Two days have passed since I am back from the fieldwork. Compared to the intensity and busy-ness of my last week in Rwanda (I was meeting government officials and NGO people up until last minute), I feel out of place finding myself sitting and watching over the Saint Lawrence River (Fleuve Saint-Laurent) with ducks and ducklings peacefully floating on the shore.

A sharp contrast from the evergreen hills in Rwanda. It will take a few more days, I guess. But all in all, I am content that the fieldwork is over. I look forward to exploring and analysing the data in detail.

On my last day in Rwanda, my local friends and family organised a farewell party. We slaughtered a goat and had a feast. We exchanged kind words and wishes; shared gifts and fun memories of our time together, and we sang and danced. As always, this visit was no different: their generosity and care yet again moved me. We lived together for over six months, and I feel much more in tune with the local customs and the way of thinking and living. For example, I have developed a very sensitive hearing for water that trickles through the pipes. There is rarely any water in the pipes during the day, but the water usually comes back in the middle of the night (it can be after 10 PM or in the early morning). So even when I am asleep, I sometimes wake up and go out to fill the water cans. It’s somewhat funny, but I think of it as a sixth sense – a survival instinct for water.


Perhaps you are wondering how my everyday life was like in Rwamagana. Here is a brief rundown.

My local family and home –

My friend Eric is in the middle and beside me is Eric’s little cousin, Providence, who is the only survivor of her family. Eric supported her studies throughout her high school and college. I lived with Eric, Providence and her friend Vestine (first on the left) who is attending a local university in Rwamagana.

family picture
family picture

Everyday living –

We used charcoal stoves for cooking. It’s smoky & messy and hard to control the heat and cooking time. I tried cooking several times, but it was so time-consuming that I only managed to cook on weekends. We don’t use cutting boards in Rwanda. We cut and slice everything in the air. Another thing I had to learn.

We washed everything by hand. We had to ration and coordinate together so that we could maximise our water use. We laundered our clothes first, and then we used the grey water to clean shoes, bicycle, and the floor. Water efficiency is a necessity.


We don’t have a refrigerator. We always bought fresh food from the local market. I am convinced that I can live without a fridge. (If there’s a market or a vegetable garden close by home) Fresh sourcing could have an added advantage of never buying more than what is necessary for two to three days of food needs. No food waste from spoilage, guaranteed. We got dairy and meat products for immediate consumption. If conditions are right, I am going to try this (refrigerator-free living) for myself.


The question that came up the most during the farewell party was: when are you coming back?

Good question! I don’t know when my next visit will be, but I am so amazed and comforted to know that I have people and place I can call family and home in the heart of Africa – that is Rwanda.

Thank you for everything and especially thank you (yes you!) for reading my posts. Your kind encouragement, interest and readership helped chase away the fieldwork blues. It was an individual work, but I was never alone. Like we often say in Rwanda: Turikumwe! (We are together!)

Murakoze cyane (thank you very much) and take care until next time!


Published by Sung Kyu Kim

Sung Kyu is a research fellow at the Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex

One thought on “Homecoming

  1. Congrats on finishing the fieldwork!!! My husband and I loved the stories you shared about how you guys lived. Glad you’re back but I had to look up where the Saint-Laurent river was to realize that you’re all the way in Quebec. If you were in Vancouver I’d definitely come up and see you… inshallah ;)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: