Archive for October, 2011

As I mentioned back when I was just embarking on my adventure in Rwanda, Kinyarwanda is definitely one of the most difficult languages I have ever tried to learn. Understanding Kinyarwanda grammar entails learning 16 different noun classes (delineated by 16 unique prefixes) and verbs whose conjugations and objects are inserted before the root, as well as navigating the dangers posed by the fact that Kinyarwanda is tonal (slightly varied intonations completely change the meaning of words with the same spelling). Kinyarwanda is a Bantu language and a member of the Niger-Congo language family. It shares some grammatical structures and vocabulary with Swahili, but seems to be infinitely more complicated and daunting to learn.

Since nouns are classified in 16 different groupings, there are almost as many variations in the adjectives used to describe nouns. Below, I’m going to enumerate the numerous forms and ways to use the word “good” (depending on the context, it can also mean “beautiful,” “cute,” “delicious,” and “nice.”) There are 12 different forms of this adjective, each ending in -eza or -iza. (Note: the noun root without its classification prefix is  found by looking at the second or third letter of the word, which I’ve bolded below.) It’s fairly complicated and took me a while to wrap my head around, but it’s also quite an interesting and useful system. Here they are:

beza (bay-zah)
example: abana beza – good children, abantu beza – good people
usage: plural descriptions of humans

bwiza (bghee-zah)
example: ubuki bwiza – delicious honey, ubuzima bwiza – good health/life
usage: generic or abstract nouns or states

byiza (bjee-zah)
example: ibijumba byiza – delicious sweet potatoes
usage: general or large plural nouns

cyiza (chee-zah)
examples: icyumweru cyiza – nice week, igitabo cyiza – good book
usage: general or large singular nouns (singular version of byiza above)

heza (hay-zah)
example: ahantu heza – nice place
usage: for places

keza (kay-zah)
example: akana keza – a cute baby, agaseke keza – a nice little basket
usage: singular diminutive form of other nouns, for small or young people

meza (may-zah)
example: amata meza – good/delicious milk, amateka meza – good history
usage: for things in quantities or liquids

mwiza (mwee-zah)
example: umwana mwiza – nice child, umwarimu mwiza – good teacher, umukobwa mwiza – beautiful girl
usage: singular descriptions of a human (singular version of beza above)

neza (nay-zah)
example: agenda neza – he drives nicely/he goes nicely, fata neza – be careful (with a thing)
usage: adverb, nicely

nziza (nn-zee-zah)
example: inkoko nziza – good chicken, inshuro nziza – good time
usage: singular or plural animals, plants, or ideas

rwiza (rgwee-zah)
example: Rwanda rwiza – beautiful Rwanda, urugendo rwiza – bon voyage
usage: miscellaneous, generic or abstract nouns

twiza (twee-zah)
example: utwana twiza – cute child
usage: plural diminutive forms of other nouns, for small or young people (plural version of keza above)

I’m sure I’ve made a few mistakes, so I ask that any Rwandans or Kinyarwanda speakers reading please correct them!

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Somehow it’s already been a month that I’ve been back in Rwanda. It’s been a great first month back – jumping into my new job, reuniting with friends, celebrating my birthday, exploring new bars and restaurants around town, furnishing my room, watching lots of Modern Family, etc.

As for my new job, I’m working at Eos Visions, a social enterprise that pioneers experiential educational travel programs across East Africa (Rwanda, Kenya, Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, DR Congo). To quote our website, “Eos Visions offers exceptional educational and enlightening travel experiences in combination with first-class destination management services in East Africa.” Eos Visions essentially provides an avenue for international professionals, students, advocates, donors, and interested individuals and groups to learn, exchange expertise, and make an impact in subject areas like health, law & governance, business, gender & children, and the environment & energy.

Eos Visions’ overall philosophy is to help people contribute to sustainable development by going beyond regular tourism or even service learning and helping facilitate engagement in constructive, meaningful, responsible and unique ways that support local development initiatives and empower local hosts. As for the name, “‘Eos’ is the name of the Greek Goddess of the Dawn. Mythology has it that she brought light to mortals as well as immortals. We desire to be part of Africa’s new dawn and to create visions that bring light to our international guests as well as the people of the African continent.” What makes Eos Visions a social enterprise, and why I was particularly drawn to it, is that it strives to achieve a ‘more-than-profit’ model that adds a strong socioeconomic value generation component in all aspects of its business and work.

As a junior business development consultant, I work in a few different areas. So far, I primarily conduct research and develop the content for thematic tours in subject areas related to development, governance, public policy, and post-genocide reconstruction. Part of this entails identifying local partners and stakeholders and acting as a liaison between them and Eos Visions. My other main area of work is in international outreach and marketing of tours to potential clients abroad. An exciting part of the job is that the whole team goes on test runs of tours before officially including them in itineraries, so I have had the opportunity to travel around Rwanda and go on several test tours already.

One of the tours involves a visit to a women’s basket weaving cooperative where visitors have the chance to watch how baskets are made and then try some weaving themselves, before buying copious amounts of beautiful banana leaf products.


So if you or anyone you know is looking to travel to an exotic destination and/or have an enlightening learning experience in East Africa, you know where to find me.

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After a month+ hiatus, I’m back in Kigali – and with lots of updates. I have a new job and a new house, and the city has several updates itself. It’s remarkable how many visible changes can take place in one city in a short six weeks. It reminds me that there are developments happening every day and week that I have become subconsciously acclimated to on a daily basis. Here’s a short rundown of the changes and developments I noticed upon my return:

– Kigali Bus Services has a new fleet of buses capable of triple the capacity of their former buses. They even have digital screens on the outside to theoretically project the bus line (for now they only display random flashes of Arabic or Chinese lettering).

– At least five major intersections have brand new electronic crosswalk and traffic light systems that not only count down the amount of time remaining for pedestrians to cross but also the amount of time until the red or green light changes for cars. New York doesn’t even have that. Pretty revolutionary!

– A major shopping plaza downtown called the Rubangura House now has a metal detector at its entrance. (Not sure if this development reflects positively but it is noteworthy.)

– There are three new storefronts in my neighborhood of Nyamirambo, one down a dirt side street made of fancy-looking glass.

– A major construction site in the center of downtown Kigali has added two more stories and is well on its way to becoming a shopping plaza.


– Another major construction site downtown that is slotted to become an insurance building is almost finished (the second highest building in the header picture of my blog, taken about 3 months ago). It now boasts a new triangle/spire on its top that definitely changes Kigali’s skyline.

Updated and almost ready for business

– A fence around a construction site in Nyamirambo that was made of corrugated metal and bottle caps (I believe they were covering nails but I’m not sure) is now made of brick. And the construction site transformed from a skeleton (which was ambiguously in the process of either being built or torn down) into a near finished plaza-looking building with shiny reflective tiles and windows.

– Construction broke ground for Kigali City Hall, an ambitious project downtown that had only been an empty lot 6 weeks ago. Now it has two stories and the structure isn’t too far off from the projected plan posted on the wall.

– A huge construction site, slotted to become the New Century Hotel under Marriott management, has made visible progress by adding several stories and also looks closer to the projected plan posted on the wall.

– A construction site on one of the main arteries leading to downtown is now about 90% finished, with new white tiling and reflective blue windows. It turned into an architecturally interesting building with a little wave extending from the roof.

Coming back to a place after a month and a half away certainly makes the contrast of past and present more noticeable and palpable – especially a place undergoing such rapid development in its infrastructure and business environment. As for my own developments, namely what my life in Rwanda Part II entails, stay tuned for next time!

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