It is about that time of the year when friends and relatives return from abroad. Many are excited to see them, not just because they were dearly missed, and they were, but also because they are eager to see ‘what they brought’.
It might not be known to everyone, however, “summer” isn’t a phenomenon that is limited to only Rwanda. The term generally applies to Africans who work abroad, when they take the much needed break to visit home.
In its truest form, the term “summer” is often used in a rather not-so-flattering sense. It is often deployed to convey the sum total of the mannerisms, eccentricities and attitudes of Africans visiting home from “outside countries”.
Of course, “outside countries” here is used to mostly mean Europe or America.
“Summers” can be loosely translated as “summer people” or “the summer crowd”: these are people that have been working hard under harsh weather conditions (read winter), and are now taking a break to go and bask in the tropical African sun.
In other words, if you are a Rwandan national that lives and works in Uganda or the DRC or Juba, or any other such country that is not “far”, you do not exactly fit the bill.
Well, now that you at least have a faint idea of what “summers” are, be sure to point them out the moment your eyes chance on the first one.
Kigali Heights is a favourite among younger “summers”. File
This is when someone who has been living in “outside countries” now attempts to compare everything back home with what they encountered while abroad.
“Why do businesses close so early in Kigali, yet in London everything runs 24 hours?” “Why can’t they build freeways instead of these narrow roads?” “Why is pizza here so expensive? I can get two for the same price in London.”
Should you happen to go out with a “summer”, they will demand that you reserve a table at the bar, restaurant or club, hours or even days before the actual outing. Then they will ask you why the hotel at which you are does not have a swimming pool.
If you see a guy brandishing stashes of American dollars, the British pound or Euros, chances are that he is a “summer”. If his every conversation about money has to include queries about where the forex bureau with the best rates is to be found, the more reason to label them “summer”.
One of the most clichéd jokes about “summers” is the claim that whenever they are home, they cause ‘inflation’, a euphemism for their supposedly deep pockets and spending habits. Or is it?
Like the Sprite tagline, image, to the “summers”, is everything, especially the image of deep pockets and prosperity. Typically, these people will go to any length to look rich. But appearances as we all know, can mean to be deceptive.
There are “summers” with loads of money, and there are those without a penny, literally. Those without a single penny are the ones you will find brandishing all sorts of credit and debit cards, and cheques.
When a situation arises where they need to spend money, they will claim to not have cash on them, and then proceed to ask you where the nearest forex bureau is to be found. They will even remind you that back in America, carrying actual cash is ancient.
Even the loaded and generous ones will soon learn that they can’t satisfy the financial needs of a whole village, and eventually zip up on their purses.
What is the point of living and working in London, Manchester, California or New York, if one can’t introduce a twang in their speech?
Apart from money, the other thing that “summers” hope to return back home with is an “accent”. Hence “summers” will no longer talk of chips, but “French fries”, or simply “fries”. If you ask one whether they will have some chips, they will shamelessly ask; “you mean fries?”
The petrol station now becomes “gas station”, while the ones from England choose to say “innit” instead of “isn’t it”.
A typical “summer”, should it be a man, believes that he is God’s gift to women. Unfortunately, many unsuspecting Rwandan girls also believe that “summers” are ‘the truth’ when it comes to finding husband material.
Stories abound of “summers” who put in place arrangements to find the prospective bride, months before they actually make the trip home. In such situations, a local pimp will be contracted to comb the town for beautiful young ladies “who want to get married to a loaded Rwandan man who stays abroad”.
Poor unsuspecting girl will be asked to send “loaded Rwandan man who stays abroad” anything from her pictures to nudes. She obliges.
On the day that the “summer” is to jet into Rwanda, the bride-to-be will be driven by the local pimp to Kigali International Airport, and wait patiently at the Arrivals Lounge.
Then the match made in heaven begins. Or is it? The man may book accommodation in a guest house or stay with a friend for a while, where he will occasionally invite his future bride for a drink.
The sly ones will find out if the woman has a house of her own, and shamelessly ask to move in, under the guise of saving money to cater for her air ticket and other requirements. He will take her to the occasional wine-themed dinner and such. Needless to say, he will also enjoy his “conjugal rights”.
To prove that she is wife material, the woman will have no qualms buying the food, paying rent and meeting other domestic bills.
Then one day the man will feign an urgent call from his employers back in Europe, while promising to process the girl’s flight once there. Once safely in Europe or America, the “groom” goes silent. Soon, it dawns on the girl that she was played.
Some “summers” are known to like fancy
There is usually a plus-size aspect about “summers”. The fast food culture leaves some of them looking rather plump. They wear large, sagging jeans, and equally large t-shirts/jackets/track suits, and the flashier, the better. They also like matching their shoes with their shirts or headgear the way that hip hop stars do it.
The men also like wearing tight-fitting shorts (the type that may have a turn up) to show off their legs, nice or otherwise.
As for the ladies, if you ever go to a pub or club that “summers” like, you might mistake a random Friday night for New York Fashion Week as it is a dress to impress kind of thing.
A ‘twegerane’ taxi. /File
Visitor in one’s own country
Ever hang around the ones who act like it is their first time here? What’s even more puzzling is that someone who was eating sliver fish the other day from a joint in Nyamirambo now looks at others in disgust as they order for zingalo, a popular dish in Rwandan restaurants, following ‘the look’ with ‘what is that?’ Because ‘they fear food poisoning’, they ask for something more sophisticated — like double-smoked salmon with horseradish cream. Never mind that it is not on the restaurant’s menu, or that the waiter has no idea what they are saying.
They will ask you why you use taxi-motos and not cabs, forgetting how often they used twegerane (small vans used for public transportation) to get around. They will complain about power cuts and poor water supply and talk about how they have a consistent supply of both in Croydon. But we are not in Croydon, are we?
“Ba summer” will complain about Internet from the day they jet in to the day they leave. If they do not have a local telecom line, they will bicker about places not having basic things likes Wi-Fi — even the neighborhood grocery shop also known as ‘kwa Mama Maria’ is not spared.
With some, going abroad (especially Europe) means immediately becoming English instructors. This particular group become brutal grammar Nazis even after just a few months of living abroad — without even a certificate to prove they took a course in the language. One wrong word and it’s a wrap.