Badluck goes backpacking

Leaving Rwanda for the last time was a little like entering it for the first time; rushed and confusing. Due to the fire at Nairobi airport, I cancelled my flight to Dar via Nairobi and instead went straight to Zanzibar via Addis Ababa. I always swore I would never fly on Ethiopian Airlines but, like most things in life, given a certain set of circumstances, I gave them a try and they were excellent. Not only were they early, the food was fantastic and I had the best chicken curry somewhere over Tanzania.

A few days in Zanzibar to meet lovely friends, recharge, eat my own bodyweight in seafood, cry a little about not being in the forest any more, and practise being a backpacker – I swore I’d never carry a backpack ever again after my earlier backpacking efforts in the days of yore – you are so conspicuous and immediately entered into the ‘gang’ of backpackers whether you like it or not (guess whether I like or like not) – but after some convincing by friends that a small suitcase would be troublesome on buses etc. I (again) broke my vow.

So here I am surrounded by Peace Corps volunteers (sorry Nick) chatting to me about how rubbish the food is in Kenya and how farmers refuse to invest and expect everything to be paid for them. Oh dear. As we’re going to be on the same train for three days, I think I’ll hold my tongue. On this occasion.

We’re all going to be getting the Mukuba Express from Dar es salaam to Kapiri Moshi in Zambia. It leaves soon and I’m very excited.

I think my first day as a backpacker has gone fairly well:

Got up ridiculously early? Check. Had to break out of locked guest house and nearly miss ferry? Check. Stupid unhealthy food for breakfast (emergency ration mini Dairy Milk)? Check. Break ‘no bananas in your bag EVER’ rule? Double check (ug). Use Internet cafe? Check. Hunched over laptop playing loud movies? No! Oh dear. I was doing really well.

When I got off the ferry and everyone was trying to take you somewhere. Anywhere. In their taxi, a man gave me a card about being prepared for god. This was just before I got my train ticket handed to me. How did he know this was my first day as a backpacker?

Note from the author: I’m writing this (and future) post on an iPhone 3GS which has been dropped around 365 times and may give up at any time) so have no idea what this post will look like…





I leave Nyungwe tomorrow and head for Kigali for my last week of work and the shutting down of my Rwandan life.  And it’s time to stop thinking about the politics of war and claim and counter claim in this region.  Well, almost…

Today is D-Day in Eastern DRC for anyone carrying a gun and calling themselves anything other than the UN or the Congolese army.

This time the UN has teeth and everyone is wondering what will happen next.  Whatever does happen, it can be sure that the poorest will suffer the most.  Obviously.  As mentioned elsewhere, over five million people have died over the last twenty years as a result of this war.  And even though the UN appears to be trying to bring an end to it, inevitably there will still be thousands of people displaced in this next phase.  And so it goes on.

The timing of the BBC New article yesterday on Rwanda recruiting children and others is also rather interesting don’t you think?

Today it’s also been reported that an oil exploration outfit from the UK is planning to trample over the incredibly important Virunga National Park in DRC of which borders are shared with Rwanda (and Uganda) and is home to the small mountain gorilla population I’ve had the greatest of pleasure of seeing some of.

Now that we’re all depressed, let’s move on.

After 18 months of living here with just a few forays out of the country, I’m starting to wonder how it’s going to feel when I leave.  Warm, I hope.  I’ve been cold fairly consistently for the five months I’ve been living on top of a hill (2345metres/7693 feet).  And whilst we’re in the middle of the dry (and slightly warmer) season, the last two days have been damp, dark and cold.

I’m incredibly sad to say goodbye to my friends, colleagues, baboons, and the forest itself (some of these categories can be interchanged).  But it’s time to move on and I’m incredibly excited about the future and returning home (after a little holiday).  Especially now that I’ve learned Nick Cave is playing at my local theatre around the time of my birthday.  Going to a gig is a sweet luxury I’ve missed – as long as Zoe manages to get tickets, that is…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The warm glow of a new – yet to be realised – adventure (starting in Zanzibar!), has yet to be ignited in me. Instead, I’m fighting to (unsuccessfully) bat back goodbye tears.  There is so much going on inside my head: saying goodbye to friends, leaving the cocoon of my volunteering life, stepping out of a uniquely constructed and controlled environment into what? Wracking my conscience over what I have and have not achieved, what could I have done differently? Have I learned anything? And on and on.

And in the end?  I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.  It’s been an incredible experience. I just have no way of being able to articulate it at the moment. All I can say right now, is that sometimes it feels like I’ve been holding my breath for a very very long time.  I don’t think this is specifically to do with my mental state; I think it may be to do with where I live.