We recently decided to take a much needed break from the stress of job hunting and building a life in Kigali to safari in Akagera National Park and explore Uganda. Akagera is an interesting park as many of the big animals, including the lions and rhino, aren’t originally from Rwanda (they were imported from South Africa) and there aren’t all that many animals to see. But we went with friends and one of our friend’s two adorable daughters who kept things fun when we weren’t seeing any animals with great questions like, “mommy, why are the monkeys [balls’] blue?” We also stayed in a beautiful and pretty bougie lodge at the top of a hill in the park, complete with tennis courts and swimming pool.
I’m finally up for another blog post—thanks for your patience! It’s been an interesting few weeks, with lots of ups and downs. I finish up my volunteer position with Kasha this Friday and have started to shift my expectations for job prospects and what the next few months/years hold. I had a great experience working with the Kasha staff, learned a lot about Rwandan work culture and working for start-up companies, and made some good connections for my network. But we’ve discovered, after so many job applications, that the job market is more difficult than we ever expected, especially for non-Kinyarwanda speakers, and the visa process is even harder. Poor Colin’s work visa has been rejected twice now—solely based on the fact that his degree is in psychology and it doesn’t match his current position as technology consultant. Unfortunately, the visa process isn’t written down anywhere and there are loads of intricate details so Colin has spent many hours on the phone and in the Immigration Office attempting to sort it out.
I’m pleased to say that my new workplace, Kasha, has been keeping me busy these past few weeks. I’m finally over the hump of not having any work to do and despite not being paid (yet!), I love the opportunity of working directly with a women’s health company operating in Rwanda.
Last weekend, we traveled with the local frisbee team to a tournament in Entebbe, Uganda! We got to play against teams from Kenya and Uganda and cheer on a showcase game between top players from both countries. The weekend started at the Kigali bus station in Nyabugogo (pronounced “nobbue-go-go”) where we met up with the team Thursday night to catch our overnight bus to Kampala, Uganda. The 8-hour trip costs only $15, but it’s hot, you won’t get any rest as the roads are extremely bumpy and, about halfway through the trip, you have to get off the bus to cross the border. Crossing between Rwanda and Uganda on bus is an adventure of its own and involves walking around 1,000 feet down a dark dirt road from Rwandan immigration, where you received an exit stamp, to the Ugandan immigration, where they issue an entry visa, because, for whatever reason, you aren’t allowed to cross the border on the bus.
September 9th marked the final ceremony of Ariane and Ben’s wedding. No other part of the marriage process began on time so we figured we could be a few minutes late to the religious ceremony. Alas, the church service began right on time and we rolled into the Catholic church 15 minutes late (thankfully with a lot of other late folks so it didn’t look as bad). Ariane and Ben were seated at the front of the church with two other couples and each couples’ maid of honor and best man. The attire this time was the big white wedding dress (and I mean, BIG—Ariane’s dress weighed 5kg apparently!) and full suits.
We’ve been settling into our apartment and trying to figure out how housing and utilities work here. Because I used to work in refugee resettlement, I can’t help but compare our experiences in navigating new systems and can empathize with some of my clients’ woes! Of course, Colin and I aren’t refugees—we’re not fleeing for our lives, we had the choice to move here and can always move back, we have amazing support systems both in the US and here—but we’re experiencing some of the same struggles of trying to grasp how rent, electricity, water, etc. work here.
On Thursday, I attended Ariane’s civil wedding, part 4 of the wedding events. It was held at a civil service government building in a large room with rows of benches and a front stage. Ariane and Ben were one couple of about 7 or 8 other couples getting legally married that day and they all sat in the front row facing the stage. Everyone was dressed to the nines, the men in suits and the women wearing either floor length white dresses or fancy knee-length dresses. The benches behind the couples were filled with family members and close friends of the couples.
I can’t believe it’s been a whole week already! It’s been a dusty, uphill journey (pretty much all roads around here are), but we made some big moves and are excited to move into our very own apartment later this week. Living with Leslie’s host family has been an amazing privilege and we are so thankful for all of the help and support they’ve provided, but with our own place I’ll be able to take my first step toward actually being able to call Rwanda, “home”. The apartment is located in a new building in the Kicukiru neighborhood (fairly close to where we are both working) and is fully furnished! And, most importantly, it has 2 bedrooms so we have plenty of space for you all to visit. 🙂
We’ve arrived! We’ve reunited with my host family, dragged our piles of luggage home from the airport (all of which arrived, to our surprise, with no issues whatsoever), and already taught my Rwandan niece, Gianna Anaella, how to catch a frisbee. Maman Jimmy, my wonderful host mom, has prepared a lovely room for us in their family home, newly painted a welcoming pink color (chosen of course by Anaella). They bought a big, fluffy, blue comforter for the bed, with matching fluffy pillows, which we’re now calling our “Baloo Bed” (like the bear from the Jungle Book!).
Less than a week until we depart for Rwanda! We fly to Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda, on August 19, leaving our dear friends, family, and neighborhood in Indianapolis so we can start a new chapter. We don’t have jobs yet–it’s fiiiiine–but with our current leads, a little networking, and wowing locals with our charm, we hope to find something soon.