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Lo's Blog: Vuvuzelas Rwandan style

Lauren Galbraith . . . experiencing a different life in Rwanda

Lauren Galbraith of Nelson is currently in Kigali, Rwanda on a six-month placement in the land-locked, east-African country of Rwanda.

From September 2010 to February 2011, the L.V. Rogers graduate will be teaching, working and learning in the Biomedical Laboratory Sciences department of the Kigali Health Institute in the capital city.

It was through the Coady International Institute and St. Francis Xavier University that she received this internship, which is funded by the Canadian International Development Agency.

Galbraith, 22, graduated from LVR in Nelson in 2006 and this year from St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. The former Nelson Youth Soccer star and all-round athlete at LVR, will be sharing her adventures for The Nelson Daily.

Check Galbraith's thoughts about her Rwanda vacation on the blog page.



A stroll through Nyamirambo

 While walking to Le Stade Regional de Kigali for football practice last week, of course always trying to kill two birds with one stone, I was having my weekly chat with my mother on the phone.


“Ooh you’re walking somewhere Lauren? Describe to me exactly what you’re seeing right now!”

No one had asked me to do this yet, so I found myself tripping over so many adjectives in a failed attempt to depict what was right in front of me. Had she asked me to do this a month or so ago, I feel that it would have been easier to accurately describe my surroundings.

Now that I’ve been here for two months, the things that I used to notice because they were markedly different from Canada, I have now become habituated to. BUT, just for you mom, I’ll try to explain better than that terrible response I gave you.


The mud is an ochre-red like you would see on PEI. Consequently, every light coloured article of my clothing now resembles the famed ‘PEI Dirt Shirt’ and my feet are perpetually dirty.

There is only one main paved road, which was just paved a few months ago, and the rest of the roads snaking away from it are dirt. There are no street signs or addresses, hence when you ask someone where they live, they just point in some general direction and say ‘over there’.

There is a large ditch on one side of the paved road because when it rains, it pours. Vancouver rains ain’t got nothin’ on this! Usually once per day during the rainy season, rivers flow in these ditches and no one goes outside, except the inexperienced westerners like me who at first don’t realize the extent of the rain.

No wonder all Rwandans run inside like they’re going to melt whenever thunder starts booming.

“Are you the only white person around?”

Well, let’s just say that I’m not used to being the centre of attention like this. I’ve seen a total of three other white people in this area of town, one of which is my roommate from Canada.

People are staring, not only because I’m a white female, but also because I am dressed for ‘making sport’, the Rwandese phrase for exercise.

I get several thumbs up from passers-by, or they mutter ‘courage’ as it isn’t very common for women to play sports here. When I walk by groups of children, they say ‘Good MORN-ing!’ even though it’s 5 p.m.

Understandable, as this is akin to when I get confused with Kinyarwanda and say mwaramutse (good evening) at 7 a.m. I acknowledge their effort with a smile.

People are everywhere, sitting outside of their shops or walking very, very slowly as Rwandans do.

Ladies and men headed towards the isoko (market) have shallow, wide baskets full of tomatoes or avocadoes balanced on a piece of material folded up to protect the crown of their heads. Even when people have nothing in their hands they walk with boxes, bags, textbooks, even furniture on their heads.

Definitely a talent I will strive to attain before I go home.


Some women are wearing traditional Rwandese fabrics as wrap-dresses, others are dressed as I do for work, in business-casual clothes. You can’t walk 20 meters without seeing someone wearing a Paul Kagame or an RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front) t-shirt.

Many people are wearing clothing that they no doubt picked up at the market, where second hand clothes from around the world are sold. Shirts with rap star Eminem are a dime a dozen, as are shirts from popular vacation spots in the United States, and just yesterday I saw a teenager wearing a UBC shirt!

“I hear horns!” 


Matatus are constantly honking and yelling mumuji!, asking me whether I want to catch a ride to town, even if I’m clearly walking the opposite way. Cars range from Daihatsu pick up trucks to Rav4s to Mercedes SUVs. Much like in Nelson, the Toyota Previa population is unusually high per capita.. what is with that? 



When football games are over, people flood out of the stadium wearing the colours of their favourite Primus National Football League team, honking vuvuzelas. There are sounds of weird bird-calls which I learned when I was teaching that no, that isn’t a ringtone you hear, teacher.

Stray chickens run amongst the palm tree-bushes. The call to prayer rings out at around 7 p.m from the local mosque.

“What about the houses?”

Most houses have brick or concrete fences around them with iron gates and barbed wire or broken bottles strewn across the top for security means.

Some examples of shop signs: ‘New Clothing Second Hand Store’, ‘Faty Shop’, ‘Splendid Mini-Market’, ‘G-Unit Saloon’ (saloon = salon, a place where I still need to go to see how they deal with hair that is much less coarse than they are used to, and red at that),‘New Happy Restaurant’, ‘Dry Creaner’ (R’s and L’s are apparently interchangeable here, I am often called Rauren, and sometimes even Mauren.) 


I peer into the little holes-in-the-wall stores that are selling sambusas (samosas), chapattis  and boiled eggs, all for 100 RWF (20 cents) each.

The stores often house a small TV broadcasting the latest English Premier League game for the regulars enjoying an afternoon beer.

Despite all of the apparent hullabaloo going on around me, I feel very safe. Everyone minds their own business, and aside from the brief, intense stares I receive, people return to their daily duties.

I would like to think that after being around for two months people in this neighbourhood are getting used to the white person that walks along this road quite often, but I'm not sure that it’ll ever get old.

It’s going to be a whole other ballgame when I return to Canada with fresh eyes and have to re-experience everyday life there.

Happy Halloween everyone!! It isn't celebrated in Rwanda (and it is kind of embarrassing trying to explain to people here the concept of what happens on October 31st back home..) so I hope you all carve a pumpkin and eat some pumpkin pie for me.

Dad, save me some pumpkin seeds for when I get back haha!

Missing the crisp autumn air,

L.