The end of the year has a tendency to sneak up without much warning in Rwanda. Unlike its neighbors – and, for that matter, most other countries we’ve called home – which take a break from official business around mid-December, Rwanda keeps chugging along without too much holiday fanfare. Last week, for example, the ruling party held its thirtieth anniversary party congress, and this week the entire country is focused on its annual National Dialogue.
Posts tagged ‘diplomacy’
Despite being located in the same geographic neighborhood as Kenya, where we started our Foreign Service career, Rwanda strikes us as more dissimilar than it is alike its regional neighbors. In one respect, however, our experience in Kigali parallels the two years we spent in Nairobi almost exactly: being an expat in East Africa is a study in contrasts.
The distance between New York City, where D grew up, and Mahama, nestled against the bank of the Kagera River, which serves as the natural boundary between Rwanda and Tanzania, cannot be measured in miles and feet alone. A barren parcel of tse-tse fly-infested land just a couple of years ago, Mahama now hosts more than 55,000 refugees from Burundi, who began streaming into Rwanda in the spring of 2015 and continue to arrive in smaller numbers more than two years later.
Junebug’s birth provided a reset of sorts. The six weeks D spent stateside closed the book on the first year of our Rwanda tour. D flew back to Kigali a few days after the anniversary of our arrival in Rwanda to find the country gearing up for a presidential election.
The first four months of our Rwanda tour we mostly stayed put, only leaving Kigali a couple of times for weekend trips to Akagera and Nyungwe and venturing out of the country once to play in an Ultimate Frisbee tournament in Kampala. Starting with D’s trip to Bangkok, the last two months by contrast have been full of travel and adventure. We made a couple of jaunts north of the border to Uganda, spent a weekend tracking golden monkeys in Volcanoes National Park, and just returned home from two wonderful weeks in Namibia and a visit to Victoria Falls.
Up in the dead of the night — alarm set for 4 am, but too much nervous energy to sleep. 2:45am. Election coverage on one browser, the Penguins game on another. The first results start rolling in. Kentucky. Indiana. Both red, as expected, but also a bit redder than predicted by the polls. Too early to tell anything other than that the final tally will be close.
One of the more memorable modules from D’s orientation training half a dozen years ago was called “composure under fire.” The exercise consisted of a barrage of difficult questions regarding U.S. foreign policy in a particular country; the goal was to maintain one’s cool while avoiding saying anything that might make front-page news in a less-than-friendly publication.