Kigali, how do you do it?

The beginning of 2017 also marked the beginning of my 9th year on the same job as a radio show host. Something hit me; I wanted a change of routine. In fact, I went down on my knees and told God I needed a major shift in my life— I was desperate for change.

I remember browsing through the Internet trying to apply for scholarships and fellowships and came close to applying even for volunteer positions. I got some money and invested in a small venture back home. Mid-year I started working on a lifestyle magazine which is in its last stage.

The year passed and apart from the few things I was doing on the side, the routine had largely remained the same.

God must have had a different plan; He found a way of uprooting me — that is what I call it —because there is no other explanation for how things happened so fast within a very short time. Fast forward to the last day of Feb 2018, I packed my few bags and left for what was to be my new home, Kigali, Rwanda. It surprised me how I never thought of turning down the opportunity. There were many reasons I would have used to convince myself that it wasn’t the right thing to do. I was leaving behind my friends and family, my twins (nephew and niece) that brought me so much joy, my sister-in-law who had become accustomed to having one sister-in-law around as the other globe trotted.

I was moving further away from a place where my family could easily access me, Kitale in Western Kenya. It would now take more hours by road. I had just launched an education and mentorship programme for secondary school students in Western Kenya; I had a magazine and so much more.

The things I had started working on in 2017 had slowly piled up and taken shape but I pushed all that aside and left in pursuit of a different life, new city, job, friends and an entirely fresh start, so far it’s been thrilling.

I have made new friends within the short time I have been around. I am spending a lot of time with my colleagues, getting to know them better and learning about the country. I love it. 

A former colleague of mine recently sent me a message, surprised at finding out that I was in Rwanda; he wanted to know if I had ever thought of it, and indeed I had though I did not seriously follow it up. Looking back, maybe it wasn’t the right time, perhaps then there would be nobody to receive me, unlike now when a family has opened its doors to me and has made my life so easy.

It still doesn’t feel like I left one country for another, well, until I started noticing clear distinctions in the people and the way things are done in this country compared to my two other homes, Kenya and Uganda. I’m a true East African!

I am amazed at how close Kigali is to the other East African cities yet so far; the thought of littering makes you shudder, and one will ask kwani (you mean) there’s no downtown? There is, but even the people that operate there make conscious efforts to keep their environment clean.

Away from cleanliness, these people have mastered the art of minding their own business, I’m always unsure of whether to say ‘hello’ to someone or not, in most cases, I receive blank stares, and for a loud person like me who says ‘hello’ to everything and anything, I have caught myself laughing alone after looking at someone intending to say ‘hello’ but being ignored. I’m sure it will change with time after I have made more friends. 

I have witnessed five people being carried on a PSV motorbike in Uganda and Kenya, but it’s a different ball game in Rwanda, the motorbikes (taxi-moto) imported for this market are not even big enough for two passengers, and the fact that both the rider and passenger must wear helmets makes it even harder to carry more passengers. And my, oh my, the high level of discipline, it’s amazing how even moto riders respect traffic rules in this country. I single out moto (motorcycle) because it’s already difficult for motorists to respect traffic rules in other countries, how is it even possible to have everyone abide?

Recently while driving home with my friends we ran out of fuel, they started to panic. I asked why because we were not very far from a fuel station and all we needed were a few good Samaritans to push us. Indeed they showed up and helped. It was afterwards that Maureen said we survived being penalised. Yes; there is a penalty for running out of fuel in the middle of the road! When I inquired from my co-host Arnold he confirmed that there is a penalty for such, and he even went on to say, though lightly, that it’s aimed at teaching people how to plan-ahead, one has no right to cause traffic jam due to their carelessness. Have you ever heard of that?

I also learnt of a young man who was arrested for trying to bribe a cop, well, I know of places where you would be arrested for not doing exactly that.

Kigali is a very safe city and it’s not only because there are police patrols all over, but also because there are village security teams that work at night. The residents help the security teams by ensuring their security lights are on, there is a penalty for not switching them on, no stories of wanting to reduce the bills; that is a lame excuse, security takes precedence.

Life so far is amazing, my new show ‘Kigali in the Morning’ is doing well, more and more people are tuning in. This I’m certain will be an epic experience. Tune into 94.3 Royal FM whenever you visit Kigali city and when up and about across the globe find us on TuneIn.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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