Nothing in Kigali is what I expect. The city is a swell of hills thick with lights, strings of fog, traffic, and streams of voices. Along the tree-lined street near the hospital, every block is under construction. Bamboo scaffolds cling to the new structures, steel cranes poised between towers of concrete and blue glass. Schools of motos dart to the curb with passengers, helmets over hairnets. Men in dark jeans. Women side-saddle in long skirts and heels. I am forbidden by my husband Dean to take the motos, and when the American doctors arrive, we wait for a cab at the foot of an enormous billboard lit with tungsten lights: RwandAir. Daily flights from Nairobi to Entebbe.
~ from "Stained with Lime" by Sherri H. Hoffman. Available now in Cimarron Review, Issue 195, Spring 2016.
Late on New Year's Eve, 2015, I land in Kigali, Rwanda to visit my parents. My father and brother pick me up at the airport, and we stop for ice cream and wifi cards on our way to a guest house for the night. It's still a couple hours drive to Butare from the capital city. After a day and a half of international travel, I am buzzed and beaten.
I lay awake under the mosquito nets until dawn. The hotel next door partys in the new year with a karaoke mix of 70s disco and rap. I make no resolutions. These days, everything seems insurmountable, and yet, here I am, asking myself what the hell. Again.
By the time I return to the U.S., the memory cards in my cameras and phone are full of photos. My notebooks full of details and descriptions: places, people, drawings—the start of stories.
"Stained with Lime" is the first in what is coming together as a collection of connected stories, and I'm over the moon to have it appear in Cimarron Review. Rwanda has an enormous story. It is a paradox of change—people, politics, history, future. Big finance and high-tech surrounded by hills terraced in rice paddies, corn, sugar cane, and potatoes. High-rises in metal and glass. Wide asphalt roads covered in red dirt. Rolling blackouts and high-speed internet. Water is a commodity. Plastic bags and bare feet are forbidden. To write about any of it is to offer only a glimpse.
"V.S. Pritchett's definition of a short story is 'something glimpsed from the corner of the eye, in passing.' Notice the 'glimpse' part of this. First the glimpse. Then the glimpse gives life, turned into something that illuminates the moment and may, if we're lucky—that word again—have even further ranging consequences and meaning."
~ Raymond Carver, from Call If You Need Me: The Uncollected Fiction and Other Prose.