Letters from the Heart of Africa

A few years ago I volunteered in Rwanda. This serialised post is based on letters and emails sent home to friends during my six months there, and from notes in my personal journal. Each blog post is aimed to be a five minute read and a self-contained piece of narrative. A table of contents is provided below.

My writing from Rwanda was intended from the outset only to be a private correspondence to friends, a disentanglement of thoughts from a huge thought-knot, string by string.

I gained a privileged insight in to a recovering nation and writing made the experience easier to process – it was as if by hitting the keys on this laptop, the unresolved, restless mind in flux, finds something to earth itself on. Or something like that.

In hindsight, this is also the story of my sojourn, an average guy from London who found himself working as a volunteer for a charity in the heart of Africa.

Those intense 6 months are filled with memories: of inspirational friends, resilient and hopeful, many of whom were orphaned in the genocide but rose phoenix-like in to wonderful young people to work for the common good; of a beautiful land of rolling hills and shimmering lakes; of the adventure of climbing smouldering volcanoes and trekking across verdant jungles where rare mountain gorillas just knuckle-walked past us; of how we set up and recorded the centre’s first audio guide system and helped co-ordinate a series of workshops for sufferers of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Rwanda has moved forward in many ways since I was there. Skyscrapers, shopping malls, fast broadband and ATMs have appeared in Kigali, but somethings fortunately haven’t changed: her hopeful countenance, her collective memory, her resilience, her healing wounds, her stunning beauty and peace still endure.

This blog is dedicated to the people of Rwanda who continue to live with hope and love in their hearts. May the healing continue.

Table of Contents:

7. We Need To Talk About Why People Kill Each Other

8. Stolen socks and missing underpants 

9. Banana-leaf balls, making friends and a bitter falling out

10. The Shimmering Lake in the Shadow of the Volcano

11. The Chatter of the Raindrops

12. My friends, the survivors

13. Politicians and popstars

14. The Spotless City

15. Leisure pursuits: tennis, jogging and painful stomach-flattening (please do not try this at home)

16. The Day When Time Slowed Down

17. A Festering Malice: The Grenade Attack

18. The Resilience of Hope

19. A weekend in the rural beauty of Rwanda

20. Feeling down

21. The Nemesis of my sole

22. In Search of Silence and the Missing Female to Female 9 Pin

23. Being mindful – bug bites and quiet nights

24. Unguarded Moments

25. As time goes by

26. The Sports Bar in the Heart of Africa

27. Where you never walk alone

28. Faith, devotion and complicity

29. Sometimes on Tuesdays Always with Tea (part one)

30. Sometimes on Tuesdays Always with Tea (part two)

31. A Hike Up Mount Bisoke and a Lesson in Understanding Gorillas

32: Being lighter at the equator: a weekend break in the northern hemisphere

33. A Weekend Break in the northern hemisphere part 2

34. When memories come calling 

35. Travels with Dr Muss

36. Climbing Mount Karisimbi

37. The snowman in the heart of Africa – Climbing Mount Karisimbi (part 2)

38. Unexpected hosts: gorillas after the midst 

39. The Ragged Children of Kinigi

40. Seven tips for volunteers in Africa

41. The bar that sold bananas




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