Saturday morning I refused to answer the door. Saturday morning, 9 AM, sitting in my boxer-underwear sipping some coffee writing this column, trying to think of a theme. A theme rung my doorbell four times and I just decided I wasn’t getting up.
It was out of principle, a strong principle. Earlier that morning I was woken from my sleep by my phone ringing. It was a client calling me hoping to confirm a meeting for that weekend. We had met earlier in the week, just once, and I had given him my phone number and told him we should be in touch and meet up.
He didn’t call me at 10 in the morning, when it is more likely that I would be awake. He didn’t text me or simply leave a beep, so that I wouldn’t be disturbed. He didn’t even, God forbid, try contacting me on a business day. He called me eight hours into my first day of rest, and he left the phone ringing, waiting for me to answer, at 7:55 in the morning. Fifteen months after coming to this country, Rwandans have not yet adjusted to me, and I have not adjusted to this.
My name is Josh Kron and to all of you I am a muzungu. To me I am just another Kigaliite. I like moto-taxis, matoke, and munyarwandese. I go to nighttclubs, I listen to Necessary Noize, and live in Nyamirambo. I also like to sleep in on the weekends, the days when you wake up, blink your eyes, and decide the world is not ready for you yet, and you push yourself back into the embrace of the blankets.
I guess we’re not all the same.
Note to my fellow Rwandans: Weekend is private time. Saturday morning is silent time. No yelling, no loud radios, no calling my phone while I am still dreaming, and no ringing my doorbell for business before noon. I am not a lawyer, or a doctor, or something important like a police officer. I offer no emergency services, and no one needs anything from me. Unless you have come to give me money or cook me breakfast, please wait until later.
I wouldn’t be complaining like this if this Saturday morning was a one-time event, but this—‘incident’ I shall call it—fits comfortably in with a pattern and strange phenomenon we have in this great little country.
People here, including myself, spend so much of the rest of the day doing nothing at all. People go to work early in the morning, leave work early in the evening, and do very little for the rest of the day before going to sleep early too. Let’s push things back a few hours, shall we? We should stay in touch with nature, but to still be rising and setting with the sun is a little “too in touch,” no? After all, this is a developing nation.
Let’s develop some respect for each other and the possibility that we may want to sleep in a little on our days off.
We live in a very communal society. It has great advantages; collective security and collective ambition. But it leaves very little space for privacy, privacy of geography and time. It is difficult to be alone, and it’s difficult to do “your own thing.”
But Rwanda is growing, and it is changing. And while our culture may still have expectations of consensus and uniformity, let us stop with the assumptions. We do not all do the same things at the same time. Maybe everyone else is awake, but just because you are doesn’t mean I must. Should I come to your office tomorrow and ask if you want to play basketball?
So keep ringing my doorbell musee, I’m not getting up. We have no appointment; I don’t even know who you are. You have no idea what I may have done the night before, and I am not the strange one for being tired and lazy. Forgive me for not wanting to talk to anybody at all when I’ve barely managed to even standup, but absolutely nothing, short of a fire, would raise my frail tired body. And if it was Umuganda coming for me, my roommate was already turned away once.
He went one Saturday, his full light skin beaming with optimism and excitement to meet the neighbours in this fraternal work. They took a look and turned him away. “Go home,” they said, “today is personal Umuganda.”
So it is.