I just finished my first week in Kigali, Rwanda, and I am constantly surprised by the nuances of the culture here. On my first day at the hospital, I walked around with my in-country mentor, Brigitte, as she introduced me to everyone. I truly mean everyone. Almost everyone I walked past poked fun at Brigitte and called her “the most popular person at CHUK” (Central Hospitalier de Universitaire de Kigali). I, too, was greeted as an old friend despite my ignorance, and the teasing made me feel comfortable in a wildly unfamiliar setting.
On my walk to the hospital every morning, I walk through Nymirambo, which is known as the busiest neighborhood in Kigali. While most of Kigali seems barren by American standards (read: few cars and few pedestrians), Nymirambo has a constant flow of people. I really enjoy my walk to work because I am able to see the culture at its busiest. I pass children going to school, taxi drivers starting their routes, and businessmen walking to the city center. Every now and then I’ll see something wild, like someone carrying a live chicken by its feet, or a dance team warming up. My favorite spot is right before a fork in the road, where there is a mural about HIV/AIDS medicine with the phrase “life is expensive, protect yourself from HIV” in English and Kinyarwanda. My walk, while it is long, is probably the most informative part of my day. I hope to continue to keep my eyes open to new and interesting things every day.
My neighborhood is also known for having a high population of Muslims, which allows me to see yet another side of a complex city. The other day was Laylat al-Qadr, which is a holiday in the last ten days of Ramadan, which celebrates the night the Quran was revealed to Muhammad. The town was bustling with people in the best clothes, celebrating the holiday. It was truly amazing to see Kigali from that angle.
– Jessie Amick