Monday, 9 March 2009

Mexican feast and Poker night in Gitarama

March 7th

Today is one of those Saturdays where you start off with nothing planned, and the day slowly evolves into something special.

Both Tom and I have a lie-in, and by the time we get going we find the power has gone off. Later in the day we find that this is a rare example of a pre=planned power cut. The entire southern province is without power; apparently they are working on the main north-south transmission lines. Unfortunately the announcement was made on the radio in Kinyarwanda, and, as usual, nobody around us thought to tell us.

All morning there’s frantic cleaning activity in the flat next door. The SORAS branch manager moved his furniture out a few days ago, and it look s as if his replacement will be moving in imminently. This could be either an excellent thing or a nightmare. If the manager is young a friendly he will be a useful source of local information (e.g. on power cuts); but I dread a family with a squalling baby. It sounds uncharitable but I know that some of the volunteers have been driven to direction by children crying half the night through very thin dividing walls. Fortunately our flats are arranged lounge-to-lounge, rather than bedroom-to-bedroom, so we’ll have the maximum possible insulation at night.

The local nightclub very close to use was pumping out the bass last ni9ght from about half past one, when I woke up, until around five o’clock.

There’s nothing particularly to do; we can’t watch videos because we have no power; there’s no urgent District work to do, and Tom is seriously tired after a frenetic week looking after his American visitors (who have decamped to Akagera and are now outside his responsibility). I decide to lie on the bed and contemplate the meaning of life; when I come to its well over two hours later and I’ve been sound asleep. Oh dear; I’m behaving like an eighty year old taking naps in the daytime!

Tom and I decide to have a cooking day, and to invite Soraya, Charlotte and Hayley round for a meal. We decide to go Mexican, with salsa, guacamole, fajitas and the like. Between us we make several trips to the market or the beer shop. It’s grotty season for tomatoes at the moment; they’re small, with lots of black spots, and relatively expensive. Avocadoes, on the other hand, just get better and better. I’m so going to miss them when I return to England!

The rest of the entire day is spent chopping, slicing, and generally enjoying ourselves cooking. All our dishes are ones we’ve done before, so there’s no anxiety about results, and we have plenty of time rather than racing to a deadline. Tom makes his home-made dorito chips to go with the guacamole; I do a fresh salsa and a bean salad. At the last moment we choose to do rice rather than tortillas (the power is still off and any last minute cooking will be by candlelight). Tom’s bought a chicken from Mama, and he joints it and we boil up the carcass and skin for stock to use later in the week. The breast meat we make into a fried spicy accompaniment for the rice and salsas. We experiment with a refried beans recipe from our VSO cookbook and add some onions and tomatoes and lots of spices to give it a real kick. Iced lemon water, serviettes, and the table laid with our best cutlery (i.e. all the cutlery we own). When the girls arrive everything is ready, and we have loads of candles lit to make everything look romantic. I think the girls are suitably impressed.

After we’ve eaten Charlotte gets out her travelling poker set, and we all five play poker till late in the evening. Charlotte has a mass of plastic chips, so we’re not gambling for real money and everybody can afford to be relaxed. I’m very new to poker and they have to explain the rules to me; then, as usually happens, I have a run of beginners’ luck and scoop half the chips before losing them through the rest of the evening.

It makes a really wonderful evening and we all say we can’t imagine why we haven’t don’t his before. It makes a better evening’s entertainment than the muzungu meals at “Nectar”, which are getting a bit jaded at the moment.

Best thing about today – the meal and the poker. Things just got better and better as the evening went on.

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