The Nigerian experience is physical, emotional and sometimes international. No one knows it better than our features on #TheAbroadLife, a series where we detail and explore Nigerian experiences while living abroad.
Today’s subject on Abroad Life is a woman who moved to Rwanda for school four years ago. She talks about how different Rwanda is from Nigeria, how Rwandans take their precious time to do everything, and how the men are so boring, she’s given up on dating.
First things first, where are you right now?
I live in Kigali, Rwanda. It’s a nice country in Eastern Africa.
What’s happening in Kigali?
I’m here for school. I study International Business And Trade at the African Leadership University (ALU), and I’m in my final year.
Is that a university or a leadership school?
It’s a normal university. It’s a 21st-century university so we don’t do things the traditional way where lecturers lecture you. Here we do more peer and self learning. So yeah, it’s a normal university but with a different module and then on the side, we focus on being leaders of Africa.
Cool. How did you find out about this university?
Long story. ALA, African Leadership Academy, was the wave in my secondary school. Everyone wanted to go there and everyone applied. But they picked only three from each school, and I didn’t get in. Then I heard that my mum’s friend’s daughter applied for the African Leadership College in Mauritius. It was hard to convince my mum to let me apply, but after a lot of back and forth, she agreed. So I was supposed to go to the campus in Mauritius, but due to the Nigerian system not working for anyone, I was delayed by a lot of things: visa application and sending of application fee.
At that point, I’d already missed the first week of school, which was super important so it was either I waited at home for another year or joined the Rwandan campus. I decided to join the Rwandan campus.
That’s a lot of African leadership schools I’ve never heard about. How easy was the Rwandan process?
It was easy. I did it overnight. Rwanda has a visa on arrival policy, so that was sorted. I was also given the option of paying my school fees when I got here.
How quickly did you make up your mind on Rwanda?
I didn’t give up on the Mauritius idea until the end of my first year. The Admissions Officer told me that I could go to Rwanda for a year and then transfer to Mauritius, which was why I chose to go. I haven’t been to Mauritius but I hear it’s fun and beautiful, so I really wanted to go there. Rwanda was never in my plans.
It took a year for me to realise that I didn’t need to go Mauritius. I had built solid relationships here, and I didn’t want to leave after that. I haven’t regretted that decision.
What were your expectations of Rwanda?
Honestly, I don’t know what my expectations were, but all I can say is that it wasn’t what I expected in my wildest dreams. Before leaving, I did a bit of research and the closest country to Rwanda was Kenya, so I expected it to be like Kenya.
From what I found out, Kenya is like Lagos, so I expected it to be something I was used to. I expected it to be chill and easy for me to make both international and local friends, like a Nigeria in East Africa.
What I got was the complete opposite. It’s a landlocked country, so that means there’s no ocean anywhere, which determines the kind of food available here. In Lagos, I was used to having seafood and snails in my diet, but it has reduced significantly to just eating titus fish over here.
It’s also very cold here in comparison to Lagos because there are lots of hills here.
Then it’s really safe. I can walk around at midnight while I’m drunk, and I know nothing will happen to me. Means of transportation here is very different, it’s mainly motorcycles, and they have their own version of public buses, but it’s mainly citizens that use them.
What about the people?
People are very sluggish here and can be frustrating. If you go to a restaurant and order food, the quickest it’s going to come is in an hour. But on average, it takes two hours to get your food when you order at a restaurant. A lot of the time, it’ll take three three hours; that’s if the food is good.
If you complain at the restaurant, you’ll look crazy because nobody thinks two hours is too long to wait for food. Oh and it’s not like they act quicker when you complain. They’ll just look at you like you’re crazy and continue what they are doing. And it’s not like this in only restaurants. It’s just how Rwandans are. As a Nigerian, the way they behave will make you almost go crazy.
Why do you think they are like this?
Honestly, I don’t. I just know that they’re very nonchalant about a lot of things. It seems like nothing is important to them.
It’s hard to not get frustrated living here, but it’s also hard not to get too used to living like this. You have to constantly remind yourself that you’re only living somewhere like this for a while and that once you leave, you have to get used to normal again.
I plan on going back to Lagos, but at the same time, I don’t want to go back with that attitude of everything being easy. It’s hard to balance getting used to the system and not getting too used to the system.
Do people still talk about the genocide or have they gotten over it?
They haven’t. There’s a memorial every year in the whole month of April and every year, people go to the memorial ground, and openly talk about it. I don’t think they’ll forget about it anytime soon. It’s a very sensitive topic but it’s actively talked about. One of the tourist centres in Rwanda is the Memorial Park and you get to see places where people were shot at and killed.
Is there still bad blood between the Hutus and the Tutsis?
Right now they don’t believe in the cultural divide anymore. If you are asking anyone where they’re from, they’ll tell you they’re from Rwanda. The whole cultural divide was what started the war in the first place so now, people just identify as Rwandans.
Do you relate well with Rwandans?
Not really, no. They keep to themselves a lot. It’s been a few years now and I haven’t had a single Rwandan friend, talk less of a boyfriend. Even when they relate with foreigners, they keep us at an arm’s length and make just acquaintances.
Do you think they’re being discriminatory?
I don’t think so. I think they’re just used to their own space. If you’re around a group of Rwandans, they don’t actively try to involve you in their conversations or activities. For example, instead of speaking English, they speak their cultural language. It’s just like being a Yoruba person in the midst of Igbo people and they’re intentionally speaking only Igbo. After some time, you don’t really want to join these groups because you’ll realise that you will always be an outsider.
Take parties for instance, unlike how in Nigeria when there’s a party everyone gets invited, here Rwandans invite only Rwandans for parties and they don’t come if we invite them. We don’t know our neighbours. We might just know that this person has a kid because the kid cries or something but it’s not like we ever speak with them. We come out and they stare at us in a certain way. And they stare a lot. When I first came I thought they wanted to fight because I didn’t understand why they were staring so much.
But everyone is Black. How do they know you’re not from there just by looking?
They just know. I realise people look different based on where they come from because now, I can recognise a Nigerian anywhere I find myself. They look a certain type of way and I think it makes it easy for them to spot us.
Do you live on campus?
The campuses are non residential so if you come here you have to get your own house. Rwanda doesn’t have a lot of apartments. They have actual houses with bedrooms, and you can’t live in a house by yourself, so I moved into a house with four of my friends.
My friendship group ranges across people from Botswana, Côte D’Ivoire, Kenya, South Africa, Lesotho, Ghana, Swaziland and Nigeria; that covers the range.
My girlfriends and I live together. One time, we had an altercation with our neighbours and they started calling us Slay Queens. When a woman is called a Slay Queen in that context, it doesn’t really have a positive meaning so we took the name, turned it around and started calling ourselves Kabeza Slay Queens.
It’s crazy because, how can we be “Slay Queens” when there are no men here?
Energy! What do you mean no men?
Remember how I said the people keep to themselves? That’s the first challenge. And you can’t date someone you don’t know.
Let’s say you get through that and actually begin to talk to a man here, you’ll get bored to death. Rwandan men are extremely boring. Coming from someone who knows how eccentric and interesting Nigerian men are, the men here don’t know how to move to a woman, they have no game and they’re stingy as hell.
My girlfriends and I have gone out so many times, and not once has a man ever sent a drink or tried to talk to one of us. I’m not saying we are entitled to it but in Nigeria things like that happen. So they can’t approach, and they can’t have conversations. For me, it translates to not being able to have sex with them because for me and my female friends, holding conversations is the most important step to building a sexual relationship.
There’s no market for men here at all, so that’s it from that angle.
That’s painful to hear.
I’ve cancelled dating in Rwanda. I’ll have to go to another country where I can spread my wings. Nigerian men here are also not it, so there’s no hope, unless people we know are coming to the country. I’ve sworn it off so I’m not actively looking anymore.
It sounds like you need a new shipment of men in Rwanda
Yes! We need tech bros and Paystack daddies shipped into Rwanda, it’s an open market because there are a lot of single and intellectual women looking for companionship.
This is an open call; the visa is $30, there’s good Internet, life is peaceful and this is the place to be.
LOL. Is it true that you can go to prison for littering?
It’s a very clean country. When I first got here, it’s one of the first things I noticed. The gutters are so clean, you can walk in them. The drainage system is so good and there’s no stagnant water. If you litter you pay a fine. I think the prison thing was before but I’m not really sure about the rules against littering. The fact though is that no one litters, there are dustbins almost everywhere. It’s too clean to consider littering.
You can’t pluck the leaves on the trees on the road. If you do, you’ll pay a fine. If you have a car accident and you hit a tree, you’ll pay a fine.
There’s a lot of effort being put into making the country as clean as it is now and if you come here you wouldn’t want to ruin it. Nobody wants to ruin something so nice.
What’s the cost of living there compared to living in Nigeria?
Housing is cheaper here, there are more houses than apartments and some of the houses come fully furnished and if taken to account, it makes them cheaper than houses in Nigeria, but the cost of living is expensive. You should be ready to spend.
What are the best parts about living in Rwanda?
Safety, and peace of mind.
That’s great. Do you plan on coming back to Nigeria?
Thankfully the government extended our visas by two years so we have that time to figure out lives. I’m thinking of getting a second degree in psychology or doing my masters or working. I’m just weighing my options. I want to visit Nigeria, but the political climate is not so great right now so I might stay here or just go to whatever school that accepts me
How is Nigerian pop culture perceived there?
Only a couple of Nigerian musicians are popular here in the Rwandan community but we hear the major hits. People embrace the popular songs. Since I came here Runtown, Davido, Johnny Drille, Burna Boy, Joeboy and Mr Eazi have been here to perform. I’ve gone for their shows.
Burna Boy’s concert was great but for the rest of the musicians, the concerts were kinda weird because nobody really knew the songs.
In total though, I don’t mind living here.
Want more Abroad Life? Check in every Friday at 12 PM (WAT) for a new episode. Until then, read every story of the series here.
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