We recently made the decision to move neighborhoods, so we can be a bit closer to where we do business and nearer to our friends.  We currently live in Kimironko (near the market) and will be moving to Kiyovu (near downtown).  This move entails A LOT of work…


When we first arrived in Kigali, we had planned to fully furnish a home and start completely from scratch.  Another opportunity arose and we were quite blessed with a house to rent that was already furnished (including kitchen appliances) and this saved us an enormous amount of headaches and money at the time.  However, we now find ourselves with an opportunity to rent a house in the area of town we desire to live, and for the same price (at least monthly).  Unfortunately, we now have to put in the commitment, money, sweat and tears to start furnishing a home with nothing in it (literally), and do this all while trying to navigate “africa”.  This includes the challenges of trying to source anything new as a white person, who doesn’t speak Kinyarwanda, doesn’t really understand the correct prices/value of certain items, or know where to go to find what you’re looking for. 


So we don’t quite have the typical furniture shopping spree as we prepare for a move across town in Kigali, Rwanda.  The furniture shops here are mostly building areas in the back streets, where folks are literally constructing the Dubai-style furniture.  You bargain there for a proper price, and then hire a truck to bring your new items home.  We took a trip to shop for our new furniture and this is what we found…

Casey has decided to build the majority of our tables for our living room, hallway and even dining room, and I have chosen to be in charge of finding, sourcing and purchasing the other pieces of furniture.  For instance, I have chosen to buy banana leaf wrapped (wicker) sofa and chair for the living room, and have the cushions made from scratch.   I have already spent hours at “Rwanda Foam” ordering the cushions, and now have to find a place that sells upholstery (somewhere!) that I like, and then a seamstress who works with upholstery to then to sew the cushions.  Phew, I’m tired just talking this out, and we haven’t even gotten to trying to find a refrigerator, stove, and dining room chairs!  Oh, I guess we need beds too…



Woodworking in Rwanda, without my power tools, has been time-consuming and tiring.  Yet I do have to say: I am learning a ton and actually honing my craftsmanship.  In the States I became power tool dependent and never really learned the craft of using hand saws to cut, planes to flatten and shape, and other hand tools to work wood.  Crosscutting a piece of wood at exactly 90 degrees was a two second exercise on my compound miter saw.   Now it is marking the wood on all sides, slowly cutting along those lines, and shaping it up with a rasp and plane.  Multiply that by many and it takes a fair bit of time to do something relatively simple.

But what I’m realizing is that what I thought was simple before, really wasn’t.  It’s just that I took woodworking for granted because it wasn’t so much me doing the work, it was the power tool.

So here’s some pics of my woodshop and the results of drying my own wood, cutting lengths of pine for table legs, and the shaping process of getting the table legs ready for mortise and tenon (by hand, of course).  Good things come to those who wait (or work at it for awhile).

Already in these short five-plus months here in Rwanda I have been able to make many wonderful birthday memories.  One of which included celebrating our dear friend Jadot’s 29th birthday with him.  It was a very special night.  Little did I know when I baked a birthday cake for Jadot that he would be so deeply touched to receive it.  We found out that Jadot had never had a birthday cake in his life of 29 years (!), and as we sang the happy birthday tune and brought out the cake with lit candles, he could hardly contain his emotions.  Casey and I felt honored to celebrate with him in this way.  We then spent the rest of the evening sitting on our porch and learning more about his story and life to candle-light. 

The next birthday memory happened to be mine (did you know that I’m 29 too? 😉 ).  Casey and I traveled back to Lamu, Kenya to celebrate my birthday this time (see blog post “Birthday Day 2009”  where we spent Casey’s birthday in Lamu on our RTW).  It was really wonderful to return again, and it came at a much-needed time.  We also had some medical follow-up to do, which could only be done outside of Rwanda, and spent some time in Nairobi with our friends Amy and Kurt.   It was a great week away.

Lamu is an island off the coast of Kenya that can only be reached by boat.  You fly into the nearby dinky airport and then take a boat across the Indian Ocean to reach the island.  There are no motorized vehicles on Lamu; only donkeys.  Donkeys are used as transportation and local labor.  You feel like stepped back in time as you wander the streets of this place.  Lamu is an incredibly old city, around a thousand years old, that is described on the World Heritage List as “the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa”.

Can you say "tiny plane"? This ended up being the longest hour-and-a-half plane ride I've ever taken! Arg.

On our way to Lamu Island

Donkeys are used as local transport and for manual labor - here, hauling coral bricks

We spent my actual birthday sailing along the Indian Ocean to the remote island of Manda Mtoto on an old traditional dhow (sailboat), and had the most amazing fresh fish lunch.  Strikingly beautiful beaches on a deserted island with nothing for miles.  It was breath-taking.  That night we enjoyed dinner on the rooftop of a gorgeous hotel with our new friends from London, Miriam and Mark.  It was a delightful day and one that I will not soon forget.

Deserted island + hot husband + gorgeous beach + Indian Ocean = Happy Birthday to Me!

Local fisherman offering us fresh fish from the morning catch - fresh squid in this case...

...we opted for the fresh snapper instead,

...and boy was it good!

On the flip-side, the dinner is also something that Casey will also not soon forget, but for a different reason.   Casey’s experience with what tasted like an amazing crab dinner at the time, turned out to put a damper on him ever ordering shellfish again.  He spent the entire next day in bed and the next week trying to recover from the fish toxins.  We are guessing that his crab was not fresh.  Big bummer and wasn’t the best way to end a lovely week on the beach. (Casey weighing in here: the “shellfish incident” was absolutely brutal and the toxicity didn’t leave my body completely until almost 10 days later.  Thankfully I was able to get out of bed the last day to travel back to Nairobi.  But suffice to say I’ve been cured of shellfish for a very long time, if not forever.)

This birthday weekend also entailed a long weekend in Nairobi, Kenya staying with our friends Amy and Kurt.  We are SO thankful for the opportunity to have gotten to know them and spend some time with these guys.   I wish they lived closer though.  It is so rare and far between when you can connect with another couple and feel like it is one of the easiest friendships with conversation that never seems to end.  We had so much fun with these guys!

This is "Jay", our friend and local tailor from Lamu.

Great birthday memories made?  Check!

We needed a break, so headed off to Lamu, Kenya for Cara’s birthday.  She’s going to post a blog about it soon but I wanted to prime the pump by posting some pics.

Rush Hour


We stopped in to see Jay – mentioned in our last Lamu blog post – and he was sitting in the same spot, doing the same thing, 18 months later.  Not much changes in Lamu.

Jay's shop


Jay at work


One of the many things Lamu is famous for (sorry, not the Michael W Smith song of 1986) is its carved doorways.  Beautiful work throughout.



A fun reunion

Not only did Casey and I make our first debut on Rwandan television this week* (yes, for real), but we also published a new blog post in Tripwolf.com**. Check it out here (including a few local photos): http://www.tripwolf.com/en/blog/2011/07/01/taking-the-leap-how-to-move-abroad-rwanda-edition/

* We attended the first annual Rwanada Handicraft Fashion Show, where we were sat in the front row right next to the Rwandan Minister of Finance and the Minister of Commerce (guest of honor). Strangely, I think we were given these seats because we were the only white folk there – but we felt like stars nonetheless. Cameras flashing, television camera and bright lights on us most of the night and watching gorgeous African women and men model local fashion designs. Very fun experience. Casey was able to chat it up with the Minister of Finance, while I discretely tried to cover the extra leg I was showing in my dress with a front slit (!). Sometimes sitting in the front row is not the best seat ladies 🙂

** Tripwolf.com: An online travel guide founded by our friend Steffen Kuehr from Germany and currently living in San Francisco. Very cool site – definitely a must for those traveling abroad.

I’m posting this because, simply put, it’s one of my favorite pictures from our Rwanda experience so far. I think I don’t have to say too much as to why it is.

We’ve been lame about keeping our posts coming. It’s hard to take a snapshot when you’re traveling at Mach 5. But I’m thinking now that even if it’s a “twitterish” post, it’s better than nothing. And as I’ve heard over and over from folks: post pictures. Lots of pictures.

So here’s one for now. More’s on the way.


An old post I realized that I forgot to post!  Written on April 14, 2011:

Casey and I just returned from our first real break since early November, where we spent three nights camping on a little island on a lake in Uganda – called Lake Bunyonyi; the deepest lake in Uganda.  The border of Rwanda/Uganda is only 2 hours away from Kigali, so taking advantage of a particular week in Rwanda when everything is officially shut down**, we slipped away for 4 days to rest. 

One of the 28 islands on Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda

The view from our safari tent

And rest we certainly did.  We stayed in this lovely safari tent (picture) on a sweet little island called Busara Island, which could only be reached by boat.  We walked around the island multiple times and took in the variety of extravagant birds that would creep up and sing to us.  We read books, talked for hours, explored the island, slept tons and ate wonderful food.  It was beyond peaceful. 

Pulling up to Busara Island by boat

Upon our return from the Lake this morning, we were greeted with our suitcase that made it safely to Kigali last night!!!!!

Long story, but the short of it is that our moms sponsored a large suitcase to be carried back to Rwanda through a colleague that was visiting in San Francisco, but due to a family emergency she was unable to make the trip to SF at the last minute.  Therefore, our suitcase was stranded.  Since that time, a friend of a friend offered to carry it for us since she was coming to visit her daughter here in Kigali.  We pay the extra baggage fee of $150 and this lovely woman, Julia, kindly brought our goods to Kigali for us.

I cannot begin to tell you what a treat it was to get all of these goodies from the US that we can’t find here (quinoa, grape nuts, dark chocolate), our important motorcycle helmets, and the love that came from our moms Cindy and Stephanie, and dear friends Liz and Katie.  There are certainly many treats, but also big essentials for us that we haven’t been able to find here (for instance, quality motorcycle helmets).  At one point Casey says, “you can tell your friends had a hand in this when you find Clift Blocs inside, and it has your mom written all over it with all your favorite comfort foods!”  It’s like getting a care package back in college all over again!


** the week following Genocide Memorial Day on 7 April is designated an official week of mourning.  Cities throughout Rwanda, Kigali in particular, shut down their businesses and take time to remember the genocide and talk with genocide survivors in an attempt to work through the tragedy.