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.