Dear INES, We Are Officially Over

2011 is the year I got into INES, a place that I would quickly learn to loathe.

I heard about INES Ruhengeri from my best friend. The small school in the middle of nowhere, Musanze, didn’t sound so appealing at first, until I learned they had a Biotechnology program. Oh, and it was run by Catholic Fathers who are known to be serious & committed when it comes to education. Decision made! Boy, I was in for a big surprise!

Within minutes of being there, I could feel the rot beginning to set in. The first thing that hit me was its uniquely depressing appearance.

To begin, there was a maze of things to figure out – who to get to know, where to go for this or that. A lot of my energy went into trying to make sense of the new environment. It felt overwhelming to start over in a new place with temperatures that were uncomfortably low. Also, coping with new people took me enormous energy.
As such, I suffered with my eating. I’d struggle to eat my meals. And on several occasions, I was physically sick. Even on the shortest of days, when I only had to be in class for a morning lecture, I’d go back to my place feeling physically and mentally drained, exhausted. My weight suffered greatly. I was scared and confused as to why this was happening because I’d never previously had a problem with my eating. Well, I was a picky eater but nothing more sinister than that.

At times I felt suffocated. I spent most of the time at my place, with little to do but read, watch movies and sleep. Though I tried, I never felt as though I belonged. My place (read: ghetto), was my safe haven.

There were days when I was so tired that I could barely drag myself out of bed to go to class. Those mornings when the alarm went off and I would lay in bed thinking to myself “do I really need an education?” All I wanted to do was sleep in or watch movies. But with my imminent future constantly on my mind, I couldn’t afford to sit on my butt, watching movies, while my classmates were studying.

Well, sometimes I did. If I woke up (feeling lazy) and felt like I didn’t want to go to class, then I didn’t go. There was no one around to force me to study, to go to class, or to get a good night’s sleep. However, to stay productive, I had to know how to control myself…I had to maintain my own schedule and develop my own study habits. So, generally in the days approaching exam time, I had to catch up with the rest of the class. Those were the times when I’d lots of work that even thinking about sleeping was a luxury. I would be pushing past midnight reading. On such occasions, it was hard to take a night off, even when my mental health depended on it. When my body said enough is enough and finally gave in, I would try to take a 20-minute nap but wake up 8 hours later confused as f*ck. 

It takes enormous self-control to go through the pressure of college life.
Generally, the pressures are financial problems and a lot of work to do. Though, personally I didn’t have any financial problems.

College life for me has been a series of the worst possible scenarios I could come in and during my final year, INES became a hellhole. The experience that can be deemed the worst would be when we had to submit our dissertations. After getting  the signature from my supervisor, I went to submit the dissertation only to find that 3 other different guys had to first review it before submission to the department. I was like…

It was like they took immense pleasure in tossing us around and making us wait. I always left the place swearing all the cuss words that I knew.

And I suppose this is what eventually brought about the problems INES is suffering from now, and what will probably be its downfall. INES Ruhengeri is a very bad university in terms of anything that management/administration should be really be judged on. It is terribly run. But things need to be tightened up, standards need to be improved. 

INES is full of people who really want to be there…like those students who ask a question that requires a 30-minute explanation, 6 minutes before the class ends. Seriously? And it always has to be to that professor who can’t leave a question unanswered. Those were the students who had obviously bought into a badly sold dream of bettering themselves and, at times, it was horrible to watch – knowing that they were doing five times as much work as me, but somehow we were still drifting along in the same leaky boat. Hehe. INES is an institution that needs a serious overhaul, but is instead potentially ruining the lives of thousands of people. 

Some people think being a student is easy. But being a student (especially being a student at INES) has never been easy. As with every struggle, studying calls for the grace of God. And the encouragement of friends and family.

College life, though it was fun at times, but make no mistake, it was exhausting. However, it has helped me grow as an individual.

The step into the real world is a scary one. Finding a job is horrifying because the job market is tough, now. It’s a real struggle and it’s hard to remain positive. Jobs that once took an associate’s degree now take a master’s, and debt-strapped students wallow in student loans. And there are those who are studying for a degree that may not be very helpful (at all) for finding work.

Graduation is glowing in all its golden glory a few days away. I’m super glad I’m finally done with INES… With all that’s cost me, I’ll not miss INES or anything that has to do with it. And I’ll not miss being a student any time soon.

Sincerely,
The student who won’t miss you.

It’s that time of the year

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, the festive season. Christmas has always been my favorite holiday and probably will always be. Ever since I was a child, I excitedly await Christmas because there is so much that I love about it. First, there’s the moving magic of Christmas carols. The joy of listening to Christmas carols can cheer one up, no matter how bad things in life may be. Second, the beautiful lights and pretty decorations that give a feeling of happiness. Decorating the Christmas tree with lights and other sparkly ornaments was enough to brighten even the most gloomiest of moods. It’s a pleasure worth experiencing. Third, Father Christmas.

I went to La Colombière School. Every year Father Christmas celebrated Christmas with us before school closed. It was the school policy to make sure that we, the pupils celebrated Christmas with the school management before we went for holidays. And I so loved that. I loved seeing the man in the red and white suit.

“How old are you?” He asks.

“Eight” 

“Have you been a good boy/girl?”

Then you nod. I always felt proud to receive a gift from Santa. So, whenever I saw Santa, I begun absorbing the Christmas spirit as if by magical Santa osmosis.

I loved making cards for Daddy and Mommy, plus all the decorations for closing day celebrations. A certain teacher who was our neighbor and who taught in baby class at school, noticed my artistic skills (which have long departed me). When closing day would be around the corner, she would ask for my help to make cards for her class. And I would get treats for my services.

Mums who still uses the decorations that we made in nursery school, evokes a wave of nostalgia that sweeps over me whenever I see them. It makes me excessively yearn for returning to the irrecoverable period.

Christmas was a time when I hoped to receive presents from my folks. Mom always bought us new clothes and shoes for the festive season. Everyone wears their best clothes for Christmas (hehe). For some families, the only new clothes they get every year are for Christmas. And the parties are a good place to show off the new clothes. If there was an auntie or uncle who had travelled from abroad to be with the family for the festivities, then we would also get some chocolates and sweets.

Christmas Eve has always been one of the biggest nights of the year, as it kicks off the festivities. And for new year, one song really puts me in the mood. The Bonane (Bonne Année) song by Orchestre Impala. I listen to the song and feel like I’m flying.

Now that the holidays are in full swing, I’m already absorbing the Christmas cheer vibes and I’m going to smile at everyone I encounter and say “Merry Christmas”

Oh and Santa, I have been a really good girl this year, so do you think you could give me an extra special present?

To The Man Who Will One Day Marry Me

Dear Future Husband,
I think about you often. I think about our life together, our marriage, our family. I think about how you’ll one day be in my life, mine forever. And with that said, I hope you do exist.

If you do, there are few things you should first be warned about. 

I can be quite stubborn at times. I can be such an ass at times. When my period rears its big ugly head, my mood can go from gloomy to angry to loving in like 3 minutes. I’m sorry for that. When on my energy saving mode, my housekeeping won’t win any awards. That’s when I’d rather stay at home watching movies. But it’s always a small thing that snaps me back and get things done. 

There were nights I cried myself to sleep, wishing you were there with me. There were times I was happy that you weren’t there to see what a mess I was. I got my heart broken few times and I hope you’re ready to do some repair work, because I’ll need it.

I love the way I can myself around you…crazy, silly, emotional…I love the way you can look at me, like I’m the cutest person in the world. I love that you made me a better person. I love the way I can look into your eyes and know that you love me with all your soul. I love the idea that I can always come home to you, my loving dear husband. I love that you love me for being me. You’re a special kind of guy. 

Remind me every day that you love me. Hug me for no reason. Cuddle with me. Hold me in your arms to remind me that I’ve been waiting for that.
I won’t ever take you for granted. I’ll always appreciate everything that you do for me, no matter how small.

I’ll support you through good and bad, whether you fail or succeed. I’ll be there for you, always. I’ll never make you feel inadequate. Rather, I’ll make sure that you know just how great you’re. I know how much potential you have and I want you and everyone else to see; and for that I’ll always push you to be the best that you can be. We’re in this together and together, we’ll be strong.

I am so excited to laugh with you, make babies with you, share so many memories with you and to love you. I’m so looking forward to finding new ways to be a better wife. I can’t wait to start this adventure together. I love you with every fiber I have and I can’t wait to prove it you, time and time again.

I won’t say that this will be perfect. We’ll have hard times and when they come, know that divorce is not an option. I don’t believe in divorce. The vows I’ll say, I’ll mean them. So if you get mad, there’s no running away. Promise to never leave. Just get your ass in another room, have some time alone to clear your mind, come back and let’s talk. If I get mad, grab me and hug me. Hold me when I cry. Take me in your arms when I can’t speak. Tell me that it’ll all be okay.

Never let us go to bed angry. And know that you have every right to correct me when I’m wrong, just as I’ll.

You’re my person and always will be. I’ll do everything in my power to keep you (and I hope you do the same). I love you and will love you more and more every day. Remember that always, my love.

Kudos for coming into my life and loving my crazy ass. I promise you won’t regret it.

For now, I pray that God be with you always and protects you, till the day we say “I do” 

With all the love,

Your future wife

#Ntawagusimbura

Jemu-See

He has a beard that covers half his face. His scalp has gone completely bald in the middle. He has yellow stained teeth. His name is James (read JEMU-SEE).

James has a mega-family. He has eight children. EIGHT. Eight children, plus him and the wife…that’s TEN people to feed! And by then, the wife was pregnant with the ninth baby. The couple was in love with the fantasy of having lots of children without considering the actual reality of raising them. This family was impoverished; they lived in heartbreaking poverty.

Their children walked around in bare feet, in old clothing which had turned brown. Brown, the color of poverty. They had potbellies. Overwhelmed by the number of children they had, they assigned the raising of the younger ones to the older children. There was so little food in the house. If the children wanted more, they had to work for it or simply do without. So they stole. Except the small kids who couldn’t walk by then, all the others stole. How else would they survive, if they didn’t steal to supplement what Daddy and Mommy brought home?

James and his wife didn’t have enough to provide for their children’s rudimentary needs. James survived by working for other people, who would either pay him in cash or food which wasn’t even enough. When he was paid in cash, he would hold it with both hands, like it’s brittle or like it’s a liquid that could flow through his hands. He would grin, showing his stained teeth, that he looked like a kid again.

Their house was too small that I wondered how they would fit in and the sleeping arrangement. The house had a roofing that leaked and almost falling in. The iron sheets were rusted and so worn-out that one would think they were just old newspapers.

 

Poverty is a global challenge. According to Gallup World, in 2013, the 10 countries with the highest proportion of residents living in extreme poverty were all in sub-Saharan Africa. Extreme poverty is defined as living on $1.25 or less a day. In 2010, 414 million people were living in extreme poverty across sub-Saharan Africa. According to the World Bank, those living on $1.25-a-day accounted for 48.5 percent of the population in that region in 2010. And approximately one in three people living in sub-Saharan Africa are undernourished. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations estimated that 239 million people (around 30 percent of the population) in sub-Saharan Africa were hungry in 2010. This is the highest percentage of any region in the world. In addition, the U.N. Millennium Project reported that over 40 percent of all Africans are unable to regularly obtain sufficient food.

 

To some, the most basic necessities such as food and water may not be available tomorrow. A simple latrine exists nowhere near one’s home. And going to bed hungry is a given.

Is there a solution?

 

Back to James. One afternoon, a guy was carrying fish from the market (to I don’t know where). It was during that time when bodabodas weren’t allowed on the main road. The guy passed by a policeman, and he rushed at full tilt. As he was trying to run from the policeman chasing him, he fell off the bodaboda. He hurriedly tried to pick up the fish and put them back into the basket. To his bad luck, James was passing by…and God knows the last time he had ate some fish! He grabbed one big fish and took off.

The bodaboda guy ran after him. And the policeman, who had just got there, ran after them. James carrying the fish was zipping between houses, children and chicken getting out of his way. As the guys raced in the neighborhood, the neighbors joined in…making noise all the way (Cyubububuuuu…mumufate, mumufateee!) James ran past our house, all running after him. I don’t know where they got running or if they are still running!

James stole whenever the opportunity presented itself. Everyone in the neighborhood avoided him. The neighbors claimed he had come to settle there after he was chased from where he was staying before, cause of theft. The couple had more children than they could reasonably provide for. Stealing was an option. To stay afloat.

 

This brings me to the question: why does any couple really need EIGHT children unless they are literally producing superheroes? They don’t. No one needs or should have that many kids. How would two people even be capable of dedicating adequate time to each of that many children in order for each one to be happy and healthy?

I believe James and his wife are still producing children en masse.

 

jj

 

 

Dear Old Friend

Dear Old Friend,

Let’s start out with the obvious; I miss you. I miss all of the people I have lost.
True friendship and love felt deep in a person’s heart is something that doesn’t waver. It can be ignored, but it cannot be destroyed.

I wish you weren’t a person that I used to know. I see your life in photos, like I watch strangers in a film. Brief texting has replaced deep conversation and secret-sharing. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to go back to a simpler time, when friendship and love felt so easy. I wonder what it would feel like to not have a care in the world and just waste hours goofing off with you and the other people I now barely know. I wonder what it would be like to know each other again.

I wish it were possible to try to be best friends again. I wish it made sense.
I wish I could tell you when something amazing, or even completely meaningless and silly happens. I wish I still heard the same things from you.
I wish it didn’t feel like you live a million miles away. I wish you could be there for me the way you used to be. I wish I could know the people in your life.

Time flies!  The years have sped by quickly! Looking back, it doesn’t seem all that long ago that we were the best of friends. I can remember some of our silly conversations very well indeed. I remember our time together as being, simply put, very fun. You are one of the most pleasant friends I’ve ever had.

Time builds barriers. It isn’t easy to maintain friendships, and certainly isn’t easy to rebuild them.
I want the friendships I know have always been worth fighting for. I don’t want empty spaces. Maybe you feel the same way and do not want empty spaces either. I hope my space in your heart is still open, because your space in my mine will never close.

You’re still a wonderful person. Today, I admire you from afar. I ain’t even mad that we’re no longer best friends. You and I are one of the few relationships I’ve had that’s been relatively free of any tension, leaving me with nothing but happy memories. And I’m not sure I want to characterize our friendship’s present state as terminated.
So thank you; I want nothing but the best for you in the future.

Sincerely,
Your Old Friend

Honest Hour

I’ve watched plenty of movies where cancerous patients are told that they have few months/a year to live. And lately I’ve been questioning myself ”if I had one year to live, how would I spend it??” Choices about how to spend my time that seem so agonizing now would be very simple ─ the only limiting factor would be money and trying to figure out how to balance all the things I really really really want to do.

If I had one year to live, I would have a baby. Yes, you heard me, a baby! And worry not, the potential man to father my child is already there.

I can imagine the joy that comes with giving birth. Motherhood has a positive effect on one’s life─ la joie d’être maman ─ I have seen my former classmates and friends get married and have babies…it was life-changing for them, and I know it’s one of the best things in life. They must be enjoying it, it is a lot of fun. There are lots and lots of sacrifices and demands of parenthood…especially when all the baby wants to do is scream and grizzle and regurgitate its latest feed over your shoulder, but it’s definitely worth it.

Ofcourse, there are other thing I would do besides having a baby.

Traveling… I would fly to see the people I love most who I haven’t seen in years. Making the first stop at my godmother’s place ─ go hug her and tell her how much she means to me…and take tons of pictures. She has been very supportive of me in every way possible, I could never thank her enough. I would want her to know how much impact she has had on my life, and how much I love her.

If I had one year left I would find a way to go on a vacation for weeks on end with MINE. I would talk to God as often as I could.

In this imaginary scenario, like with any illness, I wouldn’t blow all my money or gorge myself into weight gain. I would only allow into my life anyone who brings out the best in me ─ these are the people I enjoy, who love and appreciate me, and who have always encouraged me to improve in healthy and exciting ways.  They are the ones who make me feel more alive, and embrace who I am ─ and finally have the strength and absolute clarity to say NO to anything that drains happiness away from me.

I would try to be a lot nicer to MINE, and I would be more picky about how I spend my time than ever. I would spend as much of my time as possible doing the very most meaningful, invigorating, joyful and fulfilling ─ infusing my cells with joy.

Basically that’s what I would do, if I had one year to live.

But a baby, hits the top of the list.

And if I only had one day to live, how I’d spend it…well, that’s pretty simple. Who would I spend my time with? MINE, of course. Would I want to spend it freezing in the Musanze rain together, complaining about the weather and the poor customer service here? Hell no!

IF YOU HAD 10 MILLION DOLLARS, HOW WOULD YOU SPEND IT?

I’m not even going to try and say that I truly know the answer. I don’t think anyone really does until they find themselves in this position, but I’ll share my thoughts none the less. It would definitely be great if I can get my hands on 10 million dollars and the first thing I would do is to ensure that I get total financial freedom. I would do whatever I wanted to do; no restrictions.

Then I would pay off every bit of debt that I have (which is thankfully not very much). I would make sure that my parents have everything they need and desire for the rest of their lives. I would renovate their house and start a business for them so they won’t get bored at home. After that I would contribute to the financial well-being of my siblings and best friends. I would provide educational funding for my baby brother, my nieces and nephews. I’d take care of all my family and friends who have been so generous to me through the years. If I had that amount I would fill my family’s life with people like my Angelic godmother. If I have kids, I want them to know that the world is full of good people who can teach us fun and interesting things. I have 7 guardian angels that have been part of my life. I want to bless them each. All my loved ones would be blessed after all is taken care of.

I would take MINE on the best vacation. We’d spare no expense, and just enjoy our time together. And I would buy him every gadget he wants (I know his wish list is a mile long). Next I would build my dream house. And I would buy myself a car (and of course face my fears and learn how to drive) and buy mine a car as well (ibya lifuti wapi).

And I’d probably adopt children. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and there are so many children in Rwanda who are just waiting to be adopted. I love children.

Then I would find a financial advisor (I trust) to help me budget and invest the rest of the money so I’d have enough to live off of for the rest of my life and my children could go to any school of their choosing; and so that I can always give to others when they’re in need.

I can’t see myself ‘not working’ though. I could still be working but just choose how much time I spend on my work. I could see supporting many great causes and helping those who want to do great things, but just don’t have the resources. I have been helped and I would definitely like to thank and return the favor by helping others. This is why I’d like to grow it to an even larger number.

To cut it short, I would ensure my financial independence, have some fun, and spend the rest of my time making a difference in other people’s lives. Or I would wake up and get back to work, because I would be dreaming. But if I could manage to dream a little longer ─ I love the aspect of freedom that it would instantly give me.

Start daydreaming too ─ it’s good for you.