I Am Rwandan

Another of my recently discovered posts.

I really feel like Rwanda is my home now. I frequently point out that I am a Rwandan and not an American or a Muzungu and my Rwandan friends and family are very supportive of this change.

Going back to America will be beyond strange and other than seeing the people that I love and miss, I am not excited about it at all. I would much rather just bring those people here than ever go back to America.

I have a Rwandan name now – UMUHORAKEYE Katy. My Rwandan name means ‘the one who is always smiling.’ It is kind of funny how I have come to have this name. It is actually my homestay family’s family name and being a member of the family it is also my family name. One day on a bus I was talking to a stranger about my time in Rwanda so far and he pointed out that I should have a Rwandan name and proceeded to pick one out for me. He named me Umuhorakeye and naturally I had a bit of a hard time understanding him because it was a word I thought I had never heard or seen before. After the man gave me this Rwandan name I took out my phone to show him what my family name was. Once he read it he exclaimed that it was the same as the name he had just given me. We realized that this clearly was the perfect name for me considering that it was my family name and it had been given to me based on how well it fit my personality. This explains the title of my website by the way.

Nvuga ikinyarwanda gike or I speak a little Kinyarwanda. Depending on my audience, how impressed people are with my lingual skills varies. I also am pretty decent at speaking more than I think I can. Since we stopped having classes in the middle of February and especially since I moved out of my homestay I have limited opportunities to speak Kinyarwanda. I know this sounds silly since it is the most spoken language in the country but the majority of the people I interact with speak good enough english. I would say most of my Kinyarwanda speaking takes place with strangers on buses or when I am walking, during moto rides, when I talk to strange children and at restaurants/bars. Sometimes my Rwandan friends will make me speak Kinyarwanda to them just for fun but we usually converse in English. There are quite a few things that I say in Kinyarwanda instead of English now and I definitely get things really jumbled when I try to speak Spanish now. It comes out as a combination of Spanish, Kinyarwanda, French and English and my housemates are surprisingly good at deciphering it.

The other day we went to visit the homestay family of one of my housemates. Every time you greet people you do some combination of hugs, kisses, arm grabs and handshakes. All of these are very gentle when you are interacting with Rwandans. The firm handshake is not something that exists here and whenever I stumble across one it startles me. Not sure how I will handle the multitude of them back in America. I hugged and shook hands with my housemate’s brother and shortly after received one of the highest compliments that I have received since arriving here. I was told that I hug like a Rwandan now. This basically means that my hug was very awkward and soft. I could not have been more proud of myself though for mastering an aspect of Rwandan culture.

Later that day as we were walking to watch a football match at a bar the same brother was walking and chatting with me about how I am a Rwandan. This might be one of the proudest moments of my life. He told me that I am a Musaza. The word musaza means brother and whely n you are talking about your brother you refer to them as musaza or musaza wanjye. For men they would never technically call their brother musaza as it is to be used by females only but musaza also refers to a person that you respect or an elder. So for me, I only call my brother musaza wanjye otherwise it means that he is an old man. For my guy friends they can call their brothers musaza and it is more of a cultural translation than a literal one. My friend’s brother told me that I was a musaza though and this particular meaning meant that I was a respected Rwandan which I greatly appreciated.

There are more things about my life that make me pretty darn Rwandan but I cannot think of them at the moment. I’ll add them as I remember them.

Categories: From Rwanda | Leave a comment

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