I find Levi-Strauss’ quote “the first thing we see as we travel round the world is our own filth, thrown into the face of mankind” true as we came to Rwanda with immediate looks from the locals confused for why we had such large suit cases for only 6 weeks. We didn’t want to stand out more than we already do as Muzungus, foreigners, by dressing absurd like typical Americans in tank tops and shorts. We came with the mindset of fitting into the Rwandan culture as much as we could learning Kinyarwanda, walking everywhere we go, making relationships with the locals through sharing life together. And in one short week, we were told we don’t look like tourists. What a compliment!
Being a young woman who loves to look trendy, I have found myself naturally looking at the clothing of the Rwandans. It varies as the spectrum of the type of clothing you wear is depended on how wealthy you are. Starting with the footwear, I’ve observed many children and adults wearing Olympic flip-flops. I’m unsure where they got these, but the majority of people are wearing these shoes around the town of Gashora. But I’ve also seen sandals, flats, rain boots for the rainy season, and dress shoes. Your shoes must go with your outfit, as I would say in America, but that is definitely not the case here. Shoes are for comfort and accessibility for what you are planning on doing during the day. The legs are usually covered with shorts, jeans, or dress pants for the men and skirts for the women. Many of the women on our team have been intrigued with the Rwandan skirts that most women wear. The patterns and different color schemes are endless! Each one being unique, we have found it difficult to pick which fabric patterns we want to bring home. And last are the tops; t-shirts, tank tops, and collared dress shirts.
The variety is not large, as we’ve seen that most Rwandans wear the same outfit almost everyday. For special occasions, like church, they bring out their nicer clothing. Unlike America, your appearance is not anywhere as near as important as the work you do for yourself and your family. If I’ve learned anything from this country, it’s to live life working alongside one another in bettering your life to make your dreams into a reality.