What’s It Like Being a Jamaican Living in Rwanda?

What's It Like Being a Jamaican Living in Rwanda?

Have you ever wondered what’s it like being a Jamaican living in Rwanda? In this episode of “Jamaicans to the World”, founder Xavier Murphy speaks with Rolande and Makeda. They are Jamaicans living in Rwanda.

Xavier: What is it like being a Jamaican in Rwanda? Hi, I’m Xavier Murphy, the founder of Today in Jamaica to the world, we talk to Rolande and Makeda; who are Jamaicans who are living in Rwanda. Ladies, welcome.

Makeda: Thank you.

Rolande: Thank you. Good to hear you. Good to be here.

Xavier: So, let’s get started because this is going to be the interesting one for me. I think the world knows Rwanda, but let’s start here. Can you tell me about your journey to Rwanda? How did you get to Rwanda?

Rolande: Should I start?

Xavier: Oh, go ahead.

Rolande: Great. Well, I’m the newbie. I arrived here on August 29th and it’s very similar. I applied for a job, I got the job and the job happens to be working as a country manager in this amazing country, and so I started remotely for a couple of weeks because of Covid, trying to find when was the right time to come and I arrived here on August 29, 2020.

Xavier: Okay, all right.

Makeda: Me now? It’s a little bit of a longer story. I’ve been here for longer. I first came in 2010 and I came just sort of on a whim. I am half Rwandan, but I didn’t grow up with my Rwandan father or with any of his family and it’s only around that time when I started to just feel some curiosity. So I just jumped on a plane and came to look and I’m still here.

What's It Like Being a Jamaican Living in Rwanda?

Xavier: So that’s interesting that you’re half Rwandan. Was it just interests in the roots that let you jump on a plane from I guess, I’m going to say, is it Jamaica? You jumped on a plane from Jamaica and seh, I’m coming here?

Makeda: Yes. So actually, it was about a year after I finished university in Jamaica, I was at UWI and when I was there I was studying literature, and I was taking a lot of African literature classes. So all of the African writers that I could get into my degree, that’s what I was taking and the more African literature that I read, the more curious that I was just about the continent, but also more and more about my own heritage and from there, I moved to New York to originally live there but I was only there even less than a year before I started really feeling curious and before I took the first trip.

Xavier: Okay, and Rolande you applied for a job there? Where were you before you came to Rwanda?

Rolande: I’ve been moving around, let’s just say and so I was living in Indonesia, in Jakarta, actually, and working there, I worked for the World Bank. So I’ve been I was there for almost three and a half years or three years about when I applied. We compete for our jobs at my level and so I competed for one that’s really the job that I applied for, and it’s very much a prized position. So I was very pleased to hear that I was successful.

Xavier: Okay, and how did you two meet?

Makeda: Originally, we met through my cousin.

Rolande: That’s right. Her cousin linked us up on Twitter like I’m a new Twitter follower, but Makeda does a lot on video and all of these on social media. So I actually saw her cousin just before I left and she didn’t say anything, but all of a sudden I got one of these messages, these DMs I guess that said, “I’m putting you in touch with my cousin,” and then I realized after I’d been here five years, that she’s a little bit of a celebrity in Rwanda. She has quite a visible job and has really sort of build a reputation; so I’ve kind of been seeing her beforehand. I was like, this is great, put me in touch with celebrities. This is great, and then it turns out that we had another Jamaican mutual friend in common, so we actually linked up to that friend.

What's It Like Being a Jamaican Living in Rwanda?

Xavier: Okay, and I know, Makeda is a bit of a celebrity there and I know you’re in media. Do you want to explain a little bit more about what you do?

Makeda: Sure. I mean, I do so much and that’s one of the things I’m like, I hate that I am just this Jamaican stereotype with a million jobs, but it’s true. So I’ve been in the media for some time. I’ve done radio here, several television shows here, and I create my own content as well. So I’m very active online, on YouTube, and Instagram, and Twitter, and I host events and do a lot of things like that. I’m generally pretty loud here in Kigali.

Xavier: Now, we as Jamaicans we seh (say), “yuh nuff” (involved in many activities)

Makeda: I wouldn’t seh (say) nuff (plenty).

Rolande: She broad.

Makeda: T’ank yuh (thank you).

Xavier: Well, I’ve heard for some people the word, ‘nuff’ kind of revolved into more of not a bad word, but just an expression for some folks.

Makeda: Clear I’ve been away from the island for too long.

Xavier: For some folks

Rolande: It’s not that she’s pushing herself out there, which is what I feel “nuff” is, but when you are already capturing the stage, you say yuh (you) broad (, right? So she’s broad.

Xavier: All right, she broad. So I’m going to switch up a little bit and talk about Rwanda, because years ago we know what happened there with the genocide, and so on. I’ve read how the people have emerged out of this and it has become one of the items that have shaped the way the country is today and my question, I know Rolande you’re the newbie here, but I’m going to start with the newbie, but have you seen how this has shaped the country in your short time there? And the same question in your long time there, but I’ll start with you Rolande.

Rolande: Yes, I feel as though I get to know the country through the economic and the socio-economic lens because of the job that I have. So one of the things that you know about Rwanda immediately, everybody knows about the genocide and in fact, in some respects, it was very much a defining moment and when I said to people I was going to Rwanda to work, that was the first thing that would usually come to them. That was the first thing that they would mention, but from a development perspective, international development, Rwanda has moved so fast, has evolved so fast, and has done so well coming out of this very dark history that it feels in some respects, close, because I think it still motivates and fires the people of Rwanda, but it feels far away when you look at the development that the country has gone through. It’s a country that is not very wealthy.One would say it’s a lower income country, GDP (Gross Demostic Product) per capita, 800 US dollars, and to compare that to Jamaica is like 5000, right? So it’s a big difference, but the streets are amazingly clean, the institutions are very strong, there is a strong commitment to eradicating poverty.

When you look around the city, it doesn’t look like any other lower income country and when you look at the government’s ability to implement, it would challenge any middle income country and would be comparable in some instances to some high income countries. Being here while the genocide is close because it motivates the people to move forward. It’s a crisis that has drawn people together. We know across the world crises do that and in some respects, if you use that energy well it is like a fuel to move yourself forward. Rwanda, still in my view is impressive and outstanding in the fashion in which it has used that crisis to propel itself. So it keeps the pain of it in some respects close so that it remembers, but it has used the crisis as a springboard to say we don’t want that again and we’re going to make sure that our people are well taken care of, that we tried to eliminate poverty, that we tried to put the society at a place where that will never happen again.

What's It Like Being a Jamaican Living in Rwanda?

Xavier: Okay. Makeda?

Makeda: I agree with everything that Rolande said, and she said it so much more articulate than I would have said. I’m kind of happy that you went first Rolande. I totally agree and just to add, the leadership and everybody here is very forward thinking and I think it’s because the gruesome past is so close, it’s less than 30 years ago. When that happened, the country really did start at zero. there was like nothing and when it came to building back, it was a big job, and the people of the country took it on, and everybody feels, well, from what I can see everyone in the country feels that they have a part to play and you really do feel like you’re making a contribution because of how fast everything has evolved. I came here 10 years ago and the Rwanda that I’m living in today is so much different than the Rwanda that I came and found 10 years ago, in just that short time. So I really do feel like that has a big part to do with it.

Xavier: I see.

Rolande: If I could just add, and so because of that, it’s very challenging when we mentioned the word Rwanda, everybody says, ‘oh, the genocide’, and a lot of people who don’t read or who haven’t been sort of keeping abreast, they don’t even realize it’s 25 years ago. My response is always do you realize that that was 26 years ago now? And most people say no, I said, if you read about this country, just Google it, right, it stands for so many other things now. That was an important and a defining moment that shouldn’t be forgotten, but it really is much bigger than that.

What's It Like Being a Jamaican Living in Rwanda?

Rwanda Genocide Memorial

Xavier: Yes, and I couldn’t do this interview without bringing that up because I have read and just seeing how it has become important to defining who the nation has become, and where they’re going, and the success stories that I’ve been reading about Rwanda, and so on. So I didn’t want to just skip over that. It’s been a defining moment. I’m going to ask you this, the people, tell me about the people of Rwanda and your experiences with the people of Rwanda? Again, I’m going to start with Rolande.

Rolande: Makeda has far more experienced than I do. So my experiences have been let’s just say mainly government, right? I’ve interacted with the government, I’ve interacted with my staff mainly. Due to Covid, I haven’t been moving around as much maybe as I would have with my usual curious self. I am shock always by the fact that persons here are actually quite calm and quiet. When Makeda said she was loud, I smile because it’s a country that generally is very calm, and generally very quiet. So a typical Jamaican in that context really stands out, and Makeda shaking her head, because that is very much extremely warm people, but very almost cautious or timid with that warmth is kind of how I would describe it, but I’ve enjoyed getting to know them. It’s been a slow process because people start to open themselves up to you slowly, but I feel that because I’m still new, I feel that once you make friends here, they’re long term friends, you know, they’re friends for life.

Makeda: Yes.

Xavier: Okay.

Makeda: Yes. A hundred percent. I mean, when I first came, even though I didn’t know my father well, by that time I had spent a little bit of time with him, but he wasn’t here when I came to the country. So I came and I ended up meeting up with a lot of his family members and that was kind of my introduction, but I was hanging out with a lot of people from the Diaspora because I was speaking English essentially, and back then it wasn’t as many people speaking English now. So yes, I found the same thing, people are very, very different from people in Jamaica in the sense that they’re very quiet and they can be a bit guarded, and it’s a bit harder to sort of break through. Sometimes people say that it’s harder to make friends. For sure, exactly what Rolande said. A lot of people just knew me as the Jamaican girl. At that time, my hair was the same exact way it is now, it’s nothing too crazy. It’s just natural hair, but at the time, there weren’t many people who had big natural hair; so it was like the Jamaican girl with the hair and I started DJing, which then it was like, well, the Jamaican girl, the DJ. Yes, that was definitely something to kind of get past, and it’s funny because when you go to other countries in the region, they’re not quite as quiet. I think it is something that is a bit unique to Rwanda that people are a bit more quiet, a bit more reserved because if you go next door to Congo if you go next door to Uganda, people are much more outgoing and a bit louder. That was one of the things that feels a bit like a culture shock when I first came and getting to know people.

What's It Like Being a Jamaican Living in Rwanda?

Xavier: You touched on quite a few things. So I’m not going to pick on Rolande right now, I’m going to pick on you; the person that has been there for a while. You talked about music, you talked about language, and you talked about a couple things here, but I want to start with, when folks realize that you are Jamaican and when you initially got there, because I guess now you’re known there, but when they realize you’re Jamaican, what happens? Is it that you’re Jamaican! You know, what happens? Is it questions, you know, what happens when they realize you’re Jamaica?

Makeda: It’s different things, but overall, people are generally excited to meet a Jamaican. I think that’s what happened when I first came here and it’s what’s happened in a lot of countries that I’ve been to on the continent, people are excited to meet a Jamaican. Everyone knows about the country, the culture, and everything. I’ve met a lot of people who say it’s like number one on their bucket list, and they love reggae, they love everything, There are mixed reactions. Some people are excited, and they want to know more. Some people feel the need to like scream Jamaican expletives at me because of the words that they know and I know that’s been the experience of a few Jamaican who has been here as well, but overall it’s positive. People are excited to meet a Jamaican, and then my father was also quite well known here. He was a Rwandan, but he was a Rasta, which there were not very many at the time and so when they learned that I was his daughter, then they’re like, okay, yes, that makes perfect sense, but everyone just assumed that he went to live in Jamaica because he loved reggae, he had the long locks and everything. So yes, there was some kind of mixed reactions, but everyone was excited to see a Jamaican in town.

Xavier: Wow. Rolande, what’s been your experience there when folks realize that you’re Jamaican? You could just give me just one simple, you know, easy experience?

Rolande: It’s very interesting for me, because there was another Jamaican here, who was heading the United Nations Development Program, who had been here for five years, and who was extremely well loved by the whole country. I mean, he wrote letters, just amazing in terms of how accepted he was and how much of a friend to Rwanda he’s known to be. When I come in what I get is, do you know this other person? I’m not defining Jamaica for them anymore because they’ve had that, right, and I think it’s been beneficial because he’s so well loved, that I get kind of the spillover effect. Was I going to need things that I think might be a little bit tough, and I say, oh, you know, my compatriots was so and so and people say, oh, yes, he’s lovely, like a brother, and I was like, yes, I hope also to be your friend. I’ve been trying to see how I can leverage it to my advantage, but like Michaela says, there’s a lot of love for Jamaica. There’s a lot of love for Jamaican music. I think an appreciation for this our sort of very outgoing nature, I think that it’s a little bit the history of the country is what makes the people very calm and cautious in the way that they engage but there’s always this smile, you know, oh, you’re Jamaica which means for them you like music, you like dancing, there’s excitement around you and fun, which I think is it’s good to be known for that.

What's It Like Being a Jamaican Living in Rwanda?

Xavier: Music, what type of music are you hearing on the radio there? Are you hearing reggae? I know now the only thing people think about is afro-beats because afro-beats is the big thing, but what type of music do you hear in Rwanda? If you again, you know, radio is still around and to an extent, what are you hearing there? Do you hear reggae also? I’ll start with you Makeda.

Makeda: Yes, reggae is popular the world over, it doesn’t matter in which country it’s everywhere. Right now, you’re right afro-beats is really taken over, but if there’s a Jamaican hit, if there’s a dancehall big hit or something, it will be played here before afro beats. When I first came, afro beats was kind of bubbling, I mean, it was still big here but it was still bubbly, it was growing and at that time, dancehall and reggae were pretty big here and I think that’s even how I became a DJ because when I came, I just wanted to hear more of the music that I was hearing at home. I would throw parties and just play some music and people just loved it and started asking me to play at their parties and their clubs and things. Yes, it’s definitely very well loved here. Reggae is very well loved here, and like I said, I haven’t been to a country where it’s not. It might be a little bit less than, say, another country in the region like Kenya, because Kenya! any song can come out in Jamaica, it can come out at 5:03 and at 5:04 everybody knows every word of the song. I mean, it’s huge. It’s huge all over the region, but it’s also very big here and people are really enjoying it.

Xavier: All right. That’s interesting. Rolande, what would you say for you has been the most difficult adjustment. Again, I know we’re in Covid time, you’re not getting the full breadth of everything there, but what has been the most difficult adjustment since moving to Rwanda.

Rolande: This is a very small thing, but talking to my gardener. My gardener only speaks Kinyarwanda. In every other circumstance, I managed with English, at work, no problem, but I feel like I would like to be able to speak with Rwandans in their own language because it’s really how you get to know and understand a country and not just the elite, you know, the intellectuals, but everyone. That’s something that I really going to have to work on. It’s not an easy language and of course, it’s not spoken anywhere else, really. It would be learning the language only to have a chance to communicate here, but I think it’s absolutely essential. I say that, and it’s a small thing because on every other level it’s been one of the easiest transitions that I’ve had in my job. I moved from country to country, I travel a lot. People ask me, where are you living? I said, it looks like Cherry Garden. That’s my answer, it’s kind of like Cherry Garden. I didn’t hear you Makeda, seh (say) dat (that) again?

Makeda: The whole city looks like Cherry Garden.

Rolande: There you go.

Xavier: Wow. Makeda, do you know any other language?

Makeda: I know French now. Yes, but not Kinyarwanda. Kinyarwanda I can get by, which is sad because I have been trying to learn it for many years now, but as Rolande said, it is a very, very difficult language to learn and so at some point, I decided to kind of put more effort into French because I figured at least then I can speak with a bunch of different countries on the continent and here you can get by a little bit better with English and French, but for sure if you’re not speaking Kinyarwanda, you can’t speak the majority of the country. It’s true.

Xavier: Kin — I’m messing it up. Kinyarwanda — Did I say it right? Kinyarwanda.

Makeda: Yes.

What's It Like Being a Jamaican Living in Rwanda?

Xavier: It is a spoken language that there is nothing, okay, and I’m getting into a little bit of this spoken language debate that we go through because I’m one of those that believe Jamaican is a language. Okay, and I know the intellects, and I know there’s been a debate, is it kind of like that with this language?

Makeda: No.

Xavier: Okay.

Makeda: It is an indigenous language. It’s a —

Rolande: — language.

Makeda: It’s a language. Yes.

Xavier: Okay. All right. So you could go out and actually get classes if you want where they teach you to learn?

Makeda: Yes.

Xavier: Okay.

Makeda: There are classes, school is held in Kinyarwanda, there’s the dictionary.

Xavier: Okay.

Makeda: Now it became a written language somewhat recently, but, you know, like, a lot of languages across the continent, you know, it became a written language when people who were writing came to the continent.

Xavier: You made a good point. This is what I say to people all the time. They seh (say), Jamaican patois is not a language. It has no structure. No languages had structure until they invented pen and paper for you to write on. There was no language, it was just spoken languages. Everything was spoken languages, but that’s a different debate for a different time. Today, we’re focused on Rwanda. I’m going to move into food. Tell me the food that if I was to travel to Rwanda, that I must try or I must have. It doesn’t matter if it’s just your favorite food, but it’s what you say, hey, Xavier, you have to try this if you come to Rwanda,

Rolande: Makeda, I’m going to have you fly with that one.

Makeda: Okay, to answer your question directly, I would say you should eat Sombe. It’s called Sombe. It’s cassava leaves cooked down, like greens and sometimes there’s meat in it. Sometimes they use peanuts in it, peanut sauce in it. It’s really tasty and it’s something that’s eaten very often here, but that’s another big difference that I felt when I came here. The difference between Rwanda and Jamaica is that there’s no real food culture. I mean, it’s not in the culture, a lot of the foods that people call Rwandan foods are actually borrowed from other countries around the region, and historically, they say that people back in the days just drank milk and yogurt. I mean, it’s not in the history books of Rwanda, anything about food. There’s not much of a food culture, it kind of has been growing over the years. You know, people have opened their own restaurants, a lot of times I talk a lot about Rwanda and different things with culture and things to do and a lot of times the comments from people who have never been or who don’t know much about the culture will say that, well, you’re only visiting restaurants from different countries and how come you’re only going and I’m like, it’s just the other day that people in Rwanda were eating outside of their houses. I mean, it’s just not a part of the culture. Before people would look at restaurants and say how could you eat in public? What are you doing? It’s something that has really come with more and more people coming back into the country, travelers coming in, and tourism now it’s starting to be really prioritized because Rwanda is trying to build and boost tourism, but this is not a food contrary.

What's It Like Being a Jamaican Living in Rwanda?


Xavier: Okay.

Makeda: It’s just not.

Rolande: That’s the only thing that I would want to say about the food is that a lot of the foods that we have in Jamaica are available here, so cassava, dasheen, sweet potato, a whole heap of different types. They will have green bananas, my aunt who was here teaching for a while in one of the refugee camps actually said to me that the green bananas here when you boil them are even better than Jamaica. Soft green banana, you can have it, it’s fantastic. My helper makes liver because that’s a standard. I can actually replicate a sort of typical, I mean, I haven’t found ackee, but I can replicate a typical Jamaican breakfast. I don’t have it calaloo the same way.

Xavier: You have to go to Ghana for that.

Rolande: What was that?

Xavier: Yuh (you) have to go to Ghana to go get yuh (your) Ackee.

Rolande: Yes, I might have to go to Ghana to get Ackee. I can hook up with a friend, two or a couple of friends that I have there but almost everything else, even though they don’t have callaloo, they have a green that if you chop it up and cook it, it tastes just like callaloo.

Makeda: I make it all the time.

Xavier: What is that green? Is it the dasheen?

Makeda: No, it’s called Dodo. I don’t know what it’s called in English.

Rolande: It’s Dodo. We don’t call it anything in English.

Makeda: If it has a scientific name den (then) mi (I) nuh (don’t) know.

Xavier: That’s interesting. The one thing I hear, as I’ve been doing this series, and I kind of know this because I’ve visited Ghana and Nigeria, is that yellow yam is not very popular, not something that you get and I am a yellow yam person.

Rolande: Sorry for you Xavier, not this place. I haven’t seen it, but almost anything else you can find it here.

Makeda: Yes.

Xavier: On that note on food, which you kind of went into, what is that Jamaican food that you really, really miss? If you were to get on a flight now and you land in Jamaica, the first thing I’m getting is what? And I’m going to start with you Rolande.

Rolande: I will be home very shortly, I’m going to be able to have all of those. Stew peas is something that I asked my mother to make for me from time to time and there are moments where I literally crave Hellshire fish and festival, but apart from that, I spend a lot of my time in new places trying to get to know what it is that they’re known for, or what it is that is good there. So I don’t spend my time craving or trying to replicate things from home. It’s actually the first place that I’ve been where, I mean, I had liver for breakfast two days ago and that’s unusual, right, where I can actually replicate flavors from home. I have plantain, fry plantain all the time. Misuzu is what they call it here, all the time. So this has been a very strange posting for me because on some level, that’s why I’m saying, it’s been the easiest to adapt to. On some level, the flavors are flavors of home.

Xavier: Okay. Makeda, what would you have to get? Rolande, the first thing you getting?

Makeda: Oh my gosh, man, you don’t even know there have been so many times where all I can think about because I’m not like that. Like, I make a lot of Jamaican food. I try my best to make things and the thing is I’ve never really been a cook but since I’ve come here, I have just learned to make so many different things from home just because I’ve been craving them, but it’s the ones that I can’t make. It’s things like Ackee and Saltfish. Sometimes I would really, really crave a patty, just like a proper patty, and then a lot of fruits, like, I love guinep. I love Apple, Otaheite apple. I love all of the fruits that I can’t get, those are the things that I really miss too, and breadfruit

What's It Like Being a Jamaican Living in Rwanda?

Xavier: Yuh (your ) not like me where I land and seh (say), I have fi (to) get my peppa (pepper) shrimp.

Makeda: No sah (sir). Nuh (don’t) need it.

Rolande: What you miss here though, Xavier, I mean, we couldn’t have a discussion talking about Jamaica and Rwanda and not talk about that. Rwanda is landlocked, right?

Makeda: Yep (yes).

Rolande: There is no beach and there is a lake, but you have to drive a little bit to get to it. So that I think, I mean, the mountains are beautiful, the country’s beautiful but that’s also something that I missed, that sort of being able to get to water, right? I mean, even in Indonesia, Indonesia is 17,000 Islands, I could leave Jakarta and get to water whereas here I missed that.

Xavier: I see.

Makeda: True.

Xavier: It leads me to a question. Perfect timing, it leads me to another question which is, is there an attraction, a thing, a place, an experience that if I was to come there or any of our viewers watching wants to come to Rwanda you’d seh, hey, there’s this beautiful place. There’s this, you know, this is just amazing. Again, it could even be an experience, it could be a tribal experience. It could be anything. I’m going to start with you Makeda. What would that be if you said this is the one experience, one place, one thing you should try?

Makeda: Okay, well, the one thing, the one experience, the one place that Rwanda is very famous for is for Mountain Gorilla Trekking. They have put a lot of effort into conservation and making sure that they were brought back. They were critically endangered some years ago and now they really put a lot of work in and it’s one of the things that have put Rwanda on the map in terms of tourism all over the world. Mountain Gorilla Trekking is, I would say, I guess the top attraction, but I would also say that you would need to go to the Genocide Memorial just to learn more about the country, and the history of the country, and for me personally, just taking any road trip is stunning. I mean, it’s just gorgeous. You look anywhere, and it’s just hills and hills and hills and hills, and that anywhere that you go in the entire country, you have a view. So that’s one of the things that’s the most stunning to me, and it’s one of my favorite things about the country.

What's It Like Being a Jamaican Living in Rwanda?

Xavier: Rolande?

Rolande: It’s not called the land of a thousand hills for no reason, right? It’s very hilly, they’re not mountains, right. They’re not Jamaican mountains, it’s not a mountain range, but it’s a constant rolling topography and what I think has also struck me very strongly is because when I got here, it was the dry season, and it’s now become rainy season and it’s bright green, the grass. You’re just looking constantly at these fields and fields and fields and map long stretches of bright green rolling hills. For me, that’s free when you drive around and that is definitely something that you should do. There are lots of places. Rwanda is really trying to use tourism as a way to spur growth and they have done that very well. In addition, because they realize the importance of it, they have worked on conservation and so even this gorilla trekking, which is a once in a lifetime experience, these gorillas are not in other places. It’s actually a little bit expensive, to be frank but it’s because they want to ensure that the gorillas are really kept well and you don’t want to ruin the habitat by having too many tourists. So, there’s that which a lot of people will do. There’s great biodiversity so there are lots of other natural landscapes to visit, volcanoes to walk up, there’s of course, the lake also to visit around the country, there are a lot of different places to go to see wildlife and to see really good sceneries.

Xavier: That’s just great. I’m a photography type buff, I’m an amateur and just hearing about that green grass, natural green hills.

Makeda: You would have so much to photograph here, so much.

What's It Like Being a Jamaican Living in Rwanda?

Rwanda Genocide Memorial

Xavier: Yes, definitely sounds like it would be fun. In closing, and listen I appreciate the time you guys have taken to give us just a taste and tell us about your experience there. If someone was moving, a Jamaican was thinking or anyone was thinking of relocating to Rwanda, what would be the one piece of advice that you would give to them? I’m going to start with you, Rolande, then I’m going to go to Makeda.

Rolande: There are lots of countries where I would probably have a list of things that you should do differently or bring with you or you know, all of that. I think here it would be a relatively easy transition. There are things because this country is still a country that’s a poor country and therefore the demand for certain things are not there. You don’t find a lot of cheese. The average Rwandan probably doesn’t eat a lot of cheese even though they drink milk and they drink yogurt, cheese is not something that they have a tradition and so they bring in cheese, right? But you don’t not move to a country because you cannot find cheese. This is just an example, there are a couple of things that might have been part of your staple that you can’t get here, but that aside, I think it’s super easy, super easy to relocate here, to come and have a good time. The pace of the people and their warmth and values, how they value and appreciate family I think is very similar to us and I think you’ll feel right at home.

Xavier: Okay. Makeda?

Makeda: I think for me, I would say this to anyone who’s considering coming. Forget about what your ideas are and just come like a baby as if you’re discovering everything new and have respect for the things that you find. Similar to what Rolande said, some people will be wanting to find something specific that’s not here. Things like that just let it all go and just pretend as if it’s just a fresh new experience without judgment, because there are even in the ways that people work and the ways that people do things. I mean, there are a lot of differences and what I find is that a lot of people don’t have much patience for that, because they’re not used to it, they’re used to things working in a different way where they’re coming from. That’s one of the things that I would say to sort of let go of, you know, any preconceptions that you have, just come and appreciate it as something new, not something good or bad.

Xavier: Okay. All right. Patience and just come to learn and grow, and I’ll carry my yellow yam with me.

Makeda: Enough for all of us.

Rolande: Yes, bring extra, and patties. Bring patties.

Makeda: And Ackee.

Xavier: Okay. So when I’m coming I’m bringing the patties for you ladies. Again, thank you all for joining us. I always try and close with a word in the language and I believe Makeda is the one, I don’t know if you know it Rolande, how to say bye-bye. I’m going to try and learn it if any of you know it. How do you say bye-bye in the language?

Makeda: To say good bye, you say Urabeho.

Xavier: Urabeho.

Makeda: Urabeho. Yes.

What's It Like Being a Jamaican Living in Rwanda?

Xavier: Okay. You know what, I almost forgot this. Makeda, how can people find you? Just search Makeda or Rwanda, how do we find you? I know you are a little celebrity there, how people find you?

Rolande: A big celebrity.

Xavier: Big celebrity.

Makeda: Wooee. If you just search Contact Makeda it will come up.

Xavier: Okay. Good. Say that bye-bye again for me, please. How do you say bye-bye again?

Makeda: Urabeho! Urabeho!

Xavier: Urabeho. Okay. Ladies, thank you, thank you, and urabeho.

Makeda: There you go.

Rolande: Urabeho.

About the author

Xavier Murphy