Right before S packed her bags for the cross-Atlantic journey with Munchkin, we went out for a rare night of rock-n-roll in Kigali. Several of our Embassy friends and colleagues play in a cover band, and the set list featured a number of 90s rock classics. It was a bittersweet show – a pointed reminder of the one thing D misses above all else while serving abroad: live music.
Posts tagged ‘memories’
Rushing home from work last Thursday – his last day in the office – D was still too wired, too caught up in wrapping up last-minute projects, to actually relax. The red-eye flight from Kigali to Amsterdam, with its obligatory refueling stop in Entebbe, did little to help. It was only when D reached his friend’s office in Paris around midday on Friday, dropped his bags, and settled into a cute Parisian bistro for a luxuriously slow-paced lunch with two former college classmates that he felt the stress of the previous months begin to ebb away.
Hope and denial – two powerful sides of the same coin. Until the very end, D held onto the slim possibility that he wouldn’t have to make the flight he knew, in the depth of his heart, was inevitable. As the weeks and months dragged on, it was possible to refuse to acknowledge his parents’ increasingly dire reports and to hope against hope that D’s grandma would hang on a few more months, that he would get to see her again this summer, that she’d live long enough to meet her third great-grandchild.
The Foreign Service lifestyle lends itself to eclectic acquisition. A couple of years in one country, several more in another – if one is really into original artwork, it’s easy to get carried away. We are not avid collectors by any measure, but we do try to acquire something meaningful everywhere we’ve lived – one or two pieces to subsequently stir our memories and help evoke all the good times we had in a foreign country that for a few years came to feel like home.
“Why is it that every time we visit you something crazy happens?” mused D’s mom with a touch of fatalism. In Ecuador, where D served in the Peace Corps, protesters shut down the country’s major highway during D’s parents’ visit. Violent clashes between protesters and the police took place in a small town in the Amazonia quite literally minutes after D had turned the rental car around to head back to Quito. In Kenya, we also were forced into changing our travel plans on the fly during D’s parents’ visit when we came upon a roadblock and, predictably, angry protesters about to clash with the police. In Rwanda, on the other hand, our misadventures were entirely self-inflicted.
After two months of sorting, the final tally is in, and it exceeded D’s hopes and expectations. In addition to all the spectacular animals we saw – cheetahs, lions, a leopard, desert-adapted elephants, and much more – we photographed 170 different bird species in just under two weeks in Namibia. All this without setting foot in the Caprivi Strip – the country’s remotest region, and the one that has the highest concentration of birds.
Parenthood is a bittersweet experience. The highs are vertiginous. Feeling loved, needed, and cherished by a tiny human who depends on you for his everything brings indescribable joy. The lows can by dismal. It’s not the whining, screaming, and kicking, nor the nights of sleepless exhaustion that leave the deepest scars. It’s the fickle rejection. Crafty little monsters that they are, from a young age children intuit our weakest pressure points and exploit them mercilessly. Loving one moment, distant the next. Few things sting quite as much as watching your child snuggle someone else while he tells you that you are not his friend or screams bloody murder if you want to give him a hug and kiss.
From the desert elephants of Damaraland to the dead trees of the Namib and the red sands of the Kalahari desert, from the coastal charm of Swakopmund to the endless plains of Etosha, we covered a lot of ground during our two weeks in Namibia. Before we attempt to do justice to this beautiful country’s striking landscapes and incredible wildlife, we’d like to start our travel tales with a word of thanks.
Last weekend, we hosted our first visitor in Kigali – a friend from our Nairobi Ultimate Frisbee days who now lives in Tunis. Although this was her first visit to Rwanda, she was ambivalent about touristing, which was a blessing for us: having just returned from a long trip we were rather unmotivated to venture far from home. We like sharing the scenic highlights of our adoptive countries with our visitors, but we also enjoy sharing our everyday life too – and with close friends who visit briefly the latter feels infinitely more fulfilling. We went out to brunch with a couple of friends on Saturday and spent Sunday morning at a kid-friendly brunch at another friend’s house, but otherwise stayed put and let Munchkin do most of the entertaining.