Me and my buddy chilling on the edge of our hut’s balcony overlooking the lake after a hearty Rwandese breakfast! Lake Kivu, Rwanda.
I was sitting on a bench getting soaked in the pouring rain watching the goodbye football game we had with our Rwandese family and friends on our last day at Kinyinya, when suddenly the rain stops. Although, I could still see generously sized drops of rain streaking the view wherever I shifted my eyes to. I look up and slightly lean backwards, only to see the inside of a red umbrella, accented with a band of gold print. Turning to face whoever was behind me, I see these two adorable little girls staring back at me. After thanking them, I patted the bench and asked if they would like to sit with me and watch the game, they got so shy but accepted my offer.
I took the umbrella into my hand and asked them about their names. The older girl in the multicolored school uniform answered “My name is Ishimwe, uh, Ishimwe Diane,” making a scale like gesture with her hands at each of the names that make up her one. She places her hand on the little one in red’s shoulder and continues, “she Musabyimana.” Frankly, the names overwhelmed me, they were so long and I’ve obviously never heard of them before. I attempt to utter them back to her, “Ish-im-we… Di-ane, and Musab…” I get stuck and she repeats with a giggle, “Musabyimana.” I say it back, “Musabyimana!” and she laughs at my inability to comprehend their simple names.
“My name is Yas.” I say with a smile, as I placed my left hand on my chest. They were either too shy or didn’t speak much English, but we had a conversation about how school went that day, and whether they liked watching and/or playing football.
In a silent pause when we were getting way into the football game, Ishimwe Diane strokes my hair and says something in Kinyarwandan to Musabyimana. The little one walks behind me and touches my hair, too, then returns to her seat with a grin. This wasn’t the first time this has happened during the trip. The fluff on our heads of hair, and arm hair, were queer to quite a few of the people we had the pleasure of meeting or coming across in the village we worked in and villages we stopped at during long bus rides, especially the kids. I look at them, smile, and tell them with a thumbs down, “Muzungu* hair is bad, too big, too hot. I want hair like you.” They look at each other and giggle, all while Musabyimana was petting her head, seemingly comparing textures. And at that very moment I gave Ishimwe Diane the umbrella and pulled my phone out of my pocket to take this photo.
*Muzungu: According to Wikipedia, Mzungu/Muzungu is the southern, central and eastern African (Swahili / Kiswahili) term for a person of foreign descent. Literally translated it means “someone who roams around aimlessly” or “aimless wanderer”. In Rwanda, it is used synonymously with and has come to mean “white man”.