Indulge me for a few minutes. Focus.
You’re not wherever you are right now. Instead, you’ve just woken up in a garden house in Kigali, Rwanda. You wriggle out of the mosquito net, and jump down from the tall bed. Your blanket deserted you during the night, and so you’re a bit chilly. Grrrr.
Think of a good friend, a close one.
It’s a garden house with two rooms, and your friend is in the other one. You go have a conversation with them, and you both walk to the balcony to smell the flowers, pluck some fruit, and take pictures.
Flowers. Garden. Friendship. Really blue sky… Snapchat.
Your host comes over with his two dogs, Amira and Kito. Amira’s the younger dog, and playful. You spend some time with Amira and your host offers to make you breakfast.
Scrambled, please… Uhmmmm, coffee… Yes, fruit…
Stay with me. Look ahead, there’s a basketball. There’s time to shoot hoops.
Ten minutes of basketball practice with your friend, and then you head out for a quick walk. Kigali is clean, quiet, built on mountains, and there’s a beautiful view from almost everywhere in the city. Just on your street, you’re looking at these…
It’s time to head back home for breakfast. You walk past a house with graffiti on the walls. Your friend muses that a painter must have lived there. Passing thought. Breakfast is served in the gazebo, and it tastes incredible. You thank your host and return his dishes.
Focus. Remember you just got here. You need internet, you need money.
You make a quick stop at a mall — get money, get a SIM card, and get a bottle of wine for your hosts, Florian and Anne. They’re from Germany, and Florian has a large hipster beard. As you walk past the aisles picking up wine, you notice alcohol is expensive — more expensive than in Lagos, where you’re from.
Yes, you’re from Lagos. You have a job in Lagos, and you need to check in to work. This isn’t really a holiday.
Minutes later you freshen up and take a moto up the road to a cafe. They call their motorbikes “moto”. In Kenya and Uganda, they’re called “boda boda”. Where you’re from, they call them “okada”. You need to work for a few hours then head to the Genocide centre.
So, you work.
The most beautiful thing about the Genocide centre in Kigali is the view from outside. Everything else is a sad, moving experience. Millions of people were killed because of classification and ethnicity, an experiment of anthropologist colonizers. After this experience, you and your friend need to heal…
Beers, bars, young people… the university!
You take two motos to the University of Kigali. Then you find out it’s a campus building. Fake News! You walk around, look through some classes, and try to talk to some people. Most people are weird to talk to, almost like they’re not used to seeing strangers.
Focus. Talk to those two young boys ahead.
They’re year one students, and friendly. They take you on a walk around the university, showing you beautiful roads and buildings. They let you in on the East African narration— Rwandan girls are beautiful, but Ugandan girls have big big booties. You will hear this exact thing one more time before the end of the night. You decide to head back home after this tour.
On your street, almost home, you spot a rasta! You (and your friend) both get down from your motors, and walk towards the rasta to say hi. Everyone on the street is watching. It doesn’t matter, does it? This is a good chance for you to find out where to get Rwandan weed!
Hey man… we’re new around here… can we ask a sensitive question…
Five minutes later and you’re walking down the valleys, through the bushes, to the slums of Kigali. Willy, your new friend, has said no one will sell you ganja if they don’t recognize you. He offered to go with you, even if he doesn’t smoke himself. He’s a well travelled painter and he gets talking about his art and travels. He has the most amazing stories, and a staunch belief in the future of Africa. He wants to know if you’ve ever been in a slum.
You’re from Lagos. Yes, you’ve been in slums, you’ve lived in them.
This slum mostly observes the aliens in their midst. In the cafes, your friend and you stand out, much less in the slums. That’s all they do though, look at you until you get your stuff. You climb back up the hill and walk down the road to a well hidden house to get smoking paper from Willy’s friend. They ask if you’re willing to smoke there.
They refuse to smoke, but don’t mind your puffs, and they settle to play a game of checkers with bottle caps. Your friend talks about how low quality the weed is, and they promise you better tomorrow. There’s conversation about Africa, the future, the government, and hope. Your friend mentions they’re well-versed. You agree.
It’s 9pm and now you’re digging into Ugali with beautiful soup, fish, meat and chicken with your bare hands. Your face is beaming, also because you’ve spent the last hour listening to Willy talk about his amazing life and ideas. He’s the reason you’re in this restaurant right now and he’s also promised to take you to his favorite spot high up Kigali to overlook the whole city.
Over there is the convention centre… that’s the airport… that’s where we live…
The view from the top is amazing. You’re going to spend two hours here, about 5000 feet above ground. Some of this time will be spent visiting Willy’s aunt and gawking at them speak unintelligible French. You will wish you took your French classes seriously and that like Willy, you knew seven languages.
The rest of your time will be spent walking around Nyamirambo taking in the sights and people. You’ll also go to the “Place of Sex” — a dark street filled with cheap hookers. You’re not there for the hookers though, instead Willy has promised you there’s better weed here.
Finally, you sit in the balcony you started from this morning with your friend, relaxing on hammock chairs, smoking substandard Kigali weed. But it was worth it, every minute of the day. Also, now you know the art on that wall was done by Willy, and like your friend guessed, that house used to be lived in by him — a painter.