Africa…my spell, my magnet, my second home. I get restless as soon as there is a slightest opportunity to go. And there was!
I was invired to Rwanda to train with Future Vision Acrobats! There was no way I was refusing this…
I wasn’t going alone – Pierre and Sylvain came with me.
And through their eyes I could experience it all as it was the first time again. Again I was surprised and impressed by the stuff people carry on their heads (even though a single shoe never fails to impress me anyway), I had to explain to the guys, that the bus goes…ehm, when it’ s FULL, not when is time..
Again there was some bargaining on the market and amusing everyone around by trying so hard to say “thank you” in their language (in Kyniarwanda is not that hard, actually, MURAKOZE, the trouble starts when I THINK the thing I am saying is “thank you” but I am actually using a different word from my imaginery vocabulary of the local language that probably consists of something like threeg words).
photos by Sylvain
And again…the strong feel that everything is ok and I am here, I am, where I belong.
I love bike taxis. In Africa it is an amazing way of transport. Cheap, fast and ….well, kind of exciting. The smell of petrol, dust, the closeness of the body of the young driver usually dressed in a cool leather jacket…or cool jacket of some sort, his dark ripped arms and occasional quick glimpse in the side mirror….and am I imagining the winks?
The tight hugs – my hugs, to be precise – innocent, as obviously I don’t want to fall of the bike, right? I wonder, if they ever feel my heart beating. From both, excitement and fear of the fast ride through the buzzing African city, the joy of the wind in my hair and soft African air caressing my skin. In Rwanda it is all proper, you even get a helmet, the prices are pretty much set and the drivers are registered. But it doesn’t lose it’s magic. I still had tears in my eyes – and not because of the speed or irritation. But because of the feeling that I am finally home.
I jumped off the bike with shaky knees. Luckily my French crew survived as well…I probably shouldn’t admit this, but only when I was on the bike in nearly exatic state I have realized that I forgot to ask them, if they knew how to ride a bike. Ah well, they will have to “swim” and figure it out…and they, luckily, did. In fact, they loved it…and then I introduced them to the best beer in the world – Star – drunk with a street view and the buzz of a busy city.
In Africa many bars are upstairs. Sometimes the stairs are actually pretty rough, so I have no idea, how all the people who drink there make it down the stairs safely…but then, they’ll jump on a bike anyway, so the whole process of safe home returns of drunk people is a mystery.
If you are walking in the street and you crave a bit of something cold (which you always do, as the sun drains you and the constant noise, restless movement wears a spoiled European off pretty quickly) look up to the sky. You probably won’t call the rain, but I can pretty much guarantee, you will be able to locate the nearest bar/restaurant. And the beer is never expensive and most of the times nice and chilled.
Yum, yum, yum
Pierre is allergic to peanuts. And when I say allergic I mean extremely supermegaallergic, like he throws up pretty much when saying the word, can smell a peanut miles away so EATING an actual peanut…well, better not think about it. Now, this was a big worry to us, as in Africa a lot of the cooking is based on peanuts but also peanut oil, which is even more dangerous for us as it takes us a while to detect it.
I guess this allergy even though wide spread in Europe was quite a rarity for the locals. We got so many blank faces, when we tried to explain…and our poor Kinyarwanda language skills didn’t help either. Many times we were actually offered a bowl of peanuts, as the lovely personel thought that that actually IS what we are after. When we mastered our negotiation on the absence of the actual peanuts in the food, the next challenge was to explain that we also don’t want any peanut oil…
Now I am safe to say, that we failed big time only once, which gave Pierre one harsh afternoon spend by hugging the toilet. (luckily for everyone involved the water was working) and luckily that was all….uuuuf.
But apart from that my French (translated food loving, photos of home cooked food sending) fellow travelers enjoyed their first ever dining out experience in Subsaharan Africa.
I have to admit, I totally love it. All the cookeries and eateries have this “homie cutie” feeling and an unmistakable style. Plastic chairs of different coulour, usually with plastic flowers and a decoration on the wall and usually the photo of the president on the wall.
Nothing happens in a rush..the opposite, actually. What a difference to a crazy busy sweaty Sydney caffés, where waitresses would break up in tears every weekend as the stress was too much to cope with.
In Africa no. There is time and a person for everything. There is the mamma at the counter. She is the money person. Then there is the waiter, usually a young, cool styled guy. Sometimes he would give you this too cool for school attitude, but at the same time get totally confused by your order. Or there would be a lovely lady, who may be a bit slower than your average waiter, but nearly therapeutic in her calmness and gentleness. I just love the way the lady talked to us, presented the menu in a smooth, gentle way with the tiny bracelets shining on her forearm and then came back to actually explain that what we ordered is actually not available that day that, in fact, they have only the same dish as everyone else…only their menu (the paper one, I mean) looks a bit fancier that anyone elses.
Every restaurant/eatery would also have a runner (or fixer, but that is a different level). You usually don’t see him, but it is the person who would make it happen. So for example. There is a power outage in the area – happens. Yet these three tourists want cold beer. This person would get it. Even though it may mean jumping on a back of a bike and riding for the chilled beer to the local market, or getting a fresh fish from God-knows-where. It was delicious and definitely worth every minute of the wait.