Friendliness: It’s not a matter of race

I’ve met so many people here, from so many different nationalities: Germans, Americans, Croatians, Canadians, Kenyans, Italians, Britons, Spaniards, Congolese, Zanzibaris, Belgians, French nationals (Frens? Frenchians?) etc. Most are tourists, some work here, some to visit, some for whatever reasons… goes without saying I’ve met lots of Rwandans too.

 

black-hat-white-hat-struggle
It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white

Let me break this into locals and foreigners:

Rwandans

Reception from locals is mixed. One time, I was hanging out with the Zanzibari (I’ve since learnt they are not called Zanzibarians) at a small café, and someone asked us if there are no jobs in Kenya/Zanzibar. Well, we broke it down to him: had we remained in our own countries, we’d have got better paying jobs (after lots of competition, of course) and we’d be in cities with vibrant social lives (read fun). Of course, we seem to be escaping competition and we have an edge in the rat race here because we are generally (sic) more qualified. We want to contribute to Rwanda’s development (at least that’s my dream) and I don’t intend to stay here forever, but when I leave I hope to have left a mark. We then told the guy who asked us the question that this is not a matter of just Rwanda but East Africa, let there be love among us. He was welcome in Kenya/Zanzibar anytime!

So far one of the challenges I face every day is trying not to scream when someone says: “but you look like one of us, how can you not speak Kinyarwanda?” Well, I have news for you: every black person looks Rwandan. There are black people in Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Senegal… and they all don’t speak Kinyarwanda. I’m trying to learn it, you know, the basics. I even borrowed a book: English, French, Kiswahili and Kinyarwanda phrases that is so inaccurate (at least the Eng/Swa translation because I understand these two languages), I literally laugh out loud at some of the translations. Everywhere I go, whenever I tell people I don’t speak Kinyarwanda, they’re always genuinely surprised. “ You look Rwandan!” Then they tell me they’ll find me a Rwandan husband.

Well, some of the kids we teach conservation education have taken a liking to me. One time during recess, one of the girls wanted to take me to a market somewhere and buy me tea because she thought I’d be so hungry by the time the class would be over. Glad to know someone cares about me! I politely declined but they ask every time I’m in their class. Later, we had a broken conversation (as in, it was hard to understand each other), and she told me about her brothers and sisters, then asked me how many children I have, or if I’m married.

The other Rwandans I’ve met have all been very nice to me. My co-workers, I love them very much. Some others who are friends of friends, them too. The girl who works down by Volcana Lounge where I sometimes play pool. Some vets from Kigali.

The Other People in Rwanda

Well, foreigners sounds like such a harsh word, innit? Though I think it’s better than aliens!
By far, the Americans are the friendliest. I guess by the time they overcome the images ‘genocide’ brings into most minds, they’re pretty much open-minded and informed. So they’re not likely to say something like:

“Wow, you speak good English.”

It’s a miracle! A Rwandan who speaks good English!

Then when I clarify that I’m Kenyan, they sometimes nod their heads in understanding. Sometimes they’re still puzzled as to how an African (am using this term loosely, I think I mean a black African) can speak such good English.

So I’ve had some ask me, “pizza, you know pizza? We’re going to have that.” All the while speaking slooowly so I can get what they are saying. Other times, if I happen to hang out with some of them amongst other friends, they won’t speak to me directly and am like, why am I even hanging out? I love staying in my room listening to music, typing these blog posts…

But as I said, these are rare times. If someone actually decided to travel to Rwanda, they must be well informed and it’s always fun to interact with all these different people from all over Africa, and the rest of the world.

The question am sure you want to ask me is, how do I meet all these people?

Well, I live at a guest house. It’s quite small, so I get to meet all the visitors that pass through, staying for a day or two at a time. Then there are friends, and friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends… I think that’s what we Kenyans like to call connez (connections).

connections
Connections, see what I mean?

 

  • Carol

    The French… How are they?rude I bet… No not that, poor English…right?
    About Americans, I think those who come down to Africa are open minded. I once met one in Paris who could not inférèrent how I could speak their language. I thought telling her I was Kenyan was enough. So I had to talk about colonization:-(

    Yeah, the French have heavily accented English but again, some are friendly, some are not. Shouldn’t some of these guys know that if any African country (and other colonies) doesn’t speak English, then it speaks French or Portuguese or something international. It shouldn’t be surprising!

  • Aznah omwange

    Lol,me lyk that we ar the friendliest!

    You’ve become American now? lol

  • nuttyphilosopher

    Americans are quite friendly but most lack genuineness. They can make you feel welcome but not necessarily wanted. But they’re the most generous. That’s just my view from living with them for so many years.

    It’s always great to interact with people of different races and cultures. You get to learn so much from them and try out the different foods…yum!

    I’ve already had many different dishes, some have no origin but are a mix of God knows what recipes they originally were!

    Well, the Americans I’ve met have been nice and generous, if they had ulterior motives, I didn’t stay long enough to find out!

  • http://wyndago.wordpress.com Wyndago

    I can only imagine how its like for you. Never really been around foreigners for more than 20 minutes at any given time. But you being asked if you know what pizza is while they talk sloooooowly, that killed me! lol!

    Neither had I.. well I had but not for as long as now. It’s quite an experience though, an adventure, as I like to call it.

    • http://www.lostinthot.wordpress.com Lostinthot

      Yeah… that pizza bit… seriously?? I think I’d tell them I once saw it on Neighbours, person A had slapped person’s B’s face with it… is that what pizza is used for?

      if it happens again, I think I’ll use that line!

  • http://www.wetwool.com woolie

    Very interesting how different nationalities interact with one another. You are doing a great job sending us interesting stories from that part of the world. I love to travel but I doubt that I will visit all the countries in my list so…yes thanks for the country-guide and stay well!

    don’t think I’ll finish the list of countries either so let’s keep each other informed! thanks for visiting my blog.

  • Mu Accurate

    Hae, just been following you without any comment, but i have to post one today. Rwandan citizens are not Rwandan! they are Rwandese. Just a correction. Its pronounced as Rwandeee.

    Thanks for the correction Mu. Totally appreciated.

  • http://cesily.wordpress.com cesky cess

    I like this part, “pizza, you know pizza? We’re going to have that.” It’s like talking to a kid.

    You can imagine how it felt. That’s how I realized am patient when I just smiled and kept quiet.

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  • http://greatrnk.wordpress.com greatrnk

    When I was in high school, some white teenagers came on some mission. They had to ask for permission to come and greet us by the hand, and were at odds trying to explain what a microwave is, something we have in our houses. Lets just say we were pissed!

    Patience bro, we’re the educated ones, remember? I don’t know what they do in school but it’s not education.

  • creoleswa

    I loved this blog post. I’m relating to it because i feel like i’m in your shoes.In a country where they don’t accept first that they are Africans and refer to all Africans as kuyos(idiot/imbecile)!The locals are so lazy and most of the good jobs are held by the “African expatriate kuyos”.Its so pathetic.There are some who are darker than me(Alek Wek and Ataui are my competition) and cant accept that (s)he is an African.Not all are bad though and i still dream of leaving a mark here too.Kudos gal.

    Which country is this, SA? I hear they don’t consider themselves as part of Africa! Do your best and we’ll celebrate at the end of it all

    • creoleswa

      Seychelles it is .Most definately i shall

      cheers.

  • creoleswa

    Btw France has the French nationality.

    so just French nationalities. Nothing like Frenchians? like Kenya nationalities are Kenyan.

  • http://www.lostinthot.wordpress.com Lostinthot

    Keep writing, and we’ll keep reading. Keep taking us on these journeys to places some of us never will visit physically. All the best.

    I physically intend to visit all countries and will definitely write about everything I see, hear, taste, feel, smell…

  • kentheone on twitter

    There is no way I would have a blog like this and not add/make money from adsense(think like akiuk). BTW how did you get this job?. Niko jobless joh.

  • peculiar

    the story ya wasteto, these guys ukipatana nayeye wherever you maybe wanakusmilia but soo plastic. well most of them r ok but i have come to know they lack genuienenss for real. bt others r sooo true n nice. i guess ni kama sisi wakenya. kuma 2 sides of the coin. i just started reading ur blog n im smitten n in love with ur writings. keep up the good stories! i really need advice how to start a website etc. niambie kwa mail.

    So it matters not where one is, there are friendly and unfriendly people all over. I’m not sure about Russia though, I think all of them must be unfriendly. I think.

    I’ve sent you an email.

  • Deri07

    I kie your posting. First time I have come across it. I am intrigued by by your experince of some of the people you have met in Rwanda. I live in the UK. I am from a African Carribean background. I view us all as African’s and see no difference. Of course there are cultral differences but I find that some of us are looking down on each other because of these differences. It makes me sad. Thanks for your posting.
    Dee

  • Deri07

    I meant to say I like your posting. Not sure what I was doing there.

  • http://www.woodlandsdivorcelawyer.com/ Carol Foster

    “But as I said, these are rare times. If someone actually decided to travel to Rwanda, they must be well informed and it’s always fun to interact with all these different people from all over Africa, and the rest of the world.”

    Planning to visit Rwanda soon but some of my friends want to stop me from coming. They say that its not safe there.

    • savvykenya

      That’s not true. It’s a safe place, go and see for yourself!

  • Billy Beans

    Where in the world is safe? Terrors, murders, racism is everywhere. But goodness and friendliness is also everywhere.