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An incomplete list of Rwandan impressions
Monday, 29 September 2014 Written by Iva Burazin

From the moment I arrived in Rwanda, and after the initial feelings of shock and fear subsided (I admit it, I had such feelings), I started absorbing everything around me. I directed all my senses towards all the things I expected to find here. But I have never been so wrong in my life! My first visit to Africa is far more intense than anything that can be seen or read on television, magazines or computers. Don’t trust them, don’t trust anyone! Words and images are powerless in comparison with what Africa is able to offer. All the colours of rich African clothing, the smells of local food, the sounds of the songs and car horns, children’s smiles...

An incomplete list of Rwandan impressions

I was absolutely flooded with those. If you take a closer look into my eyes, you will see my excitement. And I want to share it. I want to at least try to describe what I have seen and learned. That is why I leave behind a list of moments and impressions that made me laugh and let me have fun:

  1. If you sit in the company of a Rwandan, half an hour later you will start humming along with their cellphone ringtone.
  2. In the car there always has to be someone in the back seat blocking the rear-view mirror. It just happened on one occasion that that person was me. Regardless of how lovable they appear to be, the inhabitants of Rwanda are not exactly top drivers. That’s why, every now and then, someone forgets to dip their headlights and thus blinds other drivers for a little while. But, as a person who blocked the rear-view mirror, I dare to say that it wasn’t really a big deal. The driver probably won’t agree with this.
  3. You have to get your hands real dirty for a piece of chocolate. Seriously, I’m still pulling splinters out of my hands. There is a lot of work here. There are also a lot of ideas. All we need now are men ready to put their ideas to action. And if the reward for work is sweets, then that’s just an extra.
  4. If they tell you to eat, you eat. There’s no joking with that either. Food is not to be wasted, it’s too precious. Even if every day you were the last one who was still eating while all the others are already tapping their feet telling you to hurry up. It just happens that it was once again me, who was disrupting the whole schedule. I hereby apologize to all those who ate at the same table with me.
  5. Pantomime is a universal language. And so are smiling and waving. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to learn Kinyarwanda, the language spoken in Rwanda. I tried English, but the locals don’t seem to understand it. I know how to greet in French, but then they start talking a lot. That is why I have been using a great amount of gestures and smiles. And so far I haven’t noticed anyone complaining about smiling.
  6. Your name is not Petra, Mary, Nicholas or Mark. Your name is Muzungu. Except if you put an extra effort and introduce yourself with your name. You bend down a bit, hold out your hand and dedicate a moment of your attention to your interlocutor. Because there is nothing as beautiful as when, next time, you see happiness on a child’s face as he or she is joyfully running towards you and calling you by your name. That is so much more of a blessing than waving with a silly smile on your face every time someone says “Muzungu!”.
  7. All of the above doesn’t bother you a least bit, but instead makes you happy. Phone ringing, pantomime, work... it’s all just a prelude to loads of smiles and happiness that await you. It’s all a blessing called Rwanda. It’s up to you to accept that blessing as such and, if you’re lucky enough, become a small part of it.

There are many more things, but I’m still observing, still learning about everything that surrounds me. I won’t pretend either that I know everything about this hilly and truly beautiful country. I don’t even know the half of it, but I’m ready to learn. And to absorb, over and over again, the same colours and smells, till I’ve had enough (and that, it seems, is not going to happen any time soon).

In the end, I can only add: don’t listen to me either. Don’t believe me for a second when I tell you about Rwanda. Come and see for yourselves! Rwanda is waiting to delight you more than any words can.

Translated by Branimir Mlakić
Edited by Valerie Kae Ken

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