Rwandan Ramblings

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


It’s easy to be famous here. I would like to credit my emergence as a regular on various Rwandan radio stations to my electric personality and crafty use of the media to serve my every need but tht would be truly misleading. Journalists just seem to appear every time I’m running something – be it a competition, summer school or a training. And so I give interviews – none of which I have actually heard myself, since they are normally broadcast on the Kinyarwanda stations. Instead people tell me later that they heard me babble enthusiastically about young people and energy and motivation and health on this or that station. I even had the big boss VSO Rwanda Country Director congratulate me for a good 5 minute interview he heard on Radio Rwanda a few weeks back (they obviously couldn’t be bothered with editing any of it...unless I have forgotten that I really was bestowing pure nuggets of golden information upon the nation!).

Shalking hands with participants at the end of a training - as if I'm actualy important...

I’ve even become pretty good at giving nice little catchphrases; “Why have a music competition to spread messages about HIV? Well everyone knows all of Beyonce’s lyrics – these kids too now know their lyrics through and through!”. “Do I think the kids are capable of spreading the message? They have proven today that they are great ambassadors for their schools, and so now they are equally great HIV prevention embassadors in their schools and communities too!”, “The energy in that room is just astounding, enough to knock you out – be careful on entering!”.

The other day Richard, one of my colleagues called me into his office and switched on a 3 minute radio clip he has saved on his computer which has been aired several times a day for the last couple of weeks. It was of course all in Kinyarwanda, but I could get that they were talking about the summer school that is currently going on in my town, with the dates, the people invited and the location...and then I heard the name of my town. It was immediately referred to as “Kuwa Maggie” – “Maggie’s place”. Now that made me feel special!

However, this doesn’t even come close to the fame of one or two VSOs living in the capital city who can count amongst their closest Rwandan friends various DJs, members of the national basketball team, journalists and actors. Two of my friends have recently recorded the new jingle for one of the biggest radio stations in the capital. So their voices will now be aired 50 times a day every day for the next how many months!?!

Ah well, back to the electric personality drawing board for me...

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.

Monday, July 09, 2007

So there they arrived at the airport looking like they always did.
Unsurprisingly I guess. I was part wondering whether Sue would have checked whether “Safari Style” was in vogue this month and turned up in leopard print wedges with lion tooth motif. But no. You may laugh, but she obviously didn’t realize that footwear appropriate for gorilla trekking up a volcano may not include puma “no-grip sandshoes” or that she might need trousers slightly more rugged than those from Topshop’s “Summer Linen Range”. She can explain that one.

Having 4/7 of the Murphy clan come to visit the 1/7 marooned out here since September last year was actually a treat (and not just for the shampoo, chocolate and cup-a-soups that they brought in a specially designated Maggie Suitcase). Although there was a definite golden lining to the cloud that was our grotty little guesthouse’s tardiness in serving any food on one of the first evenings. I gave up waiting and launched into a ham and lettuce on seeded brown bread sandwich. A little bite of heaven.

It was a whirlwind of ten days, partly since i was still working in preparation for a district competition in dance, theatre and music that I organized and stressed over.

One of the welcome elements of their visit was that they re-opened my eyes to the kaleidoscope that is Rwandan Life. It is very easy to slide into a way of living and forget just how different things are out here. And often it’s nice to know many things are different (I’ve just been called fat again by my landlord).

“Look! A woman with a basket on her head AND a baby on the back”
“Why do prisoners wear pink?”
“If I just say Papa Maggie, they seem to understand”.
“How can he carry a saw on his head?”
“Look at those guys on bikes hanging on to the back of the truck up the hill”
“Why is there a boy hanging off the truck of cows?”
“And why are their tails tied to the canvas sheeting?”
“There must be 30 people in that minibus”

“”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.

And it was great for them to see my life out here – however short and sweet and skin-deep the visit may have been.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


Another culinary delight in Rwanda. Very small fish, grilled to a crisp.

You’re meant to eat the head (they’re shorter than your little finger) and tail, but I couldn’t really face it.

The glazed eyes are really quite pretty aren’t they?

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

And thanks for all the comments. Sometimes you wonder if anyone reads - it's nice to have the encouragement to go on!

In response to some questions;

My contract is until the first week of September so expect to see me back on British soil, eating ham sandwiches on brown bread with mustard around that time!

Tom, I hope you are happy that I safely retuned my "delicate" sister to you. Despite being slapped by a gorilla (maybe she deserved it), I hope you find her in peak condition.