Well into my third week here in Kigali and my initial fascination with the beautifully-printed dresses, tropical landscape and moto taxis has now given way to the more subtle undertones of Rwandan living--the good, the annoying, the neutral and the just plain confusing. A few notables:
Mzungu-- this is the word Rwandans use to refer to caucasians and other foreigners. I've heard it used in phrases such as "It's Mzungu season" or by small children as a form of greeting. The attention you get as a white person here can be many things--awkward, flattering or just downright weird. There are those of the staring variety who seem to always be studying you like an abstract work of art. Others have deemed themselves members of the unofficial Rwandan Welcoming committee, peppering me with "welcomes", "how are you's" and "this is a great beer." But mostly there's just a lot of staring.
"Waiting" in Line-- "Waiting" is in quotes for a reason. There is really no such system here. I first noticed this promptly upon my arrival at the Kigali airport when a woman who was at least 5 people behind me somehow managed to clear customs 15 minutes before me. And then at the ATM, when it was clearly my "turn" (a concept that apparently doesn't exist here), some dude came out of nowhere, cut me off and proceeded to take 10 minutes with his transaction. "When Rwandans see a space, they fill it, " is how someone described this phenomenon to me. I'm still absorbing this concept and trying not to be completely offended when a sweet looking mother throws 'bows to get on the bus before me.
Children--Interacting with the children here is the biggest self esteem booster. Just sitting at dinner the other night, at least three kids stopped by to wave, stare or ask me how I am in their best English. And if you happen to pass a group of little ones while running, they will most definitely act like you're carrying the Olympic torch through their city. Hi-fives, waves and "good afternoons" abound. And you might even adopt a running buddy for a leg or two.
Water in the form of a shower has turned out to be a rarer treat than I imagined. It's dry season here in Rwanda and apparently that means the water flow is regulated at "peak" times of the day (read: at most normal times one might want to clean oneself). The chance of getting a real shower in the morning has become so dicey we have adopted the phrase "shower roulette" to describe this added anxiety to the morning routine.
Mosquitos. Are. Everywhere. And they buzz right up in your ear space at every moment possible. Never have I lived in a place where the abundance of these insects is exponentially greater indoors than out. I just killed like five more in the course of typing this sentence [insert mosquito guts here]
And I am only getting started.
Side note: seeing the mountain gorillas was one of the most amazing things I've ever done. I just have not yet had time to give them the post they deserve. So sit tight and go watch the new Planet of the Apes movie to hold you over in the meantime.
Ijoro Rwiza! (Good night!)