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Showing posts from May, 2011

The Bakiga Window: Truck in the Dust

The journey to the Rwandese/Ugandan border is a mad dash when you compare it to the distances that you've travelled to get this far in the first place. The relative brevity of this stretch of the trip means that you barely have chance to take in everything that you see along the route - and there is so much to see. The Rwandese countryside is such a rich canvass of colours and different lights and people and your eyes simply struggle to capture it all - what they do see your mind has scant time to process before the image has faded into the heat haze.
It is still Sunday 10th April and we are on a bus storming through the Rwandese countryside having left Kigali earlier this morning, bound for Kabale in Uganda. The modern bus - a relative term you'll understand - has struggled its way up never-ending inclines, glided down helical descents effortlessly and has done so all in the most intense sunshine.
Leaving Kigali, the urban sprawl of small shops and spluttering motors gives way …

Babylon Revisited by F. Scott Fitzgerald

In the aftermath of the Credit Crunch of the late 2000s, it seems fitting that one of the texts that the Daily Telegraph were giving away last year was F. Scott Fitzgerald's Babylon Revisited - published around two years after the stock market crash of 1929. The world then, as now, was suffering from a serious headache after the bubble of the boom years had burst.
The short story follows American Charlie Wales arriving in Paris - his personal Babylon and a place of great corruption in his life. From the moment that Charlie arrives at the Ritz, a place he had frequented before the crash, it is all too apparent that the ghosts of his past are just waiting to drag him back in. 
The purpose of his visit to Paris is ultimately for him to face the biggest legacy of his debauched past, the loss of his daughter Honoria into the care of his sister-in-law Marion and her husband Lincoln. This situation, we learn, had come about as a result of his alcoholism and his alleged mistreatment of h…

The Bakiga Window: Kigali Skyline

I don't want to get into the habit of playing a year game of spot the difference whenever I come to Kigali, but I can't help but find myself doing so anyway. Along with the ever-increasing amount of traffic, another thing that strikes you is the cleaning up of the housing around the centre of the city, coupled with the ever heightening skyline.
It is Sunday 10th April and I am musing on the Kigali's development from the grounds of the Genocide Memorial Centre, looking towards Avenue de la Gendarmerie, and the town beyond. Just out of the view of my camera, obscured behind some trees, is a symbol of Rwanda's leap forward, the Kigali City Tower - a spire of glass, iron and concrete in homage to economic development.
Standing atop one of the many collines and looking over Kigali's commercial hub, it seems to mock those who live in the poorest of houses that lay hidden in the crevices of the valleys. It is my hope that, in time, those who live in the poorer houses, with …

The Bakiga Window: My Rwandan Home

The number of quotes that you can find for homes and houses is endless. Most of them comprise of tired clichés and revolve around 'a house not being a home' or how housework can be the death of you. In the case of Youth for Christ in Kigali, Rwanda, a dormitory can make for a rather strange home.
We stayed at YfC last year and had a more than pleasant stay. The hostel is set high on one of the milles collines that give Kigali its interesting layout and Rwanda its nickname. Awe-inspiring views roll off into the distance in almost every direction - even the old German radio masts don't take away from the pleasant location.
Today is Saturday 9th April and we've a busy day ahead of us which involves taking in a few Genocide memorial sites in and around Kigali before heading to the One Love Café for relaxation. Needless to say after a long flight I was exceptionally tired last night - we had set off on Thursday from London, via Addis Ababa, to Kigali arriving yesterday aftern…

The Bakiga Window: Oil Tanker Traffic Jam

One thing that strikes you about Kigali, having visited the city briefly on three separate occasions over the course of the last three years, is that it seems to be filling up with vehicles. During my first visit in April 2009, the roads were busy, but due to their orderly layout and good upkeep traffic seemed to move freely.
It is Saturday April 9th 2011 and we are stuck in another traffic jam in one of Kigali's increasingly crowded streets. This time we are waiting for an articulated oil tanker to perform an uphill reversing maneuver through the narrow gates of a compound on the opposite side of the road. 
One positive aspect of all these traffic jams, it could be argued, is that they are a sign of Rwanda's increasing march forward economically. That said, drive a few miles beyond the city limits and non-commercial vehicles are exceptionally hard to find.
The thing that I enjoy the most about traffic jams in Kigali is the opportunity that it provides to stop and observe life. S…

The Bakiga Window: The Road in Ntarama

The instant that you walk off the plane in Kigali, Rwanda, you feel your skin begin to smolder from the potency of the sun. Crossing the wide expanse of tarmac and rounding the large concrete safety barriers that resemble British coastal defenses makes reaching the terminal building a welcome relief from the unrelenting sun.
By the following day, exposed in the afternoon sun in Ntarama, the relative luxury of the airport terminal building is a million miles away, but I feel thankful that this world of concrete and air travel is left behind. I feel that I have returned home.
Ntarama, to a foreigner, is fundamentally a place of mourning. Rwanda has, to a great extent, moved on from the turmoil of the Genocide in 1994, but the countryside is still pock-marked by the scars of the ethnic violence of April that year. Today is Saturday 9th April and the country is two days into its annual week of remembrance which commemorates the start of the well-planned frenzy of ethnic cleansing that went …

The Bakiga Window: By Way of Introduction

Having safely returned from my third visit to Uganda and having had nearly a month to reflect on the whole experience, the process of sharing these thoughts has come into my mind.
In previous years I have kept a written diary of my experiences whilst away. This April I did not. In the past it has been a good way of processing everything I have been a party to - a very cathartic process. In fact it has even improved me as a writer, let alone as a person. So one may ask: 'why didn't you keep a diary this year?'
The answer comes down to two things:
Firstly, this year I was in charge of running the trip. Over my three years of involvement in the partnership that my workplace has with Kigezi High School, my role has become more active in terms of the organisation of the visit. This year, when the primary trip organiser said that she would be getting married in April, I stepped forward to run the trip. This meant I was often one of the last to bed and one of the first up in the mor…