Accepting the “not yet”

27 January 2015 –  Week 2

Learning a new language is an exciting intellectual and emotional process.

Not being able to understand what others are saying and not able to express your thoughts and needs in the local tongue can make one feel vulnerable and incompetent. This frustration can quickly turn into dependency on others (the locals who speak English or French). It’s more comforting and less stressful to hang out with local friends who speak English or French, but soon I realised that I need to face the challenge head-strong and accept the fact that “right now” I am not proficient in the local language but in due time, I will.

Uncomfortable as it may, I am more often than not in the position of listening and observing the context, surroundings, and people’s body language and mood. Surprisingly, by being attentive to the situation, I get pretty close to guessing the content of the conversation.

With the help of my local language teacher, Kalisa Jean-Paul, I am learning to read, write and speak in Kinyarwanda. Kinyarwanda is unique in a sense that it is used exclusively by people of Rwanda and Burundi (they call it Kirundi but it is almost the same as Kinyarwanda). Many words are influenced and borrowed from French and to some extent Swahili. For example, “ifurcheti” means fork (as “fourchette” in French); “igare” is bus terminal (as “gare” in French), etc. But some “pure” Kinyarwandan words and expressions offer a real taste of traditional wit and humour. Here are some examples.

Imbangukiragutebuka (ambulance):
This Scrabble-winning word reads in two parts – imbangukira (the one who wakes up) and gutebuka (quickly).

Kibonumwe (shooting star):
The literal meaning is “the one who saw”. When a group of friends walks at night, and one of them sees a shooting star and shouts ‘a shooting star!’ Others may follow suit, but the tail of a shooting star vanishes as quickly as the witness can scream it out loud. So the Rwandans call it, the one who saw.

Urare aharyana (May the best sleep where the bed bugs bite) and the reply;
Ahataryana harare umwanzi (The place where the bed bugs are not attacking is where enemy sleeps):
It is not a curse, but a good night greeting. The underlying logic (or wisdom?) is to wish for a good night sleep and an early rising wake-up (living and not dead) for the next day. Personally, I am not sure about this greeting, as I have previously suffered from bed bugs in Rwanda. I prefer to sleep like a (dead) log than being awake on a bed full of biting nightmares!


Rural development in Rwanda can be a rough ride but...

Rural development in Rwanda can be a rough ride but…

can it excel and accelerate like this?

can it excel and accelerate like this?

Home is where

22 January 2015 – It’s been a week since I arrived in Rwanda. Adjusting to local time, climate and living (change in language, currency, and the standards of living essentials like food, fire/electricity, water, and internet!) are not always easy, but I find the adjustment process much quicker and smoother this time. On my flight from Montreal to Kigali, I read some tips on how to beat the effects of jet-lag (Skylife January 2015).

1. Not eating before a flight and continuing afterwards can ease a certain area in the brain that organises sleeping, eating and hormone activities (A lighter meal, vegetarian option, for example, can also help).
2. Take Vitamin B before the flight.
3. Exercise for five minutes and meditating for 15 minutes can also help reduce the symptoms of jet-lag.

Once arrived at the destination, another technique that I find useful is to stand facing the sun in the morning (with the eyes closed of course). Direct sunlight helps to switch the body clock. Also, I exercise lightly but frequently to keep the body active and awake throughout the day. Most importantly, having a good night sleep takes care of the rest.
Thanks to the quick recovery, I was able to start private Kinyarwanda lessons at my good local friend Eric’s primary school (he is the headmaster at The Friends of the Children International School) in Rwamagana. I am reading, writing, listening and speaking like a ten-year-old and it brings me back memories of learning a new language when I first arrived in Canada. A circle of life? It’s the story of my life!

Some interesting differences between Montréal and Kigali – they are a world apart: geographically they differ by 47.4-degree latitude (Mtl 45.5 N and Kgl 1.9 S), and in Celcius, it feels 47-degree different (on the day of departure Mtl was -19 C and Kgl 28 C). They are both home to me now.

Il fait beau!

Il fait beau!

Elle fait chaud!

Elle fait chaud!

Artist: unknown Medium: cement floor, chalk.

Title: no title
Artist: unknown
Medium: cement floor, chalk.