The Childhood Adventures of Owning a Globe

On my seventh birthday my parents gave me a globe. My own spherical world of colourful landmasses and oceans, strung together with lines and stitched down with words, sat on a shelf  by my bed. At first I thought it was broken for it tilted to one side. My dad convinced me that many things in…

Mistakes on a train: a helpful traveller goofs up

Travelling can bring out the very best in us; we help each other with heavy luggage; we give up seats; we share food, books and mobile phone chargers; people once strangers can become life-long friends after a few plastic meals together on a flight. There is though one type of travel where that kindness doesn’t…

The nemesis of my sole

Heel gobbler. Lace snapper. Tongue cracker. In the stony, dusty backstreets of Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, shoes took one hell of a daily beating. Twice in my first three months my shoes needed resoling. The Kigali streets eat up shoes with a clinical assault; abrasive sands rub them down on every tread; rainwater softens…

Feeling down: the 6th Week Blip

Six weeks in to my volunteering placement in Rwanda I felt down. I had hit what psychologists call the ‘6th week blip’. The theory goes something like this: after 6 weeks of being in a new cultural environment you hit a wall. You’ve had enough. The initial joy of encountering a new place, wears off. Fascination…

A weekend in the rural beauty of Rwanda

One Friday after work, I took a bus from Kigali till I reached a sleepy village called Gahini beside a lake that, by late afternoon, shone like mercury. Paula , a VSO teacher on a 3 year placement, had invited some of us volunteers for a weekend break and raring to see the countryside I…

The Resilience of Hope

I passed the cream-coloured boundary wall the next morning, its smooth surface was now pock-marked with a spray of holes, each with an increasing space from the next, a pattern as if chiselled by a modern artist, but these made by the shrapnel of hate not art. A dozen policemen, each in a black uniform and…

A Festering Malice: the Grenade Attack

What kind of person would throw a grenade at a cemetery? What must happen in a person’s mind for them to be that sick? A heady mix of festering malice, an arrogant disrespect for the sanctity of the dead, a remorseless psyche filled with hate. So many years after the event, I still found that…

The Day When Time Slowed Down

Einstein said that the faster you travel, the more time slows down. In fact, if you travel at the speed of light, time slows down a lot. What Einstein never mentioned though was that time also slows down with grief. After my first few days working at the Memorial Centre I noticed there were piles…