It was an unusually warm, cloudless day in Antigonish, when we met with our 'contact' from Kigali, whose job it was to answer all sorts of random questions regarding the place that only existed in our imaginations. She answered whatever we threw at her; from religion, politics, food and sports before getting to the topic of race.
“Is there a word they use to describe white people?” Anthony asked. “Mazungo,” Destiny replied, enjoying our mix of serious and joking questions. “Would there be a word that they would use to describe this skin color?" I asked, pointing at my darker-than-Caucasian skin color. "Mahindi," she replied, "you would be called Mahindi," she said, barely able to contain herself.
Just like that, Mazungo and Mahindi were born. It has a powerful tone to it, commanding yet adventurous, exotic, but pleasant to the tongue. Some would even venture to call it Sexy.
Anthony, aka Mazungo, finished his Bachelor of Science at St.FX and had a story that eerily echoed mine. Feeling the heat of unemployment, he had both moved back in with his parents, and as his joblessness stretched out for month, after month, and onto a third, the call came from the COADY institute to go to Rwanda.'Reggae-Tone' will also be working at the Kigali Health Institute (KHI). We will live together in the KHI guesthouse, and ultimately share in the triumphs, disappointments and the cultural adjustments that go with adapting to a new country.
With his rational nature, thoughtful insight, fresh look on travelling (having never traveled overseas) and terrible French accent, Mazungo is a perfect compliment to Mahindi. Maybe just as importantly, we share a similar love for a delicious, cold Primus or Mutzig (local brew) on the balcony after a long day at work. It has all the ingredients of a lifelong friendship in the making.
When Mazungo saw the picture of us below, hanging out of the side of a jeep scouting for wild animals on a safari, he was moved, "It's the perfect picture of us," he said, pointing to the difference in facial expressions, "the optimist and the pessimist." It's not that he's a pessimist, I think, more than he is a second thought to some of my more impulsive, ridiculously extreme ideas. In that way, we're a balanced act.
With that, Mazungo and Mahindi land in Kigali to begin a journey that will end with the same flight out in five and a half months.