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June 10, 2007 – A lesson in directness

I'm not self-conscious about my body. It hasn't always been that way but in recent years I've learned to love and embrace it – imperfections and all.

In Rwanda, people embrace my imperfections too – and love to talk about them. For a supposedly indirect culture, this is something I've found to be a little strange. I've watched long conversations take place between a waiter and a patron just to have a bottle of Fanta opened. So, why is it that everyone is so quick to talk about my "Rwandan hips."

I understand the fascination. No one is used to seeing a muzungu with a booty. Like I said, I love it. I embrace it. I don't need a group of people standing around me, pointing and talking about it.

On the plus side, people seem to like my figure. But, it has made me become more conscious of it and how it compares to the models I'm used to seeing in magazines back home. I even find myself asking the question that makes every man cringe, "Does my butt look big in this?"

But, that was the first few times I received comments. Since then, I've been thinking, rather than worrying, maybe this directness is good for my self-esteem. By not mentioning body type like we do in Canada, we begin wondering what everyone else thinks. We compare ourselves to others in our minds and wonder if friends are telling the truth when they say, "Oh no, you look great."

Here, the mystery is gone.  

Does my butt look big? Yes it does and no one is afraid to tell me. The mystery is solved. I have my answer. The worrying is over.

I can go back to loving my body.


June 6, 2007 – International Day of the African Child

Anyone who knows me well will be shocked to hear this – I’m absolutely in love with these kids.

Everyday on my walk home for lunch I cross paths with a school group. Before I know it I have countless little hands wrapped around my legs and I’m listening to a chorus of bonjours.

At home, this might have made me cringe (I’m not really that into kids). But these kids are different. They have constant grins on their faces and they get such amusement out of kicking around a ball made out of banana leaves. And, they are incredibly imaginative, probably because their lives are untouched by video games, television and expensive toys.

Today, I pitched a mini-doc today to Internews (the NGO where I’m doing my internship) about the children and their toys. They jumped on it and told me one more thing – today is the International Day of the African Child.

I guess doing this must be fate.


June 3, 2007 – Feeling like a kid again

It’s amazing how some things trigger a reaction. It’s especially amazing when my reaction is a lot like a 5-year-old on a trip to the zoo. That’s exactly what happened to me yesterday when I pointed and screamed, “Monkey! Monkey!” out the car window.

Our day started at 5 a.m. when Kate, David and I made the trek up to the other house to get in to the two waited 4x4 SUVs. A two-hour drive on the wrong side of the road later and we arrived at Akegara National Park. It may have been early but well worth it to see Africa from the pages of national geographic.

Our first stop was the giraffe area where we saw a number of the amazing creatures eat leaves while a herd of zebras galloped around them. We also saw hippos float lazily in the lake and antelopes run through the tall grass. And, as I mentioned, I saw a baboon.

The seven hour drive through the park took past the palm-lined lake and to the top of the park’s highest hill. There, we got a beautiful view of the blue waters, green palms and the hills of Tanzania. Our car also got to see where the dust kicked up by the car in front of us went – all over us.

One thing to be certain, the roads are pretty much the same as Kigali. I have a couple of large bumps on my head from the road.


June 2, 2007 – Nice day for a white wedding

A week in and so far Rwanda has been treating me well. The scenery is breathtaking, the food is delicious, and most of all, the people are incredibly hospitable. Today is experienced this hospitality first-hand when I attended a Rwandan wedding ceremony.

The bride is the cousin of Melodie’s coworker. Melodie invited me along as her guest.

One week earlier, I attended a friend’s wedding in Canada. But while the weddings were similar in name (traditional, church weddings that is), this was unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

The bride and groom sat under a decorated awning on a stage before a large crowd. The hall was set up much like a concert with rows of chairs easily seating about 200 guests. As we arrived, a group of traditional Rwandese dancers performed for the audience. We took our seats to listen to the traditional music that filled the packed hall and watched the elegantly-dressed women dance in perfect unison.

The reception involved many traditions beyond cutting the cake and throwing the bouquet. At one point, the wedding party passed around a jug of beer that was eventually given to the parents of the bridge and groom. When they did cut the cake, the bride and her bridesmaids then served pieces to the crowd so she could practice what it would be like to serve her family.

While I sat in awe of beautiful dancing and music, I suddenly realized I was attracting some attention of my own. All of a sudden, I felt a small tug on my hair followed by a question I’ve been getting used to lately.

“How old is your hair?”

“One year,” I said, a little embarrassed it’s been that long since my last cut. Then, anticipating the next question, “You can go ahead and touch it if you want.”

Sure enough, with in seconds, five or six hands were rubbing my head.

Some time later, the wedding party and guests ushered out of the hall and we decided to make our way back home.

We asked if that was the end.

“No, they are headed to another hall for dancing.”

I guess some traditions are universal.




June 10, 2007 — A lesson in directness

June 6, 2007 — International Day of the African Child

June 3, 2007 — Feeling like a kid again

June 2, 2007 — Nice day for a white wedding


    © 2006 Carleton University School of Journalism and Communication DESIGN: SMDESIGN