August 22nd – 23rd
Ruarai’s half ton
This weekend is dominated by Ruarai’s 50th birthday bash at Kigali. Le tout VSO will be there. I spend the morning pottering around, ironing, shopping and getting through the usual loads of other boring things. I’m also just getting into a new book, “Never let me go” by Kazuo Ishiguro, which is so unusual in its premise that it makes riveting reading.
Tina is back in town and texts me to say she has booked a room at St Paul’s, so I agree to share costs with her. It means I have a very stress free breeze into Kigali (though with a maniac driver on Atraco who jerks the bus round every vehicle in front of us so that we back seat passengers are thrown every which way on top of each other).
In Kigali the FOREX giving very good exchange rates is closed, but I notice that English dictionaries are very cheap in the Nakumat supermarket, so I make a mental note to buy a batch for Gitongati school on Sunday morning.
I bump into Tina outside UTC and we go for a coffee and meet up with various other VSOs who are already gathering for the evening. As you can imagine, the Irish contingent is there in force, and I meet Paula’s dad who is spending his second visit with her.
The evening is complicated because as well as Ruarai’s do, there is the 50th birthday party for Primus beer being held at the big stadium in the evening. It features various bands including J Mpiana, who is one of my Congolese heroes, and ends with a firework display. There’s talk about going on to this after Ruarai’s but we’re not sure about it. There’s going to be a lot of cheap beer and therefore an enormous horde of very drunk Rwandan men by the end of the night, and while the music and fireworks will undoubtedly be the best Rwandan can manage, we don’t want to get tangled up with aggressive, drunk men making a beeline for our girls. I know that reads very racist and patronising, but we can see it coming and maybe it’s best to anticipate trouble and just avoid the possibility of risking any confrontations.
Ruarai’s party is grand. He’s wearing the same outfit he wore to Gitfest. It’s a lovely Kenyan costume, complete with hat, which he bought in Nairobi. Not Rwandan at all, but in it he looks every inch the tribal chieftain. His mother is here on a visit, a charming lady who must be as fit as a fiddle to cope with the exhausting schedule Ruarai’s devised for her. The two of them seem to have done every corner of the country in about ten days!
The party is taking place in Kigali’s new Indian restaurant, a rival for Indian Kazana. The food is absolutely top notch, and Ruarai has negotiated an excellent rate for such a big group. We’re most of us unused to such rich fare, but that doesn’t stop most of us going up to the buffet for seconds! Drinks, however, are wickedly expensive (wine especially), and the waiters are both slow in bringing our change and sometimes seem to be adding VAT at about 50%..... But nobody is going to make a scene and let this spoil the party.
Midway through the evening the staff bring a birthday cake for Ruarai with much banging of tin trays and a sung version of “happy birthday to you” which manages to be not quite Indian, certainly not African and several steps removed from the English version! The waiters are all decked out in sky blue pyjama suits with blue turbans, and pink waistcoats. Inside the restaurant it seems to work but there’s no way anybody would want to be seen on the streets of Kigali wearing that rig!
By the time we finish eating we discover that the Primus party at the stadium has finished. The big decision therefore is whether to go clubbing or move somewhere else and continue drinking. The latter course wins, and yet again we have a party which doesn’t end at one of the night clubs. We drink and talk at “Chez Yves” until around four in the morning, by which time there’s about six of us left, and the staff are desperate to see us off the premises and get themselves to bed. We decide we might as well go the whole hog and see in the dawn before sleeping (we’re all staying at St Paul’s which is only a few hundred yards away), but at this time in the morning there’s nowhere open except Nakumat supermarket. And the ambience of the café outside Nakumat is so dire that even in our drunken stupors we know it’s a certain party pooper.
So we end up sitting under the casuarinas trees on a grass verge at the side of the main road, just above the Péage traffic lights, drinking from a bottle of whiskey which “Fair Construction” John has bought, and playing “truth or dare” and “spin the bottle”. We must look quite a sight: six drunken westerners (Tina, Amy and Becky; me, John and Eric). All sensible people have long since retired to bed.
While we’re amusing ourselves there is a steady trickle of Rwandans going jogging up the main road. Who on earth gets up at four in the morning to go for a run? I don’t know who is the more surprised – us to see so many people out for a run, or them to see six muzungus apparently having a picnic by the town centre. Now if only Kigali had some town centre parks, like most big cities do, we would really have appreciated the chance of a quiet, leafy place to see the sun rise.
Eventually it starts getting light, and we feel we can retire to bed, honour satisfied; we’ve partied all night. John, unfortunately, has taken a tumble down a steep bank and received a nasty cut on both legs.
We decide we’re hungry, so since Nakumat supermarket is just a couple of hundred yards away and open 24 hours, we pile in and buy pastries for breakfast. Then we creep as quietly as we reasonably can (or as noisily as he can manage in one case), into the St Paul’s centre and crash out in our beds for a couple of hours. Whatever you might think from reading this, it has been a good night. Nobody has been seriously hurt, or started fights, or been robbed, and that’s something to be thankful for.
As you can appreciate, come ten o’clock Sunday, when we need to be up and out of St Paul’s, we’re not at our brightest and best. There have been two church services next door already, and an Intore drumming troupe is practising noisily somewhere close so that if you lie down, the thuds from the drums travel through the concrete floor and up through the bed into your brain. Try sleeping through about twenty drummers giving their heart and soul for the cultural heritage…
We drift up to Simba; me via Nakumat to buy my dictionaries. As I enter Nakumat I’m shadowed by a bunch of street children, hungry, who think that if they pester me long enough I’ll give in and buy them food. They are at my heels all the way into the shop, but have to give up in disgust when they realise I’m not buying food, but books – and schoolbooks at that. Ha! – they can eat their words…..
Finally Becky, Karen and I get the bus back home. I have a house full of vegetables which won’t be nice by Monday evening, so I set to and make up an enormous batch of soup, most of which gets put in the freezer. (I could withstand a siege for just about a week, now, provided I’m prepared to live on a diet of vegetable soup and fruit salad…)
The muzungu meal is a restrained affair with only six of us. Some are at Gisenyi; the rest are who knows where. Then it’s back home and a reasonable early night.
Best thing about the weekend – Ruarai’s bash. A wonderful meal, and an entertaining night – literally!
Tuesday, 25 August 2009
August 22nd – 23rd
Posted by Bruce's Rwanda blog at 08:04