Arrival at Kigali International Airport
Tired from the long-haul flight, Fred-Marc and I hope to pass the gates with all our stuff unbothered. But one of the officers stops us. We show her the Letter of Intent Project Air had provided us with. The officer asks me to call Deirdre; however, I don’t have her phone number handy. I tell her that Deirdre is going to see us at the Airport. "Once you have passed you won’t be able to go back again," a customs officer explains me. Finally they decide to keep my passport as a pledge. Finally, Deirdre arrives. In the local language, Kinyarwanda, she explains quite verbosely, that these mats and gym balls are a "gift to the nation". I ask her to translate for me what she just said. An international recipe, it seems: Acknowledge authority, make excuses, name culprits, joke, and promise to bring along a Letter to the Nation next time.
The Airport is brand new, it has been constructed during the last three months, we learn from Deirdre. Which means it also has a rather efficient customs office.
Jean de Dieu and Deirdre quite craftily arrange our piles of luggage on an elderly Toyota. On our way to Deirdre’s house we buy five bottles of beer for 5,500 Rwandan Francs. The fact that we were allowed to import 5,000 Rwandan Francs per person, somehow tells us that this beer must have been a very expensive one ...
Deirdre’s house is located on one of the thousand Rwandan hills. From many windows around, wild howls of joy are to be heard. Fred-Marc instantly recognizes their root cause, to Jean de Dieu’s great pleasure: Ghana having just scored against the Germans.
Kigali spreads out over several hills gently and smoothly, a big city, but with a seemingly sparse use of electricity. How soothing a view to your eyes!
That night, I sleep like a log in a mosquito net canopy bed, dreaming I am teaching Clint Eastwood the CANTIENICA® method so he will not need his old man’s walking sticks any longer. The dream is a mere success. At five o’ clock in the morning, birds’ singing wakes me. Deirdre and I settle on those birds being some kind of Rwandan blackbirds, which, in fact, are orange, not black.
At 5:58 daylight comes, quickly and suddenly, as is only the case in Equatorial regions. Like a curtain being pulled open swiftly.
Deirdre serves delicious local coffee, freshly plucked passion fruits, Rwandan apple bananas. I ask her not to get stuck too firmly in the role of a host, but she smiles mischievously and affectionately and responds: “Just today. Be my guests, for just one day.” It makes my heart feel warm, strictly physically, that is. I can feel it deep down in my chest.