When I moved to Uganda over a year ago, I automatically became more interested in learning about various African narratives from different countries. I learned early on that relying on major news resources isn’t the optimal way to receive information about the continent.
One particular narrative that stood out for me was Rwanda’s story, especially regarding the 1994 Genocide. Don’t ask me why death and destruction, something that this country unfortunately faced, convicted me to explore, research and discover more about what really happened. I think that it was due to the horrific attacks that took place in such a short time frame and because of the fact that I slightly remember hearing about it as a pre-teen because as you know, growing up as an African-American child in the U.S.A. has its academic limitations, especially regarding historical contexts in relation to the African Diaspora.
After hearing about the new infrastructure improvements in and around the city and the modern developments since the horrific 1994 Genocide, Rwanda definitely comes across as a country which embodies prolific strength, determination and resilience.
It was a definite must that I visited Rwanda, not just for me but for knowledge, self-awareness, for my son…and definitely for the experience.
What do I think of Rwanda
Wow! I wish I could have stayed longer. That was my initial impression. I felt home. I felt that I needed to stay…an uncanny connection, so hard to explain.
Rwanda as a whole is definitely another beautiful African country that I’ve been blessed to see. I find it to be filled with a thousand hills as its description on Wiki suggests along with gorgeous people and a sense of peace and transparency that I recognized during random conversations, observations in transit and the many occurrences throughout the city. Kigali especially is very well-organized, clean, safe and innovative. Although, I’ve visited other countries in East Africa that aren’t as clean, Rwanda has a different approach all together which shows true authenticity.
In my honest opinion, Rwandan people come across as a bit more open-minded when it comes to communicating with foreigners, especially Black Americans. Maybe it is the fact that I pushed myself out there, defied the odds and openly communicated with random people who I came in contact with either regarding their thoughts on the aftermath of the genocide or how they liked Kigali in general. Honestly, I was met with truth, optimism and a very welcoming demeanor each time, something I can’t necessarily say about the other African countries I’ve visited nor the one I live in.
Africans…no matter where you’re from…
I had a chance to talk with one sistar who told me that she thinks we are all Africans, whether you come from the Americas or a fellow African country and that we have a commonality. She went on to say that we as a people, should acknowledge, support and uplift each other. She even indicated, with me in agreement, that black people should contribute to the overall growth, production and cultivation of the continent by giving time, insight, resources and the like as a collective.
This conversation sparked once she asked me where I came from. I told her to guess where she thought I was from, which more often than not, I find amusing because most people can’t figure me out. She, of course, said South Africa which I assume was because of my complexion. She commenced to tell me no because there are plenty of Rwandese ladies with my color. So, we continued with the dialogue that color doesn’t matter and that it’s about reshaping African relations amongst the diaspora so that we can represent in the best light in order to unite, uplift and encourage each other. This was a refreshing start to my trip because for that moment, I felt more welcomed than I had in a whole year in Uganda. Ugandans will let you know and make you feel like a foreigner. From this experience alone, Rwanda sits well with my soul.
Does it compare to Uganda?
I can compare and contrast Uganda and Rwanda in multiple ways but…I won’t. I think it would be uncouth to box the two in specific categories because both countries paint completely different narratives. Both beautiful in their own rights, each one carries a certain personality, strength and characteristic trait which makes them independently unique. The canvas of Rwanda is absolutely amazing. I’ll go into more details during my next blog post.
Each of my experiences, both positive and negative in regards to my stay on the continent confirms a lot for me at this time in my life. It confirms that this geographical location is on point and that I have a hell of a lot more traveling to do on the continent. This is just a start. Can’t wait!
Did you know that it was so last-minute?
If you think you’re last-minute, you definitely don’t know how I get down. I’m the queen of last-minute travel plans. Heck, I’m the queen of everything last-minute, especially with getting the memo for being on time. I won’t even get into my phobia for being on time…I really think it is an undiagnosed disorder of some sort since I can’t seem to cure it with anything I’ve tried.
What I call last-minute planning isn’t even in the vicinity of being a week in advance. My travel plans may happen the day I actually leave, heck hours before! This trip was planned literally “hours before”, although it was in my forecast for 2 weeks prior. I’d toggled with the idea and possibility of it all but up to a few days before I actually left, nothing had been mapped out in terms of planning…only in my head and in some aspects, I’m not sure if I’d count that since I wasn’t really putting anything into action.
I began with reaching out to my contacts and personal friends who had either visited or personally know people from Rwanda. I even reached out to a few of my Rwandese contacts who were helpful to connect me with a few friends via Whatsapp. I went as far as leaving a message on the Black Americans Abroad Face book page to see if someone else would be able to provide more insight into this trip and found that to be quite helpful.
Once I collected what I thought was a considerable amount of information from these said contacts coupled with my own Google searches and intertwined with other miscellaneous travel related sites, the real planning actually began. I literally took what I had collected over the past few days to encourage myself to purchase the ticket. I finally convinced myself that traveling to Rwanda was actually going to happen, God willing, and I had ultimate control over that. Woo Hoo!
Pinching pennies and shillings…
I decided to take the bus, primarily from a cost savings perspective. Hey, ya girl is on a budget and payday isn’t for another couple of weeks!
After going between Trinity and Jaguar bus stations, I decided to go with the latter. The Jaguar Coach services crew seemed to be a bit more approachable, aware and explanatory, something that I didn’t feel as much with Trinity, maybe because they seemed scammy…is that a word? I always put my radar on for being scammed. I hate that my accent is obviously American because in times like this, it reminds me that I really need to improve in another language…Time to brush up on my Swahili skills. Now, call it a good sales tactic if you will, but good customer service always trumps supersedes anything, especially when I’m spending that hard-earned Ugandan shilling!
I went bump through the night…
Yes, call me crazy if you want…I’ll allow it because I am definitely questioning my sanity after the decision I made to take a 10 hour bus ride from Kampala to Kigali. I know…it sounds like it sucked but it really wasn’t half bad considering that I saved over $400. The cost of tickets for 2 people (one-way) to Kigali is around $20 USD on the Jaguar bus. The cost of the plane ticket for 2 people (round trip) is $420-$450…go figure…literally.
I know, I know….the comfort, ease and quickness of the trip is all a part of the price but since I wasn’t in a hurry and am trying to live like a local in some regards, I decided to take a chance. Besides, when I took my trip to Nairobi, I took the bus back….and it wasn’t all that bad. This time, both trips were completely different. Being a spoiled girl who is used to specific amenities, it took a lot of adjustments, especially in regards to the broke reclining seats, complications at immigration with rude officials, random passenger farts and loud conversations from a man who obviously didn’t give a hoot about his privacy nor my ear drums. I managed somehow. Geesh! It’s all a part of the experience, right or nah?
Let’s get this show on the road…
Later that day, I scrambled to get my bags packed and everything else in order for this trip to happen. Spontaneous trip planning is beyond exciting but also very draining if you allow it. The stress of planning, packing and preparing in a matter of hours is not for the weak of heart. Proceed with caution because the art of last-minute packing is…well…not a task that everyone can pull off with grace. Since I’m the queen of last-minute travel, packing with grace and doing so with my eyes practically closed due to the lack of sleep takes talent, believe me. So, I was able to pack for two, book a hotel room and cook a light meal all within the span of 4 hours before my trip while my 9-year old son casually watched his favorite t.v. shows, oblivious to the apparent stress I was experiencing.
Kampala, you and I are cool but… I need some space.
I can have a love/hate relationship with a place that I stay in too long, hence my reason for travel.
You know, there is a nostalgia that happens when I plan a trip. I get gitty and over excited at the thought of being the bold, courageous and spontaneous woman I used to be way back when. Getting out of my comfort zone, discovering a new place and being a makeshift explorer of sorts is the stuff that makes life cool, exciting and worth living! I love it! Well, what do you know-a getaway within my budget was most definitely worthwhile as a mental refresher which was long overdue. Besides, I needed a shift in scenery, especially after a tremendously long-term. I don’t know about you but I need that “shift” every now and then to remind myself who I am and why the travel bug continues to infect me with wanderlust every time.
The driver was like….whoa!
We arrived to Kigali around 5 a.m. on Monday. I’ll be honest, although I contacted a driver prior to arriving, I was a bit reluctant because this is one of the first places that I’ve been to that I didn’t personally know someone. I’m so thankful that due to those good friends I mentioned earlier, getting good drivers, hotel recommendations and food places was effortless. So, a good friend of mine hooked me up with a driver. No, not like that but you know…
Arriving to a new city alone with no real contacts on site can be scary, especially at 5 a.m. Knowing that a driver would be there to pick us up and take us to the hotel really eased my nerves. So, the bus driver was heaven-sent. He picked us up during the entire duration of our trip. Very professional, friendly, clean, courteous…and most of all, extremely patient. I can’t emphasize the patience enough because with me, you gotta be patient. When I initially arrived at my hotel, they indicated that it would be no problem for me to check in early! Woo Hoo! Double win! God answered my prayers because after a night of bumping around on the bus for 10 hours (hey, get your mind out the gutter), I was ready for a good rest.
Looking for a good place to rest your head in Kigali…
I stayed at the 2000 hotel in downtown Kigali. From the time I walked in the door until I stepped foot out on my last day, I was treated immensely well. (Don’t worry, they are not paying me for this blog post…I’m speaking from all honesty). The room was nice and the price…well…was a bit more than I wanted to pay but since I skimmed on the transport, ya girl had to go a bit all out for hotel comfort. So, that’s just what I did and I didn’t regret it one bit. From the breakfast, customer service, room cleanliness, safe environment and location convenience, I was a truly satisfied customer and will return again. It’s a Chinese owned hotel and most of the guests that I observed who frequented the breakfast lines were French men. Any who, check out 2000 hotel if you happen to need a place to lay your head while in Kigali.
I’ll get back to you…
Overall, my 3 day trip to Rwanda was epic. Whew! This is a lot already. I’ll need to break my trip up into multiple blog posts. So, please stay posted to this blog as I share with you my experiences at the genocide museum, eating at a local Rwandese restaurant, visiting Lake Kivu on the border of Congo and even shopping at a local market. In order for you to know when I post again, you should follow me because once I submit my next blog post, you’ll be instantly notified. Make sure to comment, share and like… (I sound like one of my You tube videos…lol).