Friendliness: It’s not a matter of race

I’ve met so many people here, from so many different nationalities: Germans, Americans, Croatians, Canadians, Kenyans, Italians, Britons, Spaniards, Congolese, Zanzibaris, Belgians, French nationals (Frens? Frenchians?) etc. Most are tourists, some work here, some to visit, some for whatever reasons… goes without saying I’ve met lots of Rwandans too.



It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white

Let me break this into locals and foreigners:


Reception from locals is mixed. One time, I was hanging out with the Zanzibari (I’ve since learnt they are not called Zanzibarians) at a small café, and someone asked us if there are no jobs in Kenya/Zanzibar. Well, we broke it down to him: had we remained in our own countries, we’d have got better paying jobs (after lots of competition, of course) and we’d be in cities with vibrant social lives (read fun). Of course, we seem to be escaping competition and we have an edge in the rat race here because we are generally (sic) more qualified. We want to contribute to Rwanda’s development (at least that’s my dream) and I don’t intend to stay here forever, but when I leave I hope to have left a mark. We then told the guy who asked us the question that this is not a matter of just Rwanda but East Africa, let there be love among us. He was welcome in Kenya/Zanzibar anytime!

So far one of the challenges I face every day is trying not to scream when someone says: “but you look like one of us, how can you not speak Kinyarwanda?” Well, I have news for you: every black person looks Rwandan. There are black people in Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Senegal… and they all don’t speak Kinyarwanda. I’m trying to learn it, you know, the basics. I even borrowed a book: English, French, Kiswahili and Kinyarwanda phrases that is so inaccurate (at least the Eng/Swa translation because I understand these two languages), I literally laugh out loud at some of the translations. Everywhere I go, whenever I tell people I don’t speak Kinyarwanda, they’re always genuinely surprised. “ You look Rwandan!” Then they tell me they’ll find me a Rwandan husband.

Well, some of the kids we teach conservation education have taken a liking to me. One time during recess, one of the girls wanted to take me to a market somewhere and buy me tea because she thought I’d be so hungry by the time the class would be over. Glad to know someone cares about me! I politely declined but they ask every time I’m in their class. Later, we had a broken conversation (as in, it was hard to understand each other), and she told me about her brothers and sisters, then asked me how many children I have, or if I’m married.

The other Rwandans I’ve met have all been very nice to me. My co-workers, I love them very much. Some others who are friends of friends, them too. The girl who works down by Volcana Lounge where I sometimes play pool. Some vets from Kigali.

The Other People in Rwanda

Well, foreigners sounds like such a harsh word, innit? Though I think it’s better than aliens!
By far, the Americans are the friendliest. I guess by the time they overcome the images ‘genocide’ brings into most minds, they’re pretty much open-minded and informed. So they’re not likely to say something like:

“Wow, you speak good English.”

It’s a miracle! A Rwandan who speaks good English!

Then when I clarify that I’m Kenyan, they sometimes nod their heads in understanding. Sometimes they’re still puzzled as to how an African (am using this term loosely, I think I mean a black African) can speak such good English.

So I’ve had some ask me, “pizza, you know pizza? We’re going to have that.” All the while speaking slooowly so I can get what they are saying. Other times, if I happen to hang out with some of them amongst other friends, they won’t speak to me directly and am like, why am I even hanging out? I love staying in my room listening to music, typing these blog posts…

But as I said, these are rare times. If someone actually decided to travel to Rwanda, they must be well informed and it’s always fun to interact with all these different people from all over Africa, and the rest of the world.

The question am sure you want to ask me is, how do I meet all these people?

Well, I live at a guest house. It’s quite small, so I get to meet all the visitors that pass through, staying for a day or two at a time. Then there are friends, and friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends… I think that’s what we Kenyans like to call connez (connections).


Connections, see what I mean?


Journey to Rwanda: In Kampala

This post is continued from this one

I have enjoyed my time here, had enough adventures and misadventures, but you know there are a few things I may not write about even though they happened.


So anyway, since my accommodation in Kigali was not ready by Saturday night when I wanted to leave Kampala, I had to postpone my time of travel to Monday morning. Meanwhile, I met a few friends and hang out with them.

I played pool at Kampala rugby club…. And defeated this guy –> normzo though he says he let me win. At least am practicing on one of the things I said I’d do this year. They included:

i. become a pro in pool
ii. learn French since am going to be in a French speaking country
iii. learn to drive, and also ride a motorbike (I’ll be going for my graduation riding a motorbike, in leather pants, black jacket, sunglasses, the whole shebang. While everyone comes in a hired/borrowed car to impress, I’ll be standing out with my motorbike.)
iv. learn to play the piano. Since I can’t sing to save my life…. At least I can learn the piano so I can play SDA hymns. I love those songs.

Can’t remember what else was on my to-do list this year but this is enough for now.

So there are these guys in Kampala, who (think they) are pros in pool. They come into the place with swagger, sunglasses and carrying their own cue sticks! And to compliment the cue sticks, gloves. I lost to one of them…..but not badly. I only had like one ball left on the table! And he’s supposed to be a pro. Maybe luck was on my side. Perhaps I should get my own glove.

Something I noticed in Kampala, at the butchery, the meat is just sold in the open. You know the way in Kenya, even in remote villages, meat is stored in some glass casing. Here, it’s just open for display.

The people are definitely friendlier, the taxi (matatu) conductors are less rude. There are numerous boda bodas (motorcycles), waving in and out of traffic, it’s a dangerous business. But you take risks.

Elections in Uganda will be held next month, Feb 18, four days after Valentines Day. So the town is covered in campaign posters. Talk of the town is M7 will win again. He’s set to become president for life, is my prediction.

Talking to my Ugandan friends, I learned a few more things about Rwanda. They drive on the right, can you imagine that? At a roundabout, instead of turning left, you turn right, very confusing. One thing I found shocking: they do not allow polythene bags into the country!

What! No polythene bags? How do they survive?

Like when it starts to rain and your precious weave and water can’t mix, you throw a plastic paper bag on your head. Or when buying milk, half a loaf of bread, eggs, etc. storing frozen food in the fridge, plugging leaking containers….etc.

And then, packing. Whenever I pack, shoes go into polythene bags, little things into little polythene bags, and then the whole ensemble into the suitcase. Which means I have to repack and get rid of the plastic menace.

But… determined to sneak in a polythene bag. Just for kicks, am not going to use it, just want to see if I can get away with it. *taking a deep breath now….don’t panic. You won’t be arrested.*

Another thing I’ve learnt, you do not talk ill of Kagame. In fact, stay clear of any political discussions. That’s it, zip it. Shhhhh.

I might be coming back to Kampala to work here, who knows?

Now I have to go repack in readiness for the journey tomorrow morning.

Next up: from Kampala to Kigali.