As an extension of #Paris Portraits I wanted to share a Rwanda Portrait, of one of my very good friends Jeanne who is originally from Kigali, Rwanda. She has spent a lot of time abroad in the US and France for her studies, and has recently moved back to Rwanda last year. During my trip to Rwanda to visit her last September, I had the pleasure of learning about Rwanda first hand through the lens of Jeanne, interacting with her friends and family, and I feel like I had a genuine immersion of everyday life in Rwanda.
This Rwanda Portrait will share Jeanne’s perspective of life in Rwanda, the country’s progress, and suggested things to do and visit.
Present yourself briefly…
Well, my name is Jeanne Umuhire, born and raised in Rwanda and now currently working here but I have to say that I pretty much consider myself a citizen of the world, after spending about 10 years in total studying abroad. I currently work for Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) as a program associate in their Hepatitis Program.
How would you describe Rwanda in a few words?
I’m not sure if a few words may suffice to describe Rwanda, but if I may give it a try. I may say that Rwanda is definitely a beautiful country, with a rapidly evolving economy full of growth and opportunity.
Tell us something most people don’t know about Rwanda?
I am not sure whether most people know about this but Rwanda has had incredibly good leadership post the Genocide. I think that the leaders we’ve had and still have, were able to accomplish many great things for our nation by instilling a sense of togetherness in their countrymen/women. I think most people in Rwanda would agree on the fact that they absolutely can’t afford to go back to where they came from and that moving together towards one goal is what they can do best, so that’s what we’re doing now.
What are some things you have had to adjust to being back in your home country? What are things you missed while abroad that you get to have in Rwanda?
I have to say that even after having been back for about a year now, I feel like I’m still adjusting to being back. One of the challenges that I face as a “returnee” is comparing my current life to what it could be abroad.
On the other hand, being back allows me to be reunited with my family and friends.When I was abroad I really missed being able to see a familiar face wherever I go, now I have that again (due the fact that Rwanda is such a small country, it possible for almost everyone to know each other)!
What do you miss about living abroad? Are their pieces of Paris or the US that you can find in Kigali?
Mostly I miss the awesome friends that crossed my path while I was abroad. Like I really MISS them!!
But of course I also do miss bits of Paris, especially the places I used to stumble upon when I would get lost. Life in Paris felt a bit like a dream because you would always discover or simply be in places with such a rich history and authenticity.
The US on the other hand was a really different experience. It wasn’t so much the places but the people that made the difference really. I absolutely loved my college experience despite being in a really small town in South Carolina with not much to do.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I usually start my work days at around 9 am. Our office is open space style so I get to interact with my co-workers on a regular basis even though my actual team is just three people. I really enjoy my workspace because it is very multicultural and I feel like everyone there has something different to bring to the table (and it takes me back to the places I have been).
I often stay at work for lunch but I also try to spice things up a bit and have lunch out every now and then. I finish work at around 5pm. I sometimes work out after work (definitely not as much as I should), meet up friends for a drink or go straight home.
What is your favorite thing to do in Kigali?
What are the top 5 things you recommend for someone visiting Rwanda?
I think that some of the best things to do in Rwanda definitely include:
- Attend a Wedding -weddings are a big thing here and getting to see the traditional Rwandan dance is really fun to watch
- Gisozi Genocide Memorial– I definitely recommend add the Genocide museum to your sightseeing to-do list when in Kigali.
- Visit Rubavu (also known as Gisenyi), it is a simply a breathtaking area near Lake Kivu
- Visit the Mountain Gorillas- in Musanze (if one has the budget…it can be very pricey)
- Night Life– When in Kigali make sure to venture out for a night out in the Kimihurara neighborhood because the city really livens up then!
What’s next for you?
You know, that’s a really good question. I feel like I’ve devoted my entire life to working hard so that I could get a job (for starters) that would allow me to make a difference. And yet, here I am, having attained that goal but still wanting more! I think that the challenge of being in public health like I am and mostly being involved in project management and policy work is that you don’t get to witness the impact you make on a regular basis. So I think that what I need to do next is sort of get closer to the ground. I really want to give back because I feel like I have been blessed with so much in life and yet I am surrounded with people who could really use a push in life. Some of the causes that are dear to me are women health issues and youth’s empowerment.
As for staying in Rwanda, I think that Rwanda will always be my home but having had the opportunity to live abroad since a young age has made me a global citizen for life! So I think that when the time will be right and the opportunity comes along, I will surely seize it and explore what other horizons have to offer for a bit.