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Showing posts from August, 2010

A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali by Gil Courtemanche

I've travelled to Rwanda twice in the past two years and the events of April 1994 are obviously inescapable. People who I now count as my friends survived the Genocide and so I have become not just well-informed about the Genocide, but also quite protective over how the story is treated by the West.
The Genocide started two days after my 10th birthday, although, being born and raised in the UK, I didn't know anything about it at the time except a few new reports showing long lines of people leaving a city.
It was with some scepticism that I approached A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali (2003), especially having read an extract from the first chapter that made excessive references to ‘asses’. My initial worry was that this would be another westernised narrative that unduly sexualised the suffering of people of colour. I put this to one side and tried to read on.
It is not long into the novel that you realise that Gil Courtemanche is in fact not just another westerner debasing Afri…

The Gower in May

A very windy day on the Gower, in Wales, in May. I had been there for a camping trip. It was very cold as you may expect and my ears were freezing after a coastal walk to the pub in Rhossili. After a meal there the drinking continued into the night before a drunken stumble home.

Les Journaux Africains: One Love Bar, Kigali, Rwanda - 20.01 03/04/2010

Another thought provoking day, as every moment in Rwanda seems to end up being. To avoid clichés about devastation, horror and disbelief is impossible. To use the word 'another' in front of 'thought provoking' seems unfair and seems to debase the point - this isn't my intention at all.
We have visited two different Genocide memorial sites today. Both of these are a long stretch from the sanitised environment if the main Genocide museum, in all its government- and internationally-sponsored glory overlooking the the dust and murk of L'Avenue de la Gendarmerie. These were time capsules.
The first site that we came to was Ntarama Church, about an hour outside of Kigali. The building, upon first glance, looks intact, but it is upon closer observation that one sees the hallmarks of war; a grenade hole in the wall, missing windows, bloodstained shirts and, finally, a glimpse of row upon row of human remains.
Inside, there is a strange smell, sweeter than the musky sm…

Les Journaux Africains: Genocide Museum, Kigali, Rwanda - 11.37 03/04/2010

So we had a microscopic lie-in today before piling into a 'coaster' bound for the town centre. The weather is so un-British here that it is hard to imagine how cold it was before we left for Africa.
This is my second visit to the Genocide museum, but this time we are closer to the 6th April anniversary of the Genocide's commencement. Everywhere around us there are people wearing the purple ribbon that is symbolic of those who lost someone during the Genocide.
From over the brow of a hill, in amongst the memorial gardens, there is the sound of music. As I peer over the edge I can see around ten women wearing identical pastel-blue dresses. They are stood facing one of the mass-tombs with an immediate crowd of around them of around three hundred people, all wearing purple. Many more, people removed from the sorrow such as us, people busy working such as the Rwandan policewoman with her rifle stood next me, and gardeners tending to the plants are all stock-still listening to the…

Les Journaux Africains: Youth for Christ Hostel, Kigali, Rwanda - 21.13 02/04/2010

I have remembered that strange feature of African evenings; the sun setting so early. It was at 6.30pm that the light quite suddenly gave up on us and left us - students and staff - playing football whilst shrouded in darkness.
The pitch could not have been more beautifully situated. Half-way down the hill from the common room and students' dormitories, there is a flat mini-plateau on which there are two goals. It was here that a kick-about with a Ugandan teacher working at Youth for Christ, Judith, and a local boy, Ghenghe, evolved in an all-out footballing tussle between two throngs of WMSF students and teachers.
Who knows what the score was. Many goal-scoring opportunities were squandered, many knees grazed and many arguments started over who had scored what and how.
When the night finally came, it was time to head off back up the hill for another African buffet and a few games of table tennis.

Les Journaux Africains: Youth for Christ Hostel, Kigali, Rwanda - 16.10 (CAT) 02/04/2010

I am now beyond tired. The journey and the four stops and starts that the flight entailed was a little too much for my body and mind to take - i have been in four different time zones in 14 hours!
We've arrived at the Youth for Christ Hostel in Kigali and our rooms are somewhat basic. I must admit that I kind of like it - shabby chic it would be called in London. The fatigued iron of the beds, the carpet-less floor of the room and the distinct lack of light seems strangely reminiscent of HMP Long Kesh, or at least what I expect it would be like.
Another feature of the endless flying has been the steady succession of meals... rounded of with our first African buffet of the trip. It seems the same in Rwanda as in Uganda and consists of rice, matoki, chicken ground nut sauce. Terribly monotonous, but strangely comforting. So with the weather hot I am preparing for the next challenge - eating another African buffet at 9pm.

Les Journaux Africains: In the Plane, On the Tarmac, Entebbe, Uganda - 13.15 (EAT) 02/04/2010

This has come as something of a surprise! Upon arriving at Addis Ababa, Liz announced that our connecting flight actually stops off at Entebbe in Uganda. We therefore have a rather unique and epic journey unfolding: London, Rome, Addis Ababa, Entebbe, Kigali, Kabale.

Addis Ababa we only had the chance to witness from within the Bole International Airport terminal. The terminal was nice, but the slight sleep deprivation from the flight - they keep waking us up to feed us - was creeping up on me so I just took the opportunity to sleep. I hope to experience more of Ethiopia on the return trip.

Back in Entebbe, whilst waiting on the tarmac for the wild hoards of Ugandans waiting to go to Kigali, who turned out to be just one guy, we were permitted to stretch our legs on the steps to the plane overlooking Lake Victoria.

There was an immediately familiar dampness to the air which felt as comforting as a Sunday roast in Warwick. Added to this is the unrelenting heat of the near-equatorial su…

Swinging Googlies Almanack 2010

A project that I've been working on for frankly too long has finally been completed today with the uploading of the Swinging Googlies Almanack 2010 - a book for my cricket club that documents our 2009 season in black and white.
For anyone who is interested, the cost of the paperback edition is a very inexpensive £5.99 with all profits going to the Kigezi High School Partnership and other Kabale-based charitable causes
If there is enough interest then it will be just a short matter of time before the 2011 edition is started upon. For now, a preview can be seen below.
Swinging Googlies Almanack 2010 by Edited by Thomas Kelly | Make Your Own Book

Les Journaux Africains: In The Sky, nearing Rome - 23.00 01/04/2010

So we've been in the air for what  doesn't seem like a long time at all, but now we're descending for our short 'bounce' into Rome. 
The flight is exceptionally peaceful compared the thunder, lightning and heavy rain that was pouring on the journey to Heathrow Airport. Having left Starbuck's in Earls Court, I caught the District Line to Barons Court and waited on the platform for the Piccadilly Line train with Jeff and Tash on it. The rain was such that however far under the canopy one retreated, getting damp was an inevitability.
Back on the plane, at first glance there is something decidedly retro about the Ethiopian Airways plane we are on. It lacks the very modern features of air-travel, such as multi-channel entertainment screens mounted in the seat in front of you... but who cares?
We were all actually engaging in conversation with each other and being sociable. What's more, unlike British Airways, they actually had a 100% wheat-, barley-, rye- and lacto…