Nothing prepares you for the beauty you are about to experience. Until now, you have not known beauty beyond the proverbial setting of arboretum and possibly Karura forest and, if you are a bit more traveled, Saiwa Swamp national park (especially in the morning).
It gets you right in the heart. The winding roads, the clean air. Especially the clean air. Only now do you realize how toxic Nairobi air is. You can feel how the good air is doing your body a great robustness of life. For the life of you. You cannot begin to imagine how any place could be this green and clean and still have people living in it.
The country is Rwanda and the city is Kigali. The entire time you spent coming to this place was filled with imaginations of how you will walk the streets of Kigali trying to determine if it is truly as clean as they claim it is. Yes. It is.
You stay in a neighborhood called Kicukiro- enunciated as chichuchiro – just a 15-minute ride from the city. The houses are built in the American fashion. They all have these low-lying fences with well-manicured lawns and small driveways where the cars are parked just outside the house. Immediately you wonder how the security is like considering this obvious carelessness of property I mean, who in their right minds would park their car outside their house protected only by a low -lying fence? Then you see the army men lining the streets of Kigali from 3.pm in full combat regalia. They look like animated mannequins with no interest whatsoever on whatever it is you are doing. They just stand there with their military grade rifles as the evening sun sets on the land of a thousand hills. There is your answer. Who in their right senses would try and steal in a country where the police are the least of your problems?
Just imagine a rendezvous where you are the thief and for some twisted lack of good luck you are caught by the army? Yes. I know. It is possible in Rwanda.
You also do not know how long you are going to be in Kigali for since you came to have a performance with Spoken word Rwanda and network for different projects your organization has. But, that’s not the only reason you are here. There is this girl (Isn’t there always?) you keep thinking about. She is all the sass of cookie Lyon, the old school funk of Bruno Mars and with the old soul buzz of Erykah Badu all wrapped up into one phenomenal woman.
Her heritage is a cocktail of so many places. Sometimes she speaks Luo, fluent Luo. Sometimes you are having one of those magical evening Kigali walks and her phone rings and you get to hear what you come to know is also an impeccable Kinyarwanda. Let’s not even get started on how she enunciates her English when she speaks. She has these dreadlocks on. She says they are called faux locks. That’s French for false locks. Sometimes she does a head scarf around a lump of them and you could swear she could pass for Nubian royalty.
“Did you know that I have another name that most people don’t know about because for the life of me, I would cringe every time they pronounced it wrong?”
“Oh yea? Which is that?” I churn back with the curiosity of the cat that didn’t die (because this story has to end sometime and me thinks it cannot be here, right?)
“Daker. But for purposes of pronunciation, I would write it as Darkey.” I know there is a back story here. “What does it mean?” She glows up. “It means Queen. So, bow down to me!” No, she didn’t say that last part.
She has these rings on her fingers. They are probably the first thing you see when you meet her. She has very well-groomed hands. Her fingers are like something you just want to touch and feel and her mind is a mine of personality. She invites you into her world more intimately through her music. It is such a distilled selection of music that speaks to your soul long before your body can get around to dance to it. You will also probably never meet a person with a greater ability to keep their cool even if everything is going sideways. She is the type of person who would listen to you go on and on about something that is troubling you and just talk you through what you could or should do. By the time she is done, you will wonder how common sense did not bring you to that same conclusion.
The truth is, everyone should have a version of her in their lives. She is your version of her. Yes. You get to have the limited edition for your wing-man. Umutoni sauce. Darkey royalty.
She was born on the 13th day of February; that makes yesterday her birthday.
Dear Darkey, as and when you get to read this, I just want you to know that you are a phenomenal woman. You are energetic, fun, ambitious, homely, your music is the bomb and let’s not start on your pasta. You are true and you exude a lot of candor. Happy birthday, twenty fine has never looked this good on anyone.