The Life of a Muzungu

“It was very nice to see you, I will never forget you.” The money handler on a Kigali bus told a friend and I this, word for word as we were traveling back to our school. Such big words from someone we had barely talked to. Big words from anyone.

Muzungu can mean white person. It comes from a word meaning “to wander aimlessly”. It can mean wealthy, foreigner, not smart. Whatever the meaning, every one of us on the trip has been called a muzungu. It is not meant to be mean, but we sure as hell know when someone is talking about us.

10 Things I Have Learned in Rwanda (So Far)

1. Roosters sound like a person screaming and will wake you up at 5:30 am.

2. People are so nice. You can ask someone where something is and they will literally take you they, sometimes even if it takes two hours.

3. Children will ask you to take their picture and they’re probably the most adorable children I have ever seen.

4. Beer costs anywhere from 80 cents to $1.80. Also, 18 is the legal drinking age and you definitely meet some characters in Rwandan bars. A small “American sized” beer is considered extremely strange to consume on its own. Many people have laughed at me when I struggle to communicate that “no, just one is really enough!”

5. It’s hard to remember not to brush your teeth with the tap water. It is not safe for consumption and can only be used for everything except drinking.

6. No one wears deodorant and/or everyone sweats too much to have it be useful (including for us), which brings me to #7…

7. Forget everything you ever thought about public transportation. Does it look like it can only seat 12? No, it can definitely seat 20 or more. This is not comfortable, but, hey, you get used to it. People are crammed in there and the aforementioned sweat smell is a bit overpowering. There are no timetables, so it is necessary to ask which bus is yours.

8. There is so much we can’t eat at restaurants. No meat, no uncooked vegetables no peeled fruit. They wash it with the contaminated water sometimes and that can make you sick. The meat is cooked in fat instead of the oil we’re used to, which can hurt muzungu stomachs. I’m not a huge fan of the food yet but I hope it will grow on me.

9. It’s so safe here! No one will let anything happen to you and there are police and security safe here.

10. Finally, Christian missionaries sharing a hotel with young college students are not happy about the kinds of conversation topics they hear.

I love Rwanda. Maybe that’s temporary and culture shock hasn’t set in but it’s just so incredibly crazy that I’m actually in Africa. I’m actually, really, truly thousands of miles from home. The hills are gorgeous here and there is so much about the city that is fascinating and so beautiful.

I’ll have pictures later!

Wirirwe! (Goodbye in Kinyarwanda)

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