Kwicekagura. Kwee-chee-ka-goo-ra. My ever-patient colleagues laugh, lounging on the motorcycles pulled into the front room of the office, as I mumble and repeat. Dusk is falling outside. Thunder rumbles ominously. Many of the words they have taught me in these informal, end-of-the-day lessons I have forgotten; many I never fully understood. This word, however, I am determined to remember. In Kinyarwandan, kwicekagura means ‘bumpy.’
The first two months of life in rural Rwanda have been full of bumps: unexpected moments that veer from routine. Pulling the motorcycle to a halt on the roadside, out of fuel. Listening to the meeting’s tongue instantly, inexplicably flip to fluent Swedish. Laughing with a sudden cluster of preschoolers as I make my way to work. Some of these moments are immediately surprising; the impact of others comes later, more slowly, as pieces of the day percolate together. Some bumps are tough; others are filled with buoyancy.
Walking home from the office, I am surprised by how quickly night has fallen. A seven o’ clock darkness already blankets the village. The sky is hazy and starless. Behind a cloud, the moon shines a dull and vague gray. Streetlights came to Kibeho, the town where Claude, my co-fellow, and I live, a few months before our arrival, but as on most stormy nights they stand in shadow. Foot by foot, I begin to feel my way up the red dirt road towards the monastery I call home.
I can hear other shapeless figures shuffling similarly along. Thunder rolls, closer now, and as a red-white fork of lightning arches down into the valley, the figures become momentarily visible. There is a woman with a child at her skirts, a boy pushing his bicycle up the hill, a man under his umbrella. The eucalyptus blows sideways in the wind. A lizard darts across the path seeking shelter, and as the rain comes harder, I quicken my pace to do the same. Then night returns, insular and close.
It goes like this. Flashes of light followed by minutes of near complete darkness. Bumpy. Kwee-chee-ka-goo-ru. I grin. There was a car I saw in the capital city, this black Beetle car, with oversize orange letters across the passenger doors asking, “Isn’t this just Rwandaful?” “Yes,” I think as I shuffle forward, “This is Rwandaful, indeed.”
On some small scale, this walk is like much of daily life. There are unique moments of clarity – a kind explanation, that Kinyarwandan word that finally falls into place, a pattern in the mess of numeric data – where the threads that govern life here come together in something whole. These moments, even in their brevity, are enough. They carry with them the promise that if I just keep shuffling, they will come again, and maybe more often. Until then, along the road I go. With another flash of lightning, I see the monastery gate up ahead – its vine covered courtyard, its brick walls, its smoking fireplaces – and know that I am home.