Our first night was refreshing, reinvigorating, and just what was needed after a long few days of travel. We walked around our guest house (St. Paul’s), which is a calm and relaxing lodging in the middle of the city. I met several other travelers and groups, all of whom were extremely friendly! There are a couple of stray kittens hanging around, but they’re pretty skittish, and so far have eluded being photographed (though they serenade us quite loudly at night).
Several of us took a walk this morning around the neighborhood outside the guest house. The area is so green! It’s pleasantly warm, but not smothering - perfect t-shirt weather. The landscape is drop-dead gorgeous - the rolling hills are visible from every part of the city, with the modern buildings perfectly nestled in between.
Speaking of modernization, Kigali is a surprisingly modern city. It is clean. Everywhere is absolutely spotless, and any visible dust/trash was quickly being swept away as we walked. Traffic (on foot, bicycle, scooter, motorbike, car and bus) ran like a well oiled machine. I almost believed I could drive here for a minute - at least, until I saw a terrifying 5-way intersection with no traffic signals. I was convinced an accident would happen at any minute, bu it moved remarkably smooth - I wish I could have gotten a video!
An interesting distinction about the traffic here is that horns are blaring constantly. In America, we tend to associate honking your horn with annoyance, or irritance; a feeling of anger, resentment, and/or negativity. However, this is not the case here in Kigali. Not once did I observe a driver yell out their window, make obscene hand gestures, or even glance with ill will towards their fellow drivers. Instead, the horns seemed to serve as gentle reminders (an “I’m here” as opposed to “get out of the way!”). To be fair, Rwandan car horns are softer and less obnoxious than those in American cars, but it helped emphasize the friendliness of the city.
Our walk took place early in the morning, and we came across several students on their way to school. As a group with several visible minorities in Africa (particularly me, with my pasty skin, gawky structure, and thick glasses), I was expecting us to attract a bit of attention. Not only did we attract attention, but we were STARED at - as in, full stop, head rotation, and even some pointing. Adults as well as children were intrigued by our presence. It’s funny though - the staring did not feel uncomfortable in any way. Back in the states, staring is generally done in a negative, condescending or predatorial fashion (looking suspicious, getting catcalled, etc.). It’s not something you really want to happen to you. However, none of that was the case on our walk. We were observed with a curious, kind and peaceful eyes. Eyebrows were raised instead of furrowed, welcoming. Several people (mostly the kids) smiled back at us, and we were greeted with a welcoming “Muraho!” at every turn. It was wonderful and encouraging to witness wide eyed, innocent curiosity - something that many (indeed, most) of us lost in childhood.
Warm, friendly and welcoming - those are three words to describe the feeling in Kigali this morning (except the showers, which so far are bone-chillingly cold). I love it. Today’s itinerary is packed with a visit to a local women’s market, city tour, and a genocide memorial visit - all in the next 8 hours!!
Expect more soon!
I am traveling to Rwanda with the intent of a sponge - I want to absorb as many unique experiences as I possibly can, and bring them back to share with my culture. I am a multifaceted artist, and Rwanda is a treasure trove of valuable experiences to draw inspiration from. As a visual artist, I look forward to seeing unique handmade art, and letting it inspire an artistic vision. As a musician, I look forward to hearing vastly different than what I’m used to, and letting that inspire music from my soul. And as a teacher, I’m looking to see teaching methods different than what I have known. I want to bring these gifts back and share them with my culture.