The Director leans forward and nods toward the crowded bar:
"You must have seen it all in this place"
I look across at the crowd. A team of crusty foreign aid workers size each other up. A wedding planning committee is having a miserable time. Some sex workers passively hustle, playing the game of eyes with a lonely Chinese engineer (his hands and face are sunburned red, he must be working on the roads). The regulars at the bar are watching French news and reminiscing about the time when they were big men. A few middle-aged gorilla hunters wear special Africa trousers with too many pockets. Two fat Kenyans animatedly talking politics. A lone female NGO worker hides behind a laptop. Broken glass. What are all these misfits doing in my living room?
Dear Chez Lando
You've seen me through the best of times, the worst of times. Wisdom and foolishness. Friday after work beers at table 10. Remember that ugly brawl a couple of years back? There were celebration dinners, commiseration meetings, football matches, noisy tables of eight and intimate tables of two. Mostly it's just you and me and a paperback.
Remember when we met back in July 2005? I'd just arrived on SN Brussels without any luggage. Two big Mutzigs and a poulet bicyclette later and our affair had begun. We were both a bit rough around the edges back then, but we've slowly smartened up our act. My dusty boots and 5-day beard made way for sharp suits and 3-day stubble. Smart tiles and wooden ceilings have replaced the concrete and mosquitos. We still got soul though. The spark is still there.
Our relationship is complicated. I'm sorry Chez Lando about the one-night-stands with the Umubano and other hotels. They always seem like a good idea at the time. I always come back though, and you welcome me with a hug and the keys to Room 183. You know what I'm like and don't mind.
But this can't go on forever. Big events in my small life mean it's time for me to move on my dear friend. To go to the place where my stuff is, where my real life is. Will you share my last brochette?
Keep on keepin' on
The Director looks up from the menu. "You must have tried every dish on here".
True. I even taught one of the chefs how to make mashed potato the way I like it. The way my Mum makes it.
"If you're in Kigali for six months of the year why don't you just rent an apartment?"
I mutter some excuses about this and that, about the location, the per diems, the whatever.
The truth is that Chez Lando is home.