Conversation with a Rwandan taxi driver

Conversation with Rwandan taxi driver…. #postwartrauma that never goes away…makes me think of all the Syrian stories, not just now, but for decades to come… #randomramblings

Driver: [with a big smile full of pride] How do you find my country?
Me: [I go on enthusiastically listing all the positive impressions I have had of Rwanda]

Driver: Do you speak French? I’m old generation I feel more comfortable speaking French

Me: Yes a little

Driver: [proceeding to speak in French] You know the young generation they don’t want to speak French anymore. It’s a reminder of the old Rwanda, of all the differences and all the struggles. It’s also a reminder of how much we feel France made the situation worse instead of better. English is associated with better times. It is like starting from scratch – has memories of safety and stability…now it is the official language across the board.

Me: How do you feel about the genocide?

Driver: You know when you’ve seen too much blood, when everyone has lost not one person, but several… when children have been taken away from their parents, wives raped and you live in fear every day…actively having thought is difficult…if it is in the past – it is too painful, and if it is to the future – it is too unpredictable and too much of a luxury that many are deprived of. I just get myself so busy with all the different daily things that I have no time to think. Maybe the younger generations because they haven’t seen it all can think of the future – I hope they can.

Me: Do people still define at ‘Hutu’ and ‘Tutsi’?

Driver: No!! Well at least not openly….it is almost a crime now. These references have been removed from all government talks, papers- it is illegal now to include it in any document. We only have one reference – Rwandan. Defining ourselves as anything but that is dangerous – because it already cost us so much….nobody wants to remember that – and no body that has seen it all wants to fall back to that.

Me: What do you hope for your kids?

Driver: I worry that even though we’re doing better now, that our neighbors like DRC are still struggling – I fear one day we’ll wake up and be drawn right back into it. Like this safety you see around you is just a dream we wake up from. Sometimes it feels almost too good to be true. Most of all I wish my kids can think of a future – to give them that luxury I couldn’t have.

Women’s belongings…

I’m continuously perplexed by how (and why) women find it very easy to own and become possessive about their personal belongings..bags, shoes, clothes, furniture etc but when it comes to their success (whatever form that takes) they will tend to discuss it flippantly and will in many cases downplay it and feel more comfortable attributing it to pure luck? Why can’t women ‘own’ the things they’ve worked hard for in the same way they ‘own’ their belongings? #randomramblings

The female hairdresser experience

If anyone ever wants to assess a woman’s behavior for real – she should be mostly observed in a hair salon. The hairdresser’s place is truly a unique venue that brings out some pretty unsettling behavior in some women.

First of all, I never understand why the hairdresser needs to know the entire history of the woman or her most intricate private life details – whoever said that a hairdresser (particularly the male ones) need to be part of the family and know about all your marital or relationship problems?

Secondly, the entitlement and audacity with which some women speak out when the final ‘make-over’ isn’t up to their standards or they don’t particularly like it is appalling! Hairdressers and all their support staff are humans too with a complete set of feelings and emotions – some seem to forget that! Yes you are paying for a service – but really just like any other service in life – sometimes it is up to your standards and sometimes it isn’t. Hair grows back out again! No haircut is permanent! No color is permanent either! Why should all hell break lose if you are not the almighty queen 24/7?

Where are the basic manners??! Some decency please. #randomramblings

Life advice from a Mauritian billionaire

“Your generation…I don’t get you [said with a genuinely befuddled expression]… so many of you are happy just passing idle time standing on the platform waiting for the perfect train that’s just going to lead you to the best destination where all your hopes will suddenly be realized. You talk among each other and over-analyze everything. You show each other pictures or the lives you want to lead, of the partners you wish you have, of the places you wish to go and the things you’d love to do. But then, one train passes by and you say ‘oh this one is too crowded! I’ll wait for the next one.’ Next one comes and you say ‘oh, but this doesn’t have the right crowd in it.’ Next train you say ‘oh this doesn’t look as good as the previous one [the one you forgot you turned down in a second], and you spend years and years looking at pictures of your aspirational destination but you do minimal effort to get to it – or you refuse to fail on the way to get to it.

I just keep telling my kids, and I’ll tell you – take the god damned train…don’t ask too many questions, take it – give it your best shot – you’ll never know what it may bring you..maybe its not to your ‘happy’ destination, but you might meet great people on board, maybe you have a life-changing conversation, maybe you hop off somewhere nicer than what you had hoped…maybe you hate it – and decide to change paths. Who cares? But I can definitely tell you – keeping moving is so much better than standing stationery talking about your wishes!”

Life advice from one of Mauritius’ leading, self-made billionaries.

Humility at work

Today as I witnessed another work related scene (briefly relayed below), I wondered about the trait of Humility – is part of it just a ‘natural’ character trait? or is it cultivated – and if so how, when and by who?
Or is it something that can only truly exist by age?

We lack it a lot in the Arab world – whether its head of state, government officials, head of corporations, or even the average head of nothing but their own turf, operating in their daily lives interacting with people of a different social status, education, nationality etc.!

“Chairman: Has the [country] delegation arrived yet? Shall we go outside to meet them?

Junior employee: They’re 5 minutes away. No need for you to go down

Chairman: No we must

Junior employee: The most senior members aren’t coming in today anyway – they only arrive tomorrow.

Chairman: This has nothing to do with seniority. This is the first time we receive a delegation from this institution, let alone from the country. They just arrived from the airport. Literally this would be their first impression of the country and our organization. Never get fooled by seniority – whoever is VIP today could be removed tomorrow and whoever is ‘normal’ for you today could be this institution’s CEO in several years.  Me & you might be gone from this company – but these people will never forget their first impression today. So let’s make sure we make it a warm welcome!”

Staying on the move

Almost every weekend in my building’s gym I see this old man on a wheelchair, whose wife pushes him in to sit by the side as she fast walks a bit on the treadmill. They always got me thinking because I wasn’t sure whether he enjoys being there or feels dragged into this just so his wife can watch over him while she works out. It’s also one of the rare occasions in Dubai where I get to experience elders, on a relatively consistent basis & moreover someone who, for whatever reason is challenged in his mobility now. Dubai tends to have a largely skewed population dominated by a class of working adults, so those later stages of life are seldom represented in the everyday fast pace of the city.

This time I sat next to him to say hi, while taking a rest. He had this big smile on his face while he watched people workout. I asked him where he’s from & what he’s doing here & after initial pleasantries I said “Do you enjoy coming here?”, & with a bit of back & forth he said…

“Oh absolutely! Especially on the weekends when the gym is so crowded. It reignites a sense of life in me. Life slows down so much when you can no longer walk. And suddenly you think of all the small and big things you could have done with mobile legs…& it’s shocking..it’s shocking to sit here & miss the idea of going up the stairs, walking freely in the street, holding on to my granddaughter’s hand as she runs to try and show me a new toy she got.”

Then he looked at me & said:

“never sit..unless it’s for intermittent rests. Don’t get lazy. Always move. Explore. Your legs can take you to places to see things & people your mind would never imagine. Don’t take it for granted. Make the most of it. And enjoy coming to the gym & working them out. I see all these young people in the gym focused on picking out the imperfections in their body & constantly commenting on how thin or fat their legs feel..& I want to always say can you stop a minute to digest how great it is to have the ability to walk and do things independently with no help needed…think what amazing things & what amazing places your mobility allows you to go.

Relish your youth- do it all so if you’re ever in a wheelchair like me, & I certainly don’t wish you so, then you can watch others run & move fast & think I used to do that & then you can look at their pace & smile & use their energy to allow your mind to run free. Being in the gym here with you all allows my mind to exercise. It’s very lonely otherwise. I can’t use my legs but I can still run in my mind & travel and revisit places I went to throughout my life. Just because you can’t move doesn’t mean your mind is still too. But now you have both -so keep walking, keep moving. Build your stack of memories well.”

Life advice from the brinks of retirement

Because anyone who knows me knows am a sucker for asking ppl general life questions, and life advice & I can’t resist sharing it with ppl who enjoy the same kind of discussions:D. Below is some of what I remember from a very interesting lunch today with one of the senior managers in the company on their last day of work before retirement…

“” [on work] …Don’t let it all fool you. They suck you in. They give you titles, promotions, benefits – whatever it is – and it is an orchestrated process that just takes you from one year to the next and you lose the ability to track anything but a paycheck. And it all starts revolving around that – the paycheck. When is it? How much is it? When will it increase? How does it compare to my friends? Half the time you don’t even really need every penny in that paycheck but it controls you anyway…and you don’t want it to – but you can’t help it. I don’t know if there is a way out – or if it is one of those life realizations that you only come to fully internalize when you’re at the end of your career like me and you want to scream into the ears of every younger person to heed your advice….

[general life]…You end up spending so much of your time distracted by anything and everything – distracted away from the most crucial thing..yourself. And you invest in cars, and houses, and bags and shoes – and you forget to invest in yourself. You forget to schedule time with yourself, you forget to nurture your brain.If I can tell you anything it would be never stop investing in yourself…don’t wait on a man, don’t wait on a friend. Just every day – do something for you. Do something that nurtures you…learn to enjoy your own company – learn to enjoy you because even when you’re married there will be many moments in which you will be alone in your thoughts, or in your self-doubt or whatever it is… Nobody likes to admit that but it happens in every relationship. To think otherwise is naive…

[on marriage and family]…enjoy your independence now, flourish in it. Be stronger but flexible enough for new ways. Its not easy that – its a daily challenge – when to stay true to your way and when to be flexible. But eventually you’ll develop your own compass. Continue to grow – travel, read, learn and unlearn and learn again…that’s how you’ll be more valuable and indispensable always to your future husband or to your kids one days. One thing is clear to me now 3 kids and 2 marriages and divorces down the road…no one can really carry your baggage but yourself…and even those who love you most – they can help you intermittently but they too will tire out at some point. They can sprint alongside you at certain points – but the rest of the way its your marathon – you’re the one that has to pace yourself, and you just get better at that with age. I think I realized that too late and that’s why I failed in marriage. You keep waiting to find that ‘one person’ you feel some attraction and comfort with and then you meet someone and you think this is it – its like you’ve reached a destination, but that’s so far from reality. You’re so relieved to find someone who just gets you in several ways- you end up dumping all your baggage on that person thinking they’ll carry you through, and by the time you realize that’s not the way to go – it may be too late – and you leave realizing you just succeeded in burning each other out. When you love someone a lot – make sure they don’t just see the worst of you that you find difficult to share with anyone else- make sure they get to see your best too – and continue to experience you like how they first experienced you that first time when they saw you..”