rendered speechless

ME: “Where will you be in 10 years?”

 DATE #1: “Drinking Malibu.”

ME: “Describe America in one word.”

DATE #2: “Cool.”

ME: “Well…have a fun night!”

DATE #7: “Wow! I’m just so happy….Wow…..Okay….Thank you….this has been so fantastic…”


Um. Please gain some self-control and do not get the wrong idea here, sir.

These were some gems of dialogue from my latest Kigali adventure: speed dating. Yes, you did in fact read that correctly. When I casually asked a friend of mine his Friday night plans, ‘speed dating’ was not even on the radar for what I expected him to say. I was thinking, okay, he’ll probably get some dinner, go to the club, the Kigali usual. However, when he mentioned something so different, I knew I had to go. I was just too darn curious.


I met with him and four other old Peace Corps friends at Chez Robert, a fancy restaurant just across the street from the famed Hotel de Milles Collienes (‘Hotel Rwanda’). Why in the world we showed up on time, I don’t know (we should have known better), and so we sat on comfy couches in a dark corner of the lobby as people slowly filtered in, running on typical Rwandan time.

Eventually, enough people showed – a surprising balance of both men and women – and we could start.

The women were sat at their own table (complete with white tablecloth – ohlala) as the men were given numbers to wear and lined up near the bar. 8:00pm rolled around, they entered the dining room, and our continuous 4-minute dates commenced.

Here’s the trick, y’all: have fun with it. Do not take yourself too seriously. I asked all sorts of questions, basically whatever I could think of that would get the most interesting and thought-provoking responses. With some men, 4 minutes felt laborious, but with most, it didn’t feel like enough. With each date, you used the provided slip of paper to write the date’s name and general notes from your discussion. I filled that space with the funniest things that they said, such as,

“my eyes are actually color blind.”

Yeah. I’m sure they are.

I indicated 2 of the 11 or so men as “persons of interest” and we’ll all soon (supposedly) be getting emailed if there was mutual interest from the person (or people) you wanted to continue to speak with.

I left the table and evening with few words. I couldn’t really believe what had just transpired; not only did I do that but it was in Kigali, Rwanda of all places. And heck, I had fun. What a pleasant surprise.


Divine once taught me a word in Kinyarwanda that encompasses the “I have no words”/speechless sort of emotion. Birarenze. I like that word. And that feeling not only came up after this strangely wonderful Friday night but flourished the following day, Saturday evening.

Not only did I successfully spend the afternoon in my pajamas (always the sign of a relaxing and lazy Saturday morning, erm, afternoon) but I was able to easily skype mom, Jordana, and Markey for over an hour each. What?!? I can do one more – Jamie, my country-lovin’ Oklahoma-rooted roommate and friend, told me about a FREE country concert happening in town. Of course, we HAD to go. It was beautiful, lovely, under the stars, and I could hardly handle myself.


Too good to be true?

No. Far better than I imagined!

The concert featured the Hummons, with a bit of an African twist. The writers of “God Bless the Broken Road” and “Cowboy Take Me Away” sang alongside a Rwandan drummer, Ivan, for a cool, hip, and fun sound. Covers like “Free Falling” were sang and even though I’m notorious for NEVER remembering lyrics, they came easy. The only thing missing was my cowboy boots.

Jamie and I cheered, clapped, sang, and received a glance or two from audience members. The event was held at a German Institute and so there wasn’t a plethora of Americans; yep. We were the American weirdos. Always.

These are the kinds of events and things needed in a city like Kigali. Things that are just DIFFERENT.

We drove home and I, along with Jamie, could barely articulate how cool the experience was. The writers has put on the concert in the first place because they happened to be visiting Rwanda and exploring opening a market for a hand-maded oil product associated with Thistle Farms, a residential program and social enterprise based out of Nashville, Tennessee. Check it out; the wife of the lead singer has started, maintained, and promoted an amazing cause for women who have been through the unimaginable: prostitution, sex trafficking, and addiction.


Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, Jamie and I also moved homes. In less than 3 hours. I had never – in all my life – seen a move go so smoothly. Rwanda keeps surprising me. We moved to a new home, about 15 minutes away, to down-size just a bit and save some money on rent. It’s a cute, red-bricked home with a lovely front patio that I have spent most of our first days here on. July looks to be a great month ahead; if this is how June closes out I can’t wait to see what’s up ahead.


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Heather Newell Oglesby

Hi! I'm Heather. I am a writer and counselor in-training. I share stories so we can keep the magic of being human alive. I spend a great deal of time going on long walks with my wife, rollerblading, learning, and traveling to find new adventures. By day, I work as an Education and Employment Specialist for Jefferson Center for Mental Health, working with adolescents who have experienced their first episode of psychosis. A Colorado native, I love dark-roasted coffee, sunshine, and succulents. Enthusiasm, passion, and possibility: that's me at my best.

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