Sagal Ali's Blog
July 10, 2006 — Awe struck
I’ve been in Kigali for several weeks now and am still in awe of the beauty of this country. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the green rolling hills of Rwanda are breathtaking.
The people are incredibly nice. I’ve been told on countless occasions that I look Rwandan. When I walk down the street alone, I don’t get the curious looks the others get. It’s interesting comparing an outing with my fellow Canadians and one with my Rwandan coworkers. A walk to work with the others usually includes people blatantly staring at the “Muzungus”, or white people. They’re not malicious stares, and although they can be a little off-putting at first, people are mainly just curious about the foreigners. Sometimes street kids will come up to us asking for money. And if they don’t ask, they usually linger around just in case one of us feels generous. When we go places as a group, we get the hiked up foreigner rate and it’s up to us to bargain it down to a more realistic price. If we’re in a restaurant, people will try to speak English to us, assuming we don’t speak Kinyarwanda (a safe assumption).
I’m very aware of my foreigner status when I’m with the others.
When I’m alone, my experience is quite different. I’ve gone to work and local markets by myself several times and don’t get the stares or the entourage of street kids. I blend in nicely. I walk down the street looking at things through Canadian eyes, but look like a native to most. As soon as I open my mouth, though, everything changes. My French is horrible and I don’t speak Kinyarwanda. At first I thought my cover was blown, but people just think I’m a Rwandan that grew up abroad and is back to visit.
People treat me equally well in both cases, though. The hospitality of the Rwandan people is heartwarming. I can’t help but wonder what it would be like for a Rwandan coming to Canada. Would they feel just as welcome?