Mwaramutseho!

Yes, that’s a word in Kinyarwanda! Anyone would like to guess what it means? Let me help you by saying that more common version is: “mwaramutse “. Does it ring a bell now?

Still nothing? Well, don’t worry, it’s ok to be umuzungu and we have 6 months to learn 😉

First of all, thank you for being with me recently! You’ve been amazing! Thank you!

I promised to post something by end of June and I probably got a few red dots for this delay but you have to forgive me. I’m now on African time 😉

It’s been over a week but I still can’t believe I’m here! In Kigali! On the other hand though, it feels I’ve been here already for a longer while. Confusing, isn’t it? I’m trying to remember what my first day was like and it seems like ages ago. I should have taken notes every day. 😉 Does it mean I’m settling in pretty well? I guess I am and I like it here! This, however, doesn’t mean I don’t miss you! Of course I do and think of you all very often. I know, it’s normal at the beginning, soon I’ll forget about you. 😉

As this blog is for you, please tell me what you’d like to hear about? Rwanda? Kigali? Work? People?

You know I can talk a lot… Please however be patient because at the moment I know very little about Rwanda, Kigali, people, and even less about… my work. (I hope my manager doesn’t read this) 😉

Some of you have asked me for photos (some asked for photos with gorillas…) and I’m sorry to disappoint you but I haven’t seen much yet, so again, please be patient.

Here is what I see every morning:

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For those who don’t have any urgent meetings / tasks and those who are in long meetings, here are some highlights of my first week:

–          Saturday: 8pm plane lands in Kigali. It’s dark, like in the middle of the night (the Sun sets down around 6pm here). With a big smile and eyes wide open I follow others to the airport building. I look around. There are four queues and a big poster above the first one that says: “Get local money with your visa”. As I don’t need Rwandan franks now I decide to join the other queue. That’s a mistake, but I’m not aware of it yet. Luckily, Rwandans are very kind and helpful. One of the guards checks if I have my entry visa. I show him confirmation from Rwandan Immigration Office stating that my request was approved. Of course I have to pay for it now and guess what? It can be done only at first desk. Only when you are the first in line you can see a little sign below: “Pay for your visa here”. Visa & visa. Same, same but different 😉 Ok, done. Let’s pick up my bags. I move to baggage claim area. Ten minutes later I’m still waiting. Twenty minutes later I’m still watching the belts and realize there is a little cockroach, apparently waiting for its’ bag too. So we wait together for a while but soon it leaves me alone without saying bye. 😉 Eventually my bags arrive and I go to arrivals hoping the driver didn’t leave. He is there! My new friend from Clinton Foundation too! I guess I’m in the right place.

–          Sunday: quick tour around the city, getting local currency, local number, a dongle for Internet, basic food supply, etc. Afterwards, we go to a local restaurant for traditional brochettes and best potatoes in the city. We get our drinks almost straight away but food arrives an hour later! Haha, like in Peru. It was worth waiting though.

–          Monday:  Meetings. Meetings with everybody! So many new faces and names to remember. First with the Head of the department, second with CHAI Country Manager. Followed by a lunch with CHAI Team at Ethiopian restaurant (very good!).

By end of the day I even have a car! Rented one, but really nice and at good price! I was lucky and got an upgrade!

–          Tuesday:  Meetings contd. New names to memorise. I meet the Team I’ll be working with, have lunch with the Director General of the Rwandan Biomedical Centre. In the afternoon, we are taken on a tour around a couple of warehouses. I must say they are slightly different to what I could see for example in Poznan. Here almost everything is manual…

–          Wednesday: Taking part in operational meeting and discussion on standard tender procedure. Coming from a manufacturing Site it’s really interesting to be on the other side. It’s also a good opportunity to see local ways of working and observe people’s behaviours. Two hours later meeting ends but task is not completed. We agree to finish discussion another day. Does it sound familiar? 😉

Did I mention that French is commonly spoken here? I must have also mentioned: “Je ne parles pas francais”. Well, I will soon! I decide to take lessons and improve what I learnt few years ago. Ambitious, I know!

–          Thursday & Friday: more meetings. I try to get my head around everything. I’m a stranger who asks a million of questions: what, why, when, etc. Expectations have been set up high and I can feel the pressure. At the moment this is a good feeling, it’s motivating and encouraging, especially when you are among people who want to change something. Of course this won’t happen without some reluctance, everything that is new may scare at first. What makes me believe that this resistance can be overcome, is the fact that they are interested how things are done in Europe, they want to know if anything can be done differently. The journey begins!

–          Saturday: Umugada. I told some of you that once a month (on the last Saturday of the month) people gather here to clean the city. Well, they do, but they not necessarily always clean the city. They do various activities, inc. building homes for less privileged, cutting grass or in case of doctors – providing free service. People of age 18 – 65 are obliged by law to take part in this volunteering work. The aim of these activities is not having the grass cut and bushes trimmed but to build community involvement and improve relationships between people of different backgrounds. Do you think this would work in Europe?

As I’m now part of the Rwandan team (although I’m still waiting for my work permit), I was invited to take part in it too. I joined a group of Adventists, so we met on Sunday instead. Now, imagine: you arrive to your meeting point and you’re given a kind of a scythe… I wonder how you’d react? I was surprised but well, ok, let’s try! Believe me it’s not as easy as you may think. I quickly give it back to an expert. Better and safer for everybody who is around 😉

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Ok, that’s it for now. I promise future posts will be much shorter!

Your Umuzungu*

(*a white person or the one who walks around…)

PS.

I’ve almost forgotten! I’ve found the source of Nile! 😉

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