Unpredictability - Good for your health

Our modern life is based on organising an environment free from the unexpected. The house needs to be as stable and reliable as possible. The job as safe as possible. Nothing should break down. Nothing but what we predict, should occur.
This is the life of the zoo animal. Let's explore the life of the Nomad. Let's live the life of the Nomad.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

A presidential home in Kanombe

Kanombe is an eastern suburb of Kigali, and here you will find the home of a president who was assassinated in April of 1994.  President Habyarimana's Falcon 60 passenger jet was shot down on April 6 and this event became the catalyst for the 1994 genocide.

There are several versions as to how and who shot the plane out of the sky but there is little doubt that this event was a conduit for the horrors to come, and the military conflict resulting in Rwanda's present political and social reality.  Behind the garden of this great home can actually be seen the wreckage of the plane crash.  Parts of the wings, fuselage and engines lay where they fell.  The scene is quite eery.  I guess I would have taken a photo if it had been allowed - but the guide with us said this was prohibited.  And thankfully so since such a photo shoot would have been somewhat disrespectful.

The home is now the Rwanda Art Museum and we had to remove our shoes before entering.  Every room is layered with art from Rwanda's past and present artists.  Like all such galleries I do find them thought provoking.  Not being a natural artist myself however, I probably misinterpret most of the exhibits.  Thankfully the guide was very knowledgeable and was able to answer all our questions.  There was even a part of the premise where you could buy art exhibits.

The building and garden of the president's home is most likely a shadow of its former grandeur.  Like all nations, the leader is blessed with a place befitting such responsibility.  Grand rooms, a huge garden, a swimming pool - huge areas for entertainment.  I leave the reader with some photos of the outside of this building.

Two churches in Rwanda

As I was walking up a steep road called simply KN3, towards the center of Kigali, I noticed to my right a large building that looked familiar.  It looked familiar because in fact it was the Sainte-Famille Catholic church in downtown Kigali and I had read some of its history when studying books about the genocide on a previous visit.

In a deeply religious country such as Rwanda, and in times of trouble, it would not be unexpected for people to seek refuge in such a building - in the same way perhaps that Londoners took refuge in the underground stations during the blitz in the second World War.  And this is exactly what happened.

However according to witnesses this may not have been the expected haven, for the priest allegedly took to arms himself, and assisted the militia in picking off candidates for execution. What really can one say about this?  Silence has its own voice.

So I entered the building, sat down, and said a prayer or two before exiting and making my way into town.

I addressed my mind to the question of a service attendance for the coming Sunday.  A google search suggested that the Christ Church Rwanda would be suitable.  Primarily because it was an English speaking church.

On the next Sunday I asked the hotel receptionist to order a taxi and I jumped in the car.  The taxi driver claimed he did not know where the church was and asked for the number, and tried calling.  I found this rather odd since it was a well established church and not far from the hotel.  I guess I was still naive to Rwandan taxi driver tactics.  Before leaving Rwanda I had indeed learnt the tricks.  The driver will claim the destination is obscure and may take some time to find, thus the cost of the trip increases.  I said to the driver - 'well if you don't know where this church is, I suggest we cancel the journey because I won't be able to help you'.  After this, he suddenly remembered exactly where it was located and took a rather long time to arrive there.  He charged me the equivalent of ten pounds, which is more expensive than a London black cab.  I was rather annoyed however I had made the mistake of not negotiating the price before heading off - so in a way only had myself to blame.  I handed him the money and rather sarcastically thanked him for such a cheap fare.

I entered the church and took a chair towards the back.  The worship team were singing Blessed Assurance, a song I had not heard before.  It was a really lovely performance and I do admit my eyes were rather watery while listening to the lyrics

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine

O what a foretaste of glory divine
Heir of salvation, purchase of God
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood
Perfect submission, all is at rest

I in my Savior am happy and blessed
Watching and waiting, looking above
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love
This is my story, this is my song

Praising my Savior all the day long
This is my story, this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long

After worship Pastor Brett Shreck delivered a first class lecture about the nature of suffering, why it exists and how it works its way into our daily lives.  It was thought provoking and I thanked the Pastor at the end of the service for his superb delivery.

I needed to find a taxi back and I was not going to call the driver who drove me to the church.  As I was walking down the street, two attendees approached me asking for financial assistance - the first to help with tuition and the second to help with medical expenses.  I had some reserve to help the first, but not the second since I needed money for the return trip.

Begging is an annoyance that one really just has to shrug off in Rwanda.  If your skin is fair, then you are fair game and you will be approached.  I wonder how Rwanda will address this going forward as it transitions into a wealthy African country. I say it does need addressing because towards the end of my stay in Rwanda I sensed that it was as much as a habit as it may have been a necessity.  It is tiresome as well as uncomfortable having to refuse when your spare cash has already been given out.

It wasn't long before I found a taxi driver.  He knew where the hotel was, and we agreed a price that was considerably cheaper than the previous fare.  It was a good service, and I was pleased to have attended a church service in Rwanda.

Peace to All

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Kigali City Tower

With 20 floors and a height of 234 feet, the Kigali City Tower is visible from most places around Kigali itself.  I was quite fascinated by this building.  In a country that is developing fast, this impressive piece of architecture seems to shout intent to any onlooker - "look at Rwanda now, look at this - and wait because better will soon be coming!!!".

The shape of this building is elliptical.  Originally, according to wiki, it was going to be fully circular - but an oval shape would give it more floor space.  And so it does resemble the conning tower of a submarine.  And perhaps this is part of its symbolism, for the real power of a submarine is hidden below the surface - a bit like the resiliency of the Rwandan character perhaps.

Anyway I was fascinated and decided to investigate a little further.  I kindly asked one of the guards if I might visit the top floor of the building.  I was initially refused however I did point out that many posters around the town beseeched one to visit the great Kigali City Tower, and so the guard relented and allowed me access.  And it was indeed a great view and a worthwhile visit.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

2018 Mid Year Update

It is a fine thing to maintain a blog.  To record events and thoughts and to journal the generally changing landscape of a life lived in our modern times.

And it does take some energy to do this.  It takes time to put to the written word the summary of a new trip, or a new engagement or a new job or a new thought.  Social Media is a different thing.

I discovered social media recently.  It is true that I discovered it a decade after everyone else.  Strange I guess, given that I am an IT professional. But this is how it is and I can say there is some good in it all.  I can post a picture of an event and it takes minutes.  And online friends can click on a like or put in a comment.  And all these actions are recorded and become part of the narrative of a news feed.  To join a social media site is to make a claim in a world that traverses the virtual and the historical and the present reality of your network of people.  Whoever would have thought it would come to this all those years ago, when cutting edge was a personal computer with no sound and 1 KB or RAM!!!

There is a relatively new way of working now called Working From Home (WFH).  It has been possible to do this for a while now but employers have been weary of allowing their paid ones the freedom of self supervision.  But it is taking on and for very good reasons.

1) It frees up expensive office space.
2) It offers employees and especially couples flexibility in a time where both partners are expected to be working and looking after the children.
3) It is envirnonmentally much better - no more long trips in cars burning up fossil fuels.
4) It can offer a distraction free working environment.  If you have an office in the garden or if you live alone - you can be assured of a disruption
free work experience in most cases.
5) It can become a politics free place to work.

There are some challenges and dangers in this way of working as well.

1) You can feel isolated.
2) You require a self discipline, and any deficiency here will quickly reveal itself in terms of work performance.
3) Your home costs can increase - especially in winter when you need ot keep yourself warm.  Rarely are energy bills chargeable to your employer.
4) Your working times become blurred.  In the office you can start at 9.00 and finish at 5.00 and outside of those hours you will not be expected to contribute, generally.  When working from home there is an expectation that these working hours are negotiable and overtime charges don't apply - after all you are saving time spent travelling to work and back each day.

I started a new job and travel was a big expectation.  But my first engagement was for a bank and I was allowed to work from home.  So I didn't travel all that much for a year and a bit.  I did do some travel though.  Once a month I would travel to a place called Banbury - a market town in Oxfordshire.  This little village was important during the English civil war. Oliver Cromwell planned the Battle of Edge Hill in this pub now called Ye Olde Reine Deer Inn.

It has been different this year.  I have been working in Derby and I am thankful for advancements in vehicle design over the recent years.  My new Ford Kuga is a very comfortable driving experience.  I bought it almost brand new.  It has on board computers, and a flashy interior and travels along the road as if floating on a cushion of air - a hovercraft like experience.

The four hour drive to Derby in this superb car is more a pleasure than a chore.

My two daughters never did like my rusty old Ford Transit van but they were certainly charmed when I took them into Brighton in this classy car.  Unfortunately I am pretty much estranged from my daughters - a dilemma that is all too common to the absent parent of a divided family.  Perhaps this will change in time or maybe it won't.  It might be that one day these ladies will read this blog and know their father loved and loves them and wishes them well in life.

Well I think that is enough for now.  I will summon some more energy I am sure, to write again - and this time I won't leave it so long.

Peace To All

Thursday, 14 September 2017


The failure of the engagement had left me bereft of word and aspiration.  Unlike most of the other relationship failures, I had to conclude this one was down to me - or rather, something missing within me.  Here I was - Broken.  Not fit for a relationship.

Now this does sound depressing but really it was quite liberating.  No longer a need to indulge myself in thoughts of normalcy, I was free to be whatever a man with something broken inside is supposed to be. I could do whatever I wanted whether it was healthy or not - and mostly it was not.  No need to pretend anymore that I was part of the living and thriving human community.

A teacher in primary school had displayed to us a picture of a man in a striped black and white prison outfit.  This man, she explained, was a man not fit for the community of the good.  I was no prisoner but the metaphor holds.  I could now do my own thing like the Imperial Zebra in my black and white covering.  The horses could gallop among themselves.

I started attending a Pentecostal black church.  I had always had a belief in the divine to a stronger or lesser degree.  Each Sunday the preacher, whose name was Pastor Andrew, would bellow and shout, scream and proclaim the word of the gospel.

' This church is a hospital for the spiritually sick' - he would shout.
'You are more than conquerors' - he would bellow.
'The Lord has a plan for you' - he would scream.

As bizarre as all this sounds - it began to work.  My inner strength returned.  My mental strength returned.  For instance,  I decided to achieve a Microsoft certification at the highest level.  I completed it.  I decided to exercise again - and began cycling 15 miles each day.  I could feel the Holy Spirit working through me: returning me to an equilibrium that I believe doctors call homeostasis.

And so I decided I also needed to start the blog back up again.  I needed to take another journey and write about it.  I had already climbed the three highest peaks in England, Wales and Scotland.  I had blogged about Scafell Pike in England.

Scafell Pike

I had blogged about  Ben Nevis in Scotland.

Ben Nevis

This left Snowdon in Wales.

I have hiked to the summit of Snowdon at least a dozen times in the past - and have used various routes.  The least challenging from a navigational point of view is the Llanberis path.  The path generally follows the train track that also leads to the top.  The path is easy to follow - but it is a demanding 10.5 mile hike.  The weather forecast was not ideal.  There would be rain, mist and wind. I didn't fancy a challenge with the maps and the compass.  I decided to take the Llanberis path.

Llanberis is perhaps my most favorite little village in the United Kingdom.  No matter the time of the year it is always raining; however as soon as the clouds lift the surroundings are spectacular.
View from my hotel room.

The Dolbadarn Hotel - My regular weekend residence many years ago.

Pete's Eats - popular with climbers from all over.

A mountain hike should begin with a breakfast high in calories.  The traditional English breakfast is ideal.  I was staying at the Padarn Hotel and the breakfast of sausage, egg, bacon and tomato was ordered.  On the back of the breakfast menu the proprietors had thoughtfully listed some of the interesting facts about Snowdonia.

After consuming this delicious meal I collected my backpack, exited the hotel, and began the hike. The entrance to the Llanberis path is easy to find.  You only need to locate the Snowdon Summit train station, continue along the road and turn right at the first round about.  A steep road leads to the start of the path.  It was raining and so I had to put on my weatherproof trousers and jacket.  With this additional clothing and the steep road, I felt rather hot and exhausted before even reaching the start of the trail.

The start of the path is sign posted on a triangular rock in keeping with the environment.

It is probably not easy for those who have never hiked up a mountain to understand why thousands put themselves through such a physical torture - each day of the week.  For me the activity has three positives.  Firstly it is a healthy form of exercise.  Secondly it is an escape from civilization and a connection back to a more natural, if extreme, environment.  Thirdly it is a form of meditation.  The only way to complete seven tough hours of mountain hiking is to concentrate on each step and let the trivial stresses and anxieties of everyday life dissipate from the film of your consciousness.  If this is done correctly - and it does take practice; it is possible  to achieve the summit and experience the elation of this achievement.

The summit of Snowdon is elevated to 1085 meters.  As you approach the last 200 or so meters of elevation the tangents steepen; and the weather can worsen rapidly.  There is a temptation to remove layers of clothing through sheer exhaustion - but this is a mistake.  If the wind is up and the weather is cool - you need to retain your body heat otherwise exposure will take you down very quickly.  Near the top it is also tempting to feel envious of those who took the easy way up.

The train was steam driven - and the fragrance of burning coal and steam, and the sounds of this old form of locomotion,  in the cold mountain air, were wonderful.

Nearing the summit visibility was reduced to around 15 meters.  I cannot say I enjoy hiking through the blanket of thick cloud.  It is very easy to become disorientated and there is a feeling of being deprived of a summit view - after all that hard effort.  But even so there is still the elation of success when the summit is reached.

I didn't linger long on the summit.  The extreme cold began to bite fairly quickly and my limbs were feeling numb.  And thus I commenced the long hike back down to the mountain's base.  I had purchased hiking shoes in my normal size the day before, without trying them on.  This was a silly mistake.  The shoes were slightly too big, and going down in such shoes caused me quite a bit of pain.

It was indeed a relief to make it back to the hotel.  I was completely spent and dehydrated.  All I could do was lay down and rest - there was no energy left and my head was throbbing with the day's effort.

I drove back the next day in the Suzuki.  This would be my last big trip in the little old car.  I would soon be trading in the reliable old machine for a new car - and I had a strange feeling of sadness.  As if the car had its own feelings and personality.  I think this phenomenon is called animism.

It is quite a long journey from the North of Wales back to Hayling Island - and on this day it took me seven hours.  I stopped at the Keele services on the M6 at junction 15.  I do find these services, that span across and over the motorway, fascinating. They were built at a time when motoring was glamorous.  I can imagine an era when it was a notable event: to drive out in your shining vehicle, and wearing your finest clothes, and parading the results of your labour, in such a glamorous service stop.

And so this was my journey to Wales and my hike up this famous mountain.  I hope to continue the trend with more hiking and more blogging.  And I hope you all will join me in the adventures still to come.

Peace To All

Monday, 8 August 2016

Rwanda - And Daily Life

Having lived in several different countries myself, I am aware that a couple of weeks is not really enough time to determine the measure of a daily life.  Perhaps six months might be a better period of time.  On the other hand, I was fortunate to have visited my partner's family and friends as well as Rwanda itself.  And so I did receive some insight.  And so I shall share these observances in this, my final post on Rwanda for this visit.

Rwanda and Medicine

The mattress on the bed, in the hotel, was quite firm.  I awoke the second morning with a tender cramped shoulder.  It did not improve much during the day.  Here in the UK we have the National Health Service.  It is free to the consumer, although it is paid for by everyone contributing part of their salary to a welfare tax. Rwanda is similar in that it follows a universal health care system. There are regional based health care organisation into which citizens pay insurance contributions.  This covers approximately 45% of the healthcare costs, the remainder coming from international donations and government funds.

There are a handful of national hospitals and hundreds of health centres.  I wondered about how I would get to visit one of these centres.  I decided to live with the shoulder pain.  Time was precious and the shoulder only pained when I lifted my arm.  My partner's brother however, on observing my discomfort - led me to one of the many street pharmacies in Kigali.  I described my condition to the pharmacist and he returned with some medication called diclofenac.  I thought this rather odd that I could simply purchase a medication without a Doctor's script.  I paid the fee and a couple of days later my shoulder was pain free.  I took advantage of this convenience to also purchase some asthma and indigestion medication - without the inconvenience of having to visit a doctor. Perhaps unwise - but while in Africa, might as well do it the African way.

Rwanda and Shopping

My partner's family are members of the mercantile class, owning several phone and material shops.  I spent a good amount of time in these shops observing the retail world in action in Kigali.  There are a couple of modern type shopping malls but mostly Rwandans buy their wares from independently run shops, or street vendors.  The government discourages individuals from selling goods from plate or a hat.  Officials often round them up and take them away for prosecution.

Foreign goods can be expensive.  Rwanda is land locked and thus goods from abroad need to be air lifted into the country.  Locally produced goods such as clothing are very good value.  I purchased some magnificent clothing and even some materials for my sister in the UK, who has a talent with the sewing machine.

A nomad's jewellery shop 
Shopping all hours

Be prepared when entering the shopping malls - they will usually be protected by guards and you will be required to place your metallic goods into a bowl and to step through a metal detector - not a lot different to the security in an airport. These type of things can be a bit disconcerting, however, I certainly had no reason to feel unsafe while in Kigali.

There are no regulated shopping hours.  In fact Kigali never appears to close down.  Even late at night shops can be seen doing business. And if you enjoy your shopping - don't forget to haggle for a good price.

Rwanda and Civic Pride

On every last Saturday of each month Rwandan citizens are obliged to take part in Umuganda. Each citizen participates in community work such as street cleaning and infrastructure repairs.  Rwandans are very proud of their country - and there is good reason.  It is a delight simply to drive through the streets of Kigali and observe how clean and orderly everything is.  You will not see discarded plastic bags.  They are not permitted.  I did not see any fly tipping.

I did see much development and economic activity.  Rwanda is like the Lazarus of Africa.  It is hard to believe that only 22 years ago this country was virtually destroyed by civil war.

To have visited Rwanda was indeed a great privilege.  I experienced nothing but the finest of hospitality.  I was able to witness a people blessed with an inner sanctum, in spite of the bitter past.  I hope you have enjoyed reading about my experiences of Rwanda in the last posts.  I am looking forward to a return to Rwanda, and hopefully this will not be too far away.

Peace To All