Well, I have to admit, I'm really happy to see the back of 2019. There's been some nice experiences, which I'll mention below, but on the whole it's been pretty rough. Marked by a number of health issues and the death of a relationship.
Didn't fulfil my oath last year of going to see Martine and Ruairí in Italy, but they've been moving around a lot since. Maybe this year. I certainly need a holiday.
- My mum and Merrick finally came to visit! We had an amazing time exploring Rwanda together. We went to all five provinces. Highlights included a boat ride on Lake Kivu, safari at Akagera, and exploring the tea fields of Gisenyi.
- The year started out really well, visiting the stunning Gisovu tea estate for my friend Maia's birthday. Watched the mist rise with the sun. Also got to see how tea is made.
- Caught up with my cousin, Conner, who was visiting for work, got to know Maia's partner Ian, who is an excellent guitarist and piano player, went on a road trip with Harris, and saw an old VSO friend, Antonia, who I worked with twelve years ago when I first arrived.
- Went volcano watching and walked across a giant floating bridge.
- Finally got The Children of Lir on the shelf. I'd been working on that for years.
I don't usually include any lows in these annual updates, but it's been a tough one this year.
- Sickness: I had an entire month of malaria in October. It was fairly hellish. It broke at the end of my mum's visit, but the medication didn't fully work, so it spent two weeks festering in my system before it broke a second time. The second round of treatment killed it off, but my immune system doesn't seem to have fully recovered since then and I keep coming down with unpleasant things. It's been a constant conveyor belt of medication. Ended the year with an infection that took a stab at my kidney and left me on antibiotics over New Year, so I couldn't even drink.
- Heartache: Fell in love with a guy I was hoping to spend 2020 exploring the world with, only he flew home on New Year's Eve. It's a complicated story, he had his reasons. Was hoping for the fairytale up to the end, but that's why writers write, right? We get to invent an ending for stories that never get told in real life.
- Loss: Lost two cats - Gizmo and Akantu. Akantu went out one night and never came home, so I suspect he was hit by a car. Gizmo went to the vet (we had a car crash on the way) and somehow escaped their care. I looked for him for weeks but we never found him and he never came home. He was a real character and I miss him very much. Also helped to nurse a very sick stray cat called Hobnob, who sadly died. So, I've gone from five cats to three this year.
Definitely not the year I'd hoped for during my last OBT, but the year I was dealt. Times like this just make you grateful for the amazing friends you have who pull you through. Heart goes out to anyone else who's had a tough year. Let's reset the clock.
The year 2020 makes me smile because, back in 2007 when I first came to Rwanda, we were all working towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals in line with Rwanda's Vision 2020, so the year 2020 has always been drummed into me as a sort of ending of one strategic plan and a time to set new goals.
I think the year ahead will be a time to focus on my job and perhaps return to the page. There's a novel at the back of my mind and I haven't written for a long time. Should wrap myself up in that. I suspect work is going to be pretty full on for the first couple of months, which is good because it provides focus.
I will take a holiday this year. I will go somewhere nice, with people I like, and do fun things.
I published two novels this year - Creeper's Cottage and The Children of Lir, and wrote the first draft of a third, Secure the Shadow, which I'm picking apart at the moment.
To a better year than the one before.