Looking back on 1 year in Kigali + what’s next?

What a whirlwind of a year! It has flown by but, at the same time, I feel like we’ve been in Kigali forever and have actually found a home here. As I write this, I’m sitting at my favorite place in Kigali: a little Spanish/Moroccan owned cafe/tapas restaurant, called Casa Keza.

My second job since I moved here has been scouting out the best cafes and places to work and, although the internet isn’t great here, Casa Keza makes up for it with two adorable white bunnies that run around freely, fantastic espresso, and a very relaxing and quiet atmosphere. Interesting little places like this are one of the things I love most about Kigali and will miss when we leave. And speaking of which, if you haven’t heard, Leslie and I are moving back to the US! It wasn’t an easy decision (I don’t think many decisions to move ever are), but it was the right decision and we’re excited to start our next chapter in the triangle, North Carolina. If you live in North Carolina or know of any 2br houses for rent starting in mid-October in the Chapel Hill/Carrboro/Durham area, hit us up!

This is Victor, the owner of Casa Keza, holding one of his adorable bunnies

So now that the biggest update/announcement is out of the way, I haven’t written in too long and a LOT has happened since my last post so I’ll try to outline some key events here. Back in May, I was promoted to the director of technology at the university where I’ve been working. The role came with a lot of new responsibilities, including advising C-level leadership on decisions around tech strategy, managing multiple people across different departments, and leading tech implementation projects on campus. It was a huge honor and privilege to be given such an opportunity and I learned a lot, especially about leadership and management. Specifically though, I learned that I don’t like to manage people and that I much prefer to be in the work and writing the code. Early on in the position, I told another manager at the university that, when I’m managing, I feel like I’m accountable for everything, but can’t actually do anything. Coming from a role as senior developer at a web development agency, it’s really hard for me to see a bug on a website and repress the urge to fix it myself. Adding a ticket to my developers’ Trello board just doesn’t feel like enough when I know I could just fix the issue myself. But that’s a horribly oversimplified and unfair description of what most managers actually contribute and I’m just saying that I personally prefer the producer role (shoutout to all my amazing project managers at SmallBox: Jenny, Drew, Mo, Elizabeth, Teresa!! Miss you all <3). On the flip side, working at this university also made me learn to appreciate good managers even more because my manager was awful.

In addition to leading tech initiatives at a university, I’ve also been coaching a local ultimate frisbee team in preparation for an upcoming tournament in Kampala, Uganda! Leslie and I joined the team, known as the Flying Gorillas, when we first got here and it quickly became one of our closest social groups. Unfortunately, the team has never (as long as we’ve been here) had any real captains or practice leadership and has struggled to develop beyond a weekly pickup game. A lot of the players are extremely talented and athletic and we would have a great team if we really practiced, but I can only do so much as a white, non-kinyarwanda speaking ex-pat trying to lead practice and, if this team is going to go anywhere, what we really need is strong Rwandan leadership. My hope is that, by leading various drills each week and encouraging people to take the practice a little more seriously, there’ll be an overall increase in confidence and commitment among the team and, when we leave, a few Rwandans will self-select and continue leading the practices. But we’ll just have to wait and see!

Dynamic stretching before Frisbee practice

Keeping one foot solidly in the programming world, the rest of my time recently has been dedicated to learning app development (with React Native and Vue). I even just published my first ever app to the Apple App Store! It’s not ready to share publicly, but I can tell you a little about it: the purpose of the app is to help people find fun events happening nearby and is unlike other event-finder apps in the way it finds nearby events. I will definitely post more about it once it’s ready (still waiting for Facebook app approval)! If I can geek out for a minute and speak another language for any of my programmer/techie readers, the most unique part about the app is that it uses a linear SVC machine learning classifier that I trained to categorize events and filter out the parties. In addition to this phone app, I’m also starting a company with my friend in NC, Will, to help empower and motivate job hunters to find meaningful work through various tools, including a web app that I will be building. I’m really excited to try to start something from the ground floor and to work with a close friend.

I don’t know how to make a smooth transition to this next topic, so I won’t. Leslie and I fly back to the US at the end of September, but first we have to take advantage of the fact we’re already over here and there are tons of places we still haven’t visited. While I’m finishing up work, Leslie is already off with a friend visiting Cape Town and Mozambique for a couple weeks. Once my work finishes up next week, we’ll be traveling together to Zanzibar to spend some time exploring Stone Town and relaxing on the beaches of Nungwi and Pemba island. From Zanzibar, we’ll be flying to Uganda for the Ultimate tournament and then back to the East African coast for a few of Kenya’s beach towns: Mombasa, Kalifi, and Lamu. We figured we needed to soak up as much sun as possible before heading back to a country with seasons!

A picture from Leslie’s Capetown street art tour

Can’t wait to see all our American friends soon! And, to all of our Rwandan/ex-pat friends, we’ll miss you and thank you for all of the amazing memories! We will definitely be back and will hit you up for drinks, frisbee, sandwiches, and/or a couch to sleep on.

Here are a few more updates in pictures:

Shushu has a new home and a new brother (named Feefee). We wanted to bring him back to the US with us, but that’s very expensive and he has a very nice new home. Here’s a picture of our derpy cat drinking water in the sink (the only way he would drink water)
And another picture of him because we’ll miss him so much!
Belgium made it really far in the world cup and our Belgian friend was really excited about it.
Leslie and I went to another yoga retreat at the Kitabi Eco-center.
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2 years ago

Kijani House on Lamu was one of my favorite hotel experkences. Website photos appear to indicate not much has changed. Have great adventures.

Sue Wyss
Sue Wyss
2 years ago

That was a really great post. I love the pic of Victor and the Bunny. Also of Shu Shu. I am so glad he has a cat friend. Thanks for all your thoughts on managers, frisbee teams, friends, your programming future and travel plans. I feel like we just had a good long conversation. Especially I am glad you are coming home!

Neil McGuffog
2 years ago

I still have that photo of the leopard in its own “downward-facing dog” pose on my frig. I guess more actually the leopard is in “puppy-pose.” But who’s asking. And interestingly, my son was in Kigali for 12 days on a photo shoot. Working 16-18 hour days. Yet he loved the country and the city. Spent quite a lot of time outside the main city into the more rural areas. So Rwanda’s loss is the US’ gain. Welcome home – early.

Don Ulin
Don Ulin
2 years ago

Your project with Will sounds fascinating. I’m looking forward to hearing more — and, even more, to seeing you in a few weeks! (And great pictures of Shushu!)

Aunt Hildi
Aunt Hildi
2 years ago

Glad to hear your thoughts as you leave Kigali. sounds like you’ve got exciting plans for the next phase of things in the US. So glad we will see you both at Thanksgiving! Andy is already working on the menu. Have a wonderful time on your hard-earned vacation and come on home!