hashtag family first

mother dog and puppiesIn light of the recent terrorist attack in Paris, and the fact that it received more global attention than the countless others that happened around the world, I saw one person tweet about how all lives matter and deserve equal attention. I suppose this is true for God (although, even He seems to have some people who are His favourites). For me, however, the lives that matter the most are those of my love ones. If there was an attack in my country, I would be concerned first and foremost with their well being. Only when I was sure that they were safe could I truly my attention turn to the other victims. Perhaps this might sound cruel, but that is how I feel.

Seeing how western media and online communities have come together to support Paris tells me who they see as their family. Likewise, I don’t think anyone shares more stories about the the autrocities taking place in Bujumbura more than Rwandans (apart from Burundians themselves, obviously). It’s not that we don’t care about the tragedies in other parts of the world. It is that this one, both figuratively and literally, hits close to home.

Yet, we get disappointed that the West do not show us the same love we show them during their dark times. Why? We still see them as our parents – our family. So, when things go wrong in our nations, we call out to them like angry teenagers who haven’t received their pocket money. Yet, in reality, they see us as the street kids on the corner they give change to, out of the generosity of their hearts. We are not even distant relatives.

I am not angry with the West – they are looking out for themselves, and their fam. One thing these tragedies reveal is who really loves you, and who you really love.

I know this all must sound rather cynical. What happened to “one love, one heart” and all that, right? Well, when I saw a recently killed French police dog getting more attention online than an 11-year-old Nigerian girl who blew herself up yesterday… I became sober minded. I believe it is only through some kind of divine intervention that a person is able to love all humanity equally.

It is simply human nature to put your family first.

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head of the household

Today, I learnt about a new term (well new to me): “lead parent”. In essence, the “lead parent” is the one who is more active or physically and emotionally present in the child’s life. You know, what is traditionally the mom’s role. The other parent is also active but more focussed on their career (or some other activity, I suppose). Traditionally, this is the dad’s role.

I don’t know how long this term has been around but I’m guessing it created especially for men who find the term house-husband or stay-at-home dad emasculating. Having the word “lead” in there makes the position sound like an executive appointment, right? Parenting, #LikeABoss.

Actually, I suspect it will become popular in the US in general because of how gender-neutral and politically correct it sounds. I’ll bet we’ll start seeing books and TV programs that talk about “the challenges of being a lead parent” as opposed to “the challenges of being a mom”.

I wonder if it will eventually be something you see on people’s CVs, especially for people who want to rejoin the rat-race after raising their children. Or maybe we’ll start seeing it on social media bios. A photo of a parent doing something parenty with their child captioned, #LeadParent. 

Oh wow… I just did a search, and the hashtag #LeadParent is already a thing. Well, kind of. I only found a few tweets to some articles I’m going to read after I finish blogging. I also found an Instagram photo which I think was referring about the two ‘lead parents’ that helped out in a school play.

I wonder if the term will catch on.

Well kids, let’s wait and see.

brand new

Imagine something terrible happened – or horrible accident or unspeakable crime – and as a result your face and body were been badly mutilated. You then meet an extraordinary doctor who has the skill and talent to completely transform you. Using a combination of plastic surgery and modern technology, she will be able to restore you to a normal human appearance and give you back the other abilities you lost or that were weakened in the tragedy e.g. your eyesight, ability to walk, etc. This doctor and her team care about you a great deal and are committed to giving you the best treatment – even though it is going to take several years for you to completely recover.

There’s one more thing: you do not have to be restored exactly as you were before.

She can make you Continue reading

Africa’s Hair Story

The shaved head was the first step the Europeans took to erase the slaves’ culture and alter the relationship between the African and his or her hair...

A snippet from “Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America”

This image and text above are from a book called “Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America” (I know – that’s a lot of puns!). Although it was written primarily for Americans of African decent, I found it also has lessons for me, as an African whose nation has a fairly recent history of European colonial rule. Continue reading

a timely gift

watchMy man is having a tough day at work so I asked what I could do to help. Please note I am in Japan and he is in Rwanda, so I have certain limitations. I suppose, aware of these limitations, i.e. that I couldn’t for example, just stop by his office, or send him a pizza, he asked me for something that I could do from here: to build him a time machine to help him get to the end of the day quicker. I got to work immediately.

Now, I’ve been reading up on accelerated time travel for the last hour or so and I’m starting to get the general idea. However, I’m not sure if I will be able to complete the machine before the end of the day. That means, he’ll end up having to go through the day, the old fashioned way – 60 seconds per minute. I know what you’re thinking: if I finish the machine, say tomorrow, I could just go back in time to today, put him in the machine, and bring him back (or is it forward) to tomorrow and he can continue his life from there. Right? Yeah… that’s what I thought at first, but then, what would happen to the original him, i.e. the one that went through the day? Would he cease to exist? Not to mention any and all of people and objects he interacted with today – how would his absence from the rest of the day affect the rest of their day? And how would that affect the people and objects that they interacted with after interacting with him. Would the rest of the day for the rest of the universe now be… gone? Or… would there just now be two universes: one where he went through the rest of the day, and one where he skipped it? But which man would be my real man, the one I left behind or the one I brought – or will bring – to tomorrow? But… then, the other Akaliza will go on to finish the time machine, and bring her man… or rather her past man… to her present, which is his future.

Oh and I just realised, and also still have the man that was already there in my tomorrow (which would now be my today). So now I’d have two men. Gulp.

I just thought of something else: it’s not like there would be a man shaped vacuum just waiting for him to land in – so what would happen when he arrived in this new space? Would all the space around him be pushed back as this new – or is it old? – entity joined the new – or is it current? – universe? Oh yeah, and what about when I left tomorrow to come into today to take him – would I have left / will leave a vacuum? Maybe my absence would cause a black hole. I don’t know much about those – except that they swallow up starships… also, I think they can be used in time travel. Or is that a worm hole? Are those the same thing? I don’t remember.

Hey! I just realised that my time machine would just take me back today in Japan. After all, it’s only moving me through time, right? It’s not like it’s a time plane. I’d still have to move myself, and it, to Rwanda. Maybe I could sell the time machine and use the money to buy a return ticket to Rwanda. But I’d have to first make sure that I move myself back two days because the trip to Rwanda takes 23 hours.

Then I could just get him a pizza and bring it to his office! But…

How would I know that whoever I sold my time machine to would use it for good instead of evil? And I still haven’t worked out that space / vacuum thing out.By building this time machine, I might end up causing a global disaster. That’s probably worse a tough day at work.

You know, I think I’m just going stop building this thing and send him a cute smiley. Perhaps the winking one with puckered lips. That ought to cheer him up. If only I’d thought of that before I spent all this time writing this blog post.

Ah well. You know what they say: Hindsight is 20 / 20.

representing… again

(After I wrote this post, I found a similar one I’d written two years ago, called “represent” – hence the title, representing again)

There is a phrase that’s become popular among Christians – “You may be the only Bible some people will ever read”. Now that I’m in Japan, I often think that I may be the only African some people ever meet. Sure, they’ll see Africans on TV, or read about them – but I’m sure there are many Japanese people – and other non-Africans obviously – who will never have a conversation, leave alone become colleagues, or friends, with an African. To take it further, I maybe the only African woman they will ever meet, or take it in yet another direction, I may be the only Rwandan they ever meet. Should I be filled with a sense of responsibility to always represent my continent and my country positively? Is it my duty to leave a good impression of “my people”… or should I feel free to simply be myself, whether or not that hurts or hinders my culture’s reputation? I think about it often. Continue reading

security blanket

This post is, in some ways, a follow up piece to the “as the day you were born“. Recently, I watched a YouTube video where they filmed a young woman walking through the streets of New York city in two different outfits to show the reactions she drew. In the first part, she wore in a fitted top, cardigan and jeans and in the second part then wore black hijab. As she walked through the streets in the first outfit, men catcalled, whistled and some even followed her. In the hijab, although many men stared at her, not one said anything to her or approached her.

This video shows a persistent reality for women in many parts of the world – that is: not having the privilege of wearing what you want AND also feeling safe. Continue reading

Community Spirit

I found this interesting to read, seeing as I’m a Rwandan who lived in the UK and is now living in Japan!

In my experience, the more urban you get, the more individual-orientated your culture becomes. For example, I was stunned by how “individual-orientated” people generally were in London, when I was there about 5 years ago. It felt very self-centred and cold to me. That said, I loved the sort of, freedom of expression that exists there. I felt like I could dress or behave (within the law) however I wanted there, and it would be fine.

I also went to university in Canterbury – and my house was in a smaller village. There, I was amazed by how warm and friendly people were – not on the same level as in Rwanda, but still, it a world away from London. So that was the same country, but two different cultures!

Japan seems quite individual-orientated to me, when I compare it Rwanda – but, again, that’s probably because I’m living in the city. If I moved to a Japanese village, I’m sure my experience would be very different.

Thanks for sharing this. Like I said, it was very interesting!

GB on tour!

Umuganda Umuganda- the monthly day of national volunteering. Photo: Rwanda Government

Who is in your community? A great circle of friends? family? A team? The neighbours?

I was very lucky to have a fantastic community of wonderful people around me before I left (most of the people reading this blog form part of it!). So, if that is you, I would just like to take a moment to thank you for being amazing. Thanks for always being supportive, kind and lovely! You really are fantastic you know!

Though there are plenty of merits of living in an individual-orientated culture, I have always felt more content with daily living in communal cultures. I spend less time thinking ‘What is wrong with the world, can’t we just all just get along?’ and seem to spend more time savouring contentment.

Daily life in Japan for example, on a fundamental level, just seemed easier. People…

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not the sunday I expected

A guitar in a paper bagYou know how sometimes, you leave home to go to church…
But end up buying a second-hand guitar…
With the money you had withdrawn to pay your Internet bill…

Or, does that only happen to me?

(The reason I didn’t go to church is, I arrived at the place I thought church would be but, they had moved venues. The reason I didn’t know they moved venues is, I had missed church last week because I was cooking chapatti for the Culture Fair at my residence. The reason I ended up buying a second-hand guitar is, I was crossing the road and there this couple that was crossing the road with me, and, I was listening to Jill Scott over my headphones… wait, was it John Legend? It was something soulful and romantic anyway… so that made me miss my man – he’s all the way in Rwanda – and I guess that made me feel a connection to this random couple, because, when they turned left and walked toward the store – it was some kind of thrift store – instead of continuing straight ahead, back to the train station, I just followed them. Yeah… I’m sorry. I know that was weird… and I just hope I was inconspicuous. The couple just looked through the windows of the store, without going in, but I went in. Hey, I was bored. I’d missed church. I had three assignments waiting at home which I was not looking forward to – and which I should probably – okay, definitely – be doing right now instead of blogging. The reason I bought the guitar is because, well… I suppose it stems from me failing to learn to play the piano after my mom had already paid for the lessons back in secondary school. I think I still feel guilty about wasting those lessons and failing to allow my mother to vicariously fulfil her dream of learning to play a musical instrument. It’s easier to carry home an old guitar than an old piano, right? Also, guitars just look freakin’ cool, don’t they? Well, not so cool when you are carrying them in an old paper bag… but, hey, at $25, it was a steal! The reason I used the money that I was supposed to pay my Internet bill with is, I tried to pay the bill yesterday, but I was told I had to wait until after the weekend when the banks will be open… so I had extra cash on me… and I’m one of those people that hates coming home with cash in my wallet. The reason I hate coming home with cash in my wallet is because… um… I don’t know the reason for that actually. I probably should get that fixed.)

cheap art and noble pirates

I am an artist. Did you know that? I don’t have a degree in art. It’s not even on my LinkedIn profile. But it’s true – I am. I worked it out when I was a little kid – probably at the same time I was taught what the word meant. That said, no one has ever paid me for my paintings or sketches or origami swans. Does that disqualify me?

Writing, music, drama… art. Who gets to decide what qualifies it as good or correct or important? The readers, the listeners, the audience… the critics? Or, you? Hm. Continue reading

brother from another mother

I’ve spoken to a couple of other African students who’ve studied abroad and have said that they experienced this too:

You are walking through the predominantly white town or city of your university, and you see another black person coming down from the opposite side of the street. Your eyes meet and you give each other what I’m going to refer to as, The Look. The Look is an unspoken message of fellowship: perhaps you nod or lift your chin – just something to show that you recognise her or him as a sort of fellow soldier in the battle that is being one of the only black people in your area. Continue reading

almost too famous

camera(See almost famous written a couple years ago).

A few of days ago I decided I was going to stop taking interviews – at least for a while. It’s one of those good problems to have – like when people complain that they have too many clothes but nothing to wear. Urgh… I find such complaints so annoying. Yet here I am. How did it begin? Let’s see…

I think the first interview I did was back in 2009 – a young journalist I met at church interviewed me about my love of art and poetry – or something like that.

I remember my mom kept the news clipping.

Then, about 2 years later, I launched my first business (wow, that feels cool saying that – first business. Yeah.) and I “invited the press” to atten. In fact, I invited that same journalist – who I was now closer friends – and her editor chose the article to be used as the cover story for the “Women’s Magazine” section of a local newspaper. That was awesome. My brother’s name was misspelled – which the journalist still feels bad about – and I remember thinking my outfit looked ridiculous and so, so, so red when I saw it in print – but it felt really good to be in the paper. I felt important…

Oh, and my mom kept the news clipping.

Then one day, everything changed. Continue reading

the f word

A woman wearing a bikini and a woman wearing a niqab

For our minds to be valued higher than our bodies – that would be nice!

I would love to live in a world where women have many of the opportunities and and are able to share many of experiences that currently, men only have access to. (I say, many, not all, because there are some opportunities and experiences that I am glad women can’t access – and I wish that one day, men would not access them either – but that is another blog post). Wanting a world like that, wanting “equal rights”, as it has been termed, makes me a feminist.

Now, for some time now, I have come to realise that feminist, or feminism, is dirty word in most parts of the world. In fact, there is this new term gaining popularity called, “equalism” – I’ll discuss that later. Feminism is seen as a threat to almost every culture in the world, traditional and modern, as well as a threat to the practices held by the most popular religions. For many, instead of bringing mutual understanding Continue reading

now you’re just the #Japan that I used to know

The view from my bedroom window.

The view from my bedroom window.

One thing I love about the Master’s course I am taking here in Japan, is that we are a very international group students. The countries represented are Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Kenya, Ethiopia, Côte D’Ivoire, and… Japan. One thing I like(d) to pride myself on, is my vast experience and knowledge of other cultures – but, as cliché as this might sound, the more I have got to know my fellow students, the more I’ve learnt about them and their countries, the more ignorant and confused I have felt. This, in addition to the experience of living in a new country – Japan – has made me realise how often we impose identities on people – and entire societies – without taking the time to get to know them. Stereotypes are fun – and they make the world we live in easier to handle. Stereotypes free up your brain from the challenging task of carrying all the complexities of individual personalities and backgrounds, allowing it focus on other tasks like chewing gum or walking. That said, as I’m sure you’ve heard, stereotypes are also extremely dangerous and also make your world much smaller. Continue reading

a home away from home for the africanus asinus

Donkey eating grass

“I mean, I do like the outdoors. I’m a donkey. I was born outside.”

Okay, okay! I suppose I should start by explaining the title of blog post – because a few of you who know I how much I dislike swear words just did a spit take on your computer screen. Relax. Wipe it off… you shouldn’t have drinks that near a computer screen anyway.

An Equus africanus asinus is the scientific name for a donkey. There’s a whole range of different asini but… anyway… let’s move on. Now, one of the first questions I asked my new hosts when I arrived in Japan last week was, where I could buy an adapter so that I could charge my phone – and the answer surprised me.

She said: “Donkey Hotel”. Continue reading

How will #Rwanda survive the #EACIntegration?

East Africa CommunityDo you ever feel like your week has a theme? Like there is something God puts on your heart or in your mind – or both, and it keeps popping up everywhere? That happens to me often. This week, I feel my theme has been the future of Rwanda. I am heading to Japan in a few days, by God’s grace, to do my Masters in ICT4D, and I can’t help thinking what this country will look like in 2016 when I am set to return. There is a lot that I will miss, but in some ways, I also look forward to the pleasure I will enjoy in 2 years when I get to, once again, explore and rediscover my home. I know I won’t find Rwanda as I left her. Rwanda is moving at an electrified pace – it amazes even those of us who are living here, witnessing it happen. I remember a few days ago, driving through a certain part of the Kigali city centre that I hadn’t been to in a while and noticing new storied buildings that seemed to have materialised overnight – and trust me, this not an uncommon experience.

One frustration of living in such a fast moving economy is that you want Continue reading

as the day you were born

One of my favourite passages in the Bible is when Eve and Adam eat the fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and after eating it, they suddenly –

1) notice they are naked, and
2) become ashamed of being naked.

It’s one of my favourites because I just don’t get it. I mean, up until that fateful day, how did they not know they were naked?

Look, you could wake up one morning, naked, and maybe – and that’s a big maybe – not notice. But if you walked out of your house and someone saw you, well, they would scream out “NAKED!” … and, alerted by their scream, you would surely notice. (Actually, knowing this city they would probably just stare and eventually you would be quietly arrested… but that’s besides the point.) Why didn’t Eve turn to Adam and say, “Boo, you are so naked right now.” Was it that naked was simply not a Continue reading

Kigali En Blanc

I like Dîner En Blanc Kigali, but, is not really my thing. I’m the kind of person that would magnetically attract a chocolate fountain to fall dramatically over me if I ever dared to wear an entirely white outfit. The more expensive my outfit was, the bigger the fountain would be. If the outfit was expensive and also happened to be gift from someone I loved, the chocolate dip would immediately be followed by my tripping, falling and rolling down a grassy hill… Yup. I can just see that happening. It would be so me. But you know, all that said, I was really happy when Dîner En Blanc Kigali started a few years ago.

One thing that, as a Kigalian, I feel totally jealous of Kampalans for, is that their city has Continue reading

auto-pilot

The autopilot panel of a 737-800Have you ever been deep in thought and you find yourself somewhere or doing something, and you don’t remember moving there or starting that activity. Like for example, you’re riding your adorable scooter named Jingles and you stop at the traffic lights and you start thinking about light, and the way it bounces of things, you know, like the moon, and then you start thinking about the so called dark side of the moon, and what would it be like to live there, and I wonder if Richard Branson has a rocket ship I could afford, and perhaps if I saved up for a few months, hmm, maybe years, I could by a rocket ship and head on up there, with one of those house-in-a-box construction sets I saw on TV a few years ago, oh and some solar panels so that I could take a Continue reading

nerd envy

I remember when I was teenager, I told my sister I wanted to be a nerd. This was before nerds were cool (um… nerds are cool now, right?). I remember I even got a pair of old glasses and popped out the lenses because, thanks to American television, I believed glasses were the uniform of all nerds (this was before lensless glasses were cool). Anyway, my sister told me that the glasses looked ridiculous and that, anyway, I didn’t want to be a nerd – what I really wanted to be was a geek. She explained that nerds were, well, brilliant at what they do, but generally unpopular due to their poor social skills and obsessive knowledge regarding their field of expertise. She said geeks, on the other hand, were highly knowledgeable but in a much more loveable way. After much debate, I finally agreed that I wanted to be a geek… but in my heart, my nerd aspirations remained. The truth was, I did want to be so talented and my brain so massive and full of seemingly pointless facts and figures that it put people off. Don’t ask me why – I still don’t completely understand this ambition myself. I just know that, as a teenager, I wanted to be the biggest nerd this world had ever seen. Continue reading

el oh el two

smileysI think I mentioned that I moved back in with my parents, all Luke 15:17 like, a while back. I did mention that, didn’t I? I’m not so sure now… well, anyway, one thing I am certain I blogged about, was how I tend to subconsciously imitate people’s laughs. Now that I back home, I am finding myself at a loss for new “subjects”. You see, my brother and dad are two of those quiet, contemplative types. If something amuses them they smile – but if they are truly overcome with mirth you might get – “Ha!” and then silence. Continue reading

Friend or Follow

One of the things I love about Twitter is that it allows one-to-many relationships. Just because I follow you, you don’t have to follow me. (Hmm… that’s one of those sentences that only makes sense with social media because, offline, if you try to follow someone who’s following you, you would both end up moving in circles.) Facebook on the other hand, for a long time anyway, was about one-to-one relationships. You couldn’t be my friend unless I agreed to be your friend, too (although they added a “Follow” option a while ago, perhaps as a response to the popularity of Twitter).

So why do I prefer Twitter to Facebook? Well, I feel a lot less Continue reading