Time for my annual oath, boast and toast. It feels like it's been a fairly hectic year this year. Started slow but built momentum. The main highlights have included:
- Giving a TEDx talk at the University of Luxembourg, which I was roped into by my lovely friend Harris. It was my first time in Luxembourg, and then my first time in The Hague, visiting my cousin Tamsin and partner Guido, who visited me in Rwanda last year. Had a fascinating time exploring the Escher Museum. Giving the talk was slightly terrifying, but I'm so glad I did it. You can find the full list of talks here.
- Another, much less stressful, trip was to Idjwi with Maia and Taia. Idjwi is a huge island in the middle of Lake Kivu, between Rwanda and DRC. It's legendary as a place where unwed pregnant Rwandan girls would be thrown overboard in days of old. They'd wash up on Idjwi and Congolese men would come down to the shore to pick up a ready-made family. Getting there was a truly epic journey from Kigali, up to Gisenyi, taking the ferry down to Idjwi, staying at the north of the island before taking a two-hour moto to the south, a small boat across to DRC mainland to visit Lwiro Chimpanzee Sanctuary, a taxi down to Bukavu, then across to Cyangugu and a seven-hour bus ride back up to Kigali. An intrepid adventure. We also did a brief safari to Akagera earlier in the year.
- Also went back to the UK for the first time in two-and-a-half years. My first time experiencing British summer in about five years, and it was one of the hottest on record. I went back to attend Hollowell Steam Rally, a local village festival. Also celebrated my mum's birthday and had a lovely time wandering along the pier at Cleavedon and exploring country gardens in the Cotswolds.
- Harris's family came to visit and we went up to Gisenyi for a few days. One of the most incredible memories of this year was our friend Sameer showing us around the tea estate he manages. That's where Yorkshire Tea comes from. We drove right out into the middle of nowhere, surrounded by swathes of rolling tea fields and the edges of Gishwati Forest.
- On the piano front, it's been a busy year. Unfortunately we're still quite a way off completing the first prototype, but we're getting there. Impressively, I strung an entire piano this year. Definitely a first. Désire has done amazing things with wood. I even took a mad trip down to Bukavu, DRC, to check out a grand piano - just for fun. You can follow the piano escapades at Kigali Keys. We've also done a few interviews, including with BBC World Service. For Christmas, I bought a Young Chang to massacre whilst I wait to put my Lirika back together. Hoping my extremely talented friend Bonanni will teach me to play.
- On the writing front, not so good. I've done a lot of reading but not much writing. Though I have taken my first leap into self-publishing. I re-released Lucid when the rights ran out, and put out a short story collection called The Tangled Forest. Was hoping to have Hookland out before Christmas, too, but the post to Rwanda took a lifetime for the proof to arrive, so it'll be out first thing January.
The work I have been doing for other people this year has been fairly fulfilling. I've been making a pretty good living as an editor during the last half of the year, working for a number of development agencies worldwide on topics from global immunisation to preventing gender-based violence and promoting human rights. Even worked for the UN for the first time, training civil society organisations. Also ghostwrote a biography and helped edit the story of an inspirational cancer survivor. I'm lucky I get to earn a living through words, even when my own stories aren't flowing.
In other news, this might be my last year in Rwanda. I went to renew my visa the other day and instead of the usual two years, they handed me a one-year visa. Not sure what that means. I'm assuming it's nothing terrible, otherwise they wouldn't have given me a visa at all, but it's a little unsettling. So, this year is devoted to enjoying my time here whilst it lasts, and considering how to relocate five cats if it doesn't...
Anyway, down to business.
Last year's oath was to finish the piano. That's more work than we expected, but I have strung an entire piano for the first time. Dead proud of that.
I guess, this year...
I'll go to Italy to see my lovely friends Martine and Rauíri. It's been far too long.
I strung an entire piano! And did a TEDx talk! Double whammy.
To my family and good friends, who are all brilliant in their unique and freakish ways. And to my five cats, who are insane, murderous objects of chaos, but forever entertaining.