As I sit on the porch of my office staring at the hills in the direction of Kiyovu, I cannot help but reflect on my recent visit to my homeland Jamaica. In the past, I have written articles referring to what each country could learn from the other.
Once again I find myself itching to make the comparisons, not to make a statement of one being better than the other. Rather I do the comparison to reflect on how wondrous the creator of the world was and how fortunate this woman is to have two wonderful places to call home.
Jamaica being home, the land of my birth and influencer of my thought process and social interactions while Rwanda is home as in the place I now reside.As I landed back to Rwanda last week I felt a smile spread across my face.
Yes I was happy that I would see and be with my husband once more but it was also joyous to know that when I awoke the next morning, it would be to the sound of birds chirping or nipping at my window depending on the hour I chose to wake up and draw the curtains.
The sounds and sight of the birds is such a simple thing but in Jamaica our capital city has become so commercialized that the simple things belonging to nature are all but gone from that part of the island.
On the other hand, when I boarded the plane to leave Jamaica I all but cried; not just because I had spent quality one and one time with my mother and would miss her dearly.
The tears were also sadness at my having to leave a country that was so rich in “personality” that at times I felt an overload.
That said, the comparison between both nations doesn’t end with that which affect my five senses. It is much more than that. On a recent episode of a tv show here in Rwanda, the esteemed panel was asked who should replace the now former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation since she has been elevated to the external position of Secretary General of La Francophonie.
The response from the panel reflected the idea that this was not an issue to be speculated about but rather should be left to President Kagame’s decision and nothing more.
I was initially quite taken aback and began to remember many other times when a similar response was given when decisions were to be made re other government positions to be filled.
It also dawned on me in that moment that I have never heard a Rwandan express ambition to be the future president or to hold any Cabinet level position in this country.
This way of being is as foreign to me as the idea of never having swam in an ocean. In Jamaica, our current Prime Minister had stated quite early in his career that his ambition was to be Jamaica’s head of state at some point in his life.
As a university student I had expressed a life goal to be my country’s Minister of Education. I can create a list of several current Members of Parliament in Jamaica who have ambitions for the top job.
To express ambition and goals and to offer opinions as to who should be offered which government appointments comes as easily to a Jamaican as selecting what to eat for dinner.
To provide opinions on any and everything from politics, to sports to religion to international relations and everything in between is almost a national pastime on our island.
With this in mind, my initial reaction to the response from the panel mentioned earlier was one of horror. All kinds of negative connotations came to mind. But if my many hours by the ocean in Jamaica over the last few weeks taught me nothing else, it reminded me that cultural context must never be ignored.
We must never judge a country for simply operating in a way which works for its people. Who am I to say that the Jamaican way is better? It is more appealing to me but that does not make it better. Thanks to the Caribbean Sea I am learning to be more mindful and accepting of differences.
The writer is owner and managing director of Forrest Jackson Properties, a full-service real estate company in Kigali, Rwanda
The views expressed in this article are of the authors.