There are many things I will find hard to miss when I leave Rwanda. I can’t see myself grimacing as I ease myself into a hot bath, and I doubt my mouth will curl up in disgust upon cheesecake passing between my lips. The mere thought of buying a bunch of carrots without an audience excites me. But there is one thing that is sadly lacking from British culture and if only I could, I would transport it in less than a jiffy.
How often do you wince when you realize it is “karaoke night” in your local back home?
Not here. Never here.
Rwandan karaoke is a joy to behold. I say behold rather than listen to because that is where the absolute joy resides. No screeching from enthusiastic, plump wanted-to-be’s with bleached hair. No groups of red-eyed football lads on a boozy night out who see inebriation as a passport to self-embarrassment. No, Rwandan karaoke is all about miming, looking chic and having a good dance routine.
Slick turns, impossible hip jiggles, bendy bodies and dress changes are at the core of this profession. The funniest part must be the seriousness of it all. I guess it really is a job, but since the songs generally revolve around the playlist of the National Rwandan Appreciation Society for Enrique Iglesias, Westlife, Celine Dion and Cheese in its Purest of Forms it does sometimes appear slightly weird to watch these muscular guys gyrating away to a British pop ballad.
It is a shame in a way that you can’t pick up a laminated floppy book of “songs we do”, lying on the bar and sign yourself up with those weenie pencils to communal humiliation as in normal karaoke. This is all performance – no amateurs allowed unfortunately. How I would like to shimmy and shake my stuff on stage for the pure hilarity of it all. You wouldn’t catch me doing it back on the Isle of Wight, but out here people stare enough as it is...
Now personally I think there would be far fewer groans from locals come Karaoke night if the inebriated football boys had to strut their stuff to a Westlife theme tune and try to retain some dignity at the same time. You might even have trouble finding a table.
And on the high table whilst singing the national anthem. No, I don't know the words...but the army guy obviously does. The Mayor is right in the middle.
“”God Will Save Us” is written on the back of that minibus roaring around the corner!”
All this whilst my screwed up eyes are identifying the next pothole on the horizon and trying to avoid the crazy kids and awestruck goats in the path of the car. I was petrified for much of the time on the road, I didn’t tell them that I had seen a man killed in front of my eyes in a horrific car crash just a couple of hours before they landed, though now, having been here for a few days it probably won’t surprise them.
Spot the Mzungu. No seriously. He's at the back.
I’m back in love with Rwanda.
Gimme gimme gimme
Yesterday I was driving along the road on my motorbike when I saw a guy ahead of me tumble off his bike pretty badly. I stopped my bike to make sure he was ok. He was lying by the side of the road and had obviously hurt his ankle. I was wondering whether if needed it would be possible to take him on the back of the bike to hospital twenty minutes drive away. Then he looks up at me, registers my skin colour and from the ditch by the side of the road next to his collapsed bicycle stretches out his hand and gives a baleful stare. Then rubs his stomach.
“I’ll just have an omelette please”
I was all for packing it all in yesterday. If I came anywhere near a Rwandair flight I would have hopped right on and said “home please”. And if not home, anywhere close.