February 1st 2013
“Muzungu” is the affectionately patronizing word for foreigners, and as I blunder about Kigali on various adventures, I certainly feel like one! Moving to a new country is like being reborn: you can't speak, you can't cross the street, you can't work the bathroom, you can't find things on your own. Fortunately, Rwandans are very kind to us big white babies! It is a good thing, because information here is not regimented as it is in the states – you can't just ask google. Instead you ask: which bus, which stop, which street, which phone, how much to pay.... I am relearning everything I know, and I am learning it through the kindness of strangers.
I am now installed with my wonderful Rwandan host family! They are quite brilliant: within 10 minutes of walking in the door we were all dancing Gangnam style together. The kids all speak intimidatingly good English, preparing for American high school and college. I live in in a huge house next to an ambassador, with chickens scratching around the beautifully manicured lawn. I have three brothers and three sisters, ranging from 5 to 17.
I have also had a few good Muzungu adventures in the city! In my favorite assignment so far we were sent off to find information about communication, and I and two other students got to wander the city on the pretext of finding internet cafes and phone stores. We found a city of dizzying contrasts: highrises poking awkwardly from of rows of single story storefronts, kids hawking ipods on the street, somehow bustling and chaotic, but orderly and quiet at the same time.
We happened upon the Milles Collins, the famous 'hotel' of Hotel Rwanda. It looks like a standard 70s building outside, but inside chic and dotted with over-sunned Europeans, lush swimming pools, and tiny brilliant birds. Impossible to imagine, as we sat on the porch that 18 years ago this was the tense center of a slaughterhouse. When we passed a ragged man asleep beside the road I could imagine it. Almost.