Valentine’s Day is not all hearts and flowers. Certainly not in my case anyway. Although I did have a pink handwritten note pushed under my door last week when I was staying on Lake Kivu. OK. So the note was a torn slip from a receipt book written on by a man I had just briefly met at the bar…but all the same, you gotta take credit when you can, right?
It was just after Valentine’s Day that I arrived in Rwanda exactly one year ago and I’m currently packing up my lovely home; not to return to the UK for good but to have a short (wonderful) holiday before I embark on my next placement which is also in Rwanda. I’m going to work with beekeepers in the Nyungwe Forest as a Business Development Advisor for Wildlife Conservation Society
So a lot of changes and a lot to reflect on.
I’ve been happier in this house than anywhere else I’ve lived since I left the UK in 2010 and I’m really sad to say goodbye to it and my guard and the rest of the people around here. Others have come and gone and now it’s just me, packing things to take back to the UK and things to take to Nyungwe and things to give away. Not since I left Brighton have I felt such a wrench. And I shall miss the whistling competitions with the bulbuls and the chats. Even though they always win. And the kites at the bottom of the garden. And Mr Pink. And the lizard who lives in the wall.
Valentine’s Day is also the anniversary of the failed uprising in Bahrain. It’s now two years since I watched tanks roll into Manama from my office window, and young men being fired at with (British made) teargas in the streets. Little to nothing has changed since then and many people remain in prison for speaking up for their rights. It’s a crying shame.
The good news is that I’m now living in a country that has been voted ‘the second most romantic country in the world’. The bad news is that this doesn’t seem to have rubbed off on me… I had assumed that when men told me they loved me after making them a cup of tea or chatting in the street, that they simply liked me. That it was just a translation thing. Maybe I’ve been wrong then?
Of course I’m excited to be moving on and I’m really looking forward to getting to know the baboons (who, I’m told, hang about my new house in the forest) and all those new experiences waiting for me. But for now, Valentine’s Day is a time for reflection.
Two years ago when I was making plans to leave Bahrain, could I possibly have imagined that I would now be about to start work for a conservation NGO in a rainforest in Rwanda? Not likely! Am I happier now than I was then? Certainly. Although I wouldn’t say ‘happy’ was really the right word. Let’s not get carried away here! But I definitely feel like I’m living.
Rwanda is such a beautiful, fascinating and troubled place to live. It can often beguile and infuriate almost in the same moment . There is so much to occupy your mind with. And whilst I’m fearful of not having a secure financial future, I have to remind myself of how miserable I was when I did have one.