I remember when I was telling people “I’m going to Rwanda in June”. I got all sorts of reactions. From “Oh yea, Rwanda!” to “Rwanda ke? Genocide! Hutu! Tutsi! Is there no war there? Why Rwanda? Be careful oh”
It’s just so funny how people tend to define you by one chapter of your life [especially the unpleasant ones] but as the quote rightly reads, the world is a book and those who do not travel only read a page.
Super too-glad-for-words that I did go to Rwanda! [Honestly I was even low-key praying for Rwandan husband!] I really cannot wait to visit again and again! #YesItWasThatGoooood !
Here are five of my take-aways from Rwanda:
Our Past does not have to determine our present…
…except we give it power to! This was/is a lesson to self and to country too. Of course, I couldn’t visit Rwanda without making findings about the genocide [we all grew up watching Hotel Rwanda and Sometimes in April] so we visited the Kigali Genocide Center and it was… all shades of SAD and AMAZING! Sad because: how did this happen on the world’s watch? How on earth did people of the same country- neighbours, friends, colleagues, lovers turn on each other??? SIGH! That’s a story to tell another time, but it was so so amazing to see what had become of Rwanda, following that horror! Indeed, it was/is a tale of breath-taking beauty from the ashes!
This reminds me of the Nigerian history-still-happening. Talking about the Civil War down to the current Biafra/Igbo’s must leave the North saga. Nigerians can we move past the past?! The Rwandan genocide led to the death of about a million people in 100 days. It was such a horrible time and maybe they’ll never forget but they have refused to let the dark times keep them captive! Rwanda has moved on, why can’t we? Our past, really, does not have to dictate our present. NO TO TRIBALISM! It begins with you, and me.
Clean Up Nigeria
Yes, Clean up, we can! Did you know that KIGALI is the cleanest and safest city in Africa? YES! You can literally sleep on the streets in Kigali. You are not allowed to drop trash on the streets [there are bins everywhere] or walk on the grass/lawns. If you flout this order, you pay a fine of about Rwf10,000 [about $12] or engage in community service. As a multiple offender, jail is your lot! Just kidding!
The most beautiful part of this is that it’s no longer an order to the people of Rwanda, it’s a culture! They find it abnormal to throw things on the floor and would hold-on to their trash until they get to the nearest bin. Plastic bags are also not allowed in Rwanda, Paper bags are used instead and every last Saturday monthly, the citizens of Rwanda beginning with the President engage in Umuganda [a mandatory community service]. Is the Nigerian in you wondering “how will they catch me if I throw trash on the ground??” well, we were curious too, but no one wanted to be a scapegoat.
Talk about Law and Order…
Mention Rwanda! I mentioned in Point 2 that Rwanda was the safest city in Africa, Yes Sir! Almost at every junction, you find a policemen, low-key observing.
The speed limit in Rwanda is mostly 40km/hour [Yup, they don’t rush anywhere]. I remember one time we were asking our driver why he couldn’t “move” [he was just too slow for a Nigerian abeg, plus we were hurrying to catch a bus back home]. He replied by saying sorry, he couldn’t go past his speed limit and we shouldn’t worry about being late, we wouldn’t be! He was right, we were just in time! Rwandans are so patient!
Scenario two was the morning we were headed back to Nigeria. We were almost running late- it was an hour to flight take off. Our taxi driver didn’t show up so we had to call another cab. When the cabs arrived, they could only take 8 people conveniently [our taxi guy usually had sienna-like cabs that took all 9 of us]. Well, we had no choice, running late so we had to squeeze into the cab. Do you know that when we got to the airport, we had to pay a fine of Rwf10,000 for the extra one person that squeezed in the taxi?! We didn’t believe it! We were breaking the laws and we had to pay! No argument, No pleas, it was just what it was: Law and Order. Obey or be fined!
Customer is King
Can I take a moment to gush about how pleasant Rwandans generally are?!!! So we met this amazing guy, Benjamin, in Gisenyi. The day before, we had called Benjamin to say we’ll be arriving Gisenyi from Kigali and he was to be our pick-up guy/tour guide. That’s how Benjamin called by 6pm that he hadn’t seen us and he’d been waiting at the bus park since 2pm!!! We were like huh??? It happened that there was a “mix-up” of English Language there.
We felt so sorry for Benjamin and duly apologised. Next thing, we got a message from Benjamin saying he was so sorry for the mix up and he couldn’t wait to have us the next day. We were like: If this was a Nigerian, he would’ve rained curses on our grandparents by now … We arrived Gisenyi the next day and long-story-short, Benjamin remains the most amazing soul we met in Rwanda!! All shades of LOVE for the young man!
Rwandans generally are patient and courteous. Whenever they rendered a service, they were all so nice and pleasant. Learnt something about customer service there; your customer is always right; treat them well!
Less is More
Last but not the least; The Kigali International Airport is so small [perhaps one of the smallest] but highly functional! Talk about free non-passworded wifi [yes very important] to the fact that there’s never any queue, there are free charge-points everywhere and easy navigation for passengers on connecting flights, sparkling clean bathrooms and non-foul oxygen to breathe in… IMPRESSIVE! “So impressive”, everyone echoed! Why can’t our MMIA be like this?
When we arrived the Murtala Muhammad International Airport, I connected to the wifi. I was just seeing “enter password” when one lady came out lamenting “Hian! Later they will say they are coming from the abroad. They cannot flush. So-so shit full everywhere for toilet”. One pot-bellied immigrations man responded to an airport worker close by, shouting: “But I’ve told you, when any lady uses the toilet, go and check if they flushed or not. If they did not flush, come out and run after them, shout that they did not flush. Embarrass them so they will not do it again. All these dirty fine girls.”
I turned to my travel buddy, we both echoed “Welcome to Nigeria!”
Rwanda was such a lovely country! Serene, Peaceful, Bliss; the country made me so proud to be African! I cannot wait to visit a second time. I also cannot wait to see a New Nigeria, a better Nigeria! I believe so much in that Nigeria. I believe so much in a great Africa! God bless Africans!
Written by Abimbola Oladapo… for NaijaNomads.