Great travel annoyances of our times: The hotel toaster

At the hotel breakfast, that metal appliance that toasts your bread on a little conveyor … I mean… how hard can it be to use? In theory it’s dead simple right? Pick up a bread slice with tongs; place it on the conveyor … et voila … your little white carb is whisked upwards on…

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

Continued from part 1 I walked towards the fire where there were two crouching silhouettes outlined in bright orange. I sat with them panting. One poked the embers with a stick, another lay on his coat  and stared sideways at the white-hot burning log. The warmth was comforting, and staring in to those dancing flames…

Climbing Mount Karisimbi

CLIMBING MOUNT KARISIMBI , a snow-capped volcano between Rwanda and the DR Congo, the tallest peak in the Virungas, was an arduous and fascinating experience. Many mountains, no matter how high, give you ice-field after ice field, lenghthy scrambles over loose scree and unending deja vu of switch-backs. But Mount Karisimbi is a consummate entertainer, performing…

Electric-green unplugged

Today it’s April the 7th 2018, a day that marks the 24th anniversary of the start of the Rwandan genocide. One million people were killed in a hundred days in one of the darkest, most horrific, most shameful periods in history. This post is part of the series ‘Letters from the Heart of Africa’ first…

Being mindful – bug bites and quiet nights

Most of the nights after work were quiet nights at home and I found my pace shifted down a gear, my tempo slowed and I became more mindful – without the distractions of wi-fi and liberated from a smartphone, my attention sharpened and became undivided. I’d take time to study the red blossom on a…

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…

Politicians and Popstars

Over the years the Kigali Genocide Memorial has been visited by countless celebrities and dignitaries; Angelina Jolie, Matt Damon, Natalie Portman, Ben Affleck, Ban Ki Moon, George Bush and Bill Clinton to name just a few. The centre’s tour guides like Honore, Henriette, Serge, Emmanuel and David would guide them completely unfazed by their stardom…

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

The twin pillars of passion in Rwanda are Christianity and English Premier League Football. The sides of the small buses, the mutatus, are adorned with colourful reminders of this: Wayne Rooney; a picture of Christ; Steven Gerard; sayings from the Bible; a picture of Didier Drogba; the Virgin Mary. Strangely the juxtaposition isn’t incongruous on…

The importance of memory 

Continuing the series, Letters from the Heart of Africa. We all want to go places, forwards, like a car, pressing on the gas, looking out of the windscreen; but to be really safe, we need the rear-view mirror. And so it is with memory in Rwanda, for there, memorials, like the Genocide Memorial Centre, take…