Sunday, December 25, 2011

Lots of Happenings

It has been almost a month since I last posted. Many apologies! I have been quite busy, and have lots to update on, including many new experiences.

I went to my first Rwandan wedding a couple weeks ago. It was the wedding of a friend's cousin. There is a really complicated way to understand family relationships. To go to the wedding there was a special umuganda so we couldn't leave town until later. It was alright though, and the wedding right before the one we attended was a military wedding for someone that seemed pretty high up, complete with military band and sword arch. The wedding I attended was great! I was worried at first that perhaps the bride and groom were sad to be there, or at least not very happy about it. I was told that being serious requires not smiling. During the wedding ceremony there was really interesting discussions of how to treat each other with respect and how true Christian love would prevent people (husbands and wives and people in general) from treating others badly, with the priest also citing the well known example of Hutus and Tutsis during 1994. The reception was much more relaxed than the ceremony in the church. There were separate seats for the distinguished family members on each side, and many speeches. Particularly interesting was a speech from the bride's father saying that she was muzirankoni - meaning one who cannot be beaten, and stressing that she needed to be treated right and the couple needed to visit both families, his and hers. The father of the groom assured everyone that theirs is a good family that doesn't even like to take beer, they like milk. Also, he said that they have ways of settling conflicts and disputes that do not involve fighting or violence, and emphasized that their family's men always treated women properly. He assured everyone that the bride would be well treated by his son. It was a very interesting conversation: a GBV (gender-based violence) prevention discussion during the reception. Very interesting. After these speeches there was sharing of soda and cake, and gift-giving to the couple. At least two cows and a car was said to be given to the couple, and the bride's university class visited and brought gifts as a group. Rather than just leaving gifts by a table, one is supposed to walk up in front of everyone and give the gift, which meant I too had to walk up with my wedding cart and say congratulations. It was a great time, and allowed me to see the AVEGA (an organization for widows of the genocide - headquarters in Rwamagana since the reception was held there.

Another thing I have done is learn more of Nyamirambo as I have made a friend that is also without her partner right now. I really enjoy Nyamirambo. I would honestly have to say that if my current living situation weren't so perfect I would go get a place in Nyamirambo. It is a more energetic part of town with lots going on, lots of people, lots of colorful shops, buildings and buses. It's a very fun part of town that I suspect will be Andy's favorite while he is here. Notable places include Green Corner which is famous for fish and inkoko (chicken). And when you get a chicken they give you a chicken. It is quartered but it is all there for you, and very tasty. I was also taken to a juice shop that has a fruit dish from Mombasa, Kenya with pieces of pineapple and citrus fruits all in avocado juice. When it was described to me, despite my love of avocado juice I was quite uncertain about how good it would be. Surprisingly, it was incredibly good!

Other good places I have found to eat include Mr. Chips. Absolutely awesome if one is craving fried chicken! The fried fish and burgers are also supposed to be very good. For a lot of local food though I still enjoy the delicious meals offered in our house and buffets. Another buffet close to the house is quite cheap and includes drink and dessert. So overall I am eating quite well! I have also gone to Come Again and finally tried Akabenzi - a pork dish that I have heard a lot about since the last time I was in Rwanda. It was pretty good. I'm still going to have to say that brochette ihene is still my favorite (goat brochette - kind of like shish kabob without so many vegetables).

I also got a chance to meet Rwandan students that have been granted Fulbright scholarships to study in the United States. That was a really great experience as Rwandan alumni of the program and Americans in the room talked about American culture and things to expect, etc. It was interesting to think about my experiences here in Rwanda and then consider how a Rwandan might experience America once there.

In addition to interviews, meetings, and meals, I have also attended a couple conferences (of which there are many always happening in Kigali). One I attended was the second day of the Kigali International Conference African Security Organs Annual Review Meeting on the Prevention of Violence against Women and Girls. There were representatives from many countries present including Botswana, Burundi, Central African Republic, DRC, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia, as well as Eritrea and South Sudan as observers. There was a lot of representation from RDF (Rwanda Defense Forces) and RNP (Rwanda National Police). They took us all on police vans to visit RDF gender offices that dealt with gender and GBV concerns located at the Ministry of Defense as well as the RNP headquarters GBV office. There are also smaller versions in local police stations, as I have seen in my local police station. At the end of the conference, recommendations were discussed and agreed upon. This involved posting the recommendation Word document on a projector and everybody debating about them. It was really fascinating to see the ways people debated and argued about the recommendations, finally coming to an agreement.

I also to a conference with the invitation of IBUKA (a word meaning remember, this organization is a survivors organization - on trauma counseling which featured the publication of a report of counseling offered during gacaca (a local form of community justice). This was extremely interesting and allowed me to meet more people involved with gacaca as well as student groups of survivors, and other researchers focused on trauma and gacaca. It also again highlighted the challenges of transitional justice, local justice, care services like trauma counseling, and recovery in general.

As for the holidays, there is no need to worry because there are plenty of people here making sure that I feel at home! There's lots of interesting things going on around Kigali for the holidays. Holiday reggae show, a place for kids to go and do kid stuff, special discount on Ethiopian buffet, some football games, a traditional dance show, and many gatherings. I spent part of Christmas Eve with a friend and we went to one of the nice hotels in Kigali. It had a choir set up by the very elaborate pool and garden area and the entire hotel was decorated beautifully. I will go to a Christmas dinner this afternoon with a few friends.

I do have to say that the reggae wasn’t holiday songs or anything. It just happened during the holidays. I really loved the band – Holy Jah Doves (their songs are available on youtube and samples are at! It was a shaky start the first song or two, but then once they got going it was really good. They started with some popular Bob Marley songs, but then moved into Kinyarwanda reggae written by the band which was a mix of reggae and traditional Rwandan sounds. Really amazing. And the crowd and bar was great. It is a place that serves pizza, but since we were full from Ethiopian buffet we will try the pizza another time. The Ethiopian buffet was fantastic! In addition to great food (and of course, my favorite: doro wat), the buffet included coffee ceremony and a bonfire in the yard.

I didn’t make it to the football game yesterday, but may go see one on Monday. I was not particularly worried about it since they are friendly practice games rather than games with opposing teams. Instead I went to lunch yesterday and while eating outside on the covered patio, got to see my first hail in Rwanda. It was a crazy little raincloud (there were other places with sun while hail was falling by us. It didn’t last too long but interesting nonetheless.

Other new experiences included planting a bit of eggplant with a really friendly woman I met at the home of an acquaintance, getting to see some new villages, helping judge a youth essay and poster contest hosted by USAID and the American Embassy during the 16 days of activism against GBV (, watching a woman’s football game after the 16 days march played between women in government institutions and women in civil society organizations (and during the march, police and military join in with other organizations marching to show their support for the fight against GBV), and being able to introduce myself in Kinyarwanda to a group of rural women just outside Kigali learning to read and write. Kinyarwanda lessons are reaching their end, but I was able to get enough to do introductions, numbers, market bargaining, and the like.  

The house will soon become bustling as more people start arriving. The woman I am living with will have a busy house in January. Should make things even more interesting as Andy is here since he'll get to meet many people and experience the business of a full house in full swing.
I have given up more or less on the early morning swimming. Maybe when it is not so rainy and cold at night it will be alright to get up early and swim. Or I just have to commit. I will still go every once in awhile (as regular as a schedule allows) to swim in the afternoon, and still do sauna time  since that seems to really help a lot. A lot of the exercise now is walking everywhere. Between the healthy food and walking I'm doing quite well. And of course I have been continuing to meet with many great people and trying to make sure that I continue work on all projects while here.

So as you can see, things have been quite busy! In the future, I will be sure to update this blog at least once a week. Until next time, noheri nziza (Merry Christmas), Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanza, and in general happy holidays!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Cloudy Day

As the post title suggests, it has been a cloudy day here in Kigali. The day is still young, but I suspect it will bring rain (imvura) rather than sun. I have a meeting this afternoon and an event to attend this evening so I am taking a bit of time out to post quickly. It is of course Thanksgiving here and back in Lincoln as well. For those curious, there is a restaurant (mostly an expat sort of place) that is serving an expensive Thanksgiving dinner - a mere 14000RFW ($23 for the meal), though another post says 12000 ($20). It will include pumpkin soup, turkey, mashed sweet potatoes, vegetarian stuffing with celery, apples and raisins, carrots, spinach, and choice of things like pumpkin pie or cinnamon raisin bread pudding. I will obviously not be going. Most large tasty meals elsewhere are much cheaper. A friend and I got brochettes, frites, soda and I got a large beer all for around 4700RWF ($7.83) If I need a special meal I will simply go find some more tasty goat somewhere.

With that said, I have been able to do more office visiting and following up and requesting new interviews. Tomorrow starts the beginning of 16 days activism aganist gender violence in Rwanda and throughout the world. There will be a group of supporters walking through town, ending at the stadium for speeches and to watch a women's football game: women in government institutions vs. women from civil society organizations. I probablly will not get to see all of the football game since I have Kinyarwanda class, but it should be a good experience.

I know this is a short update, but I have to make sure I stay on schedule. Take care and mwirirwe (MeeReeGway - goodbye (afternoon); see for more Kinyarwanda words and phrases, spelled phonetically)!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Busy Week

This week I met many people and attended really interesting events. My trekking around the city has paid off both in meetings and in ensuring that I am finally able to find my way around relatively efficiently. One of the more exciting things I got to do was attend a national working group on women's land rights. Very interesting! There was a great mix of individuals there: gender experts, development experts, lawyers, rural leaders, government officials working on gender, abunzi representatives (abunzi is a local dispute resolution committee - for more information see the summary by Séraphine Murerwa, Muriel Veldman and Marco Lankhorst at, UN workers, NGO workers, and more. I was particularly pleased to have the opportunity to attend this event given the emphasis that many women's organizations place on their role in advocating for women's inheritance rights among other laws.

Another event attended was a summary of Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW - activities in Rwanda. This is the first year Rwanda has participated in GEW and events ranged from training in entrepreneurship, finding mentors for those interested in entrepreneurship, and connecting entrepreneurs with global networks. The keynote speaker was Eric Kacou, author of the newly released Entrepreneurial Solutions for Prosperity in BOP [Bottom of Pyramid] Markets ( Particularly noteworthy was a short presentation about a local magazine's decision to consistently run a regular story highlighting women entrepreneurs, a student's story about starting a business from 5000 RWF (Rwandan francs - about $8.33) that now has 5 employees, and a student organization's story of creating an entrepreneurship club at school. It was interesting to hear from many of the people who emphasize entrepreneurship as a solution to some of Rwanda's economic problems.

During some personal time, I went to my first trivia night here and the people organizing it are serious about trivia. There were 32 questions, ranging from identifying celebrity parents (of which I knew nothing about), determining the first line of books to identifying things like the president of Uzbekistan (refering of course to Herman Cain's Ubekibekibekistanstan statement - the answer is Islam Karimov by the way). It was fun, despite our unprepared group coming in last place. Perhaps our brains were fried from Kinyarwanda lessons, or perhaps we are just terrible. Maybe we will find out at some future trivia night.

Other than that I have been doing a lot of the same: studying Kinyarwanda and trying to work on my French, such as it is; trekking around seeking out contacts and interviews; enjoying delicious Rwandan food; trying to make sure I set aside dedicated time for writing; trying to get up to swim early (I was quite naughty by skipping a lot this week); and currently enjoying the scent of old cabbage waiting to be eaten by the rabbits wafting into the window as the wind has changed (methinks it's time to close the windows). I also survived my third ever sauna. To state the obvious, those things are ridiculously hot! I might be getting better though. I made it significantly longer than five minutes this time.

Next week there is a lot on the table and so an update should be short in the making. Turongera (see you soon - TooRohnGayRah, see for more Kinyarwanda words and phrases, spelled phonetically)!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Long Overdue Update

Things have been going quite well here in Kigali. It has been awhile since I last updated, and a lot has happened. I have received my research clearance and research visa, allowing me to contact organizations which require such clearance. I have made good connections for an interpreter/research assistant. I attended an art show of Rwandan artistics. I attended the opening of Nyampinga Girl Hub - a group that will publish a magazine and radio station aimed empowering Rwandan girls. I tried both a Chinese restaurant and an Indian restaurant, and found a place near my Kinyarwanda lessons that has good meatballs. I was also able to listen to a couple of really interesteing presentations by Ellen Banda-Aaku (author of Patchwork - Most interesting was her presentation to students of the Centre about gender, culture, being a woman writer, and a discussion about what the phrase "African feminist" may mean.

As I have been here longer I have gotten to know more of the Centre's faculty and affiliated researchers. They are a great group! Someone involved usually has some sort of weekend outing or movie, etc. One graduate student researcher is soon returning home and so I went to her going away party where I continued to meet people. Between the Kinyarwanda lessons, meeting people through Centre connections, wandering around searching for NGO offices, and other random meetings along the street, I'm getting to know a good deal of interesting people here. People are very friendly and helpful, and I am getting many chances to practice my Kinyarwanda and my very poor and limited (but growing) French.

I don't have much time to elaborate tonight since I have work to get done and places to go afterwords. The next blog will be very soon so you won't have to wait again. Take care, and umugoroba mwiza (have a nice evening - OoMooGohRohBah MWEEZah; see for more Kinyarwanda words and phrases, spelled phonetically)!

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Yesterday was umunsi w'umuganda. This is a day of service during which all who are able between 18 and 65 are supposed to participate in community service from 8-11am on the last Saturday of every month. A chairperson directs the work, and at the end there is a community meeting to discuss problems, concerns, news, etc. One is supposed to bring one's own tool and be directed from there. Our guard gave me a hand tool which has a long metal piece that bends at a 45 degree angle for the last 4-5 inches ( It is meant for cutting grass, so I helped cut grass along a small hillside and along the street. Needless to say, I was quite terrible at it. Others were able to hold with one hand and swing. To be somewhat effective I wound up holding it as a cross between a gold club and swinging like low baseball bat. By the end I started getting better, but I will clearly have to practice before the next umuganda day. There were some nice people who helped shuffle me around and one that had gone to university in Kampala who talked with me about umuganda. He was very proud and said that umuganda helps Rwanda be the most beautiful country in all of East Africa. After umuganda, I spent the rest of the day resting, which included accompanying my housemate to a massage and my first ever sauna. I understand it is supposed to hot but it was really hot! I only lasted about five minutes in the sauna.

I woke from my rest this morning to church music and preaching. There is what sounds like a Southern minister at the church next door today. He's speaking English and someone else is translating what he says. On Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays the church is definitely up and running. Last time I was in Rwanda we were right next door to a church as well. There are many here, and I am often asked if I am here working for either an NGO or a church.

In addition to umuganda and sauna, since I last wrote I was able to have another new experience on Friday night: Tanzanian food. For one of the gender researchers leaving the Centre to return to Australia, a group of us went to the Tanzanian restaurant near our house. You order goat in kilos there, and the group of us went through three kilos of goat. From the Tanzanian professer at the Centre, we also learned about the softest part of the goat: the underarm. In addition to the goat, there were DELICIOUS greens, some vegetables in a red saunce, fried potatoes, and a curry-like sauce. It was a very good meal. Tonight I may go to a local restaurant frequented by foreigners as they are having a Halloween gathering complete with Halloween buffet (unsure what that means), treats for kids, costume contest, and a showing of Ghostbusters. I will also find out today if I will be starting Kinyarwanda classes tomorrow.

Until next time, take care and umunsi mwiza (have a good day - OoMoonSee MweeZah, see for more Kinyarwanda words and phrases, spelled phonetically)!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Getting Situated in Kigali

I have now gotten over jet lag, met many people from the Kigali Institute of Education (KIE) Centre for Gender, Culture, and Development (CGCD), met with members of the U.S. Embassy, and have settled into my ensuite. The house at which I'm staying is conveniently located, has meals provided four days a week, and is working out very well. It is especially great that the home owner knows many of the gender scholars and activists here and is introducing me to them all. I plan on being based here for the duration of the trip. I will still travel around the country of course. I also have been working on the final stages of the bureaucratic process through which one gets a visa. By next week I should have a visa in hand. Those coming out to visit me in Kigali should know that Americans don't need a visa if they are coming for 90 days or less. Here let me make a plug for Dr. Chantal Kalisa's summer study abroad in Rwanda to take place in summer 2012. Email Dr. Kalisa for more information ( The previous flyer is available at, but keep in mind updated information should be attained from Dr. Kalisa. Even if you are not in the UNL system, you should still email about attending.

In addition to getting settled in my new home, meeting new people, and working on the visa process, I have been able to explore a bit. Yesterday I was able to meet with the other Fulbright student and a friend of hers. She and I first met at the Fulbright orientation in June and she arrived in Rwanda last month. I was able to finally have my first Primus since being back in Rwanda and some brochette (goat skewer, though other meats are available as well) at a local restaurant near my house. Towards the end of the evening, there was some Glenn Medeiros, Elton John, and Celine Dion videos. Most of the music videos were of Rwandan artists. I should soon know more of them as I listen to more radio. That's one of the really fun things with my new phone: it comes with FM radio. AWESOME! Everything from local stations to BBC Africa. And for those in the know, yes I did bring a phone with me but in my brilliance I left the battery in Lincoln. It has clearly worked out though as that phone did not have FM radio, and having two here means that Andy will get to have a phone when he makes it out.

Those are the main happenings for now. I'm all settled in and off to a good start here in Rwanda. I will post again soon. Until then, take care!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Muraho from Kigali!

Greetings all! I have arrived in Kigali and enjoyed a nice day of rest. I really enjoy the house in which I am staying and it looks like I'll be trying to get myself up early in the mornings to go swimming. I also got a chance to visit the Kigali Institute of Education (KIE) Centre for Gender, Culture and Development (CGCD). In the next couple days I'll be getting the last things in order to get a long-term visa, etc. Stay tuned for updates!

Monday, August 22, 2011


About Rooster Rouser:
This blog features random musings about my interests in human rights, women's rights, gender, transitional justice, and political theory. The earlier posts in this blog (from February to March 2010) chronicled my time at the WILPF (Women's International League for Peace and Freedom) Practicum in Advocacy at the UNCSW (United Nations Commission on the Status of Women). Posts from May to June 2011 chronicled my time spent researching women's organizations in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). Posts starting in October 2011 will chronicle my time as a Fulbright U.S. student in Rwanda.

About the Author, Laura Roost:
I am a Political Science Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with concentrations in political theory and international relations and graduate specializations in Women’s and Gender Studies (M.A.) and Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs (Ph.D.). My research interests include gender and transitional justice, women’s rights and human rights, and feminist political theory.

BiH Wrap-up Discussion

Thanks to the UNL Department of Political Science Senning Summer Fellowship, and the Forsythe Family Program on Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs Summer Fellowship, I was able to complete my initial research in BiH. I was able to get a fantastic overview of the status of civil society and peacebuilding in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the first week of my travel and in the final week and a half I was able to interview select women's NGOs, shadow one NGO in particular, and observe a couple events organized by women's NGOs. It was an extremely productive research trip and I look forward to future research visits to BiH to continue to understand the role that women's organizations and women's issues play in the state. I have been left with a large amount of information to process, particularly regarding themes such as competing women's issues and the impact of ethnic politics on women. More will undoubtedly be written about this and other research travels in the future, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sarajevo - Day 9

Things have still been going pretty well here. I have made contact with some really interesting women's orgnaizations. Also, I have been finding some really great hole-in-the-wall restaurants. I went to the fancy mall yesterday since I had heard so much about it and it was really fancy. The food court had a stand that sold cup corn which was very much like elotes, but it had garlic and pepper added and didn't have the cream. I also found a place showing Stanley Cup playoffs while walking around the old town, so last night I watched some hockey while drinking a Sarajevsko beer ( I was also able to find an inexpensive duffel in which I can bring back the many books and materials given by different organizations visited. I did not think of that at all when I came up with the carry-on only strategy. Still, the bag was significantly cheaper than mailing the things would have been and it would have been really hard to lug all of it around in the airports.

Overall the trip has been going really well and I am LOVING my hostel! If anyone out there is planning on heading to Sarajevo, stay at the Hostel Ferhadija ( It is in the middle of the old town, the family that owns it is extremely friendly, and I have been getting amazing sleep! I cannot emphasize how great it is. With that said, I had better get up and get my day started. Only a week left here and so much to do, including potential trips to either Mostar, Zenica, or both.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sarajevo - Day 7

I have returned from Brčko and have settled in my hostel. It's pretty awesome! Tonight I should catch up on notes and be prepared for the coming week. I am still debating a trip to Tuzla, Zeniza, or Mostar but we will see what happens in the coming week.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Brčko - Day 1

The last few days in Sarajevo have been extremely productive! In addition to meetings, I also got to have my first doner from Mac Doner's (logo can be seen at and generally been trying as many new things as possible. We had an opportunity to come up to Brčko, and we are now here. It was a beautiful drive and the city is very nice. I haven't been able to do many updates, but I am making sure instead that I am getting enough rest. In the coming days hopefully I will be able to further update you all.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sarajevo - Day 3

Today was another productive day meeting with members of different organizations. I had my first bosanska kafa (Bosnian coffee) and it was pretty tasty, though I'm pretty sure I got the specifics of when/how to add sugar, eat the Turkish delight, etc. wrong. Still, very nice and very strong! I also had a nice Bosnian dish for supper that was a stew of sorts served with bread. Between meeting all the great people here and learning my way around the city, I have been very busy. Tomorrow promises to be another busy day, and that is definitely a good thing!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sarajevo - Day 2

Today was a productive day filled with NGO meetings, more good food, and finding socks to replace the ones I forgot to bring. Note to anyone traveling to Sarajevo: do not forget your black socks! Also, apparently never underestimate how cold it can get in May. I am so glad I was prompted to bring my jacket! Tonight will be spent on notes and preparation for tomorrow's many meetings. If I have time later I may post some photos from yesterday's excursions. Overall though a good day, despite the cold, and I am really looking forward to tomorrow!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sarajevo - Day 1

I will be posting updates here regarding my time in Sarajevo and surrounding areas (should opportunities arise), just as I did during the Spring 2010 Practicum at the UN Commission on the Status of Women. Be sure to stay tuned!

I actually arrived in Sarajevo yesterday, after a flight connecting from Lincoln to Chicago to London to Munich and finally to Sarajevo. It was a surprisingly nice flight! I met up with UNL faculty member Dr. Patrice McMahon to get situated in the city, and she introduced me to a delicious Bosnian dish during supper. There was a salad of cucumber and tomato covered in cheese that was amazing and a very tasty pita bread filled with sausage. I am certainly going to have my share of red meat here! After a good night's rest, and because many NGOs are not operating on Sundays, I took time today to learn how to get around town and see several historic sites. The rest of today is going to be spent organizing the specifics of the visit and preparing for interviews.