22 – Kigali: A Modern Rebirth

22 – Kigali: A Modern Rebirth

Peace and Grace Motel was an experience. The service was suuuuper slow – so slow it was funny. “Chicken and chips” was their speciality. We would be sitting in their courtyard and a motorbike would arrive, a dozen chickens hanging upside down off the back. Each chicken would be plucked off the bike, and with a squawk it would go in a large cage outside the kitchen. I say outside, there was no door separating the courtyard from the kitchen. The chickens could see their fate. We could hear their fate.

Believe it or not, we weren’t tempted by the chicken and chips. We ordered a pizza, a vegetarian one. Several hours and several reminders later (no exaggeration), the pizza arrived. The dough was raw. We were so hungry we gulped it down anyway. We didn’t dare order a pizza again. We learnt our lesson: the speciality or nothing!

We had reserved our room on booking.com (we always compare it with ioverlander, Couchsurfing & Airbnb to see which offers the most reasonable option). The reservation included bed & breakfast for two. The next morning we ordered our breakfast, waited an hour, reordered our breakfast, waited half an hour, questioned where our breakfast was. Finally… a bread roll and egg appeared. Yes, one. We asked where the second breakfast was. “Oh no Madame, there is only one breakfast”. We eventually managed to prise the second egg roll off them (once the chef had finished cleaning the kitchen). He has a list of tasks you see. You can’t change the order of the list.

I must say, our concept of time has definitely changed since being in Africa. We are no longer agitated when something does not happen in a reasonable amount of time. We have learnt to switch off and I think it’s a good thing!

There is an excellent description of time in Africa in the book I am reading at the moment (The shadow of the sun by Ryszard Kapuściński). Let me share it with you:

The European and the African have an entirely different concept of time. In the European worldview, time exists outside of man, exists objectively, and has measurable and linear characteristics. According to Newton, time is absolute: “Absolute, true, mathematical time of itself and from its own nature, it flows equably and without relation to anything external.” The European feels himself to be time’s slave, dependant on it, subject to it. To exist and function, he must observe its ironclad, inviolate laws, its inflexible principles and rules. He must heed deadlines, dates, days, and hours. He moves within the rigors of time and cannot exist outside them. They impose on him their requirements and quotas. An unresolvable conflict exists between man and time, one that always ends with man’s defeat-time annihilates him.

Africans apprehend time differently. For them, it is a much looser concept, more open, elastic, subjective. It is man who influences time, its shape, course and rhythm (man acting, of course with the consent of gods and ancestors). Time is even something that man can create outright, for time is made manifest through events, and whether an event takes place or not depends, after all, on man alone. If two armies do not engage in battle, then that battle will not occur (in other words, time will not have revealed its presence, will not have come into being). Time appears as a result of our actions, and vanishes when we neglect or ignore it. It is something that springs to life under our influence, but falls into a state of hibernation, even nonexistence, if we do not direct energy toward it. It is a subservient, passive essence, and, most importantly, one dependant on man. The absolute opposite of time as it understood in the European worldview. In practical terms, this means that if you go to a village where a meeting is scheduled for the afternoon but find no one at the appointed spot, asking, “When will the meeting take place?” makes no sense. You know the answer: “It will take place when people come.”

[…] Africans believe that a mysterious energy circulates through the world, ebbing and flowing, and if it draws near and fills us up, it will give us the strength to set time into motion-something will start to happen. Until this occurs, however, one must wait; any other behaviour is delusional and quixotic.

So, wait we did. Asking, “When will the egg roll be ready?” makes no sense. You know the answer: “It will be ready when the chef makes it”.

The rest of our time in Kigali was spent at Evode’s place. Evode is the Uncle of one of Heather’s closest friends in Paris (Lily). We had never met prior to staying with him, but we immediately felt like he was family. As well as assisting us to find what we needed, he spoilt us with a wonderful bedroom, yummy food and good company.

To get to Evode’s place we drove through the streets of Kigali. The streets were wide, sparkling clean, lined with pavements (!), bicycle paths (!), manicured gardens and beautiful trees. We passed embassies, fancy modern houses, a brand-new hospital – it was all very impressive! Cars and moto-taxis shared the roads. Unlike Kenya and Tanzania, the Moto-taxis only accept one passenger per bike and they all provide helmets! At night, the streets were lit up perfectly by LED streetlamps! The hills sparkled in the distance. It was beautiful.

We began our first proper day of exploring Kigali by walking around the city. We are not big city people, but Kigali was pleasant to walk around. We would turn a corner and get a fabulous view of the layers of the landscape. In the foreground, beautiful flowers and shady trees; behind that, a couple of houses surrounded by grass and banana trees; then, a strip of forest with the odd building poking out, and in the distance a silhouette of hills framing the view.

There were pedestrian crossings for every time we wanted to cross the road (!) and people kindly stopped their cars and gave us way! No rubbish was to be seen in the streets and for the first time since beginning our journey, we spotted recycling bins. Our hearts jumped a little with joy!

The first stop on our self-guided walking tour was the Campaign Against Genocide Museum. (See post N°23). A couple of hours later we emerged from the Museum with a deepened knowledge of the country’s past and a heightened respect for what it has achieved in the past twenty-five years. We continued exploring the city, past the Convention Centre (a remarkable piece of architecture inspired by the King’s Palace in Nyanza!), past a fancy roundabout with statue, past shops and restaurants to our next destination: Inzora Rooftop Café.

At the entrance to the café was a wonderful bookshop and stationery store (whence we bought Ryszard Kapuściński’s “Shadow of the Sun”). The café was a watering-hole for expats, Mum groups, Hipster friends and remote workers, all slurping on the WiFi, beautiful view and tasty food and drink.

Our last stop of the day was at Inema Art Centre – a real treat. It was great to visit a museum which displays all different kinds of art, not just animal paintings or “traditional African art and crafts”. The place had a cool vibe. It was funky, modern, colourful. Outside, recycled stuff (like a car, pots of paint, wire and stones) had been turned into art. Inside, a collection of artists displayed their work.

The quote on the building: “We want to make the kind of progress that will make Rwanda unrecognizable to those who define us by our tragic history. The future we are building is the future Rwandans deserve.” – Paul Kagame (President of Rwanda)

We walked back to Evode’s through lovely residential areas, thinking how lovely it must be to live here. Kigali had charmed us.

7 Replies to “22 – Kigali: A Modern Rebirth”

  1. Wow 😊 great post thanks guys 👍
    Btw, I think maybe babies are also born with a different concept of time 🙄🤪

  2. I don’t blame you – I don’t think I could have eaten the chicken either!
    This evening I didn’t get to yoga in time to park the car and get to the session before it started, so I didn’t go to yoga. Instead I went to the beach and had a fabulous walk next to the sea. It was gloriously invigorating. Although perhaps, what really happened is, some people got together and yoga happened near where I happened to be driving but I chose not to join them at the point in the session where they were and instead I went to the beach, which had been there all day and still is, and I walked beside the sea until I had taken as many steps as I wanted (5000) then retraced my steps and walked back. And then when I got home I showered and had supper which was ready because I had made it, then we watched our favourite TV program (45 minutes after it eas broadcast, when we were ready to watch it, thank goodness for pause on the BT player!) I think I could get to quite like African version of time, if it wasn’t for the fact that we live in a society where most others are on European time. Maybe after Brexit we can come up with some version of our own (It will probably be closely aligned with traditional pub hours!)
    Kigali looks and sounds wonderful. I wonder what Lily’s uncle does for a living and what attracts Lily to live in Paris?
    Paul Kagame sounds really inspirational, I wonder who/ what influences him and his ideals.
    Fabulous post and pictures (as always). Thank you xxxx

  3. Hahaha never order a dish which requires an oven in Rwanda, it’s best to just go with grilled meat. This reminds me when I was still living there. Once, I was supposed to prepare lunch. I thought it would be an easy task, as when I usually cooked, I would just buy meat from the local market. Except this time, the meat was already home… And stilI alive… No surprise, it was a chicken!!! Well, I set the poor animal free, prepared only vegetables (which is almost a mortal sin in Rwanda) and became vegetarian for a year 😂
    I am so glad you met Evode, enjoyed Kigali and Rwanda in general, it is a tiny but beautiful country. And now you know why my time is sort of elastic…
    I hope you both keep enjoying your journey, I can’t wait to hear the rest of it.
    Lily
    Ps : To respond to your mum, I came to Paris for school and stayed for love.

    1. I’m so glad you did Lily. Meeting and knowing you has enriched Heather’s life too (who also went to Paris for education and found love there too!)
      Heather has uncles – you should definitely go meet some of them!!!

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