.  I have been told about this already, but it smells lovely, like a stronger juniper and fruitier gin.  We mixed this with a little coca cola and a lot of ice and a ton of lemon peel.  It was divine, and much more alcoholic than I thought after I had had two.

This is really the government and money-ed set for Kigali.  I met the owner of MTN, the cell service I use, and some people from various ministries.  Though, the culture in Rwanda is one to keep your private dealings private so I will not mention the ministries they are from.  Also, the people there were so beautiful.  They dress to the nines there, as I was gratefully informed before I went.  There was every kind of person from every kind of place wearing every kind of gorgeous and colorful, from flowery to severe, article of clothing.  I felt about the coolest I have ever felt in my life.  Especially with the company I was keeping who were all pretty much beautiful.  And as for me, I dressed as well as I could with what I brought without being TOO sexy (I am MARRIED!).  But, the way people talked to me and looked at me.  Instead of being stared at, I simply felt like one of the beautiful people.  I want to go back there and feel that again…and again... and again…for the rest of my life.

Then we, after we had begun dancing basically in our chairs to the music, went downstairs to the “basement” night club where the dancing happens.  We made a pit stop in the courtyard on that side of the hill to get some chicken brochette, we should have had the lamb, it's cheaper and tastier because a grill will always gouge the drunk.  The courtyard also had pool and other games.

The dance club afterwards was packed and dark but with many colored lights.  We ordered a beer there which I cold hardly drink after that gin upstairs.  The music was all good stuff, either stuff I know that was muzungu, stuff I don’t which was muzungu, or Rwandese and other African stuff.  But all of it was good.  The only problem – the convention here of playing only 30 seconds to a minute of a song and then switching, with absolutely no segue, to another great song.  We danced and dance, until…

The power went out.  LOLOLOL!  Seriously the power went out in a packed basement night club!  Everyone made a big noise like OOOOOOHHHHH and then started laughing.  Because we were all dancing and had been moving in some direction or another before the lights went out, we all bumped into each other.  There is more laughter.  After about 30 seconds and groping and trying to, drunkenly, figure out which direction you want to go and where your people are, people begin to light lighters.  But in this darkest of dark places with so many bodies and so little reflective surfaces, the lighter would only light an eye or a nose or a hand and a part of someone’s shirt or something.  This added to the extreme psychedelia of the experience.

Then the power came back on with a whump and the lights were all going and the music was blaring and everyone started to laugh again.  All this laughter was so giddy because this is a, truly, inherently dangerous situation.  But now it's over and the party goes on with just a bit more intensity!

After a while I was concerned because I realized that I had lost track of time.  I told my husband that I would call him when I expected to leave which was, at the latest time, almost an hour before.  Damnit!  I thought and rushed to leave.  I called my car and got home and blathered drunkenly to my husband about a nice time and how sorry I was not to have answered his call and not to have called him earlier.  It was a REALLY good experience.  I might even have it again if I feel up to that level of energy next weekend.  I think only if I finish my Gacaca work this week, which is more than a possibility.

P.S. You know I can't finish such a great post without a bummer:  most of the people who survived the direct impact of the genocidal movement in Rwanda was by hiding in the papyrus marshes.  Hence the title of this post.
I hope you all had the best Thanksgiving possible!

Rwanda Photo Mayhem!

Today and one day only...I am going to try to spend a lot of time, and I do mean a LOT of time, posting some photos today.  Hopefully it works out well.  Especially as I now have two weeks left.  The countdown begins....

This is a photo of someone at a training course for home workers ("my house girl" or "guy" as people say) so that they can make more money.  They take this training and then they have some sort of certificate saying that they know the basics of how to run a Rwandan home and then they can ask for a higher salary.  It's a really good deal.  This woman is making cassava.

This photo is of one of the couple of Rwandese beers I have tried.  This one I think would be my husband's absolute favorite.  It's called Turbo King and has a picture of a lion on it.  I think this is the funniest of all Rwandese beers.

This is my favorite beer here, called Tusker.  I love the elephant and understated label and the flavor was best to me.

This stuff, called sun sip, is some kind of fruity chemical disaster that the Austrians and others like to put diluted into water so that they cannot taste the really bed taste of the water here.  Unfortunately, I still think that this stuff tastes like shampoo.  You know, it doesn't taste like it smells.  Like you are drinking passion fruit flavored Herbal Essences.  Yuck.
This was a particularly delicious meal that my friend made for me of beans and cabbage and many, many spices over rice.  You can see how much she tries to feed me and how much I eat.  Also, that night I had a dream that I was pregnant because I was experiencing SUCH gas pains.

On a walk out to dinner with Nicole and my friend, we saw this....a compound just like the one we live in, but this one, instead of barbed wire surrounding the top of the walls, there was....BROKEN BOTTLES!  This is so serious.  I started cracking up and had to take a photo.  I mean, it IS cheaper than barbed wire.  But, if I wanted to get in, and I don't, I would just crush the glass or something.

This meal has become relatively common around here since the Eqyptian was here.  It is more expensive to make chips, but oh how good they are when my friend makes them.  The potatoes are cheap but oil is expensive and there is not much option for saving the oil so it is a big waste.  But, again, how good they are.
The trick is to chop up the salad (tomatoes and onions and sometimes cucumbers) really small and mix it with balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper, and then some mayonnaise and ketchup and then use this as a "relish" over the chips.  Its to die for. 

Here is a photo of one the pizzas I have had at Sol e Luna.  This is number 17 out of 89 possible pizzas: the Quattro formaggio.  Goat cheese and mozzarella and something else and...wait for it...tellagio!  A divine splurge even in the USA.  This pizza was SO good as are all of the pizzas I have had there.  You can see on the bottom the top of my quiz for that night.  See the title........I'm lonely.

This is a photo of Heike that shows what it is like to do laundry here.  Intensive work is what it's like.

Quick side note before the next photo: just another thing I LOVE about Rwanda, the singing.  I have mentioned before that I hear singing often around me, from church choirs to funerals to gatherings with a guitar to the ladies nearby whose lovely singing voice either soothes their babies or their own minds as they do dishes or cook or sweep.  But since it is so ubiquitous, that means I CAN SING TOO!  I love to sing.  This is a culture of music and I feel at home, even if they don't know my music and I don't know theirs.

Next photo, this photo is of Heike after she was shoving bunnies back in their cage and caught her shoulder on the sharp edge of the corrugated metal "door" of their cage and ripped a giant tear in her shoulder.  This was a whole story here.  First, she faints at the sight of blood.  Second, no one else was here but me.  She asked me very calmly if I could help her with something, I walked outside to say yes and there she was almost falling over on the stone step with blood beginning to really POUR down her shoulder.  I got toilet paper and water to clean her and some of her juice infused drink to sooth her and told her not to look at it as I held the gaping wound and cleaned it and then pressed on it.  I called for my friend and they brought gauze which we taped to her.  Later on her partner brought her to the nicest hospital in Rwanda, King Faisal hospital.  This is the examining room after the torture of 3 or 4 REALLY LARGE stitches were put into her at her great emotional expense.  The wound has healed fine as she has had all her shots.

This is the architectural mock up of what the new Kigali Convention Center will look like.

This is near to what it looks like right now, and I see it everyday on my way to work.  Its huge and interesting.  I like it.  Visually, apart from the great old cities and landscapes I have been to like Rome or Paris or something, Rwanda and Kigali in particular is one of the most visually dynamic places I have been to.

This is a photo taken near the Imihingo place, you remember that Rwandan art place, where they have what is really the "traditional" traditional Rwandan houses, before brick and other types of construction came.  These were still in use around the country up to the genocide.  after that, not so much.  Many places still have the thatch roof technology but that only makes it through about one long rainy season so you end up having to replace your roof once a year.  So, there is a VERY heavy preference for corrugated metal roof.  Even though the metal is expensive, it is cheap in terms of the labor and valuables it saves year after year, essentially forever.  Though it has the new effect of basically baking all inhabitants inside on a hot day.  :(  But the cold nights in the valleys and during the rainy seasons are now toasty warm.

This is the completely gorgeous Rwanda Parliament building.  What you cannot see very well and that I hope to capture some time in the next two weeks is the gorgeous terrancing structure that holds the many "toes" of the hill.

OK, so really, that took like 3 hours to do.  I have some more photos and things I want to tell you about but now I am worried that I will lose what I have done so I am going to go ahead and post this now.  More photos to come, today even, perhaps.