1st Day in Rwanda: Goat Eating, Underwear Stealing & Falling out of Taxis


Only six months later and I’m back in Kigali, Rwanda. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t planning on coming back anytime soon- not because I don’t want to, but because I figured I wouldn’t have time- but here I am once again! Since I’m not heading back to school until around January 20th, I would’ve had more than 2 full weeks just sitting around at home with nothing to do. Thus, impromptu purchase of airplane ticket and the traveling bird is off again.

Despite a 7 hour time difference and over 30 hours of travel, my sister Mary Patton and I woke up nice and early to seize the day after getting in late to my other sister Elizabeth’s and her fiance Dave’s house the night before. When we trekked up the hill to a nearby grocery store that morning to buy some food, Charles, one of the workers there, eagerly followed us around and translated what we pointed at into Kinyarwanda. With a small carton of local chicken eggs (amaji)– which only cost 200 RWF or 33 cents– in tow, we went back home to cook our first Rwandan meal.

Unfortunately for Dave, he did not have a Charles when he first moved here to tell him eggs are amaji, so one time, in an attempt to describe an egg, he flapped about doing a chicken dance, and then proceeded to fake birth an egg. The man watching nodded, hurried away, and brought back toilet paper.

Hmm, I guess that’s what they think white people look like when going the bathroom?

Moto-ing across Town

After breakfast, we hopped on motos, the main mode of transportation here, and headed over to Nyamirambo, the Muslim quarter of Kigali. After exploring the market and wandering around in search of mosques, we stumbled upon Amigo Bar, a 2-story restaurant with a balcony overlooking the hills. Being the lazy, hungry Americans that we are, we decided to rest our haunches there and listen to the ancient 90s music being blasted over the speakers. When the waiter came over to take our order, we were informed that the menu was “not written down,” so when we asked what foods they had, he paused, replied “one minute” and scurried off. A few minutes later, he returned, confident and ready to recite the menu. Unfortunately, the not-written-down menu consisted solely of “goat, chicken, rabbit.” After deciding on goat, he responded “yes” and pointed at his chest, arms, and legs. “Which one?” Not being specialists on the relationship between goat anatomy and deliciousness, we paused. The waiter came to our rescue by smacking his chest twice and saying “this best part”.

The goat was delicious, but very very chewy. It also took over an hour– because they had to run down to the slaughterhouse to complete our order. But let’s not dwell on that. Before they brought the goat out, one of the waitresses came over with a tub and a pitcher of water. She stood next to Mary Patton and waited expectantly for a few minutes; Mary Patton and I exchanged awkward glances, unsure of what to do, until the other girl with us (who had lived in Rwanda for awhile) whispered “wash your hands!”

Huh? What is this?

So that’s what it’s for! But the day did not end there. We then called our Rwandan friend Muhire, whom we were going to party with that night, who told us to come over to some house. Well, we did, and bonded with some Rwandans.

Muhire is an interesting person. He speaks 7 languages- French, English, Kinyarwanda, Swahili, and 3 Ugandan tribal languages. He also knows more about American culture than I do: Texas is the Longhorn state, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube and The Game hail from Compton, and Snoop Dogg comes from Long Beach. When interviewing for a translator job, he was asked to tell a joke in Kinyarwanda, English, and French and make the person laugh each time. The joke he told?

A Ugandan woman married a Chinese man. She got pregnant and when she finally was about to have her baby, she was rushed to the hospital. After pushing and pushing, the baby came out dead. The woman’s mother looked at the baby and exclaimed, “even their babies are fake!”

When telling the French version of the joke, Muhire couldn’t remember the word for “fake” and ended up with the punchline “even their babies are pirated”. Oh well, close enough, he still got the job.

One of the funniest things I learned from him that night was the Rwandan wedding tradition of stealing underwear. The most recent ex-boyfriend of the bride is expected to come to her wedding party and steal her underwear. Since she is expected to not bring anything with her into her new life as a woman, the underwear are given to the ex-boyfriend as a memento. Odd, but it seems the ex-boyfriends have no problem crashing the wedding to do this, and in some situations, more than one ex shows up to claim the prize!

Talking and talking and we still hadn’t left for the bars. I’ve learned that time runs slowly in Rwanda. According to Muhire, “time is elastic.” Seems appropriate, since we didn’t leave our house until 10pm (waiting on a Rwandan friend), didn’t leave the house party until 2 am, and didn’t leave the bar until 4 am. I thought THAT was painful, but Muhire claimed that going to a bar before 2 am is boring and he usually stays out until 7am-9am. In fact, when we left, he and his friends moved on to another bar!

 We thought the excitement was over as we headed home in a taxi. But then the taxi door flew open and we almost fell out! And then, we got pulled over by the cops. Turns out our driver wasn’t  a real taxi driver? Oops. But we survived.

Rwandan Popo

The next day, Mary Patton and I slept until 4:30 pm. I guess time truly is elastic in Rwanda.


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