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Moto rides and other adventures in the land of a thousand hills

  • Nigerian expat in Rwanda
Interview
Published 2 months ago

Sila, from Nigeria and Turkey, is now living and working in Rwanda after she agreed to accept a relocation job offer. In the heart of Africa, and home to the continent's largest rainforest with a third of gorillas' world population, Rwanda is one of the proudest nations regarding conservation of natural habitats. When not teaching the principles of leadership to talented, pan-African students, Sila is enjoying the variety of restaurants and the convenience of moto rides, which can take you anywhere in the country's capital city, Kigali. However, there are three things that Sila needs more time to adapt to — living without caring housemates, the lack of spicy food, and the calmness of the city.

 

Hi Sila, please introduce yourself. Where are you from, what are you doing in Kigali, and what were you doing before you arrived?

Hello! My name is Sila Ogidi and I’m from Nigeria and Turkey -- although I was raised mostly in Lagos, Nigeria. I am currently a Leadership Core faculty member at the African Leadership University in Kigali, Rwanda. Just before that, I was a Marketing Associate at the African Leadership College in Mauritius.

What is the process of moving to Rwanda?

There’s a lot of paperwork involved once you get on the ground. Extending your initial visa to give you time to apply for a permit, obtaining a foreign ID card and going through an equivalence process to translate your qualifications.

What is your favourite thing about Rwanda, and what is your least favourite thing?         

My favourite thing is most definitely the ease of movement around the city. You can get a moto from just about anywhere at an affordable price. The people who sell airtime just outside my apartment building are so in tune with my schedule that as soon as I step out, there’s a moto waiting for me. My least favourite thing is the quiet energy. As someone who originates from Lagos, I’m used to loud, busy cities, and it takes some time to get used to the silent and calm nature of Kigali.

Rainbow in Rwanda

How would you describe Rwanda in one sentence?

The hills are beautiful at night and even more beautiful in the morning.                

What has surprised you the most about Rwanda?

The number of hills! I know they call it the land of a thousand hills and they weren’t kidding!

How is today’s expat job market in Rwanda?

There are several expats in Rwanda working in all sectors ranging from tourism to technology. The expat community is very active and closely connected.    

How easy or difficult it is to find accommodation in Kigali, and what type of accommodation is available for expats?

It varies greatly depending on what you’re looking for. There are several different kinds of housing, apartments, shared housing (with locals or expats), furnished and unfurnished homes. There are many available places. The easiest way to look for housing is by joining expat groups and through expat forums. Housing is quite expensive if you want something decent in location, size and decor.

What are the biggest holidays in Rwanda?

Liberation Day on July 4th which commemorates the end of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis.

What is some essential etiquette in Rwanda?

Don’t eat food in public and never walk on public grass!

expat community in Rwanda

How do you find the lifestyle in Kigali?

There are many niche groups but the beauty of it is that there’s something for everyone. Whether you’re all about fitness, food or music, there are people and events that will give you the space to engage with these interests.

How is the transportation system in Kigali? How do you move around?

I usually take a moto to go to most places. The only times I’d really take a taxi are when it rains. Transportation system is pretty standardized with buses moving frequently and not a lot of traffic. Depending on where you live, it can also be easy to walk to work and get a great view!

How is everyday life for you in Kigali?

To be honest, I’m usually too tired to go out and have fun during the week but one thing I really appreciate about Kigali is the fact that there are some amazing restaurants. So any time I feel like spicing up my week with a spontaneous outing, I can count on finding a great restaurant or bar.

Do you feel that you have adapted to your new life?

Somewhat. If you’re not very socially active, it becomes a little challenging to integrate into the expat community. I’m happy with the routine I’ve established for myself and the work-life balance I’ve achieved, but very little of that can be attributed to immersing myself in the community.          

Are there activities for people who enjoy nightlife?

There are several restaurants, bars and lounges with great food, great drinks and music. There’s also a pizzeria that has Trivia night on Mondays and Open Mic nights every last Saturday of the month at different locations, Happy Hour at Inema Arts Center on Thursdays and more.

What new habits have you developed in Rwanda?

Managing my own time. Before coming to Rwanda, I always lived with other people and it was great to have a group that made sure you were ready for work on time, or didn’t leave anything behind. Since moving here and actively choosing to live alone, I’ve had to learn how to be responsible for myself entirely -- from managing my time to making sure I eat vegetables. Still learning the vegetable part.

And what old habits have you quit?

Running everyday. The hills  and altitude can be a little discouraging, and I definitely don’t run as often as I would like to.

What is your opinion on the cost of living in Kigali?

Like any other place, imported goods are more expensive than local products. However, the difference in price can be scary sometimes. For example, local milk can cost 1,000rwf (Rwandan francs) but imported milk of the same size can cost up to five times the price depending on where you go. There are some shops that are notorious for their prices but I shall not mention names.

Leisure in Rwanda

What is something that you would like to do in Rwanda but haven’t had the opportunity to do yet?

See Gorillas! The price has doubled since I arrived in Rwanda and as much as I’d love to visit them, it’s way out of my budget.

If you could do the move to Rwanda all over, what would you do differently?

I think I would have spent my first few months living in a shared housing with people who have been living in Kigali for a while. That way, it would have taken me less time to get settled and I would have had the opportunity to have people show me around before I venture out on my own path.

What do you think of the local cuisine? What are your favourite dishes?               

I’m all about meat so my favourite dish has got to be brochette. It’s pretty much skewered meat cooked over an open flame and can be goat, chicken, beef, fish and sometimes liver or kidney.

What do you miss the most about your home country?

The noise! It’s weird being in an African city and not seeing the intense crowd and noise. I also miss the spicy food and having street food which isn’t really a thing in Rwanda.

Rwanda

Have you had a moment where you almost felt like leaving Rwanda? How did you overcome that? What kept you there?

Definitely, I’m from a fast-paced environment and sometimes the slow and passive nature of people was frustrating in the beginning. I try and avoid trigger places such as banks where I know I can get frustrated. I love my job and I’m determined to make it work here!

Can you give some useful tips that soon-to-be expatriates in Rwanda might benefit from.

Bring all your favourite brands and products! Rwanda doesn’t import a lot of things and the things they do import aren’t always known brands. So if you have a favourite shampoo or cosmetic or cooking ingredient, bring them with you!        

If you had to advise an expat on five items to bring with them to Rwanda, what would they be?

Your favourite brands of cosmetics (don’t take any chances), bedding and towels, clothes for rain and cold weather, make sure you get your yellow fever vaccination,  and pretty much anything you normally use because you can’t assume they will have them here.

What are your plans for the future?

Right now, I’m going to be in Rwanda for the foreseeable future.

What is one thing that you will take with you from Rwanda?

It was the first place I ever got on a moto and I’ll cherish that experience and confidence forever!