Let no one fool you, Rwandans abroad

A few days ago I came across an excellent article on a link I got through twitter entitled “A letter to Kenyans Abroad” by Bikozulu. I am not attempting to write a replica piece but was rather inspired to share my thoughts on a similar note.
Louis Gakumba
Louis Gakumba

A few days ago I came across an excellent article on a link I got through twitter entitled “A letter to Kenyans Abroad” by Bikozulu. I am not attempting to write a replica piece but was rather inspired to share my thoughts on a similar note.

A Letter to Kenyans was originally intended for Kenyans and talks how members of Kenyan Diaspora behave while visiting their country. The article cuts across the board and speaks to Rwandans and probably the region since we share the same culture

It is true that most of the Rwandans in the Diaspora when we arrive back home; there is a tendency or expectation that things should work the same as, say, in the US, where I personally live.

We want faster Internet connection, paved roads, easy access to appliances like microwaves, and complain about charcoal stoves, dusty roads, unstable electricity, mosquito bites and me, in particular, cold shower.

But these are just superficial complaints. The real inner feelings for most of us when we are home are even more troubling. Personally, I feel left behind. We like to think coming from America we are better off than people back home but, in reality, people in Rwanda have achieved a lot more material wealth than we have.

They have established themselves; built homes, finished school, got married and have children.

In the end, family stability is something every man and woman really wants. It comes with responsibility and financial stability, which surprisingly people in Rwanda seem to have.

Unlike us making “more $$” in comparison to what people make back home, they live with an easiness of the modest revenue that sustain their family and are able to put aside small savings.  

On the intellectual aspect, those of us living abroad have been exposed to a harsher world, one that brings you down to your knees in humble acceptance. Upon arrival in America, we undergo humiliating training, learning how things work.

Knowing that a kitchen sink has hot and cold-water facets, sink dispenser or bathroom fan are among many things that expand our imagination with fascination of learning.

This exposure builds our confidence and pride. Once we know how to ski or skateboard, let alone how to drive and the comfort of flying on domestic flights, we become bigger than what we used to be. These experiences become the conversations at dinner table and we always like to be the centre of attention.

America changes you in ways you cannot anticipate. The economic system of this country forces you to see money through thick lenses.

In Rwanda $100 is just $100 – in America, we compute money by hourly wage and what a dollar can buy. I spend about $300 on bus and metro commute monthly. My car and health insurance cost me about $3,000 per year in addition to $1,200 rent for one bedroom apartment per month….the list is endless.

Life in America, for those who have not been here, is not the paradise, heaven on earth people like to think it is. Stress in this country will flip your emotions like a tossed coin. We have become slaves of the time.

Whether you are going to work, drop off children at school or attend your daughter’s soccer game, stress has become part of our daily lives and, as a result, the weak are prone to suicide or drug use to shield us from depressive feelings. 

One question I always struggle with is: “Why can’t we return home?” A lot of people, young and old, have a tendency to remain in America despite the harshness and loner life we find ourselves living.

Some people tell lies to prove fear of prosecution if returned home, in hopes they would be granted refugee status. It doesn’t matter if you talk evil of your government, a neighbour or family member so long as the immigration judge is convinced and approves your asylum case.

It is undeniably true that America has a lot to offer. Whether you are softened enough to know that you have to hold the door for someone behind you or pick up an object for a stranger, or simply feeding your imagination with the vastness of technology, politics, abundance of wealth in the presence of poverty; living in America is a rich experience that you cannot trade with anything else.

Let no one fool you. Living in France, UK, India, China, the US or what have you, is nothing over the top. We experience the same hardships as much as anyone else and when we are in Rwanda or Africa for that matter, I advise to humble ourselves and appreciate what our brothers and sisters have been able to accomplish.

Even though our ego is flaming hot with little dollars we might have on us, those in Rwanda have so much to teach us if we are humble enough to ask.  


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