Hello Wild Ones 🌸🌸🌸
I hope you are well and that you taking good care of yourself. I hope that you are loving on yourself and giving yourself grace for the things you fail to do for yourself. I am currently slightly struggling emotionally but I have a whole bag of self love and grace so I will survive this💓 .
Whenever I tell someone that I study in Rwanda, I am sure to get two reactions. One is “Wow, you are studying outside the country!!” and the other is “Why but Kenya has a better education system”. I hate both reactions. The first one is because Rwanda is just 50 dollars away from Kenya if you travel by bus so I never really consider it a big deal. The second one is because I hate having to explain why I chose to go but that’s a story for another day. Today I will be talking about the struggles of being just 50 dollars away from home and how sometimes it’s a bigger deal than I ever want to admit. Rwanda is in East Africa but it is so different from Kenya.
- The pressure to succeed – Every first year in my school goes through a program called Leadership Core and it’s hectic and intense. I remember I was always on the run to do an assignment or struggling not to fight with a peer member on whether they have done their part. The program is built to build character and resilience for anyone working in a fast-paced working environment so we always had some assignments or projects or just too much competition to be the best. I had to deal with all of this while still feeling the pressure of being a scholarship student who has to pass and being the successful daughter that went to study outside the country. It is one thing to drop out of school when you are in your home country but it’s a horror to even dare think of it when you are studying outside of the country. I remember the number of times I used to call my mother on the verge of tears about how hard school was and she being a typical African parent would always hit me with a classic ‘Well, you went there to study so study!’ Of course, I eventually developed a backbone for the pressure and learned how to juggle a million things at the same time but if that was really hard for me.
- Language Barrier– When I first arrived in Rwanda, Kinyarwanda sounded like Kikuyu, in fact, I could understand somethings and their love for potatoes just made me feel like I was home. Well that’s before, some Rwandans thought I was Rwandan because of my slim face and a big forehead and they would often go on and on in Kinyarwanda before I would find the perfect opportunity to mutter ‘Kinyarwanda, No.’ Most Rwandans don’t know English or Kiswahili, they speak French or Kinyarwanda. So you can imagine how hard it can be to navigate around a country with only a few words to help you. Eventually, I learned the important phrases for survival like how to negotiate for the price of a motorcycle ride (it’s the most common means of transport) or greeting ‘Amakuru’ (Although sometimes I confuse ‘thank you’ and ‘how are you’)
- Cultural Shock – My love for Rwandan cuisine starts with the potatoes and ends there. I always turn to food when I am going through something so imagine my disappointment when I couldn’t find food that I really enjoyed. Not that Rwandan food is bad, it’s just so different. Their ‘ugali’ is more sticky and smooth, they prefer amaranth instead of sukuma wiki (kales) to go with it. It is hard to find Kales or ndengu (Green Grams) there and these were such key ingredients to my daily food. There is so much more about their cuisine that I struggle with but I will leave it at that for now. But I will admit that Rwanda has the best Samosas especially the ones with hard-boiled eggs in the middle. Another thing about Rwandans is that they are laid-back never as loud and fast as Kenyans and this can be weird and a little frustrating when you are used to the fast-paced life of Nairobi. You need a lot of patience and empathy if you are going to survive in Kigali.
- Money– Between the money that I got from my mum and my scholarship stipend, I was close to a millionaire when I changed my money into Rwandan Francs so you can imagine my shock when month three came and I was very broke. Rwanda is landlocked so everything that comes from outside the country is more expensive compared to prices in Kenya. Also when you are a millionaire no matter the type of currency, you tend to feel yourself a little so you know I spent a lot of money on Samosas at Simba Supermarket. Other than that, the struggle of having to convert prices to Kenyan Shillings just to weigh if the price makes sense had me buying stuff that should cost 5 dollars at 50 dollars (See maths is important). I eventually found a way to save my money, became better at math, and also learned to use Kinyarwanda when I am buying stuff because foreigners always get overcharged everywhere but not before skipping a few meals because there was no way I was going to tell my mother that I had lost my millionaire status.
- No home– When something goes wrong, you just pack your bags and go home but not when you are in a different country and short of cash. I often used to underestimate the proximity of my mum when I needed her until I was in a different country and always on the verge of tears. This is where the Kenyan community in Rwanda came in handy, there’s nothing more exciting than meeting a Kenyan in Rwanda. You immediately switch to Kiswahili and turn into instant best friends. You exchange numbers and give each other tips on the best places to eat and party especially at those embassy parties held every Kenya public holiday. These groups help you settle but make sure you have made friends outside of your Kenyan community. (I still learning this)
- Adulting-Adulting in your home country always comes with an allowance to make mistakes but not so much when you are an immigrant somewhere else. You know how when you were applying for your ID you knew who to ask everything? Well, it’s not the same when you are applying for your student visa or looking for a house or arguing with your landlord who speaks only in Kinyarwanda and you in English. Your mistakes come with more consequences because you are often alone but that just teaches you to be more confident, modest, and careful.
Which point was most interesting to you? If an international student, which point did you resonate with?
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With looove and joy,