Mama Leslie, Papa Colin

No, we’re not pregnant. But I bet I made you look 😉

On our 6-year anniversary, Colin and I fittingly helped organize the first ever regional ultimate Frisbee club tournament in Kigali! We met playing Frisbee so it was a great way to celebrate 🙂

Teams from Entebbe, Kampala, Bukavu, and Bujumbura all attended. (For those with rusty African geography, those are cities in Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Burundi.) For the Bukavu team, it was their first ultimate Frisbee tournament and many of their players were hosted by Kigali players.

We had the absolute honor and delight of hosting three amazing ladies from Congo who fell in love with Shu Shu and my terrible attempts at French. We had a blast using a mix of English and French to communicate and they were impressed by my Kinyarwanda bargaining skills to get motos for them. Immediately upon meeting us, they started calling us Maman and Papa and at night, after we prayed together, they requested a bed time story to work on their English. After telling Jack and the Beanstalk, I realized that American fairytales are quite odd and often don’t have great messages. (I may have forgotten some of the details of the story but is the moral really that stealing things from people different than you is a way to get rich and happy??) I vowed to tell them the story of the Paperbag Princess (a super feminist story about a princess who only has a paper bag to wear and defeats a dragon and ditches Prince Charming in favor of doing her thing) next time we host them.

The tournament was a huge success; after months of planning and some skepticism on our part about the follow through from some players, we were pleased that somehow everything went well and according to plan. Even the rain held off, which in rainy season is a miracle in itself.

The weekend before we had a rather disastrous adventure trying to get out of the city for a relaxing weekend by the lake.

Colin found some cute cabins on Airbnb that had lakeside access to Lake Muhazi, about 45 minutes away from Kigali. When Colin contacted the owner, he was instructed to pick up the keys at a location in Kigali, already a bit odd. Colin met the owner as requested and was given a bag full of keys for the entire hostel. He was also told there was no electricity, no cell service, and no food options anywhere close to the cabins.  The owner recommended that we buy some food—meat, fruit, etc.—and ask the local help who stay at the cabins to help us cook it. So we adjusted and got excited about a more rugged, camping-style experience.

We’d been given instructions to get to the place but when Friday came, the sky opened up and it just poured. Rainy season in Rwanda is rough in general because transportation via moto becomes essentially impossible, making it difficult to get anywhere much less get there on time. So we begrudgingly accepted the situation and decided to go on Saturday morning instead.

On Saturday morning, we made it to the bus station only to be shuffled around from bus to bus to bus until finally we found the correct bus and were on our way. The guy’s instructions to get to the lake cabins were to take a bus to a certain town, hop on motos and tell them to go up the hill, pass the church on the left, and then ask anyone where the place is. Rwandan-style directions to be sure.

We got off the bus at the correct stop, got on motos, got horribly lost in the rural hills of Rwanda for a long time, eventually asked the only person around us—a ten-year-old child—where these cabins were, and thankfully, were directed correctly to the cabins. It turned out to be about a 25-minute moto ride from the main road (with access to food and drinking water and cell service) and everywhere around was very rural—farmland, crumbling houses, barefoot kids yelling “abazungu” (white people!), and lots and lots of stares from locals wondering why these foreigners were cruising through their village on really loud motorcycles.

So we arrived at the cabins eventually but no one was there. We couldn’t figure out how to open the gate (city slickers lookin like idiots) but the crowd of kids who ran up after we got off our motos helped us open it and then stood waving as we walked into the compound.

The compound itself was beautiful—several cabins with crawling vines of purple flowers climbing up their walls with a grassy lawn going right up to the water’s edge. But we were hungry and our lunch was supposed to be the meat we’d brought cooked over a fire the staff was supposed to help us make. Poking around, we couldn’t find anything to make our own fire and grumpily munched on bread lakeside instead.

An afternoon of painting and reading helped improve the mood; plus two guys showed up to help with the fire we didn’t need anymore.

That evening, we had plans to meet a friend a little further down the lake for dinner and drinks since he lives nearby. I thankfully had asked for the moto driver’s phone number when he dropped us off the first time—thank goodness since there wasn’t a moto or even a bicycle taxi around for miles. We called him to come get us, asked him to bring a friend, and we were on our way to dinner. Twenty-five minutes of bumpy, dirt roads later, we find ourselves back at the bus stop on the main road, about 45 minutes away from the restaurant when we checked google maps. Turns out, the moto drivers had no idea where the restaurant was—their English was pretty limited also. Too late to join our friend for dinner, we decided to buy fruits and amandazi (local fried bread) at the local market for dinner instead. This was maybe the highlight of the weekend since we wowed the locals with our Kinyarwanda skillz and successfully navigated the market.

Another 25-minute moto road back over the hill to the cabins, we then asked the guys living at the cabins to help us cook our sausages we’d brought. He asked us to give him money to do it and we said no—his English was very limited so this whole thing was a struggle to explain. Turned out he didn’t have any money to buy wood and built the tiniest little fire for us to cook our sausages. Dinner was delicious, albeit unexpected.

We left the following day, after the rain delayed our plans for another two hours or so, and were on our way back to Kigali. It certainly made me think how different our experience would be if we were “roughing it” with Peace Corps.

Love to you all and hope you’re staying warm!

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yvonne rael
yvonne rael
2 years ago

it was a plesure to me to share a few days with you mama leslie and papa colin during that weekend. i miss you and shushu so much.thenks for all : the story and your love for us. yvonne

G'ma Polly
G'ma Polly
2 years ago

Thanks for another wonderful adventure! That was a pretty rough holiday, but it will be a happy memory that stays with you always. And contragtulations on pulling together a great ultimate tournament!

More, more!

Holly M Hendrickson
Holly M Hendrickson
2 years ago

What flexibility and grace under extreme conditions!! Well done, you two! Does that make me Grandmere??

Sue Wyss
Sue Wyss
2 years ago

Wondeful story and great photo of the frisbee players.