Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Photo Update Link

Please click here to see the few photos I've been able to upload today which Sara has taken over the past few days, sorry there aren't anymore, but the internet is very slow.

Day 7 - Kigali, Rwanda

another beautiful day here in Rwanda, with hardly a cloud in the sky making it very hot, but with a nice breeze so you don't actually melt, though I'm sure if you were in the sun, you might actually melt!

Sara spent yesterday afternoon with Innocent, Hilary and Celestine working on a few more grants and once again having lunch at La Plante - I think sara is a bit obsessed wtih this place, she's been at least 3 times, if not more by now.  Apparently they have a buffet with a mix of traditional & non traditional foods - rice, cooked bananas, beans, cold slaw with tomatoes, meat cooked in a sauce (sorta stew like), noodles (semi-Chinese), steamed vegetables, sauerkraut but not quite the same, and bananas for dessert.  You can pile as much of this as you want onto your plate and they only charge Rwf1700 which is about US$2.98 which is about GBP1.98 and if you want a cold drink you just add Rfw300 (about 60 cents or 30 pence) At times Sara almost feels bad as if she's ripping them off, but that is what the price is so she pays it.

I think yesterday I told you Sara took the public transport, called taxis, but more like mini vans to work, right?  Well it's official she's learned how to take the public bus to the "office" (ASSIST-RWANDA that is) from our hotel & back, as long as it's not dark, cause then she can't see the landmarks as well so one of the boys escorts me home, carrying my bags as well, she is definetly being spoiled here & I fear may never want to lift me again (lol).  The benefit to this public transport is that the local taxi driver at the hotel charges her US$8 (GBP5) minimum no matter where she goes (cause she's a muzungu - white person) and the public bus, though much slower is only $0.30 (GBP0.20) - can you believe it???  When I say much slower, you need to realise there is no schedule for these taxis, they just wait at each stop for about 5 minutes, maybe longer if it's not full and then start on their journey - again if it gets too empty they may stop at a certain stop along the way for a few mintues to load up on passengers.  This makes it a bit difficult to keep to a time schedule, but since everyone here is so laid back it seems to work well for them.  I think the muzungu's on a whole have problems with it cause they're always looking at their watches - maybe they need to learn to take a chill pill when in this country!  Course if Sara wants to go anywhere else aside from the office she needs another way to get around, but most things she needs are within walking distance UP the hill in the sun or within walking distance of the office which she can no get to on her own now (go Sara go Sara go Sara).

This morning Sara got up crazy early to have a meeting with Emmanuel at 7am before he went off to an NGO conference at the Serena Hotel, near by the Iris Guesthouse, where we stay.  Just as she was done eating breakfast & after Emmanuel had left, she approached by a man who seemed to know her, but whom she did not recognise.  After a bit of chatting Sara put two and two together to realise someone had told him about her, and the Itafari Foundation and he was hoping to partner with Itafari on a project.  Of course Sara couldn't do anything for him now, she just suggested he look at the website and contact us there.  She had to point out that being a board member did not mean she single handedly had the power to make any decision by herself.  She wished him the best of luck with his projects and then got back on the computer to send a few emails before the internet went down.  Once this happened Sara came back to the room for a half hour nap and to charge the computer before heading back out for lunch.

Sara here, a few more words I've learned today:
Amakuru yo murugo  (yo MooRooGoh) - how is your family doing?
Tunongera (TooRohnGayRah) - see you soon

I also learned that there is now a Kinyarwanda-English-French Dictionary available, which is definelty new in the past year or so, cause I looked for one before coming here in October 2008 and all I found where Kinyarwanda-French, which is okay if you know French well enough.  I'm guessing this due to the fact that as of 2010 they've made English an official language.  Mom & Nim, you'll get a kick out of this, they think I'm a grammar expert - LOL - I've got them fooled pretty well huh?!?!?!?!  Though actually it's more my lack of any phoetics training more so than grammar problems :-)

Has anyone been over to the Itafari website to check out all the projects we work on?  If not, you should go here now and have a look!  Just to clarify when the board members come to Rwanda, the foundation does not pay for any of our expenses, it is all out of our own pockets, so any money you donate goes directly to the people of Rwanda, which I think is pretty cool!!

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Day 6 - Kigali, Rwanda

Well Sara has been running around like a headless chicken while I get to relax in the comforts of the Iris Guesthouse in the city centre.  I think she told you yesterday that she spent Saturday in Kayonza visiting the ihene (goat) farm with Emmanuel (Board Chairman of ASSIST-Rwanda), Celestine (ASSIST's head of farm project), and Charles (veterinarian in Kayonza District).  What I think she neglected to tell you about was that on the way home she tried roasted corn from the side of the road & really enjoyed it.  That evening she hung out at Emmanuel's house watching telly, speaking with Marci (Emmanuel's cousin), and Sam (Emmanuel's youngest brother).  She'd been invited to a wedding with Arthur, but was so knackered she just had dinner & went home to sleep.  She apparently is learning how to use the "bus" system which they call taxis - very confusing!

Sunday, Sara was picked up by some guy named Herman, who is the brother of Pastor Francis of Christ Gospel Church in Kimironko.  At church she ran into Mary whom she'd met on her last visit in October 2008.  She sat with Pastor Francis' wife, Dorothy, whom she'd met once before but only briefly as she was off to America.  The church service is bi-lingual so Sara had no problem understanding it.  Her one comment which made me giggle was that she wondered why all the missionaries from America are always grumpy old woman?  Sara recalls on her last trip meeting 3 missionaries, all of which she found rather down spirited and here at CG church again she met another one who looked like she had the weight of the world on her shoulders . . . Sara wondered how are these people suppose to help in Rwanda?  She thinks if they came to help her she'd become more depressed from them.  It also made her happy that she was here representing Itafari Foundation, which is not a faith based oragnisation, as she didn't want to be associated with these "down in the dumbs dumps" looking missionaries. (sorry to anyone who read that earlier, my mistake & spell check didn't catch it since it's a word!!!)

Once church was over, Herman showed Sara to his office, where her sponsored children sat quietly on chairs, looking rather scared of the "muzungu" (white skinned person) who had come to speak to them.  After introductions Sara gave them "I love London" tshirts and we went outside in the sun to take some photos.  Yves & Alice were very shy at first (understandably so!) but once they put the shirts on & they started to take photos, the children started to open up, smiling & giggling.  The highlight apparenlty was when Sara allowed them to take photos with her camera.  Having never used a camera it took awhile to teach them since they only speak Kinyarwanda at this point & Sara's Kinyarwanda is limited to greetings, asking for water, and answering I read a book when asked what's she's been doing, so as you can imagine giving directions for using a camera can be rather difficult, but the children are smart & after watching Sara twice they got the hang of it.  Pointing at the desired direction, was a whole other story, so Sara ended up with about 30 photos of feet, noses, fingers, and walls.  The other highlight during the photo taking time was "funny photos" where we would stick our tounges out & take a photo - they just LOVE it when Sara would make a funny face & they would snap a photo & then they could see it again & again & show it off to the other children near by.  

After church Sara, Yves, Alice, and a few other church goers got on the church's bus to be driven home.  Sara got to see the area where her children live.  During this time, Charlotte, Sara's Rwandan sister, called to say she was free all day, so Sara had the bus drop her off at the Bloom Hotel and then walked to Charlotte's house.  Last time Sara visited Charlotte & Charles they only had a 10 month old son named Chyelle, now she has a daughter who is 4 months old name Charlene and Chyelle is 2!  They are very beautiful children.  We had a great afternoon catching up over lunch.  On the way home, Charlotte offered to meet up for dinner on Sara's birthday.

Monday, Celestine picked Sara up at the Iris Guesthouse & brought her via taxi (public bus) to the office of ASSIST so she could get some paperwork done.  She had lunch at La Plante near the office & then went over to Gahya Links to visit with Joy and see all of the baskets, earrings, wall hangings, etc which they've been busy making.  After that Celestine made sure Sara got on the correct taxi & she managed to make it back to Iris on her own.

That evening Emmanuel arrived at 7pm, Charlotte at 8pm and then they went to a Chinese Restaurant for dinner.  Arthur met them there after work.  The food was apparently delicious.  Charles (Charlotte's husband) met them after he was done with his night courses.  They had a wonderful evening & Sara got home around half 11.

Today she was up early with big plans of going out on her own for the first time.  Emmanuel had given her directions on how to get the taxi from city centre to ASSIST office in Remera.  So Sara had breakfast and then headed up the hill towards the Union Trade Center (UTC).  She was walking at her normal London pace, passing locals like it was her business.  About halfway up the hill, she realised why the Rwandans were walking so slowly, there was NO WAY you can maintain London walking speed in the heat/sun without passing out, so she slowed to the pace of everyone around her & was able to manage the rest of the hill.  For those of you who don't know Rwanda is known as the land of a thousand hills & I'm pretty sure if you counted them, it's more like a million!  Once Sara made it to the round about she decided to go to the bank first before getting the taxi to Remera.  So she turned up the next part of the hill to the UTC building.  Along the way she was offered numerous MTN cards (minutes for a sim card) and maps of Africa.  Once in the UTC she went right upstairs to Access Bank, made her way to the customer service section, got her banking done.  On her way down stairs she took a quick wander around the UTC and realised it looks basically all the same with Burbon Coffee, Kenya Airways, Nakumat, travel agent, and the small pizza/bakery.  Just before leaving she got a few more minutes added onto her Rwandatel phone.  [don't worry Vic I'll get you an MTN number, but everyone has this one already so don't wanna switch with only a few days left] Then off to the taxi stand she went . . . a bit intimidating, but she stood waiting for the TiGo bus which was going towards Remera.  The conductor asked her where she wanted to go, she told him, Alpha Palace, and he let her know when the stop came - SUCCESS!!!!!!!!!!

Sara here now, I'm having a great time, learned a few new words:
Ndashaka = I want
amazi ikonje = cold water
amazi a/shoe/shay = warm water (unsure of spelling, but that's how it sounds)
Nawe = you too (said in response to thank you)
ni beyza = it's good
Gahunda yawe nkyihe? = what is your plan for the today?
Gahunda yange = my plan is
gusoma igitabo = read a book

Anyone interested in learning more about the foundation I am working with her in Rwanda, please visit,

Monday, 25 January 2010

Day 5 - Rwanda

So last time I wrote I'd spent all of my time in & around the capital, Kigali, but on Saturday, Emmanuel  and Celestine from ASSIST-RWANDA came with me on a site visit to see the 18 hectare property in Kayonza District (Eastern Province).  Along the way we picked up Charles the veterinarian who had been out to the farm once before to perform surgery on a pregnant ihene (goat).  Charles is fabulous, he's friendly, knowledgeable, helpful, and has wonderful ideas.  Best of all he is excited to partner with ASSIST!  We saw the ihene on the farm, discussed the need for more access to water and wandered around the property.  Afterwards, we had some ihene brochette with banana chips (really more cooked bananas, but that's how they call it) and of course a healthy serving of Fanta l'orange (right Vic?) . . . okay gotta run, will write more later

Friday, 22 January 2010

Day 2 Kigali, Rwanda

So update on yesterday, Emmanuel & I walked to a great buffet place near his work for lunch & watched a bit of tennis on the telly.  After that we walked over to COOJARD a cooperative bank which I learned has doubled it's members since I joined in October 2008, impressive huh?  Then back to the office for the not nearly as glamourous process of filling out grant paperwork.  Towards the afternoon I became sooooo sleepy that I could hardly manage, so I decided to go & exchange some US$ for Frw (Rwandan Francs) then quick drive back to the hotel to freshen up before dinner and a night club.  Had I realised the night club didn't start until 11pm, I probably would have opted out, but everyone kept saying 8.30pm . . . at 8.30 it became 9.30pm . . . and so on, but it was great to see what it was all about & amazingly I managed to stay awake!

Today I took a taxi over to the US Embassy, Consular Services office and added more pages to my passport.  You're not missreading, I was able to add pages to my passport within an hour, unlike the US & UK which take minimum of 3 weeks - how great is that?  I had not realised that Kenya's transit visa would be a full page which meant when I'd miss calculated & would need more pages before I got to Australia which is where I'd planned to get it done, but I think I totally made out this way!

But nearly as exciting & maybe actually a bit more, I took my first moto trip.  There are tons of motorcycle taxi's around the city and instead of paying 4000 Frw the typical fare for a muzungu (white person) to get home I only had to pay 500Frw - so far I reckon this is the best deal of 2010!!  And before I got on I said, "I'm not in a rush, so please drive slowly" and he did (bonus)

Once "home" (aka the Iris Guesthouse) Emmanuel brought me a phone with a new sim card and his lap top so I could entertain myself this afternoon whilst he's out at a meeting.  Would love to stay & write more, but I think it's lunch time since it's nearly 13.30 here (we're 2 hours ahead of GMT for anyone who's interested)

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Day 1 - Kigali, Rwanda

Well both flights left on time & arrived early, maybe Sara should travel with me all the time, since most of you will remember those days when she couldn't get a flight to arrive on time no matter what she did :-)

The night in Nairobi was uneventful, Sara spent most of her time watching the Arsenal v Bolton match, which went on till nearly 1am!  In usual fashion she was excited & couldn't sleep, but once she finally did it must have felt like no time at all before the alarm went off at 04.45 to shower, check out, & head to the airport for the 08.00 flight to Kigali with Kenya Airways.

Landed safely in Kigali, but took the staff for ever to bring me over to the baggage claim, but once there I saw Sara awaiting my arrival which was very nice.  A few minutes later I was introduced to a nice man named Emmanuel who seems to know Sara already & another man named Joseph, who she's probably only met once or twice.  The men took us to the Iris Guesthouse, where Christoph met us with a huge smile & showed us to our room.  Sara immediately took off her trainers & opened me up to find her summer shoes.  The weather here is very sunny with quite a bit of haze, but still very warm.  Sara, Emmanuel and Joseph then left for the office saying something about meetings & organising their week - I think I'm having more fun relaxing in the room than she is, but for some reason she seemed eager to go to these meetings . . . humans I'll just never understand them I guess!

Well I better get back to my nap before those meeting goers get back.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

heading to Heathrow

Well I'm full to the brim and ready to go, Sara is off to check in online ahead of time & then we're off to Heathrow . . . will keep you posted as often as we can, please pray for smooth on time flights for us (you know how nervous Sara gets with turbulance!)

Our first flight is London to Nairobi, Kenya were we will spend the night & then Thursday morning fly on to Kigali, Rwanda!

Saturday, 16 January 2010

4 days till take off

As requested Penny and I will share the writting of this blog. Since she last wrote, I've had a practice packing session to find out if everything was going to fit . . . it did on the first try :) I've given away even more stuff from my flat, you'd be amazed at how much one person can accumulate over just 4.5 years! I've sorted out my electric, gas, council tax, and water bills. I booked my appointment with the landlord agency for a final walk through. I've gotten my passport back with a few more visas. Sold my telly. Now all that's really left is the cleaning of windows, curtains, and getting rid of my mattress which is scheduled for Monday morning. Last night was my leaving do at The Old Crown. It was lots of fun to see everyone for one last time! AND today I was asked to join the board for the Itafari Foundation and I accepted. So now I've got a few things I need to get done when I'm in Rwanda. I'm going to check out the cooperatives, see how they're doing and write up a report. I'm very excited about this cause as much as I think the building of a school is important, I loved going out to the villages and speaking with them about life. So that's a preview of what I hope to be blogging about later this week! Okay, gotta run, that's all for now.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Look at me I'm beautiful!

good morning everyone, I just figured since many of you don't actually know me that well you might like to see a photo of me so you can imagine me in your head as I travel around the world with Sara, so here I am.  I know I look at bit boring, but that's cause Sara is still organising before packing so I just sit around all day as she runs around like a headless chicken calling her letting agency to organise views, calling the utility companies to cancel her accounts, mailing off thank you cards for her Christmas presents, going to see musicals with her dad, catching up with all of her mates here in London before leaving, and I'm sure there is more which I've forgotten.  Please don't tell her sometimes when she rambles on & on about all the things she has to do I just sorta smile & nod instead of paying full attention cause to be honest I'm a bit insulted I've not been invited to join her on any of these little jaunts around London.  I mean I came all this way from NY & so far I've seen Heathrow terminal 3, the Piccadilly line & the Northern line, a bit of Kentish Town & now just the inside of Sara's flat, which don't get me wrong it's nice, but a bit boring since she's sold basically everything which use to be "fun".  Okay back to my point, here is a cute photo of me :-)


Thursday, 7 January 2010

slowly getting there

Sara has been moving stuff around like crazy in her flat.  There really isn't that much left to be honest, just a mattress for her dad, her bed, a telly, dvd player & lots of clothes on the floor!

Sara went off to get her last vaccine today, she said something about cholera at the Nomad Travel clinic, not sure what that all means but I hope it doesn't taste too bad.  Yes, that's correct the cholera vaccine is actually a drink, I learned that just after Christmas when she went for the first half of the vaccine.  Pretty cool huh?  Okay, okay, I know you're really interested in reading about our travels, but so far I've not moved from the corner of her flat so I don't have much to tell you.  I know she & dad were up in Scotland for the holidays, but I was left behind, apparently I was too big to fit in the over head compartment of the ScotRail train they were taking :-(

Hopefully soon I'll be able to tell you more interesting things, but for now that's it.  Happy New Year!