Lake Kivu Storm

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Just a quick picture for now. We had dinner at a bizarre restaurant on the shore of Lake Kivu this evening — reportedly one of the best in town (not saying much), it was hiding in the pitch black darkness at the end of a dirt road down a driveway that could only barely be negotiated with a 4×4 and featured a precipitous drop towards the lake; we were of course the only people in the place (the others probably perished on the way), but they were open for business and served fairly decent food.

As we were eating, a storm started out over Lake Kivu, illuminating the shoreline with spectacular lightning. By the time we left, the wind was picking up and the rain starting. We made the harrowing five mile drive back to our hotel (in the pitch black you can’t see the hundreds of people walking along the side of the road at all hours, including tiny little kids, and the crazy moto drivers and trucks going the other way tend to take your lane and insist on running their high beams to ensure that you can’t see what’s about to hit you), and by the time we got to our room, the storm was raging farily nicely in the distance. An appropriately dramatic ending to a tough day that took a lot out of us all.

Not Just Your Attitude, It’s Also About Your Altitude

Mt. KigaliFour Thousand Nine Hundred and Eleven Feet Up. That’s where Kigali is at. Each and every one makes a huge difference, especially when you’re just a few degrees south of the equator. Daytime temps rarely get much over 80 degrees or so, going down to low 60s at night, with little or no excess humidity — it’s just plain “nice.” There’s almost always a breeze blowing, and the air has that crisp, clear high-altitude feel that makes it entirely likeable. Now contrast that with a similar lat/long closer to sea level (like Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania or pretty much anywhere in the D.R. Congo), and you’re looking at 100 degree plus temps around the clock with 80+ percent humidity. Completely impossible to function under those conditions. 

It’s actually almost shockingly dry here — we’ve had rain exactly once for an hour or so in the past six days, and the dirt roads are covered in the fine, red dust that reminds me so much of Western Tanzania. The rainy season supposedly hits at the end of August — judging by the size of the culverts and drain holes in the retaining walls, there’s going to be some serious water coming down. 

Let me put it this way: the other night we were at a local restaurant right around nightfall (six o’clock sharp every day of the year, sunset takes less than ten minutes — you gotta love the consistency of the tropics), and shortly afterwards, the waiter came around with fleece blankets for the dinner guests — and within twenty minutes, they were sorely needed by those of us in t-shirts. 

Haven’t had a chance to try exercising at this altitude, but can’t wait to get on a bike next week and see how it feels to ride the trails around town. 

“I Want To Go Home.”

IMG_5289-1It was bound to happen. The protests, the objections, the rejections, the resentment. Why are we here? Why can’t we just go back home? It hurts when you have to acknowledge that you’ve inflicted that pain on your kids; I’ve been there myself quite a few times and remember all too well the bottomless pit of despair in which you find yourself when you’re in a place you don’t want to be and there’s nothing you can do about it.

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Oddly enough, while Lea was the one who was by far the most apprehensive about coming here, Lucas has been the one with the worst bouts of home sickness. The first night it was sheer exhaustion and the overwhelming newness of it all that got to him, and more recently it was some rather ominous looking bug bites on his arms that freaked him out enough to send him into a spin. He’s a trooper, though, and he’ll get over it, but it is a huge transition to get used to being here for the long haul, and we’ve really got to make sure there’s time and space for the guys to acclimatize both physically and mentally.

IMG_5303-1Lea has had a chance to call her best friend Willa which was a big moral booster; she’s also had her first horseback riding session at the amazing place on Mt. Kigali that we’ve found (more in a bit), so she’s feeling a little less alienated by it all. But Lucas is an incredibly social creature and thrives on friends and the hustle of “the scene” – and we haven’t had a chance to get that established for him here just yet, what with the scrambling around to find cutlery and houses and sign legal documents most of the day. (Besides, most of the expat kids are back stateside visiting family and friends, and won’t be returning until we get closer to the start of school, and it’ll take some time to get to know any of the local kids once we get settled in.) He’s on facebook with people back home, but seems reluctant to talk to any of them directly just yet. 

We bought an overpriced mini soccer ball and a regular size soccer ball (there’s also an American football floating around the house), so we’ve spent some time goofing around in the back yard of the house, often in the company of Cody, the adorable mutt who lives here and is thrilled to have some new company to hang out with. We’ve brought a mountain of books and games, but since we’ve spent this week in our temporary housing deliberately not unpacking, the laptop that Lucas thinks is his (except it’s not) and the iTouch that Lea brought has provided most of the downtime and vegging.

The kids have put up with a lot of really intense stuff over the past week, lots of alien scenes and situations, and they’ve dealt with it remarkably well. The other night we were driving back from a tour of houses north of the city, and I noticed that Lea, who has a tendency to take a glass-half-empty and it’ll-all-suck-anyway approach to life, had her head out the window of the car and was smiling broadly and looked content and comfortable — that was definitely the highlight of the day for me.