Rwanda: Where the women are kind, the men are generous and everyone is just so nice

18 November 2010 at 10:00 8 comments

“Someone told me she loves me, just then…she told me that she loves me and I am so happy.” When an overjoyed stranger took his mobile from his ear and turned to find the first person to share his wonderful news with…there I was.  Someone loved him and he had to let it out to the world.  I gave him my congratulations, shook his hand and landed an encouraging pat on his back.  He was beaming.  So was I.

Aaah Rwanda!  Only two weeks in and every day has been a revelation.

The mini-bus taxi - cheap, reliable, honest

Last week I was jostling about in the early morning crowd on the side of the road, looking for a mini-bus into town.  I’d stuffed my pockets with some cash for the usual buffet lunch.  A bus pulled up and it seemed I was being hissed at.  Half the passengers were anxiously gesturing at my pocket.  I looked down to discover my lunch money floating to the ground.  Grateful and surprised, I waved in thanks.  “Murakoze!” (I’m pretty sure that’s thankyou in Kinyarwanda).  Beaming smiles all round.

Then on Monday night I was stuck in an excellent thunderstorm.  The afternoon rain had set in and I was just jumping off the bus for the walk back to my new digs.  I was sodden.  Every Rwandan I passed with an umbrella said the same thing,  “Oh! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” Sorry for the rain?  Sorry to see me so unprepared for such predictable weather?  There was something very heart-warming, genuine and novel about it.

Jacques - friendly food server extraordinaire at St Famille supermarket

Or what about yesterday when my moto-taxi man, having proven a hard bargain on the fare, suddenly lowered his price on arrival and gave me more change than we had agreed?  Followed, of course, by one of those winning Rwandan smiles.  Could it have been the little shriek of terror I let out as we got some air heading over a speed bump?

Stunning gardens within Kigali's largest roundabout...and the dreaded motos

It may be just the first flushes of a growing love, or a complete lack of fluency in the local language, but I’m quite sure I have never experienced anything like the kind-heartedness I’ve found in my first few weeks in Kigali.  On day two I was lost and looking for a hostel.  After making some enquiries with two teenage girls, they accompanied me, giggling, all the way to the door.

Wandering aimlessly around a crowded bus park, you can be sure that any number of locals will take you under their wing and help you find your way home.  And if you discover yourself squashed into the back corner of the bus making a feeble attempt to let the driver know you wouldn’t mind getting off soonish please.  A murmur of concerned citizenry will send the message down on your behalf, “Hey, hey.  The mzungu…she’s doin’ stuff up here…the mzungu…she wants to get off the bus.”

Every day brings another unexpected moment of connection with the very generous people of Rwanda.  When they stamp your visa and issue a welcome from the ‘land of a thousand smiles’; that’s not just clever marketing…it’s kind of true.

The question most Rwandans ask, after letting me know that I am very welcome in Rwanda, is “what do you think of this country?”

Well, Rwanda, I’m telling you. I love your country and I am so happy to be here.

Michelle Curtis is a Kiva Fellow working with Urwego Opportunity Bank and Vision Finance Company in Kigali, Rwanda.  She is currently in the business of building lasting connections between entrepreneurs and lenders across the world.

Help support the wonderful people of Rwanda today through a micro-loan. Visit Kiva’s field partners Urwego Opportunity Bank, Vision Finance Company or Amasezerano today.

Experience the joys of a new culture by living and working as a Kiva Fellow, apply today.

St Famille Church - home to a driving school, choirs and me (for a week or so)


Entry filed under: KF13 (Kiva Fellows 13th Class), Rwanda. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

Welcome to Kiva, Georgia! Solb! 21 Centers, 21 Meals, 1 Day in Antique


  • 1. First stop. San Francisco. | Here comes the sun  |  23 November 2010 at 03:45

    […] I made my first Kiva blog last week.  Gives you some idea of how much I’m loving Rwanda.  Follow this link to check it out. […]

    • 2. Jenni Gunter  |  2 February 2011 at 03:22

      Hey Michelle,
      Glad to see they’re welcoming you with open arms. Murakoze!

  • 3. Jenny  |  21 November 2010 at 22:53


    I’m so happy to hear that you’re experiencing Rwanda as I remember it. The kindness shown there was definitely my favorite thing about the country.

  • 4. Lula  |  21 November 2010 at 21:37

    Hi Michelle, Rwanda sounds so great, I really enjoyed your stories!

  • 5. Marty Grey  |  21 November 2010 at 20:38

    Hi Michele,
    I was very concerned for Caths safety when she comes over early next year. After reading your blog all those fears have gone away. Wow, it sounds like an amazing place. Hope your both well and say G’day to Adsy. I know Cath cant wait to see both of you and experience what you have spoken about.
    Cheers darl all the best.
    Love Marty

  • 6. Jerry Harter  |  19 November 2010 at 18:51

    Wow Michelle! This is really heartwarming. I want to go to Rwanda! Thanks for the post. I hope your Kiva work is also going well. Best wishes.

  • 7. Josh  |  18 November 2010 at 22:50

    ace post,
    sounds like Rwanda´s going to be a fantastic place to work\live

  • 8. howard zugman  |  18 November 2010 at 11:03

    Hi Michele,

    Thanx for the wonderful uplifting post. As you can see, some of your borrowers are already my borrowers. Keep up the good work and fine atitude.

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