Sep 15, 2015

We're here, we're doing it.

After wrestling with my fan for 20 minutes because it obviously has electricity but won't turn on, I decided to give up, take off my pants, and sit here and write this blog before jet lag gets the best of me.

Mushu is sitting on a luggage in the corner of our hotel room, looking at me with disdain because I took away his food for the night (we woke up with ants all over the place because I left his food out last night). 

Jet lag, a broken fan, ants...who cares...we are in Africa! 

I am thrilled. 

Last night at 7pm local time, Mushu and I finally ended our long journey across the world and landed in Kigali, Rwanda! 32 hours of travel was hard on baby cat, but we made it and both of us are in great spirits today. 

We were greeted at the airport by two officers from the U.S. Embassy in Kigali. I was some-what embarrassed by the exorbitant amount of luggage I brought (more than I brought home after 7 years abroad...) but after talking with several people about my town I will be living in, I am glad to deal with the luggages now and have the things later. 

We piled into a van and were driven to a hotel downtown where 3 of us are staying (me and two Fulbright ETA's). Mushu quickly adapted to our spacious room, and I found all of the workers to be gracious and curious about Mushu. If anyone opposed to the cat being in the hotel, no one said it to me in English! haha. I got a decent amount of rest amidst the exhaustion and jet lag. I was just so proud/thrilled/excited that we did it. I moved with my cat to Rwanda! 

This morning I woke up and wandered down the hall to partake of the complimentary breakfast. On the way to the restaurant one of the hotel managers approached me and called me by my last name (I had never seen this person) "Are you Grinner?" He asked. "Ya, Good morning," I said. "How is your cat? Is he ok?" I was happy to hear that people had been discussing Mushu. Because I have found that the less surprise I bring, the better. I responded that Mushu needed some water because our one bottle from the plane was gone. The manager quickly went to the kitchen and gave me a bottle of water. Thoughtful. 

I sat to a breakfast of fruits, toast, boiled egg, and coffee. 

The same manager came to chat while I was enjoying the luscious fruit. His three questions were in this order: 1. What state do you come from? 2. Are you married? 3. Why not? 

I was better at answering this question in Chinese using Chinese humor (我爸爸说了我太年轻!哈哈! My dad says I'm too young haha!) But in the Rwandan context I'm really not sure what to say yet. So I said, "I haven't found someone yet to marry." That seemed to suffice. My heart ached a teeny tiny bit for the love I just walked away from, but it's a question I'll have to get used to all over again in another context, I guess. At least no one is calling me fat to my face, like in China. 

The restaurant was only patronized by businessmen and me, so it was a fun game of catching random people's watchful eyes as I ate. One interesting thing I noticed was that the television in the restaurant was tuned loudly to an english morning news show. One man came in, looked around the room and then asked one of the workers something in kinyarwanda. She took the remote and changed it to a french speaking news program. So, though the government has ruled that  Rwanda is now Anglophone, the public must be still grappling with the change in their own personal lives, or avoiding it altogether. (Which means I should have continued high school french...dang). 

I spent the day with two others. We went to a supermarket and got our phone sim cards and activated them. We had lunch in a beautiful coffee shop and had dinner at a place called Africa Bite. If you ever find yourself in kigali - go there! It was buffet style Rwandan cuisine and I was so happy to be eating African food in Africa. After years of enjoying it in various forms in China, I was finally in the motherland chowing down on some good old African food - potatoes, boiled bananas, peas, goat, was the highlight of the day for sure. We ate outside under the stars that seem to hang over the hills. Good conversation with intellectual people, a belly full of warm food...I couldn't help but smile to myself on the taxi ride back to the hotel. 

Earlier in the day, during the afternoon while trying to decide what to do next - an awesome feat in a city you've never been to where you don't speak the language and have no idea where you are - I said to my mates, "We're here we're doing it." You see, my sister and I adopted this phrase during a backpacking trip in Prague and Vienna some years ago. It always stuck with me in interesting times and my new friends quickly picked it up. 

"Is this goat?"
"Who cares - we're here we're doing it." 

"Should we take a picture with the fake elephant outside the supermarket?" 
"We're here, we're doing it." 

"Is this a good place to kick a soccer ball with locals while waiting for a taxi?" 
"We're here, we're doing it." 

And that was just day one. 

Now I'm off to slumber without a fan and with a cat who has to wait until morning to eat. 
But we don't care. We're here, we're doing it. 

We moved to Rwanda. (yes!) 

walk slow. xoxo. 

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