My African Adventure 20-22nd Jan

20th Jan: Crap! Day out. What did we do? Sat in the sun? Unlikely- it hasn’t been out much these days. I do know that Stephen and Diana came round and we had dinner at The Guinness and Sister. I started reading ‘The Time Travelers Wife’. I honestly can’t remember anything else. Oh that was it! We went into town; visited Shop 2000 (or whatever it’s called) and got Toms for £3. Dad bought another hat. We walked down to the red market at Nyabogogo but it was fairly unimpressive and we all felt rather harassed. I got a picture with a lion. The women are trying their best to get a suntan but there’s only so much we can do. Also, mum and dad are to name Stephen and Diana’s baby- a Scottish boys name. Highlight: showing Stephen photos of Edinburgh and NI.

21st Jan: Fairly adventurous day: firstly, the loo was blocked so dad had to fix that. Mum and I went to Embrace Rwanda HQ to hand over all those knitted jumpers and hats. No bus stopped for us on the way home because they we all full so we had to walk to Remera bus station but on the way it started raining and I mean, raining! Anyway, after lunch dad and I walked along the valley to Nyamarambo- about 5 miles. Got a Fanta there and a bus home. Market on the way was slightly scary. Hopefully I got a good bit of sun.

Hilary (Embrace Rwanda) getting the ‘chip shop jumpers’

the ski slope hill on the way into Nyamirambo

22nd Jan: It’s been a real mix of days. In a way I was glad to get on the bus back to Romera today. We went to Romanagana to sort out schools some of the boys are going to. Having visited the wrong place- a Catholic school- we found the right one- EPR- chatted with the headmaster and got one of the kids in, providing he passes the entrance exam on Monday. Dad, granny and I took a walk around the market: he didn’t see any of the mamas he had helped set up a market stall. Visited a mama with cancer… 47 but looks way younger. Has a daughter, 21 and a 17 year old son. She went to Uganda for treatment 6 months ago but it did nothing. We were able to give her a bit of money to keep the family going. They were given a cow but have heard nothing of its existence/ whereabouts. That was our next task. So we were led to a cow- looked in fine enough shape. Being a ‘zoologist’ with a masters in behaviour and welfare I still had a few unanswered questions and knew communication could be far better. Back in Remera I bought that Jesus clock for Jess and Dave for £4! The guy in the other shop was looking for £12… A picky tea was had- crisps, peanuts, cheese bread, and banana/ ginger loaf. And beer/ wine. Dad is doing extremely well with us all, though did threaten to disappear to the pub. None of us think Stephen’s ‘ticket’ to Ireland will materialise into anything. Perhaps photos will have to do. And mum and dad have chosen the name Stuart. Lovely. Didn’t wash my hair this morning; just couldn’t face it. This means it must be done tomorrow.

Stephen and i at the EPR school

apparently the missing cow


My African Adventure 16- 19th Jan

16th Jan: Who knew packing for 1 night would be so difficult for two adults to do?! Throw in a granny taking everything she brought for the whole trip with her for three nights by the lake. At least I’m sorted, I can’t get into trouble. I walked into town this morning, hoping to visit the natural history museum but it was closed. It also rained for most of my walk, and the humidity was pretty high so I got the bus home and rewarded myself with marble cake. Can’t believe I have my full blown period! Is that not what the pill is there to prevent?! Means I’m currently drugged up, with not much feeling of relief: really warm and not hungry. The three ladies visited mum and dad’s house this afternoon. Joanna- who owns it- is back in it and having a party for her daughter. The view is amazing, and the garden is massive. I think she’s done a fair bit of work on it. Real shame though: mum was telling some of the parents what she and dad had started and you could tell they had utterly no clue what was going on in Rwanda outside of their private schools and embassy jobs. Bad news: Uganda have decided to charge $100 per person to get into the country which for one day is far too expensive so dad and I aren’t going anymore. Perhaps we will visit some museums instead… It’ll be good for mum and dad to get some alone time whilst granny and I are still at Kivu. Mum said earlier she was ready to kill someone.

the view from mum and dad’s house

17th Jan: We are at Lake Kivu! The weather started out beautifully then got stormy as the evening went on. The bus journey down here was interesting. Three hours of valleys with tight corners and a driver who probably wouldn’t have cared had he hurt anyone. I let out a little squeal at one point when I thought we were going to come off the road. I was totally desperate for the loo when we got off the bus but mum and dad insisted on walking to Bethany. Big mistake guys! Anyway, pretty good views; food is a bit more expensive and takes a lifetime but you get plenty of it. Dad was talking about maybe going to Akagera National Park now that we’re not going to Kampala. Let’s see how that one pans out. Saw an otter in the water- spotted necked apparently. And the lightening was pretty impressive. *His* granny died this evening. 90 years old and having had an awesome life, he was ready to let her go. What a guy! As I spend some quiet time by the lake may I respond to God’s giving rather than being preoccupied with getting.

…with an ape?

18th Jan: The four American girls have not stopped talking. Get a little down time. I think the Canadian guy from the airport is here. We might get chatting to him later. There’s a crow which keeps squawking at us, and there’s a one legged thing that keeps appearing. So, the thing to do is order your food an hour in advance then come back. Mum and dad have gone back to Kigali to get some much needed work done, and granny and I had wine with our dinner; thanks love. Mum, granny and I visited a renewable energy museum…with medicinal plants on the room. On the way there we were followed by two kids looking for money. I stood still until they passed us by. 

the new museum

19th Jan: Man have I a story for you! Firstly though we’re back in Kigali. It feels good. Granny and I woke up this morning to rain and no intention of it leaving for a few days so we decided to leave instead. Scary times on the bus for a couple of minutes because of the low lying cloud but fine for most of it. Emotionally drained but I think it’s a combination of everything. But yes, story! We had African buffet in the UTC; waitress asked if we wanted a drink and when she realised there was no tonic she offered the most expensive drink on the menu without any word of price. Basically we refused to pay for it, the three of us got really shouty then the owner said sorry and let us go. Tura banana ejo! Haha, banana… I didn’t have dinner this evening- lunch was such a traumatic experience. Slowly adding words to my dictionary. Granny was flirting with a man on the bus earlier and there was a guy with what looked like a bed- side table, amongst other pieces of furniture.

low lying cloud

My African Adventure 12-15th Jan

12th Jan: We went to the Genocide Memorial. We didn’t get around it all but that was perhaps enough. So horrid. So many bodies. Then we went to Simba and had an avocado salad each. You get much for your money. What else happened? It was crazy raining during the night and rained again in the evening. I had to take time out from people after dinner. I lay in bed and listened to music. Dad made cheesy pasta again and granny offered to wash the dishes but because she used boiling hot water instead of cold the cheese extra stuck to the pan and it was an utter disaster… Dad thinks she’s definitely lost at least one marble. Is that it? People are enjoying my pictures on Instagram. Not a particularly note- worthy day.

13th Jan: Today was Rutonde- goat and porridge project. We hugged all the widows before visiting various homes where goats/ rabbits/ pigs/ cows/ chickens had been bought as a way of generating income. Then we heard stories of how the porridge has been helping the children. This one boy wouldn’t leave me alone- kept holding my hand. But I guess that’s what they do. I had to take a couple minutes time out at the end- I can’t handle that many people for that period of time. And the taxi drive was mental! Only 10km but takes 45 minutes to drive because of the road. So many beautiful scenes. Much better done on a moto I think! Insect bite count is increasing… The sun was good and hot. On return to the house dad and I headed out for beers to drink in the house. We went for an African buffet for dinner but it was luke warm and everything apparently had meat in it so that didn’t go down well with granny. I actually quite enjoyed it. Then we (dad and I, obvs) went ‘pinting’- the Primus is beer-ier than I’d like but I happily drank it. Its also raining again. As long as it only happens at night. Highlight: hearing people give thanks to God for the provisions they have been given.

a boy with his rabbit

one of the village goats

porridge time for the kids

14th Jan: 9am and it’s friggin’ raining again! I didn’t sleep well last night because it was mental. And Africans don’t come to work if it’s raining so currently we’re waiting to see if the girl will turn up. We’ve had a fairly low- key day but I’m totally shattered. Mum, granny and I visited The Meg Foundation in the morning. I may or may not have bought another giraffe. Potentially a big one… It was really nice to meet her. Bless, being 70 years old she doesn’t know how many more visits she’ll be making from England. Got a quick look into the primary class too. Afternoon spent in the warmth- but not necessarily in the sun. The girl (I really like her!) washed our sheets so we had to search for new ones (what an effort it was finding ones to fir the bed- then dad and I went for a run- top of the hill and back. I’ve had carbs at every meal which isn’t what I’m going for. Plenty fruit as well too though. So some village chief guy warns a copy of our passports. Obviously dad was having none of it, not until the guy is at our front door instead of at the other end of the phone, at least.

a lady who works at The Meg Foundation. she is paid for the crafts she makes

another giraffe for the collection

15th Jan: I have been rather aggressive today. Squared up to a guy in Nyamirambo this morning because he was staring at me, then this afternoon a guy didn’t stop at the zebra crossing, and mum and granny were crossing the road, so dad and I shouted at him. I think my heart is becoming hardened to the people who I don’t approve of. Maybe I couldn’t live here. We bought Fanta and mandazi for all the school kids. Stephen was there but so was the guy dad and I met at the market last week. Someone must have told him we were coming- and two of the mamas who apparently get involved with everything. I bought a pair of Converse from the market for £8. The guy wanted £10…! And there was this really creepy doll. Simba for lunch again. May become our favourite spot. Granny chatted to a young guy for the whole bus journey into town. Perhaps not a bad thing that one of us is being friendly. Highlight: 3 of the 4 kids who got their results today will be going to a good school.

some of the kids who get their school fees paid by Mission Rwanda

My African Adventure 8-11th Jan

8th Jan: I wasn’t sure how today was going to pan out but in the end it was alright. It ended with alcoholic beverages- craft beer. Dad and I took a walk up the hill to the house they lived in. What a view! And I swung in a mango tree. We got popcorn coming down the hill and the bag was made out of a copy of a page from a scientific journal. Went back into that phone shop- a fake iPhone 6S for £150 or a real 6 for £650. No thank you on both accounts. Spoke to the woman too about chimpanzees. £1600 for four people: that mustn’t be right. So, African culture: Pentecostals being crazy loud and just outright crazy in a church across the road. African culture: grinning at a road accident as you drive past because apparently other people’s misfortune is a joyful thing. Totally messed up. Got a picture with a fake elephant outside a supermarket. Perhaps the closest I’ll get to wildlife.

craft beer

9th Jan: Well I’m pretty pissed at the weather. I might as well be having an NI summer. Clouds and rain, really?! Shouldn’t complain, it’s only the first day it’s been like this. So pleased mum and granny are here! Though it will throw up its own issues. So dad and I took the bus to the big market to find him a new hat but no luck. We walked from there to slightly closer to the airport- to where we were meeting Stephen. Did the standard thing of looking round the shops- still on the lookout for an iPhone… There was a short man following us up the road, literally by my side. When we stopped and stood aside he stopped and stared. I had banana loaf! It was a little dry but you got a bit for 50p… And I finally got my purple Fanta (Fiesta), and beef on a stick for the second time this week. Found this total dodge looking Jesus clock which I want to buy for Jess and Dave. Highlight: Meeting Stephen. I’ve heard so much about him and he’s so thankful to mum and dad. He greeted me with a hug and had questions about me.

the clock

10th Jan: Things kicked off tonight. Was it my fault? I only started crying because I was tired- silly really. I said I didn’t want to see the chimps. I’m happy to do whatever. But tension mounted. But anyway. At lunch I had my first African buffet. Note to self: maybe just be a vegetarian. Granny bought a cafetier from Nacromat so that’ll help us all get through the day. She bumped into her air hostess from the Brussels to Kigali flight. Typical. She had a wee flirt. Went to the market again at Kimironko. Dad bought a hat for £3- they originally wanted £5- and I got a medium sized giraffe to further my collection for £2.50. The boy had such business sense- he pursued me out of the market and accepted my haggling. Friendly too- not threatening. Granny spent 50p on a bag of garlic. Mum thought £1 for two mango was expensive… A man was holding up a chicken and I really wanted to get a picture with it. I guess there’s plenty more animal photo opportunities. Really want to see the natural history museum also.

our street


11th Jan: Good day had! I don’t think anyone shouted at anyone… Dad and I did our run. I’m so out of practice. Then it was fairly relaxed for the rest of the day. I finished one book and continued with another. After lunch mum went to Scripture Union to catch up with stuff there. Apparently one of the girls they’re supporting is pregnant again. Granny wanted deck chairs for the patio so dad and I headed down the road to the ‘mattress shop’. We bought 6 cushions for £5 each and lay them out in the sun. Man am I glad the sun has returned! Dinner was out again. Beef on a stick again. And chips. But its cheap! Ridiculous moment: we bought eggs and we didn’t know who out of the four of us would be the safest person to carry them home. Granny was using me as a human torch coming down the hill in the dark- my ankles under my skirt being the beacon of light! Highlight: watching dad run up this beastin’ hill as I huffed and puffed (walking) behind him.

For a slightly better worded account of our adventures, and from a different stance, this is my dad’s blog and the website for their charity, Mission Rwanda: Mission Rwanda Blog

My African Adventure 5-7th Jan

5th Jan: First full day in Kigali complete. It was a little scary but only for one reason: a beggar whipped dad on the arm after dad had pushed him away gently. I don’t want a full on fight happening on the street. We ran out of electricity in the evening too which wasn’t scary; just meant we had to sit in the dark. African life. I took my first two bus rides of the trip. Not as cosy as mum and dad made it out to be. Had dad’s special cheesy, tomato pasta for dinner, a huge avocado for lunch, two sweet bread doughnut things and coffee at 11ish, and a tiny little banana and an apple for breakfast. Rained during the night and the wind got pretty fierce at 5pm. Burnt my shoulders a wee bit so perhaps I’ll get a tan. Got myself a SIM too so I can contact the world! Maybe I’ll wait for them to come to me; make the most of being in Africa… The people all seem to be friendly, if not a little difficult but again, African life. Highlight: “You’re fairly white compared to everything here”- dad

6th Jan: So we didn’t get attacked by anything/one today, that I remember. Headed into town again in search of a SIM for dad and info on the chimps. We were told what I already knew having looked up the national parks website. I also spent pretty much £15 on factor 50 sun cream but man did I need it!? Also hilarious! Buro de change- the man was selling SCOTTISH POUNDS! Rocked dad’s world. Went to a massive market, bought some tomatoes and passion fruit. Had a giant mango for lunch. Got it everywhere. We ate out for dinner- goat/ beef on a stick and chips. Not bad. Took a wander before bed. Really looking forward to granny and mum getting here. She’s going to bring us chocolate because the stuff here isn’t good. On the bus they have the radio or a CD playing Hillsong! I knew most of the words… Breakfast was good: bread, banana, peanut butter. Dad thought his egg was pre- boiled but it wasn’t… African life.

7th Jan: Today dad and I visited one of the schools where mum and dad pay for kids to go. Term isn’t back until February so we spoke briefly to the headmaster and he suggested I marry his son… Walked around another market and bumped into a guy who apparently knew dad. We got lost trying to find some food place dad knew but ended up elsewhere drinking yogurt and eating chapatis. On our way back through town I spotted an iPhone 6. The guy said it wasn’t ‘original’ but I don’t know if that means ‘brand new’ or ‘legit’: I’ll go back and find out. Dinner was kind of like Tuesday but minus the cheese, swap pasta for rice and include a green pepper. It was quite good actually. Currently it’s raining a little and was heavier earlier. I really don’t want it to be raining during the day. I want to continue working on my tan. Wonder how much sleep I’ll get tonight/ how noisy it’ll be. Went out by myself and purchased a loaf of bread from across the road. Bless him- the boy giving me my change, I don’t think he could count. Witnessed a cat… Think it lives next door. I’m slowly getting closer to meeting a chimpanzee (without the glass). Not looking forward to washing my hair tomorrow but I really can’t put it off for another day. Lowlight: using the ‘facilities’ at a bar- round the back and down an alleyway- and having to stand in goodness knows how many other people’s urine whilst trying not to splatter too much of my own on myself. At the same time praying I didn’t get attacked. African life.

My African Adventure

Reading through some blog posts of a few individuals I follow I came across a girl who, I think is British…but is currently living and working in France- if this is you, come say hello. *Update* She’s Scottish! This got me thinking that I should post my journal entries from the 26 days I spent in Rwanda this January. 

Not that I want to keep my blogging focused on the train- wreck that is my love life- and how I deal/ not deal with it- but it was during this time away that my relationship with ‘him’ broke down. With the presence of the sun here over the past two or so weeks the amazing tan I developed in Rwanda has started to reveal itself again, reminding me of the good times I had away but also very much the aftermath of coming home and telling him we shouldn’t see each other anymore. The trip does actually speak loudly into the struggles I have with my family, and why I am who I am, and thus why I put/found myself in this current ‘man situation’.

A bit of background/ the reason I was in Rwanda: the summer of me going into 3rd year of university my parents moved to Rwanda and lived there for five years. Having watched the kids ‘fly the nest’, and having worked ‘normal’ jobs for goodness knows how many years mum and dad took their expertise (childminding and adults with learning difficulties, and economics and accountancy) to help the people of Rwanda recover in part from the devastation of the genocide.

During their time there dad gave income generation advice to widows selling their crafts; he taught church leaders how to best use their giving; childrens’ school fees were paid, goats were given to village families, porridge was fed to malnourished children, mum taught English to adults… And so I, along with the ‘rents and my granny(!) checked up on things earlier this year. Apologies if details are hard to follow- when I wrote them the journal entries were more for my memory than anything else.

4th Jan: I’ve arrived. It’s amazing. I’m sat under a mosquito net, and I pooped next to a cockroach, and we heard the crickets, and there was a solitary ant. And I fell over pretty much as soon as I was let loose- running up the hill just in front of dad and I fell over the guttering. Scraped my knee but nothing serious. Had Fanta Citrus at mum and dad’s local, with some chips and mayo. Might just not talk for four weeks because I’m never going to pick up the language. It was nice chatting with dad having spent the day traveling and not saying much to each other. I need to learn to ask him more questions. But for the moment it’s bedtime. Tomorrow we buy food and SIM cards. ‘boy’ and the girls know I’m safe but at 30p a text I can’t continue this way. Things I’d like to do whilst I’m in Africa: sit by Lake Kivu and watch the butterflies, have my nails done, visit Kampala, and go on a boat ride, talk to someone about a job, HUG A CHIMP, improve my history. Totally take a motorbike ride.

near the end of the flight

my mozzy net

my scraped knee

The Effects…of ‘normal’

…things could get back to normal. Normal is familiar. Normal is safe. Normal is good. Thinking that things will go back to normal once something happens gives a false sense of control, a sense of hope that soon all the chaos will be behind and the storm will pass.

In particular aspects of my life I’ll go to great lengths, trying to maintain a sense of normality. The more God tries to change my circumstances, the more I gripe and moan and want to disobey because it hurts to lose what I’ve worked so hard to construct as mine.

But the storm of change has come into my life, and His name is Jesus. His rival is my sense of control over what’s ‘normal’.

Having said all that I quickly get bored of normal. In other aspects of my life I feel chained down by ‘normal’. Normal is for boring people; people with no hopes or dreams; for people who can’t handle life anymore.

Two weeks ago I applied for a PhD in Edinburgh. I’m so ready for a new adventure and for something which will challenge and move me forward in life. In no way was this an attempt at running away but let’s be honest here: out of sight, out of mind/ I still love him and that needs to change/ fill my thoughts with something else/ #ticketoutofhere

I didn’t get the PhD… I’m not going anywhere… This storm is staying. And so…

…I am occasionally afraid of what I do not know, and frequently certain that the unknown can, and will, hurt me.

My heart’s inclination is to run quickly past, afraid to stop and look at what is unknown for fear of what I might find. 

I may not fully understand His ways, but in hindsight I can see His fingerprints on each page of the whole Story. If I stop to remember that He is not unknown, but that our God has intentionally and carefully made Himself known I need not be afraid of the unknown, knowing He is holy and wholly good.

And the Gospel is true even when we don’t believe.

Lamentations Pt2: Widow, Slave, Mother

5 poems about the devastation of Jerusalem. The suffering is blamed on God, and He doesn’t speak to defend Himself.

‘Why has life gone this way?’

Three characters- the man doesn’t speak until poem 3. The city is a ‘she’, described by the narrator; from the first five verses she is described as widow, slave, and mother. Who was her husband? How much was she bought for? Who are her kids? Parents? There are no lists or formulae in Lamentations but there is poetry- images; not reporting on facts. Why?

When you suffer literal language often fails you. The narrator took something people were familiar with- a woman losing her husband- and says the destruction of Jerusalem was like this. 

Some dimensions of the human existence can’t be engineered. Some pain, there is no code or app for. Some heartache can’t be solved with a better algorithm. Some experiences exist in different categories from rationale and reasonable thought. Suffering isn’t an intellectual exercise. Our minds race, trying to figure this stuff out; asking so many questions!

There’s a difference between ‘how’ and ‘why’. Analysis only gets you so far. Music: you don’t need to understand the lyrics to understand the lyrics. Music gives expression to that which exists beyond the mind and intellect. In early Bible times tribes and clans had rituals to express pain e.g. prayer and language. We now live in a world where there are no communities or rituals to express what we feel. If you don’t mark it its in there somewhere. Literal, factual language is not going to give satisfaction; it doesn’t express emotion.

Central to being human is the pain that’s around us all the time. What you’re experiencing needs expression. We don’t know the answers! And if we did know it would just move the mystery down one layer; it just leads to more questions. It’s not about analysis but about expression. Rage if you have to. Let yourself grieve. 

Shock is a sub- theme to these poems…

Order_Disorder_ Reorder

Psalm 44 – a psalm of complaint; fiercely truthful 

Orientation- everything makes sense; disorientation- the rug has been pulled out from under our feet; reorientation- lifted out of the pit

v1-8: nothing untoward (order)

v9-22: You –> We; ‘why have you forsaken me?’- disaster on an epic scale. What might do it for us? What makes our heart ache? Has the bottom of what I believe fallen out? What do you do after [disorientation]? 

v23-26: another pointed accusation. But what if God has already turned up? Fist shaking is an important part of pilgrimage. How should we relate during suffering?

Pray for ‘stuff’- the sick, people you love, obviously not everyone. He is present, but in a way unexplained. What if His power is the weakness of the love of a man hung on a tree? 

The way of Jesus is the weak, suffering love.