by Hannah Frantz
Today we actually all sat down and talked together about the program, what we’re doing, what are acceptable cultural habits, etc., etc. And let me tell you – that was helpful. We were told that men and women alike who are friends will frequently walk hand in hand simple to show friendship, not necessarily romance. I though this was so interesting! In the United States if you see two men walking around, holding hands, you automatically assume that they are a gay couple, but here it is just friendly men showing affection for one another.
We also learned about a “holiday” called Umuganda (I actually arrived on this holiday on Saturday). On the last Saturday of every month, the whole city basically shuts down, including banks, businesses, and restaurants. Everyone gets together and addresses community issues that need to be fixed. For example, one community might notice that a local school needs some cleaning up, so they will plan to clean it, paint it, or anything else. And they do this together all throughout the city. It’s interesting because I hadn’t noticed until we started discussing this that Kigali is an impeccably clean city. There is no trash or plastic bags or anything of the sort on the ground anywhere. Apparently the government, especially Kagame, really encourages the people of Rwanda to keep their country clean. And it really is.
We have been eating like kings ever since we arrived. I was mostly expecting beans, rice, and potatoes while we were here but I have eaten so much more. Honestly, I don’t really know what I’m eating most of the time. I know I’ve eaten bananas and plantains, but they are frequently made in a dish with ingredients that I do not recognize. I had something today that looked like a cross between a potato and a plantain in a triangle shape (someone guessed it might be a yucca?) but it was very sweet. All I know is that it was incredibly tasty. My favorite so far has been the fried plantains, which I’ve had before, but were very different. In Nicaragua they were more like chips and you ate them with salt or lemon juice. But here they eat them when they are riper and they cut them in bigger chunks so they are very sweet. It’s like eating a fried banana…mmm so good. In Rwanda, it is normal to eat at buffet restaurants because otherwise your food takes a very long time to order. You can sit and wait for hours at a time…normally the times when you need to get somewhere, too. I think I’ve gained 5 lbs in the last couple days.
I’m very excited to meet my host family on Thursday, but also a little nervous too. I really hope that I like them and that they like me because becoming part of a family here is something that is very important to me. Tomorrow they will be testing us, sort of, but dropping us in pairs elsewhere in the city, giving us something to find out, and then telling us to fine our way back to the office. It sounds kind of scary right now, but honestly, I desperately need to find my way around this city. And once I start living with my host family, I will be commuting every day to classes, so I’ll need to know how to navigate.
Tonight we also went to a Reggae club called “One Love.” Bar culture seemed mostly the same, I suppose. We were about the only people there, so we sat around a campfire and had some Mützig and some Primus, the preferred Rwandan beers. They are both very, very tasty. We met up with a Rwandan guy named Jean Pierre that we met at the Milles Collines the other day, and met a few other Rwandans that ran the bar. Everyone was extremely hospitable to us and very excited to have us visiting.
I’m planning on getting my phone and MTN (Internet) stick this week, so hopefully my Internet will be less sporadic soon!
And now the long awaited photos!!
Me in my mosquito net at St. Paul’s. They’re actually really fun.
The pool and the view of Kigali from Milles Collines…stunning.