Rwanda Part II

A delayed follow-up to my Kigali post. This week has been a social whirlwind (more of that later) so our Rwanda trip seems a long time ago. But Rwanda is so different than the other places in Africa I didn’t want to leave the impression our only memory was the memorial.

I’ve been told Rwanda is like Germany: disciplined, controlled and well organized. But the people we met had a sense of humor. We hardly scratched the surface, arriving late Saturday afternoon and leaving early Monday, especially considering on Sunday everything is closed (a crisis to those in Team Walton who needed a shopping fix). So we’ll be back one day. But it was time to say goodbye to our van;

Naty and Safari van

We did bounce around Kigali on the Sunday via motorbike taxis. Typically you’re advised to avoid motorbike taxis in Africa where there often seems to a competition to get as many people on board (with no helmets) as possible. But in Rwanda they are required by (enforced) law to be well maintained and always carry a second helmet for one-passenger only. Great fun and quite terrifying. The taxi riders even waited until we entered the memorial, waving goodbye.

Unfortunately, the Greek restaurant (Restaurant Hellénique) recommended by our buddy Ronnie was closed. We had arrived an hour before the guard told us it would be open so we found a local bar.

Naty and Phil in Kigali bar

A couple of beers on an empty stomach and we were feeling merry but when we returned to the restaurant no dice (although we did get to meet the owner Cocolio).

Ronnie had given us a backup restaurant, New Cactus, which was within walking distance of out hotel. Off we went by foot but in the wrong direction and spent the next 60 minutes wandering around Kigali streets at dusk. Not a concern at all and an opportunity to meet very stern and professional policeman on every street corner.

So a fail on Kigali restaurants (shame as we’ve been craving Greek and Mexican food) but we didn’t care. We had used my accumulated stock of Marriott points (thank you to you-know-who) to stay at the brand new Kigali Marriott. High-end gym, Sauna, steam room – and all round luxury and a fantastic view from our balcony.

Phil and Naty on Kigali Marriott Balcony

Amazingly, I still have status with Marriott and we were invited into their lounge. No honor bar or peanuts and crackers – full free bar and wide range of tasty food for breakfast and dinner. In fact, when we found this out at check-in we were on time for dinner and smuggled Ben in and we all dined like kings.

Dining like Kings

And we invited him back for breakfast the next day, with his boss Nasser who had traveled all the way from Entebbe by bus (10 hours during the night) just to confirm our trip was a success (sure beats a customer satisfaction email) before they both left to return to Uganda.

Phil, Nasser and Ben in the Lounge

Since we’ve been back we had our anniversary and then had a surprise anniversary party at Club Destiny arranged by Violet, Carys, Isabel and friends. Delicious food and a lot of fun after a long and tiring week, followed by a spontaneous trip to Harry’s Bar and then Chez Ntemba until 2.30am. All the girls (who were feeling no pain) and me, the arm candy and designated driver (Brave and Adrian – please hurry back). We’re very lucky to have friends like this here in Malawi.

Club Destiny Anniversary Party

We were joined by our latest friend, Daniel Ruiz who we were connected with after seeing his name on an AfID bulletin saying he was in Lilongwe. Daniel is Colombian and quite a character who has traveled the world (Congo, Argentina, Myanmar) on international assignments. First we went to Wednesday night to an Indian restaurant with Carys;

Meeting Daniel

And then we rolled into a new bar for us (Vision Gaming) where we bumped into an old friend (Adrien). I’ll be back at this bar as it seems we have a common interest.

Vision Gaming

Daniel joined the party Friday night and was still dancing up a storm with the remaining girls at Chez Ntemba as we left. If you’re having a party invite a Colombian and it won’t end early.

Strangely enough, Mrs W. was on the sofa all day Saturday.

Chairs and Mail

I know I’ve described the frugal budgets at SunnyMoney. I’ve not been trying to sound honorable, just we would rather spend our money funding our Sales team’s travel to the off-grid rural communities in need for solar lights. But the result is a very low-tech office. 

Even chairs. This week our friend Alan won an office auction for us and we delivered a new office chair yesterday as mentioned last post. But I don’t think many appreciated how big a deal it was for us. So we arranged our chairs today for a line-up.

We have white and green patio chairs. A old church wooden chair that I think was carved from an oak tree. And a 4-spindle office chair with 3 wheels that is the source of much falling-off amusement.  Plus our new state-of-the-art ex-NGO chair.

It is amazing how normal this has become. Who needs more than one comfortable chair anyway? But the water cuts have started again which we are not looking forward to as you can put up with a lot if you have access to flushing toilet.

The lack of a postal service has been a difficult one too as there nothing like receiving a letter or card from time to time. Also a problem for celebrating family and friend birthdays so we thought we were quite clever by buying small wooden gifts, each carved with the names of the recipients, and mailing them from Cape Town. We had shipped the first batch back with our Intrepid Head of Finance but she still has them at home (Lorraine!) so we thought we should try a more direct route.

First envelope arrived this week at Natalia’s sister (Diana) home in California. Sliced open and contents stolen. Hate to admit it but we blamed the South African mail workers. Especially when the second envelope was safely received by our friend in San Diego, with 3 items for Lori and her two girls and two envelopes to forward onto my friend’s son (for Graeson’s first birthday) and to our wedding flower girl, My Linh.

Envelopes to Graeson and My-Linh arrived opened and contents stolen. So if anyone knows a Californian postal worker with family members named Diana, Graeson and My-Linh please let me know and I’ll send them a picture of the men’s toilet at our office.

A long Easter weekend coming up and the gang is off Thursday evening to Manchogi and Palm Beach to celebrate Carys’ birthday (30th -sshhh!).

I suspect plenty of blog material to come on this.