Fashion Tings & the Milles Collines

I've been obsessed with these clutches since I arrived. Planning on coming back to the States with a dozen of these in each color. At least.
I’ve been obsessed with these clutches since I arrived. Planning on coming back to the States with a dozen of these in each color at least. Get your orders in now.

Decorated wooden bracelets. Perfect for just about any look.
Decorated wooden bracelets. Perfect for just about any look.

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It's all in the details. Love these necklaces and earrings. Another item which I'll be bringing back with me to the states.
It’s all in the details. Love these necklaces and earrings. Another item which I’ll be bringing back with me to the states.
Milles Collines view.
Milles Collines view.
This beautiful piece is sold at the Milles Collines. Saw it today and fell in love. Plotting on how I can take it home with me next time.
This beautiful piece is sold at the Milles Collines. Saw it today and fell in love. Plotting on how I can take it home with me next time.

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The most famous pool in Kigali. Being here always has a surreal feeling.
The most famous pool in Kigali. Being here always has a surreal feeling.
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Weekend in Musanze

One of my favorite things about Rwanda is the signage. I plan to do a series on the way businesses advertise their service and products. I took this picture because I haven't had Ikivuguto (buttermilk) in so long, I forgot it still existed. Having switched to almond milk for some time now, I've found that I'm largely lactose intolerant now so it took some strong self control to keep me from buying a carton.
One of my favorite things about Rwanda is the signage. I plan to do a series on the way businesses advertise their service and products and their unique choice of words. As English is becoming more and more of the everyday language, the only places you’ll still see an obvious sign of French (or Kinyarwanda) is in the business names, logos and marketing; both languages are quickly being phased out. I took this picture because I want to remember things as they are now and also because I haven’t had Ikivuguto (buttermilk) in so long, I forgot it still existed. Having switched to almond milk for some time now, I’ve found that I’m largely lactose intolerant now so it took some strong self control to keep me from buying a carton.
This is a small Naturally, this sign made me miss L.A. I took this same picture during my last trip to Rwanda in July 2011. Came back two years later to see it still standing.
This is a small food shop and naturally, this sign made me miss L.A. I took this same picture during my last trip to Rwanda in July 2011. Came back two years later to see it still standing.

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Little cousin Jessica and I. After two years, we are finally friends. Small win for me.
Little cousin Jessica and I. After two years, we are finally friends. Small win for me.
The random places I often find myself. Had a personal tour of the Aggreko power plant in Ruhengeri, thanks to my uncle Anselme (middle) and accompanied by my cousin, Callixte.
The random places I often find myself. Had a personal tour of the Aggreko power plant in Ruhengeri, thanks to my uncle Anselme (middle) and accompanied by my cousin, Callixte.
Musanze sights.
Musanze sights.
The old power plant used to be located to the left of the waterfall.
The old power plant used to be located to the left of the waterfall.
Shhh...they normally charge to take pictures here.
Shhh…they normally charge to take pictures here.
Volcano Muhabura.
Mount Gahinga (left) and Mount Muhabura (right). See you next time friends.

ruhengeriThese pictures were taken during the first weekend in November when I decided to visit family and get away for a quiet couple of days away from loud Kigali. Well-deserved and I hope to make it a once-a-month habit. Next time, I’ll be going to Kinigi for closer look at those volcanoes.

Buja, Buja

On October 25th, I began my weekend trip to  Bujumbura, Burundi not by choice but largely because I had to. With my 3-month visa nearing expiration, I had to leave the country (Rwanda) so that I could then come back and extend my visa for another 3 months. When I arrived in Rwanda in August, the plan was to apply for a one year work visa but I was missing one document at the time of my application and was only able to get a temporary visitor visa. Fast forward to October and with my missing document still in "progress", I knew that there would be a time when I'd have to leave the country for a bit and come back to reapply. However, I made one huge mistake when I crossed into Burundi- I had forgotten to check on the visa requirements for Americans arriving in Burundi and was unaware of the entrance fee for a 3-day visa. So what happened? My bus left me behind and with no ATM machine in sight in order to withdraw the needed cash and without enough Rwandan currency on me to exchange it for dollars (hate traveling with money because it's easier to lose so I prefer cards) so that I could pay for my Burundi visa, I was forced to go back the way I came. Until then, my American passport had spoiled me. I had never had to pay for an entrance visa before. Certainly not when I traveled to the U.K., Croatia or Bosnia only two years before. You travel and you learn. Having crossed back into Rwanda and searching desperately for a ride back towards Butare where I could spend the night and try again in the morning, I finally found a seat on a bus and off I went. You travel and you learn.
On October 25th, I began my weekend trip to Bujumbura, Burundi not by choice but largely because of visa requirements. With my 3-month visa nearing expiration, I had to leave the country (Rwanda) so that I could then come back and extend my visa for another 3 months. When I arrived in Rwanda in August, the plan was to apply for a one year work visa but I was missing one document at the time of my application and was only able to get a temporary visitor visa. Fast forward to October and with my missing document still in “progress”, I knew that there would be a time when I’d have to leave the country for a bit and come back to reapply. However, I made one huge mistake when I crossed into Burundi- I had forgotten to check on the visa requirements for Americans arriving in Burundi and was unaware of the entrance fee for a 3-day visa. One of my finer moments. So what happened?  With no ATM machine in sight in order to withdraw the needed cash and without enough Rwandan currency on me to exchange it for dollars (hate traveling with money because it’s easier to lose so I prefer cards), my bus left me behind and I was forced to go back the way I came. However, there was no way I was going to return to Kigali without my passport stamp so I decided to head to Butare and try again the next day.  It was too late to book a seat on another bus heading to Bujumbura so I had no option but to stay in Huye. Until then, my American passport had spoiled me. I had never had to pay for an entrance visa before. Certainly not when I traveled to the U.K., Croatia or Bosnia only two years before. You travel and you learn. Having crossed back into Rwanda, I finally found a seat on a bus and off I went to Huye. You travel and you learn. The good thing is, I’m now well acquainted with the Rwandan and Burundian immigration officers on both sides of the border so let me know if you ever need a favor (kidding).
My Hotel Room at Hotel Ibis in Huye, Butare. Not bad.
My room at Hotel Ibis in Huye, Butare. Not bad and under $30 bucks for the night.
My first solo meal in Huye: fish brochette and chips as they call it here. Had been to Huye twice before and with a group so never ate alone. Gave me time to catch up on Mad Men.
My first solo meal in Huye: fish brochette and chips as they call it here. Had been to Huye twice before with a group so never ate alone but there’s a first time for everything. Gave me time to catch up on Mad Men.
My little bungalow. If you're ever in Huye, check out Hotel Ibis. It's nice, clean, quiet and there's a wifi. A nice getaway from busy Kigali.
My little bungalow. If you’re ever in Huye, check out Hotel Ibis. It’s nice, clean, quiet and there’s a nice restaurant to boot. A nice getaway from busy Kigali.
The side view.
The side view.
Hotel Ibis.
Hotel Ibis.
Finally made it across the border to Burundi. If you fail once, try again. Mission accomplished.
Finally made it across the border to Burundi. If you fail once, try again. Mission accomplished.
I love fish and chips and Amstel obviously.  My first and only meal in Bujumbura.
I love fish and chips and Amstel obviously. My first and only meal in Bujumbura.
View from my hotel in Bujumbura. What you don't see is how hot it was, even at 7 in the morning.
View from my hotel in Bujumbura. What you don’t see is how hot it was, even at 7 in the morning.

I woke up to this around 6 am, had no idea what was going on and was too spooked to go back to sleep.
I woke up to this around 6 am, had no idea what was going on and was too spooked to go back to sleep.

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Lake Tanganyika.
Lake Tanganyika.
I hope to see more of this place the next time around.
Finally made it. I didn't get to see any hippos or crocodiles so I will be trying again.
Finally made it. I didn’t get to see any hippos or crocodiles so I will be trying again.

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One day, I too will pick up fishing as a hobby.
One day, I too will pick up fishing as a hobby.
Back to Rwanda. In conclusion, I've never worked so hard for a passport stamp. Until next time.
Back to Rwanda. In conclusion, I’ve never worked so hard for a passport stamp. Until next time.

Home. Or something like it.

I’ve now been in Rwanda for a month and some weeks now and I think it’s safe to say that I’m just beginning to finally settle in (a more insightful post to follow in the coming days). I’ve experienced more culture shock here than I ever did in the States. At first, I fought the changes, more or less. As someone who left my parents’ home at 18 and someone who has gotten used to starting over in new places, braving the new and unknown on my own while never experiencing homesickness, Rwanda was beginning to change all that. I found myself missing home, missing people I had rarely seen even when we were in the same country. The odd thing being missing a country that I didn’t realize had become my home, even if I still felt like an “other” at times.

The pictures below show my home here in Rwanda. I live in Kacyiru, a neighborhood full of government offices and various NGO headquarters. It’s peaceful here (despite what you may have read in the news). When I’m not at work, I’m usually dwelling here in this very garden. Sometimes with my head buried in a book. Sometimes lost in my thoughts. It’s quiet here, except for the birds, but I don’t mind them. My mind doesn’t race as much as it did in the States. I find myself feeling much calmer, less anxious about things. I’m also writing and journaling more. I’ve read more books during my time here than the last 3 years put together. I feel like I’m slowly getting back to the parts of me I’d long forgotten.

In a few days, I’ll be turning 26. This will be the first birthday I celebrate in this country since I was 5.

Imagine that.

Anyway, until next post.

View from the porch (or veranda).
View from the porch (or veranda).
The house. View from the garden.
The house. View from the garden.

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Come on in.
Come on in.

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JOSELYNE UMUTONIWASE Fashion show @ Papyrus

On Saturday August 24, I was invited to my first fashion in Kigali, held at Papyrus. It was Joselyne Umutoniwase’s Spring 2014  unveiling and I had such a good time and met lots of beautiful and good people. Take a look. I must get my hands on some of these looks. Check her out here and make sure to follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

See a video of all of the styles on my Tumblr photoblog here.

Waiting for the show to start.
Waiting for the show to start.

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Yours truly at the Fashion Show!
Yours truly at the Fashion Show!
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Joselyne in the middle.
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The designer herself! Joselyne Umutoniwase.

Wandering around Kigali: First few days.

Streets of Kigali
Streets of Kigali

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Meze Fresh. Sure to be my new lunch spot. The Chipotle, Freebird and Qdoba of Rwanda and around the corner of my house.
Meze Fresh. Sure to be my new lunch spot. The Chipotle, Freebird and Qdoba of Rwanda and around the corner of my house.
This was my office view during my first week at work. Highland Suites Hotel in Nyarutarama. Not pictured here is the awesome food. Check it out if you're ever in town.
This was my office view during my first week at work. Highland Suites Hotel in Nyarutarama. Not pictured here is the awesome food. Check it out if you’re ever in town.

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Reminds me of Cali.
Reminds me of Cali.

Return to Rwanda

Kigali, center of town, as seen from Gisozi.
Kigali, center of town, as seen from Gisozi.

RWANDA has always been on my mind.

After 17 years away, I came to visit the country during the summer of 2011, one year before I was supposed to finish my master’s degree at USC. After close to a month of roaming the hilly country, visiting family in Kigali, Ruhengeri, Gitarama and Gisenyi, I didn’t want to leave when it came to say goodbye. Again.

So I promised myself that one day and anyone who would listen that I would find my way back. I mentioned it here and I alluded to it in numerous tweets, Facebook posts and conversations with friends, family and colleagues and I tried to remain patient hoping the universe would conspire to help me get what I want. Just as I’d read in The Alchemist, it was only a matter of time.

In me, I felt the need not only to get to know my roots, but to one day contribute to the growth of the country. How? I wasn’t sure. But like English novelist Margaret Drabble once said, “when nothing is sure, everything is possible.” That quote has always brought me comfort.

Fast forward to today, I write my first post while sitting in my new neighborhood in Kacyiru, Kigali. What brings me here? A great work opportunity as the Educational Liaison for the USC Shoah Foundation Institute, working primarily to promote the use of their online educational tool, IWitness, throughout the country.  What also brings me here is the chance to get to know my country, my family, my roots and perhaps, myself.  While I’ll be making a few trips back to the States, my focus remains on this small East African country. Rose in Rwanda was created to chronicle my adventures throughout the country and this time around, I thought I would do so largely through photos.  Taking a pause from La Rwandaise,  Rose in Rwanda will be my new online home while I’m in the country and I invite you along for the ride.

For each and everyone of you who supported me in this decision, and you know who you are, I thank you.

If you’re ever here, look me up and we’ll grab some brochettes and beer. Until next post.

-Rose