6 Months in Rwanda!

It’s pretty hard to believe that we’ve been living in Rwanda for over 6 months now. It feels like just yesterday that we were saying our goodbyes, selling all our stuff, and buying one-way flights. It has been a rollercoaster of an adventure and I would be lying if I said there weren’t moments when I was ready to give up and fly home because moving to a new country that doesn’t speak your language is really really hard! But with a lot of patience, the endless support of family and friends, and a very cuddly kitten, Rwanda is feeling more and more like home everyday now.

A very cuddly kitten

Over the past 6 months, Leslie and I have become residents of a new country, made great new friends from all over the world, started and ended jobs (and tried our hands at management!), and added a new member to our family (our adorable cat, Shushu). We’ve also navigated Rwandan utilities to pay our bills, studied Kinyarwanda (the national language) 3-days per week, started hashing, received first-aid training, kayaked on the Nile, played ultimate at a tournament in Uganda, and hiked up a mountain to see gorillas. I’ve learned so much here and do think it’s starting to feel like home finally, but I still have a ways to go and part of me wonders if I’ll really ever feel 100% at home (but maybe that’s okay). There are just some things that I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to. So much of adjusting to a new culture is simply about patience, open-mindedness, and endurance, but just because you experience and even learn to appreciate something new doesn’t mean you don’t still long for something familiar at the end of the day. So, if you ever feel like sending us a care package and aren’t sure what to send, the answer is: cheese. Rwanda food is all about carb and starch heavy buffets: potatoes, rice, tough meat, capati (think savory, thick crepes), french fries, pasta, and maybe some steamed veggies. A lot of Rwandans eat at a buffet everyday for lunch and then have something similar for dinner. It’s okay food the first few times, but I miss having a variety of food options and I miss certain American staples, like cheddar cheese. I definitely like capati and chewy goat more than I used to, but I doubt I’ll miss it when we leave!

Some of the food here is actually really delicious. This was from a feast we had at Leslie’s host-family’s house on New Years! Food included goat kabobs, fried plantains, avocado salad, and roasted potatoes.

On the other hand, there are also some things that I’ve adjusted to and come to really love. For example, the culture of dancing here. Rwandans love to dance! We’ve gone out to the bars and clubs with friends and coworkers on many occasions and spent all night dancing. It’s not at all like in the US where you need a large dance floor, strobe lights and a dark bar/club, and free-flowing liquor to get people dancing. If there’s good music playing here, everyone (men, women, and children) will be dancing.

And speaking of music and dancing, we’ve had the opportunity to see quite a bit of great music here. There’s even a new little art studio that just opened up a couple blocks from our house that has live, traditional music every Thursday night. There’s a little yard with a bonfire we sit next to while listening to the music and drinking beer. Most recently, we also went to a huge concert at the nearby stadium to see a guy called Davido (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Iyuym-Gci0). We weren’t super into his music, but he was pretty entertaining to watch and kept trying to climbing the stage scaffolding much to his bouncers’ annoyance. Later, he also invited 2 people onto the stage for a dance competition. The guy was so excited to be on stage, he gave Davido a huge hug and the bouncers had to pull him off. Unfortunately, he turned out to be a pretty bad dancer, but the woman Davido invited on stage was a really good dancer and totally won the competition.

At the Davido concert

Looking ahead to the next 6 months, we’re definitely going to keep seeing music, learning Kinyarwanda, and traveling in the region. We’ve also been helping to organize the first ever ultimate tournament in Rwanda, which will take place March 17-18, and are greatly looking forward to more family coming to visit us this summer. Work has been tough, but I keep reminding myself that we would never be able to have these opportunities or experiences if we hadn’t decided to make the move. I’m also excited to see where my work with the Akilah Institute takes me and have been slowly working on larger and larger projects (including reviewing their information systems diploma program and hiring new developers).

Well, that’s all for now. Time to get ready for ultimate practice and then we’re heading to Leslie’s host family’s house for dinner! Here’s to another 6 months! And here are some photos you may have missed or I might have forgotten to post:

A view from the hash trail
My new favorite coffee shop to work at.
Royal cows, or “Inyambo”, at the King’s Palace.
Look at those horns!
Leslie with her kids at MindLeaps.
The Kigali ultimate team
Hamid visited us!
Shushu being adorable and playful
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Stephen Massicotte
Stephen Massicotte
2 years ago

What’s hashing and the hash trail?

Leslie Massicotte
Leslie Massicotte
2 years ago

Dad—hash is a worldwide thing where a bunch of people get together and walk or run a trail through the city or countryside (set by several members in the group that changes each week) and then end at a bar for weird singing and drinking.

Sue Wyss
Sue Wyss
2 years ago

T hanks again for posting. Its anot her way of understanding w hat your life is like in Rwanda. I want to send you letters and packages but I am not sure if you received my letters so far. Did you get t he C hristmas card? It seems like a lot longer t han 6 mont hs t hat you have been t here to me. I like t he dancing. I would love to live in a culture w here people danced all t he time and do not feel weird w hen t hey do. As always I miss you bot h.

Priscilla R. Ulin
Priscilla R. Ulin
2 years ago

Thanks for explaining hash trails. I was wondering, too. Sounds like a lot of fun.

Maybe I can get Helen and Pieter to send you a wheel of Dutch gouda (pronounced “how-da”). Where should they send it?

Gma Polly

Helen Heinrich
Helen Heinrich
2 years ago

So proud of both of you! How well I remember the first months when I was living as a Spaniard in Madrid for a year. But it does get easier once you learn the ropes and do everything for the 2nd time.