Time in Rwanda is winding down, and there are still so many things to share! So, the next few posts are going to be a mixture of different ideas and thoughts. I wanted to share some random thoughts about life in Rwanda, and, due to many questions I’ve received concerning what my dissertation is actually about, I wanted to share a bit about that too (in the next post). So, here are some random things I have learned about life in Rwanda from my perspective.
Security: Security is considered a very important aspect of society. I could literally walk almost anywhere in the city at any time and feel safe. Why? Because there are police people stationed everywhere all of the time. Granted most of them carry very large guns, but overall you still feel quite safe.
Fanta: I had no idea that Fanta was so popular. If you go to a wedding, you are always offered a bottle of Fanta. There are several flavors, such as orange, fiesta (purple), and coca cola. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been given a straw and a bottle of Fanta.
Dessert: Here, dessert=bananas. As someone with a sweet tooth, this is a little depressing. But, I try to remind myself it’s much healthier than my usual choice of doughnuts.
Hired help: Many, many people hire maids or cooks. I have many thoughts about this, but I’ll leave it at that.
Dowries: Dowries are paid before weddings. Then, there is an introduction ceremony where the bride’s family officially accepts the dowry.
Moto Taxis: The easiest way to get around is by moto taxi. They zip in and out of traffic pretty quickly, so it takes a little while to get used to. I actually burned my leg on one last week, but otherwise riding them has been fairly easy.
Umuganda: The last Saturday of the month, all Rwandans must participate in mandatory community service in the morning. They spend time cleaning the streets and making Rwanda beautiful.
Muzungo: As I shared in an earlier post, foreigners are called muzungos here. It’s quite common for people, especially children, to point at me and yell “muzungo!” Especially when I travel outside of the city, I soon find myself surrounded my crowds of children who want to touch me, pet my hair, or see my eyes.
Ethnicity: Surprising in light of the acceptance of blatantly pointing out muzungos, ethnicity is taboo in Rwanda. Due to the genocide, people are not allowed to differentiate by ethnicity. Instead, everyone is considered Rwandan.
Food: Bananas, beans, and rice are core staples in almost every meal. Rwandans don’t eat much meat, which is useful for a vegetarian!
Obama: Many, many people have asked me if I think Obama will win the upcoming election. From what I can tell from my conversations, he’s quite popular here. And, I’m continually amazed by how much people know about U.S. politics. This weekend, I was talking with an 8-year-old. When I told him I was from the U.S., he said, ”Ah, so your President is Obama.” Wow.
School fees: Education here is not free (though as a universal human right, it should be!). Instead, students pay fees for uniforms and other services.
Sibling support: After 1994, many young people were left without a parent/parents. In part due to that, the oldest sibling in each family bears much responsibility. Most of the people my age I have met work so they can pay for their siblings’ school fees. For example, the girls who clean and cook at my guesthouse work so their younger siblings can attend school (even though they do not attend school themselves).