I wasn’t sure what Rwandan food would be like, which was making me both nervous and excited pre-flight since food is the most important part of my day-slash-life. Google didn’t solve the mystery either, so I guessed at what I should bring from home for my kitchen. Normally I arrive in a new country and make do with what is there, but since I’ll be here for a few months I decided to bring a couple things: olive oil, a jar of gatorade powder, spices, oatmeal, dried fruit, and granola bars. I realized when I was packing that bringing a large amount of white powder (the gatorade is white) into another country was a bad idea, but I felt like it was worth the risk – I hate dehydration headaches. And after surviving a pretty intense questioning by the Cuban government in the Havana airport, I unfortunately feel invincible to most airport situations.
(I was not stopped for the gatorade, if you are starting to get nervous)
It turns out that Rwandan food and I get along really well. Breakfast is mostly: delicious and slightly spicy stewed veggies, fresh fruit, passion fruit juice, and African tea. The cafeteria at my work is amazing, so each lunch has been incredible: veggie club sandwich, tilapia with mango salsa, fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy, and veggie lasagna. Yum! And at 3,500 RWF (roughly $5), lunch at work is also one of the cheapest options in Kigali.
My luck ran out when it came to cooking at home. Though I do have a kitchenette (a mini fridge, a range top [without oven], and a microwave), there aren’t any pots, pans, plates or silverware. My unstocked fridge, coupled with busy and tiring days at work, means I’ve been a bit lazy about grocery shopping and have been on a pb+j kick for dinner. Imagine my delight when I found out there is a market at work every Friday! I bought a bucket of strawberries, basil, tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, hummus, salsa, tortilla chips and bagel chips. In fact I bought so much that they gave me a box to put it all in. At long last I have some food options that go beyond pb+j. I had dreams of cooking the green beans, tomatoes, olive oil and spices on my stove for dinner, so on my way into the hotel (with veggie box in hand), I asked at the front desk if I could borrow a cooking pan.
I didn’t realize until a staff member showed up at my door that they borrowed a pot from the chef in the hotel kitchen. I also didn’t realize that I am probably the first person to use the stove (the hotel is brand new), because after my walk around the neighborhood this afternoon I came home to find the door to my room open and three hotel employees inside. Just as I got to the front door, all three screamed and jumped back, and I saw my kitchen turn yellow with flame. After much questioning and some laughter (slash fear?), I found out that the gas had never been connected to my stove, and they were trying to do so when I arrived. So as things stand now, the gas is connected (?), but I can only use one burner.
So instead of the aforementioned green beans, I was happy to make a cold meal instead. Cucumbers, tomatoes, and basil. Yum, and without risk. And since it is Friday, I decided to try this Ugandan beer (the grocery store was out of Rwandan beer). Rwanda is truly a beautiful country. The reason that I blog about the sunset, and about the food, is that I am currently unable to translate my feelings into words. But if I could, this page would be filled with words about this incredible place, these kind people, my work here, and the way my heart feels full in a way it hasn’t in quite a while. Beautiful. All of it is beautiful.