Sunday, July 23, 2006

Goma Is A Wasteland.

Nyiragongo towers over the part of Goma that managed to escape destruction.

Goma (Congo) is Gisenyi (Rwanda)’s evil twin. But you wouldn’t necessarily know it from the way people in Gisenyi talk. You want music and dancing? Go to Goma. You want cheap wine? Go to Goma. Looking for pork? Goma. Selling your motorcycle? Goma’s a better market. Ethnic restaurants? Goma’s the place. (“And dollars are their currency!” a friend encouraged.)

It sounded almost too good to be true. Here I was, stuck in quiet Gisenyi, when there was a fun, lively city just across the border! I decided to figure out how to get across.

A single-entry visa to Congo is $30, while a CEPGL, a document only available to foreign residents living in Rwanda, Congo, or Burundi for at least a year, was $10. The CEPGL allows free passage between the three countries for a year. Getting this made more sense, since I thought I would cross over all the time, and because I lived in Gisenyi. I decided to talk to the Immigration Office.

Being a muzungu and working for a well-known organization can have its benefits. I went into Gisenyi’s Immigration Office to talk with the province’s Head of Immigration, a younger, sassy guy who, truth be told, saw my request as an opportunity both to flirt with me and to give him and excuse to call me anytime. It was a friendship of convenience—in the end, he gave me a CEPGL (“but it’s between us,” he whispered) and I didn’t ignore his phone calls, so he could boast that he was friends with Gisenyi’s kazungu (little muzungu). That was okay by me. I was eager to explore Goma, which everyone had pitched to me as the Land of Oz. That is, Oz with a Phase 3-4 UN security rating (i.e. only essential international and national staff allowed).

Goma, I found, was like Oz—not everything it seemed to be. It was a wasteland, a center of insecurity, robbery, intense tension. I often say that UNHCR built Goma, because the camps built there welcomed millions of mainly Hutu refugees, some of whom were genocide planners, others guilty of implementing the genocidal plans, and some of whom were innocent. The international aid that poured in fueled the massive growth of Goma’s economy, and the influx of genocidaires was, at the same time, destabilizing for the city’s security.

What many call “divine justice” then struck, in two waves: the first was cholera; the second was volcanic.

Nyiragongo, the volcano that towers over Gisenyi and Goma (and which, to this day, emits red smoke), erupted on January 17, 2002. The slow-moving lava flow made its way toward both cities, but took an unanticipated turn on its way to Gisenyi, sparing the Rwandan town. Goma was destroyed, its buildings burned to nothing and covered with a layer of thick, volcanic rock. Goma, once a major center, is now a devastated landscape. The town has hardly rebuilt.

Lava fields in Goma

Security is also lacking—my friend Fred, who was abducted and tortured, once said that “if you’re not robbed or raped, you’ll be killed,” when talking about the town. Expatriates must be in their homes by 6 pm. Taxis don’t drive after sundown. I remember thinking that, if I were killed, no one would look for my body. It’s also a town of immense corruption.

After the 1994 war in Rwanda, Laurent Kabila marched (Paul Kagame’s Rwandan army behind him) all the way to Kinshasa, where he replaced Mobutu as Congo’s leader. Laurent Kabila and Paul Kagame were friends, both pro-democracy and pro-reform. But when Laurent Kabila died, he was replaced by his son, Joseph Kabila, a far less benevolent leader.

For reasons that I haven’t totally understood, Joseph Kabila incorporated the Rwandan Interahamwe into the Congolese Army. (My guess is that he felt that incorporating them would limit the security problems they were causing in the Kivu regions.) Of course, this more than irritated the Rwandan government, which still wants these people to be brought to justice. Relations between Congo and Rwanda are strained at best.

Because of this, and because of some rebel fighting led by Congolese Rwandophone Laurent Nkunda, the Congolese of Goma don’t hold a particularly high regard for Rwandans. Which means that, as much as Rwandans extol the virtues of Goma, they can’t travel in ¾ of the city.

This was something I learned over the course of time. Cars with Rwandan license plates don’t travel far beyond the major roundabout in town. (“But we wanted to see the Cathedral!” I once implored to our Rwandan taxi. “No way. Rwandans that go there never come back,” he insisted.) A “policeman” tried to pull over our car so we would pay “taxes.” Our taxi, clearly ruffled, sped away and thereafter avoided the main roads.

I also took a Congolese taxi once, just to see what would happen. He was happy to take us all the way to the destroyed cathedral, deluged in a sea of black rock. We even got out of the car and walked around it. “No one will try anything because everyone knows me,” the driver said. He even drove us past the cathedral, toward the volcano, but I told him to turn back, because I could almost feel the security growing weaker. The driver was also unapologetic in his view of Rwandans and Rwandophones, attributing to them all of Goma’s security problems. There are two sides to every story, but I must admit that I tend to believe the Rwandan account more.

But Goma isn’t all bad, I suppose. There are ethnic restaurants (great choices at Chez Doga, and you can find Lebanese food at the Hotel des Grands Lacs) and nightclubs galore (Ihusi is supposedly the best, but Coco Jambo is also a popular nighttime spot). After I saw Goma, I had no desire to see Kinshasa, and I left with the view that the Belgians had seriously screwed up in Africa. Perhaps that recognition is worth the $30 entry fee.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Coming Home.

It had to happen, I suppose. I’m in the process of closing up and saying goodbye to everyone I know. It’s not quite the end of this blog, though, as I have many more entries that I will continue to upload (and a particular entry that I must wait until I have returned home to post).

I’d like to see everyone (and meet new people who have been following my entries) when I return! I’ll be back at the end of this week, so I was contemplating a happy hour or something next week. Suggestions welcomed. I’m not sure what hotspots have opened up since my departure…it always seems like places (like people) come and go in Washington!

Meanwhile, I really hope that my trip home is uneventful….but seeing as how I’m taking Kenya Airways from Kigali to Nairobi, problems are almost guaranteed. I’ve taken them 3 times, and each time, something has gone wrong: the first time, KA staff stole my credit card information; the second, our plane was delayed, we missed our connection, and I had to sleep in Nairobi and only get 4 hours of sleep before we had to go back to the airport; and the third, they lost my luggage. Let's hope the adage is wrong, and that the fourth time's the charm.

So…keep reading, and I’ll be home soon!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Things To Do In Rwanda

See below for travel tips! This is updated whenever I visit or have new information.

Butare (Huye)
The Intellectual Capital

Set aside a couple of hours for the National Museum of Rwanda, a well-organized museum that educates on the history and traditions of the country. Bring your wallet, too--there are associations of handicraft artisans that work behind the building, many in traditional grass huts. You can find some tremendous bargains here, particularly on pottery, beadwork, and baskets! If you're lucky, you might be able to see some traditional Intore dancers; they have been known to perform here.

Drive to Nyanza, the historic home of the Mwami, the spiritual leader and king of Rwanda. The last Mwami is in exile in Washington, D.C. There is a reproduction of the Royal Hut. Nyanza (also known as Nyabisindu) is about 30 minutes from Butare.

Visit the National University of Rwanda, the best university in the country (other than the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology). It is a beautiful campus.

For the strong of stomach and those who want to fully understand the atrocities that Butare suffered, visit Murambi, the most graphic and devastating of the genocide memorials, about 30 km from Butare on a good road. Here, the victims are preserved in lime. It is a very emotional experience.


Motel du Mont Huye: Cheap ($11). Rooms are clean, with mosquito nets, full bathrooms, and hot water. Beautiful setting; each room has its own stoop. There is a restaurant. Breakfast not included. This is a very popular place for aid workers, so be sure to make a reservation! (250) 530765

Le Petit Prince: Moderate ($36-70). Clean rooms, beautiful gardens. Breakfast included. A bit far from the center of town in a quieter, middle-class neighborhood. (250) 531307 or 0788358681.

Hotel Ibis: Moderate ($30-55). Known as the best hotel in Butare. Breakfast included. Located in the middle of town, easy to find and walk around. (250) 530335 or 0788323000.

Gisenyi (Rubavu)
Paradise Found

Lay on the beach at the Serena Kivu hotel. For the price of a drink, you can have a towel and use their pristine beach.

Lay on the beach in front of the Palm Beach Hotel—on weekends they play music over speakers on the beach…but as it’s a public beach, the locals might stare at you in your swimsuit! (The Palm Beach Hotel is closed as of July 2007, but the beach is still available!)

Walk down the Avenue of Cooperation, which leads from Serena Kivu down the waterfront to the border with Congo.

Have brochettes and sautéed potatoes at La Nouvelle (also called Chez Sadro). The potatoes are unrivaled.

Drink a beer at the open air bar La Bamba, located in town near the Auberge de Gisenyi. Certainly the loudest place in town, there is always music and televisions are always tuned to the day’s soccer game.

For a quieter drinking experience, have a Uganda Waragi and Fanta Citron at the Bikini Tam-Tam bar on the beach, past Kivu Sun.

Walk 6 km to Nyamyumba, near the Bralirwa Brewery. You can also take a taxi for 2,500-3,000 Frw (there is a fixed price schedule...but when I was there in early 2008, they hiked up the prices due to gas costs. Negotiate!) I compare the road to California’s Highway 1, as it hugs the picturesque coast.

The best grilled tilapia in Rwanda is in Nyamyumba. For the young or deal-savvy traveler, go to Maman Chakula’s, on the road before Hotel Paradis. Pick your fish from a bucket of the day’s catch (prices range from $1.50-2.50 for the fish, depending on the size) and for $0.80, have it grilled while you wait. It has great tables down by the water, and you can watch the fishermen.

For the luxury traveler (or if you want to eat your fish around a bonfire at night), head to Hotel Paradis—but make sure you ask whether the tilapia was today’s catch! And be adventurous and try the Sambaza--they're minnows/lake smelts that are deep fried and served with pili pili. Delicious.

In Nyamyumba, negotiate with a fisherman’s boat to take you to the hot spring or out to the island just offshore. For $5, they’ll be happy to take you around. Otherwise, Hotel Paradis has a boat, which costs $20 the last time I checked.

Go to the Video Club downtown and have a CD of modern and traditional Rwandan and East African music burned according to your taste.

Have dinner upstairs and then go downstairs to dance at White Rock (also known as Chez Nyanja), the best nightclub in Gisenyi, reputed to be the best in Rwanda. On the edge of the lake, the DJ spins a mix of R&B, reggae, and African music. The place is always full on Saturday nights at about midnight.

There is a new nightclub at the Stipp Hotel, which is really, really, really (did I say really?) hideous. It looks like someone vomited neon paint all over the walls in the 1980s. It's a decent place to preparty, though, before heading down the road to White Rock (see above).

Check out the Nyiragongo volcano from the center of town at night. On a clear night, you can see the red smoke!

Buy some traditional fabric in the Gisenyi market—it’s great for tablecloths, throws, wall hangings, etc. Prices range from 2,500 Frw-9,000 Frw ($4-$17).

Visit KIAKA, an artisan cooperative in Kanama, a town about 15 minutes outside Gisenyi on the Gisenyi-Ruhengeri road, to buy art made on site and historical art. No bargaining here, but there are plenty of bargains! Pick up a statue for $1.50 or a traditional Igisoro game for $6.

While you’re in Kanama, make a trip to nearby Nyundo, about 5 minutes away, for roasted chicken that I swear is the best I’ve ever tasted in my entire life. A restaurant run by a church, I Nazareti strangely produces the best banana wine in the province—tasty and made in sanitary conditions. Pick up a bottle for 1,500 Frw ($2.50).

If you’re stuck in Gisenyi town, you can also find magnificently grilled chicken at Le Poids Lourds. Be prepared for a long wait, but it’s worth it.

Have a delicious lunch buffet of traditional Rwandan food in a garden setting at La Corniche for $2. Many of the staff, I have been told, are genocide orphans.

Dine on Saturday night at Serena Kivu—it features a delicious spread of Rwandan, Ugandan, and Western food, and the dessert table is always so appetizing that you almost want to skip the main courses! Eat the salad here—all the water used to wash the raw produce has been superheated, treated, and filtered.

Get a cheap manicure and pedicure at the Vogue Salon, across the street from the nightclub. Have your hair braided here—but don’t come in on a Friday or Saturday, because brides awaiting stylists occupy all the seats!

Take a taxi to see the grave of Madame Carr, an American who ran an orphanage for genocide orphans called Imbabazi. The road that leads to the orphanage is near the UNHCR Nkamira refugee camp (on the left, if driving away from Gisenyi; on the right, if driving toward Gisenyi).


Serena Kivu: Expensive ($150 or so). Great location, food is good (they have the most amazing breakfast spread I have ever seen, and the weekend dinner buffets are excellent). There is music on weekend evenings. One night every month, they hold a "Jungle Party," with a $20 cover--this beach party goes from sundown to sunrise, usually with a live band and locally famous DJ. This hotel was the historic headquarters for génocidaires during the 1994 war. Formerly known as the Kivu Sun, it was just acquired by Serena. Friendly staff, most beautiful pool in Rwanda, private beach, mosquito screens, gym, tennis courts, massages on the beach, watersports, conference facilities. If you stay here, please do me a favor and don’t be one of those ignorant muzungus who doesn’t see anything of the real Gisenyi. Get out and explore. Phone: +(250) 571111

Stipp Hotel: Moderate-Expensive ($50-70). Beautiful hotel with a great pool and poolside bar. Former office of UNHCR, right after the war. Favorite hangout for wealthier locals, particularly during soccer matches. Rooms are very comfortable with nice bathrooms. Breakfast is included, and it’s good. The courtyard is beautiful, and the view of the lake is even nicer. Not far from the beach. There is a new addition to the hotel, which includes a new dance club. Food is good, but a bit expensive. Their African tea is some of the best in town. Only place in Gisenyi with a steam, sauna, and massage. Massages are about $13 for an hour.

Hotel Ubumwe: Cheap-Moderate ($20-40). Lake view but is set back from the beach. A favorite for those who want to save money. Food is pretty good. Nice courtyard. Far away from the action, so if you want a quiet place, this is a good choice. Phone +(250) 540530

La Bella: Cheap ($20). European-style house, kind of looks like it was uprooted from Switzerland and dropped here. Rooms are great, most have their own bathrooms. Very quiet. No screens on the windows, but there is a mosquito net. Beautiful view of the garden, and you can see the lake through the trees. Breakfast included. The food here is pretty terrible, and I asked myself if anyone actually worked at the restaurant because the service was so poor.

La Corniche: Cheap ($20-30). No view, far away from the action. Rwandan-owned. Rooms and bathrooms are a bit tired. Food is uniquely Rwandan, is very good. Underwent renovations. You may be housed in the annex, which is another house around the block from the main hotel. In any case, be sure to ask for hot water in a bucket. The hot water in the tap isn't dependable. Owner speaks English and French.

Dian Fossey Lodge (Nyiramacibiri): Cheap ($20). No view, far away from the action. Rwandan-owned. Nice, if a little campy, statues of African animals in the garden. Worst hotel experience I have ever had in my life (mosquitoes abound, no hot water, no towels, etc.) You can request a bucket of hot water. Some rooms are in another house around the corner from the main hotel. Undergoing expansion, so some rooms may soon have a view of the lake.

Auberge de Gisenyi: Cheap ($10). I haven’t been here, but I’ve come across a lot of backpackers who have said this place is pretty good. It’s in the middle of town, very noisy. I don’t particularly like the quarter where it’s located (it’s next to the bus station), but if you don’t mind being occasionally bothered, it seems like a good (and cheap) choice. They don't have hot water, but you can ask them to bring some in a bucket.

Presbyterian Guest House: Cheap ($10). In Gisenyi town, not near the beach. A good value if you’re looking for the cheapest possible option.

Internet Access:
The most dependable internet is at the Serena Kivu. Internet at the Stipp Hotel is pretty dependable as well, but has tended to be more expensive, and sometimes I had to use the internet behind the reception desk. In the Catholic Parish, there is a new internet cafe that is very dependable and is very cheap, but it operates on a schedule, which is posted at the entrance. I believe it closes at 8 pm. Otherwise, there are several internet cafes in the middle of Gisenyi town, all very cheap, but don't bank on having any privacy while you're (slowly) surfing--I always had an audience over my shoulder!

Land of a Thousand Islands

Kibuye, while beautiful, is a bit of a sleepy place. One of the best little hotels shut down a couple of years back, so the hotel choices are pretty slim. So are the activities. Kibuye is a perfect 1-2 day cheap-and-cheerful vacation area. Swim in the lake, or hire a fishing boat to take you down the coast!


Centre Béthanie: Cheap to moderate ($20-30). Several kilometers away from Kibuye town. Quaint rooms with a television. Try to get a room down by the water. The restaurant is very good, though service may be slow. This Presbyterian-run center is a popular place for conferences, so be sure to call for reservations!

Moriah Hill Hotel: Expensive ($60+). Brand-new hotel. Modern, with beautiful views of the lake. Nothing is really going on around this hotel. Phone: 07 88 41 69 77.

The Capital City

Shop until you drop in the center of town. Gift shops are aplenty, all with new and antique masks. (You will not find any antique Rwandan masks because they simply don't exist; masks were never a part of Rwandan culture, but Western interest in collecting masks has driven enterprising Rwandans to start making them. They are generally smooth and modern looking.) Pick up Congolese masks and cow bone jewelry, buy some Rwandan batik (it's not native to the culture, but they've started making them here to compete with Kenyan and Tanzanian batik, and some are quite nice), purchase some Rwandan nesting baskets (called agaseke). Price compare before you buy--there are sharp differences in prices between stores! The best-priced shop I have found is underneath the Librarie Caritas, near the BCDI bank (the tallest building in town). The Caplaki artisan cooperative in the valley next to Kiyovu can be more expensive, but you can bargain down to reasonable prices here, especially for their Congolese art.

Visit the genocide memorials. Stop by the Gisozi memorial (it's the only one in Kigali) but be warned that, while it is well done, it is pretty sterile, and visitors tend to feel divorced from the real tragedy of the event. For a real, heart-in-your-throat experience, it is important to visit two other genocide memorials, sites which actually became slaughterhouses in April 1994. Nyamata and Ntarama are about 25 kilometers from Kigali (and only about 1 km apart from each other). A taxi ride out should cost about 25,000 Frw. The roads are bad, so you're essentially renting a taxi for a really is a deal. Tours are in French, but you don't need to understand French to get a chill up your spine from piles and bags of broken bones, bloodstained clothing, and rosaries. If there is one thing you do in Rwanda apart from seeing the gorillas, you must come here.

Grab a cup of coffee (or an ikawaccino) at Bourbon Café, the trendy new coffeeshop in the Union Trade Center and the MTN Center. It's like Starbucks times 20, and serves all Rwandan coffee--"From Crop to Cup." Prices are like Starbucks, too... They also serve food.

Brave the Nyabugogo market. The largest market in Rwanda, it feels like you are wandering through an underground maze of clothing. Somewhat like a department store, there is some logic to the setup--there is a section for women's clothing, men's clothing, household items, etc. You can even arrange private places to try on clothes. Bargain hard here--these vendors are experts!
Speaking of shopping, KIAKA, my favorite artisan cooperative in Gisenyi, just opened a shop next to the big roundabout as you enter the city. Check it out! And buy one of their bottle openers. It's a great conversation starter at parties. The selection of items is not as vast as at their Gisenyi shop, though.

Catch a concert at Abraxis on a Saturday night. This is the name for the Franco-Rwandais Cultural Center's cafeteria-looking bar. The ambiance is nil, but it's fun (and cheap) to listen to up-and-coming Rwandan bands, and everyone dances, as well! (**Note: Since the French left Rwanda, this center has been closed**)

You can also catch live music at VIP, a venue next to the Cadillac Club. They play everything from salsa, to '80s covers, to pop, to their own creations. Inexplicably, it's usually pretty empty. If you want to eat while you enjoy music, head to the Intercontinental or the Mille Collines, where there's a band every Friday and Saturday night, and often on other nights of the week as well. (As of 8/2008, my friend Faycal sings at the Mille Collines, so stop in and say hi from me!)

Dance until morning at Cadillac or at Planète Club. Be warned--people have been robbed outside of Cadillac, and Planete Club is crawling with prostitutes and sketchy old white men looking for prostitutes. But both are fantastic places to be on Friday and Saturday night.

If you want a more upscale dancing experience, head over to the B-Club in Nyarutarama. It's oddly placed next door to a gas station. Very chic and entirely worthy of being located in New York or Los Angeles, this place charges a cover of 5000 Frw (about $10). The drinks are priced accordingly. The music is great, and it draws an upscale crowd of Rwandese, Congolese, and expatriates. There are many fewer prostitutes here, if any (given the entry price). All nightclubs really get going at about 11:30 p.m. or later.

If you're looking for light or heavy reading (for when you are laying out on the beach in Gisenyi), head to the Librarie Ikirezi, where you can find everything from Cosmopolitan to the largest selection of books on the Rwandan genocide that I have ever seen.

Grab a beer and light snacks at Karibu, a local watering hole. Near the center of town, this place lights up at night, with loud music and large groups huddled around small tables.

Go for a swim at the Mille Collines. It's only $5, and you can be touristy and brag that you swam in the same pool that kept over a thousand people hydrated during the genocide.

Eat brochettes at Chez Lando (in Remera neighborhood). A Kigali institution, Chez Lando has been around since before the genocide. Its namesake was killed during the war, but the hotel and restaurant have remained open. There is a large, open area with televisions, pool tables, etc. where locals drink beer and enjoy the goat or fish brochettes while watching soccer.

Buy fabric in the Kimironko market and take it to my favorite tailor to have clothing made. His name is Amadou Bah (no, he's not Rwandan, he's Guinean) and he's located in Remera, across the street from Chez Lando and above Ndoli's supermarket. While he's the chief tailor, he employs about 14-16 Rwandan tailors, who work miracles. Look through his pictures and catalogs, or bring in a drawing of something you would like them to replicate. His shop, called Kheuwel Couture-Broderie, can turn your order around in less than a week. Prices can run from 10,000 FRw to 18,000 FRw (about $20-36) depending on how complicated the order is, but bargain in advance. Tell him Morgan (l'americaine qui aime les Red Sox) sent you! He'll laugh. Bring your French skills. (250) 0788569371 or 0788493811.


The best:
The Silverback (Le Dos Argenté) at the Hotel Gorillas. Easily the top table in town, with a gifted chef, beautiful presentation, ambiance, and remarkable service. There is a small courtyard with a couple of tables, and ample indoor seating. It's not cheap, but it's worth every penny.

Panorama at the Mille Collines. The most elevated table in town--literally. At the top of the famous Mille Collines, the Panorama overlooks the pool and half of Kigali. There is indoor and outdoor seating. The wine list is superb, there are amuse bouches, and there is such an emphasis on good service that everything is coordinated, down to the synchronized water pouring and plate-serving. The food was delicious, and the price of the meal was a steal compared to what that meal would have cost in DC.

Diplomate at the Kigali Serena. The biggest disappointment in town. Everyone had told me that meals were remarkable, but I had the opposite experience. The dining room was nice, and there are nice views of the pools from some of the tables. The menu was very limited, the food was flavorless and tough, and the waiters looked like they were in a rush to leave. (Then, when paying, they said that they couldn't accept credit cards that day, which they should have said at the beginning.) An all-around terrible experience, but maybe it will get better with time. All that said, they have a wonderful breakfast spread, which is included in the room charge if you stay at the Serena. The restaurant was named after the old Hotel Diplomate that used to occupy the current site of the Kigali Serena.

The rest:
Cactus: Great selection, more expensive prices than other places, but the ambiance and the food is worth it. Good fish brochettes. Also a good place to get drinks and watch the sun go down. In Kiyovu.

Republika: Soviet-influenced hip bar for those who wish to see and be seen. Frequented by the expatriate and wealthy/hip Rwandan communities. Hot drinks, great steaks, amazing afro-latin-techno music. In Kiyovu, only marked with a sign with a red star.

O Sole Luna: Italian restaurant owned/run by an Italian (hence, authentic food). Beautiful outdoor tables make you feel like you're in Naples instead of Kigali. Gorgeous view. The pizzas are fabulous. In Remera.

Papyrus: Italian restaurant owned/run by an Italian who, as I understand it, is using his restaurant as a cooking and service school for former combatants, to give them a new career. Delicious food. There's a store selling dairy products from the Masaka farm on the premises. In Kimihurura.

Chez John: Not a French restaurant, but a Rwandan-owned and operated one, with a range of cuisines from Rwandan to Italian. Service is a little slow here, be sure to budget some time for dinner. The buffet lunch is good. Located in Kiyovu.

Heaven: A new restaurant in Kiyovu run by the Ruxins, an American couple who also manage the Millennium Villages project out in Mayange. They boast that every element is Rwandan made, all the ingredients are locally grown, and they provide international-quality training and benefits to staff. The menu, which was designed for Western tastes, is pretty tasty (and consistent), albeit very expensive. Dinner only. Located in Kiyovu.

The New Flamingo: Fabulous Chinese food, beautiful restaurant. Incredibly fast service. They even have tofu dishes! (Most of the time.) In Kimihurura.

Afrika Bite: Great lunch buffet of different African dishes--mostly Rwandese and Ugandan. Nice setting and cheerful staff. In Kimihurura.

Comme Chez Moi: Thai and French restaurant. The Thai dishes are a little bland, but friends swear by the French dishes. Beautiful setting. In Kimihurura.

Restaurant Hellenique: The Greek Restaurant. Beautiful setting. Also a guest house. Don't get the octopus risotto. Otherwise, their Greek dishes are very good. Closed Mondays. In Kimihurura.

Car Wash: Yes, it's a car wash. But it's also a bar. This is the place to come for good nyama choma (grilled meat). It's a favorite among Kenyan expats. Great brochettes, and they have grilled pork, too! In the valley near Kimihurura.

Chez Robert: Belgian restaurant. Well-positioned across from the Mille Collines. They have an excellent lunch buffet (Rwandan and Western offerings) and a festive outdoor area. In Kiyovu.

Havana Club: Pizza restaurant next to the Novotel. Delicious pizza, some of the best in town. Lively evening atmosphere and popular place to watch soccer games!

Ice and Spice: Hole-in-the-wall Indian restaurant in the center of town. Low prices, great vegetarian options, quiet and authentic.

Pasadena (also known as Chez Vergil): Cheap and cheerful, with a very limited menu. (All Rwandan.) Brochettes are excellent. They have salsa lessons, too.

BCK: Grocery store (one of very few) which also has a reestaurant. A local favorite, they serve Rwandan food and a couple of sandwiches (remove the lettuce and tomato). Good if you're downtown and looking to eat fast.

Chez Yves: A hole in the wall secret whose name is not widely known, it's next to La Bonne Source, a little supermarket near the Hotel Iris. They have some of the best steak in town, for very cheap. On soccer nights, it's empty, though--there's no television!

La Galette: An expatriate's heaven, La Galette is a German-owned supermarket with all sorts of European and American imports, a butchery, and a bakery. They also have a patio area where they serve sandwiches. Good for lunch or brunch.

Karibu: With a distinctive purple sign and just a stone's throw away from the main drag in town, Karibu offers traditional grillades (grilled meats) and cheap beers, which you can enjoy outside while watching the game! A favorite watering hole for locals. Great lunch buffet.

Torero: A tapas restaurant that is a rising favorite among the backpacker and hipster crowd, this basement restaurant and bar has techno nights, cool lighting, and a cafe/lounge atmosphere. There's an outdoor patio as well. The food is outstanding and cheap (small plates range from 1,500 FRw to 3,000 FRw). They have a couple of bookshelves with some pretty good books, and they have a wide variety of the latest magazines for the information-hungry. Located near the big roundabout in Kiyovu, and is only marked with a Heineken sign.


Kigali Serena: Used to be known as the Intercontinental Kigali. Who could ask for anything more? Comes at a price, of course: $250 a night. Breakfast buffet included. Phone: +(250) 597100

Mille Collines: A very tired hotel in desperate need of renovation; charges much too much for what you get. Rumored to be undergoing renovations in the next year. Good live music most nights. $160 a night. Phone: + (250) 576530

Windsor Umubano (Novotel): Also tired. Not that special. Don't eat sandwiches by the pool if you're not sitting under an umbrella--the birds will attack. Consider yourself warned. $120 a night, breakfast included. Phone: +(250) 585816

Chez Lando: Historic hotel, well kept. Screens on windows, mosquito nets provided just in case. $60 a night, breakfast included, hot water (good water pressure, too!). Close to airport and stadium. Phone: +(250) 582050

Auberge Beausejour: The best place in town, if you ask me. Rooms are clean, there are nice touches (like bottled water in the rooms), and screens on the windows. There are bathrooms and televisions in every room. Hot water. The staff is very friendly, the snacks (which you can get in your room) are cheap, and breakfast is included. Close to airport and stadium. $20/night (less if you split). Phone: +(250) 55111982 or 55116268. Email:

Hotel Gorillas: A great hotel if you're looking to spend some cash. The rooms are well-appointed and each room has a great view. Good location, close to great restaurants (not to mention the fact that there is a great restaurant here.) $90/night. Phone: +(250) 501717

Hotel Okapi: Sterile, lacks character. Nice balconies, semi-functional hot water. The area around the hotel is pretty sketchy at night. I really didn't like this place. $70/night. Phone: +(250) 571667 / 576765

Iris Guesthouse: Great location, new-ish hotel that has clean rooms and a good reputation. $55-$75/night including breakfast. Apartments are also available for $110/day. Phone: +(250) 501172. Email:

City Valley Motel: Near Nyabugogo, so a bit out of the way. I probably wouldn't walk around outside at night...and besides, there's not much to walk to. There's a great restaurant and bar, though! Clean, beautifully situated rooms with hot water for $27, $18, and $11.

Internet access:
Internet is available at all of the major hotels, as well as the Auberge Beausejour. There are also many internet cafes all over Kigali, so they should be relatively easy to find.

Ruhengeri (Musanze)
The Gorilla-Trekking Base

No trip to Ruhengeri would be complete without a trip to see the gorillas. There are several groups to choose from; the Susa is reputed to be the most difficult, as it requires a tough hike up the mountain. This was the group that Dian Fossey studied, and is the largest of the habituated gorilla groups. The other gorilla groups are smaller and tend to be less physically intensive to visit. If you go, layer clothing and wear long socks that you can tuck your pants into; there are stinging nettles that leave red welts wherever they make contact! Also try to avoid wearing dark blue or black, as mosquitoes tend to trail behind you, attracted by the color. Gorillas do not particularly react to bright colors, but greens and browns are safe. Tickets are $500 for non-resident visitors (that is, tourists) and $250 for expatriates who have resident cards. **You must buy your gorilla trekking tickets in advance in Kigali, at ORTPN (the tourism office) which is near the main Roundabout and not far from the Mille Collines hotel. MasterCard is preferred.**

Stop by LaBoutik at the Hotel Muhabura and check out their crafts. Some are great deals, and they often carry antiques and handmade jewelry.

See Dian Fossey's grave (for a fee). Buy tickets at ORTPN in Kigali.


For as important a town as Ruhengeri is to Rwanda's tourism, there aren't as many choices as there are in Gisenyi. There tend to be a lot of "sports bar"-type places along the strip leading into the town of Ruhengeri (when you're coming from the Kigali direction), where you can get reasonable brochettes.

For a more Westernized restaurant, the choice is basically limited to the restaurant at the Hotel Muhabura, which is not the best food I've ever had, but is passable.


Hotel Muhabura: Moderate ($25-$35). The most upscale choice in Ruhengeri, and very reasonably priced. Big rooms with hot water, mosquito nets. They can help you arrange transport for gorilla trekking for a flat fee of $60 a day, and are great about getting you up in time to go trekking. Breakfast in rooms on request. Phone: (+250) 571511

EER Guest House: Cheap ($15-$40). Operated by the Episcopalian church. Gorgeous landscaping, beautiful rooms. It's clean and friendly, and has a gorgeous pool! No alcohol allowed. It's along the main road. They also have extra-cheap dorm-style bunk beds. Popular with missionaries, etc. Phone: (+250) 546765

Mountain Gorilla's Nest: Expensive ($100+). It's not in Ruhengeri, but in Kinigi, not far from the starting point for gorilla trekking. Expansive and beautifully situated. There's an adjacent golf course, one of two in Rwanda. Again: if you come to Rwanda, please, PLEASE don't be one of those muzungus who doesn't see anything of the country beyond the gorillas and sparsely scattered four/five-star hotels. Phone: (+250) 546954

Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge: Extremely expensive ($1000). Also not in Ruhengeri. Self-contained eco-friendly cottages. I certainly hope so for this price. I mean--really??

Travel Tips

Rwanda is a cash economy. There are few places that accept credit cards, but where they do, they almost always accept Mastercard. Sign up for one and bring it as backup in case of emergency (and to charge those $500 gorilla trekking tickets). Some places (like the Serena and Mille Collines) do accept American Express and Visa.

DO NOT BRING TRAVELER'S CHECKS. There are perhaps two places (in Kigali only) where you can exchange them, and at a horrendous rate. It is completely inconvenient.

If you find that you need more cash, the Banque de Kigali branch across from the BCDI on the Avenue de la Paix can withdraw money on Visa cards. You can take out Rwandan francs, US dollars, or Euros; note that whatever is withdrawn will be done so in Euros and then converted. There is a flat fee--$13 for Rwandan francs, and $25 or so for US dollars.

Do not give money to kids on the street. This encourages a begging culture. Many kids and teenagers in Gisenyi would come up to me and ask for money not because they needed it, necessarily, but because they thought that I would just give it to them.

Learn the value of Rwandan money. The exchange rate (at time of writing) is 560=$1. The largest Rwandan bill is 5,000; they treat it the way we treat $50 bills. Try not to flash those around. Carry lots of 100 Frw, 500 Frw, 1,000 Frw, and 2,000 bills. In Kigali, 1,500 Frw can buy a plate full of food. 2,500 Frw will take you across town in a taxi car. 200 Frw can buy a soda. Just because it might not be a lot of money to us doesn't mean you should throw it around carelessly! (Doing so ruins the prices for us poor budget travelers, and Rwanda's not that cheap as it is!)

Similarly, know when to bargain. Always bargain for taxis and in markets. Don't bargain in the little bodegas, craft boutiques, restaurants, and hotels. Many times, prices will be marked, and they're not negotiable!

Rwanda's climate is perfect--think Santa Barbara, California. With two rainy seasons. Bring all of your light clothing, but leave your shorts at home. Only schoolboys wear shorts. Linen is great. Bring comfortable tennis shoes, flip-flops, and a pair of shoes that you wouldn't mind getting wet. If you plan to see the gorillas, layering is key--it's cold as you go up the mountain. Don't forget a light parka. Bring some sweaters for chilly nights. And don't forget your swimsuit, if you're going to Gisenyi or Kibuye!

If you're going on safari in Akagera, don't wear dark colors (black, navy). The tse-tse flies LOVE those colors, and will bite you.

It is also worth noting that in Kigali, Rwandans tend to dress up. They appreciate it if you don't wander around looking like a mountain backpacker or a safari trekker, so make an effort when you're in Kigali.

You can get around Kigali in the local matatus (100 or 150 Frw, depending on how far you're going). They're each labeled with their destination. Kigali also just instituted a Kigali Bus Service, new, clean buses that cost the same. Of course, if you're not feeling brave enough, you can always take a taxi or a taxi-motorcycle. Notably, a taxi from the airport to hotels in Kigali supposedly costs 7,000 Frw, a fixed fee. Try to bargain, and if anyone can succeed in lowering the rate, please let me know!

Travel from Kigali to other towns in Rwanda is possible if you take the express matatus. There are several companies. Virungas is one of the most dependable; it's 1,500-2,500 Frw depending on where you're heading. Like all express matatus, the price is fixed. Atraco also leaves from the center of town. A new service just started as I was leaving the country which seems pretty good--I think it was called Kigali Safaris or something like that. The cheapest way to go from Kigali to Gisenyi (and vice versa) is via the Onatracom bus, a rickety green bus that leaves according to a precise schedule--they operate about 4-5 buses a day. You can pick that up in Nyabugogo bus station.

If you feel comfortable driving, as I understand it, there is now at least one car rental company in Kigali--either Budget or Avis.

If you want to go to Burundi, Kampala, or Nairobi, inquire in Nyabugogo. The Jaguar bus goes up to Kampala (and I think continues to Nairobi).

Taxi-motorcycles in towns other than Kigali should only cost 200 Frw.

Umuganda, or community work, is the last Saturday of each month. All Rwandans must participate, which can hamper transport in the morning!

Diplomatic Information:

Belgian Embassy: (+250) 252 575 551
Canadian Embassy: (+250) 252 571 762
French Embassy: No diplomatic presence at this time
German Embassy: (+250) 252 575 222
Kenyan Embassy: (+250) 252 583 332
Netherlands Embassy: (+250) 252 584 348
South African Embassy: (+250) 252 583 185
Swedish Embassy: (+250) 252 597 400
Swiss Embassy: (+250) 252 573 534
United States Embassy: (+250) 252 596 400
United Kingdom Embassy: (+250) 252 586 072

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Weighty Issues

It seems to me that the three most popular topics of conversation here are: Skin color, money, and weight. All three are taboos in the US, and as such, it has been very difficult for me to adjust.

I’ve never been to a country where skin color has been so important. Nevermind the fact that my skin color (which I maintain is yellow, not white, but Rwandans don’t believe me) is often the subject of discussion—even if you’re a light-skinned Rwandan, people talk. You’re lucky if you’re called a “brun,” or a “kazungu.” My friends tell me that women with dark skin are not generally favored by men—light skin is a commodity.

Money, as one would expect in a country where many are poor, is also a hot topic. In matatus, I often eavesdrop on conversations where everyone discusses “amafaranga.” On the radio, it’s amafaranga, amafaranga, amafaranga, genocide, amafaranga. (I only hear discussions of the genocide in public speeches or on the radio.) When people ask how much I paid for certain things, I always lower the price significantly because they don’t understand that the cost of living in the US is much higher. The cheap sunglasses I purchased for $10 make people gasp, because it seems like a lot of money. It is, here, but it’s hard to explain the concept that $10 doesn’t go as far in the US. Then they say that everyone in the United States is rich, which puts me in an awkward position. Needless to say, I try to avoid this topic as much as possible.

I also try to avoid their third favorite topic, weight, whenever I can. Weight is a topic to be lied about or avoided in the United States, but here, people love to tell you you’ve gained weight. Frankly, I find it annoying. Numerous times, people have said to me, “Oh, Morgan, you’ve gained weight. What…2 kilos?” I roll my eyes and chalk it up to cultural differences. Once, a man I hardly knew said that to me, and I told him in return that he was impolite. (I was having a bad day.)

So many people talked to me about weight that I started to believe that it was a national obsession. But then I asked Angelique, the woman who works at my house, whether being told you had gained weight was a compliment or an insult.

“Oh, a compliment, definitely,” she said, to my surprise. “Because if you’re losing weight, people will say you have AIDS!” Oy. People say that when you gain weight after marriage, you are becoming more beautiful, because you’re more “womanly.”

This information clarifies a lot for me. My weight has fluctuated, but even when I had lost a great deal, people would say that I had gained weight (which was, as you can imagine, really annoying). But now, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the exact opposite of the US: in the States, people lie and say you’ve lost weight. Here, they lie and say you’ve gained!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Thank God I'm Not French

Being outside the United States during the World Cup is, as you can imagine, fascinating, because everyone seems to care more about it than we do. But being in Africa during the World Cup was a different experience altogether. These people are crazy for football.

First, I had the great displeasure of defending the U.S.’s poor performance. “The U.S. can’t be the best at everything,” was a refrain that I heard repeatedly. I tried to at least defend my team, DC United, by saying that we were once the strongest team in the Americas, and that we were the home of Mia Hamm (aren’t we?), but Rwandans didn’t really care (and I doubt that Washingtonians care, either).

I then became a supporter of the African teams—namely, Ghana. Everyone I knew was supporting the African teams (and Brazil), and I thought—hey, when in Rome… Plus, it was only here that I became aware that African teams rarely make it to the quarterfinals (someone told me that Ghana was the first).

Sadly, the World Cup ended up being wholly European. In the end, I supported France, because, well, being a student of French, I always have.

I was definitely in the minority on Sunday night. France, for their blind policy of aiding and abetting murderous elements during the genocide, is detested in Rwanda. (The French Embassy put up roadblocks in case of riots.) This could not have been more evident than at the World Cup final, when I wore my bleu/blanc/rouge and cheered when everyone else booed. I’m pretty sure one woman was ready to spit on me because I was supporting “the enemy.”

After all was said and done, France lost to Italy in penalty shots. I returned home dejected among cries of joy and couldn’t sleep for the collective cheering and honking in Gisenyi town. In the days following, I had to face all the people I had trash-talked before the game, admitting that, yes, “La France a fait des betises ici,” but that I still thought they were the superior team. The admission that the French had made some serious mistakes here was usually enough for most people. And when people find out I am American and not French, their faces change completely. “Oh, we love Americans,” they often say, and I’m let off the hook.

Which makes me think, despite my Francophile tendencies: TGINF. Thank God I’m Not French.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Family Portrait

As silly as I am, Boniface wrapped my Kenyan kikoy around his head and declared himself a sheik.
I often say that I’m lucky to have family in Rwanda. Boniface M. is so much more to me than just the HCR driver—he is my bodyguard, my drinking buddy, my co-conspirator, and a loyal, unwavering friend. In Rwanda, it is tradition to call your close friends “brother,” or “sister,” or “cousin,”—but as I’m 24 and Boniface (I often call him “Boni,” which, given his thin, tall frame, is only too appropriate!) is 58, I couldn’t call him a sibling. He became my uncle, and I now address him as “Tonton Boni.”

Boniface was born in a cornfield in Congo. His mother went out to the fields to cultivate one day, had labor pains, collected some grasses to make a bed, sat down, and gave birth. When her husband returned home that night, he was overjoyed to find that his wife came home from the fields with their first son, the fifth child. They celebrated for two weeks.

He finished secondary school and tried a series of different jobs all over Congo. After stints working as a mechanic and at a mining company, he met his wife (whom I simply call “ma tante”—my aunt), who was still in high school when Boni was 35. It was during their courtship that he received word that he had received a job in Goma, Congo as a driver for UNHCR, which had major operations in the area. His wife left school, they married, and moved to Goma. It was 1994.

His job eventually transferred him over to the Rwandan side of the border. At the time, he was one of 20+ drivers. His salary was relatively high as far as Rwandan salaries went, and all the better—over time, his wife bore 9 children! He had a large family to support.

Wisely investing his newfound wealth by buying land and a house, Boniface asked other family members to live with him on his land. His younger brother and one of his cousins decided to live there with their families.

One day in 1997, tragedy struck. His brother and cousin, who both worked at the Bralirwa beer factory in Nyamyumba, fell victim to the continued insecurity in Gisenyi and Ruhengeri. The two were in a Bralirwa staff bus heading to work when they came upon a roadblock set up by Interahamwe rebels who had come across the border from Congo. They ordered the driver to separate the Hutus from the Tutsis, but the driver refused. “We are all Rwandans,” he said, which were his last words—he was shot in the head. He was a Hutu.

The rebels doused the bus in fuel and set it on fire. Boniface’s cousin perished, but his brother managed to break open a window and run. He was shot several times before he fell and was left for dead.

In truth, his brother hadn’t died. Villagers took him to the hospital, where Boniface came to see him. His brother told him the story of what had happened, and before he passed, he said, “Please take care of my family.”

A concrete statue by the side of the Gisenyi-Nyamyumba road marks the site of the massacre. Boniface won’t let me take the road at night because he’s still afraid that history might repeat itself.

As a result of the bus massacre, Boniface is now responsible for the care of 25 people, of which he is the sole breadwinner. He provides school fees, medical fees, and nourishment for all of them, and the most remarkable things is that he doesn’t resent it. I know so many people in the U.S. who, after supporting someone else over the course of 6 months (let alone 9 years) would insist that s/he try to support his or herself. But to Boni, the essential is that he keeps his promise, and it’s being faithful to the cultural practice of not distinguishing between one’s nuclear family and one’s extended family.

He often recounts to me stories of how Rwanda used to be right after the war. To get to Kigali, you had to fly, because the roads were insecure. The areas I monitor in Gisenyi and Ruhengeri were infested with Interahamwe and considered a UN “no-go” area even as late as 2001. Almost everyone, he says, in the rural villages was (or was aligned with) Interahamwe until they finally began to understand that the new government wasn’t just paying lip service when the said they wanted to give peace a chance. (They also started building wells and providing education in even the most remote areas. That helped, too.)

Over time, as the situation became more stable, less and less drivers were needed. In January this year, he became the only driver left at HCR Gisenyi.

He half-heartedly worries about the possibility of closing our office before his pension comes through, but I’m not. So long as there is instability in Congo (and I don’t think the upcoming elections will remedy that), the border office must remain open. I don’t think he would mind retirement, though. “When I finish with the UN,” he says, “I am going to raise cows.”

In truth, he already is, but not personally. He has land in Rutshuru, an area north of Goma in Congo, but as he jokes, “The only things grazing on that land are Interahamwe.” They already slaughtered and ate his herd of 80 cows. His two remaining cows are being cared for elsewhere by a hired hand. Boni has just received a gift of a third cow from an appreciative cousin—to thank him, Boniface will host a traditional “Gahuza Miryango” celebration, whereby the entire family unites and Boniface will provide beer for everyone.

He loves cows. He loves cows almost as much as I love goats. Maybe more. Every time we pass a cow, he slows down to examine it. If we pass a field of cows, he stops the car, leans out the window, and says, “Hello, cows!”

I also like to joke with him that he’s younger than me. His manner is entirely youthful—he wears tracksuits more often than not, and he runs everywhere, even if it’s not urgent. He also plays volleyball competitively once a week. He has so much energy that you can’t help but compare him to an 18 year old. When I tell him he’s young, he laughs, “But Morgan, I’ve worked so long to be old. And now you want to make me young again?” These conversations usually take place in a dark bodega with one small metal table, while drinking beer by candlelight. His vice is Primus, the most popular Rwandan beer. He can drink 4 or 5 in an evening (and at 80 cents a pop, it’s pretty affordable). Boniface jokes that, before 8 am, he only drinks water. After 8, he only drinks “fermented water.”

There was a point during my time here that I found out that my father had a serious health problem, and I felt so lost that I didn’t really know what to do with myself or whom to turn to. Out one night with acquaintances, Boni stopped by to find me smoking the first cigarette of my life. I will never forget the look he gave me—not that of a disapproving parent, not anger, but pure disappointment. He shook his head with the saddest eyes I have ever seen, and it was enough to make me put it out and never touch another cigarette since. Boniface was a chain smoker for 45 years and quit cold turkey 5 years ago.

Boniface’s eyes are rarely sad—they cloud over sometimes when he talks about the war. But when he smiles, it’s from ear to ear, it’s warm and genuine, and it makes you want to smile too.

We are kindred spirits. I’m a workaholic, and so is he—he hasn’t taken a vacation in two years, and HCR Kigali is trying to force him to take a break. “But I don’t need a vacation! I just want to work! I don’t trust any replacement drivers!” he says. I say that he seems much more American than Rwandan in this regard. He is also as impatient as an American—if meals take more than 20 minutes (which, I assure you, is ALWAYS the case…we once had to wait THREE HOURS for a meal that we had even pre-ordered!!), he gets up and walks into the kitchen to investigate why it’s taking so long. It often feels like he’s reading my mind.

And, as my uncle, he is my protector. He chases away people that come to the car window when we’re eating just to stare at me, he yells at people if they say anything impolite to me in Kinyarwanda, and he once offered to punch a Dutch guy we met in Goma who was impossibly rude (which I thought was really funny). And when various people try to court me, he smiles and politely tells them that the price is 8 cows and a bull. On the road the other day, we drove behind a 3-truck convoy of Rwandan Army soldiers, and when they made flirtatious advances, he made cow horns with his arms to show them that they would have to prepare a significant dowry. I laughed so hard that I had tears running down my cheeks.

My best friend here, perhaps Boniface will be what I will miss most about Rwanda. He has protected me, taught me Rwandan customs, shared secrets with me that he hasn’t told anyone else, and, most importantly, has accepted me into his family as his tenth child. He is everything to me. He is family.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Out in the village

I interviewed this woman in her home, and she was gracious enough to allow me to take a photo of her and her son (who is wearing a dress because it was all she had).

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Brochettes and Potatoes, the National Dish

Rwandans love their Primus, but drinking it alone for hours induces hunger. To remedy this problem, they have the “brochette,” which we refer to as a “kebab.” Served with brochettes are sautéed potatoes. Together with beer, they make the perfect filling, non-nutritive meal.

You can find brochettes in every corner of the country. Depending on if you buy them at a little village shack or a grand hotel, prices can vary from 100 Frw (20 cents) to 1,500 ($3) for each. From my experience, the village shack brochettes are the best. For your enjoyment (and experimentation), here are what I consider to be the best recipes for brochettes and potatoes!

Goat Brochettes

You can make these with beef, but why would you? They wouldn’t be authentic. Go to your local Halal market and ask the butcher for tender pieces, without gristle or tendon. If you like the fatty parts, you can use them—as for me, I prefer just the meat!


1 lb. goat meat, cut into ½ inch cubes
1 onion, diced into big pieces
5 fresh Roma tomatoes, crushed
½ small can tomato puree
2 tsp salt
Pili-pili chilies (in absence of pili-pili, you can use Tabasco, but I assure you that the taste isn’t nearly as good! You can also order pili-pili oil online)
Vegetable oil

To prepare the brochettes, alternate between one piece of goat meat and 2-3 flakes of the diced onion. Lay skewer over the grill, brushing vegetable oil over the brochette. Cook for 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix the Roma tomatoes, some of the onions (more finely diced), pili-pili (to taste), salt, and the tomato puree. Add water and a tbsp of oil to make a medium-thickness sauce (if it’s too thick, it will taste like a tomato brochette—if it’s too thin, the brochettes won’t turn a nice reddish color).

Brush the sauce on the brochettes 2-3 times while roasting. Brush oil on brochettes again. Remove from grill when brochettes are just cooked through (about 7-8 minutes total).

Serve with potatoes and with a pile of salt and chopped pili-pili in oil. Makes 4-5 brochettes.

Sauteed Potatoes

Like brochettes, there are a million-and-one recipes, but I consider this one to be the best. The brilliant thing is that they are made with the same sauce as the brochettes!


Baby Idaho potatoes
Tomato sauce, recipe above
Vegetable oil

In a pan on the grill, heat 5 tbsp vegetable oil. Slice the potatoes into ½ inch slices and brush sauce on both sides. Add to the pan when oil is hot.

Fry the potatoes on both sides. Drain oil and brush more sauce on both sides of the potatoes. Let simmer a little longer in the pan.

Potatoes are ready when exterior is light brown and crispy and the interior is soft!

**My beer recommendation is a medium beer, like Amstel. If you can find it (you might have luck at the Brickskeller), Mutzig is my preference!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

I was not happy.

This is right before we flipped...our boat started to hit the waves broadside, and, well....let's just say that's not the best way to enter a Class 5 rapid.