It seems unreal connecting to the internet thousands of miles up in the sky between Entebbe and Dubai. I guess its progress. If I ever have children, they’ll probably think such connectivity is entirely ordinary. Such is life.
Anyhow: What will I remember? What will I miss? What won’t I miss?
I’ll remember the ex-pat community in Kigali for treating me like their brother. And the Rwandans themselves, especially Innocent, the coffee washing station manager out on Lake Kivu who let me sleep in his spare room, shared his simple but wholesome employee lunch and dinner with me, and refused to accept money. He just wanted me to take photographs of him at his new workplace for his distant family to see.
I’ll remember the Kenyan policeman who drove me from Kitale airstrip to Kitale town, so I could catch the bus to Uganda. I thought he was a taxi driver so requested an exact fare. He quoted the price of a soda. He’d never driven a muzungu before, and rarely interacted with a British guy. He just wanted a chat, and saw I could use his help.
I won’t miss going hungry, especially on Lake Kivu where sometimes there was only one meal a day. As one of the locals told me: ‘you walk, you suffer’. Too much exercise equals too much hunger. I never went nearly as hungry as them, or the Turkana. It was a humbling experience.
I will remember Turkana. The beautiful and harsh landscape, the drought and famine, the turquoise lake and the auburn sunset. The friendliness of the staff at Eliye and Sandfields.
I’ll remember the plain mad and wonderful – Canadian Jon’s epic cycle ride. When I first met him in Kampala a month ago he was determined to cycle across Africa, including through DR Congo, without flying over war-torn areas (he didn’t want a ‘patchwork route’, he said). I thought he was crazy. But then we all need to turn dreams into realities sometimes. Or at least try. In Kigali a couple of weeks ago he tells me he’ll do a patchwork after all. I’m glad he’ll be safe. He’s become famous in the ex-pat community for his attempt, so I’m going to call it a success.
And then there’s the sheer excitement and surprise of encounter, Both with people familiar and unfamiliar. The Nepalese UN Volunteer I got chatting to at the airport hotel: They need nurses, he says, and he’s told me how to apply. And the doctor I happened to recognise at Entebbe airport on his way home from a wedding. Small world after all.