…..Sadly “Heaven” was a rather posh café full of white people watching a football match projected on a large screen, which made it a little dull. Despite this, an incredible brownie with chocolate sauce and good company made up for it.
Happy Independence Day to everyone back home! – coincidentally, last Thursday was Rwanda’s Independence Day (from the Belgians), and the 4th is Liberation Day (when the genocide ended). Yesterday I volunteered at the American embassy’s Independence Day weekend community event, ostensibly helping with kids’ games. However, when I arrived at my station, light hilarity ensued. From the plastic-tipped darts which were unable to penetrate high quality American balloons to odd-tasting cheap balloons from Thailand with odd projections like cow udders and kitty faces on them (the darts were still ineffective), this activity seemed destined to fail. It was a good way to make friends though.
After giving up on the balloons, with the blessing and agreement of the person supervising us, my first American friends in Kigali and myself headed over to the buffet line, dreaming of the taste of summer. A huge decision faced each of us, since only a hamburger or a hot dog was allowed, not both. I went with hamburger, although in retrospect this was probably not the right choice since neither cheese nor green chile were on hand, and burgers can be found in Kigali, but hot dogs are another story. All the same, there were Heinz ketchup packets, which I had been betting on - having deliberately avoided purchasing Heinz at the store to make it all the better when I finally had some. I admit that I slipped a few into my pocket as a stock for the future. Potato salad was also on the menu. By the way, I’m not the only one who has a slight food fixation. One common topic of conversation was the meal each of us had planned for ourselves when we returned to the States, although all of us, including me, admitted becoming partial to the local cuisine to some extent.
It was awesome to be surrounded my tons of young energetic people, every one of them with a cool story and smiling enthusiasm. For me, it helped to put my time in Rwanda in context, and made me more fully appreciate the time away from and with other Americans.
I ended up going with a small group of friends to an Indian restaurant, where we were joined by probably 4 other groups to total around 17 people. Some of the people in each group had just met each other, and all of the groups were just meeting each other, and it made for an entertaining dinner. About half of the people were beautiful Peace Corps women who were tearing into the most food they had seen in probably a month, generously paid for my one of my newfound friends, who was seriously impressed with the PC personalities and efforts. The restaurant was ridiculously nice, and the food was delicious. In typical style for Indian dining, our table ordered probably a dozen things off of the extensive menu, as well as baskets of nan. My friend who orchestrated the whole dinner secretly arranged with the staff to inflict the whole birthday ceremony on one of the girls whose day was coming up. Towards the end of the entrees, the lights went out, initially making people believe it was a power outage, but then outrageous birthday music began squealing through the restaurant’s speakers, and a chain of wait staff danced out with celebration paraphernalia. The entire restaurant stared at the hapless girl, who gamely danced and wore her birthday hat while we all clapped and sang happy birthday 7 different ways. After blowing out the candles on her fruit and ice cream platter, she sadly announced that she was allergic to pineapple. Seated next to her, I got her to at least take a spoonful of ice cream that wasn’t touching any pineapple slices, before commandeering the platter myself and passing it around the table.
After this wonderful dinner was when we ambled over to Heaven.
This morning I spent the 4th on safari in Akagera National Park on the eastern border of Rwanda. At least a decent game park, I saw hippos for the first time, and documented strange interactions between a couple friends and a family of giraffes. Also experienced my first tire flat in Africa on the way to the park. When we asked our driver how many tires he had changed, he said too many to count. Afterwards, we had lunch on the edge of a lake at the Jambo “Beach” restaurant and boat tour area. Something about the majestic scenery inspired plans for opening restaurants, dowry discussions, and small-time piracy.
I honestly don’t know how to stop telling stories were food is mentioned.