In no particular order: 10 of my loves of Rwanda
- TransportI have a strange love of the rickety, overcrowded transportation system of Kigali. Crammed buses and ever present moto-taxis make the whole city available for a few cents. While buses challenge Western notions of personal space (like, the idea we should have some) and are occasionally a horrifying testament to the general lack of deodorant in this country, I have found I really enjoy the people watching on them as I sit next to university students, business men, mums with their babies, teens absorbed by cell phones: its a view into Rwanda.
The truth is I love the adventure of labyrinthine, dim markets of thousands of oddly specific stalls (Need Katchup? Go two aisles to the right for the condiment sales-man) more than the sterility of our grocery stores. It's not as easy, but it turns shopping from a chore to scavenger hunt, and buying from a meaningless interchange of money to a conversation and depending on the extent of the bargaining: a game.
From orange sunrises, misty gray/green evenings, to the explosions of vibrancy from women's traditional skirts, to the inevitable buildings painted as advertising for competing cell phone companies, everywhere I am surrounded by color.
Traditional dresses at a concert
I have found Kigali to be one the most beautiful non-European capitol city I have been in. Not for the architecture, which consists of basic concrete and 'developing-country-blue' glass, but for the mountains, which make every street a vista. I feel I can see forever from wherever I am. That I walk to school across the top of the earth. At night the hills speckled with streetlights look like waves of stars.
- My Host family
Of course, I cannot leave out my vibrant, silly, wonderful host family. I spend my time at home with my host siblings: singing, playing cards, or watching bizarre movies (everything from allegorical christian horror films to 40 year old Kung Fu movies in the original racist accents).
As a Muzungu in Rwanda, I am instantly loved by every child ever. I don't quite know why, but my foreignness warrants high fives, jumping up and down, and excited calls of 'How are youuuuuu?!?!?'. It also sometime warrants demands to 'give me money!', but this makes angry at the misguided whites who treat children like beggars, not the kids themselves.
I can't even begin to tell you how good the fruit is here. I gorge myself on mangoes, passion-fruit, avacados and bananas at every opportunity.
Several kilos, and just a couple of dollars, worth of fruit.
While I may have mentioned the tragedy of Rwanda's potato-cuisine before, I do really love the little convenience stores that dot the city selling cookies, 'amandazi' doughnuts, samosas, chapatis, and fruit. I am always hungry here, so snacking is critical.
One of the greatest adventures of traveling is the break from routine. I am happiest when I can relax enough to be amused by the dubious coughing and rattling of my bus, suddenly canceled meetings, instantaneous hail storms, or power outages that leave us giggling by candlelight. The only unpredictability I cannot stand is that of my greatest addiction: the internet.
Travel teaches you more about yourself than anything else. Looking around every day I am reminded of how much I have and how lucky I am to have it. Though I am living out of two suitcases, I still have more possessions than even well-off Rwandans. My western privilege is disconcerting, but precious. And getting to truly know that is another privilege in itself. I am grateful every day for being here For getting to struggle with the depth of human darkness, but at the same time having the honor to witness the extremes of our resilience.