Confessions of a Westernized Mind!

Remember that post I wrote a while back on expatriate living? If you haven’t read it, you definitely should. You can get the link here: Expatriate Moments of Brevity: Life Abroad! This next article is almost a continuation of this previous post; yet again, I write about my own experience and some observations as I compare first and third world countries. My intention is NOT to offend anyone or point out weaknesses. I only share my personal experiences (good or bad), and hope that you will be entertained, or encouraged!

When you relocate to a western country, some of the following things may be a true sign that you have indeed adjusted and feel at home in your new home. In this context, the western country is the United States. I haven’t lived in any other country besides the US and Rwanda. So, buckle up and enjoy yet another one of my life’s experience blog post.

NY JFK Airport. My heart holds lots memories from this one including my very first day in the US!

In my opinion, you’ll know that you have truly blended in when:

  • Your life absolutely revolves around a Calendar

In United States, every single person has a calendar. When I say a calendar, I don’t mean the one you hang on the wall or stick on the refrigerator and use it to remind yourself what day of the week it is. Although that one is good too, but that’s not what I am talking about. This is a list of plans and appointments one has per day, week, if not the whole year: it be meetings, doctor’s appointments, shopping spree, dinner plans, an afternoon at the park, going on vacation. I won’t even go there for those who have kids.

Seriously, you have to live off of one of those otherwise your life will be extremely complicated. A single day gets filled with so many stuff that can barely fit in 24 hours. Whether you have an easy or the busiest job, everyone just has a busy life around here. It’s normal to hear that someone cannot get together because their schedule for the whole week or several weeks is all booked up.

In Rwanda, a busy schedule like that is normally for important and super rich people. If you told someone in Rwanda that you will have to check your calendar first before responding to their dinner invitation, they may wonder if you just fell from another planet! If you are a foreigner living in Rwanda, they’ll assume that it’s foreign stuff; if you are Rwandan, you’ll definitely be called arrogant.

Which one do I take :D. Waltham, MA

Which street do I take? So confusing :D. Waltham, Massachusetts 

  • Your patience shrinks over time

I often joke that my patience stayed behind when I left Rwanda for the United States. In Rwanda, everything is almost in slow motion, people are always late and have no decency to apologize or show remorse for their being late. When you arrive on time, it actually indicates that you have nothing better to do. Being on time doesn’t just mean anything to anyone over there. During one of my visits home, my siblings and I attended a service on New Year’s Day at a local church. A preacher was announced and given 30 minutes to talk.

Almost 2 hours later, the preacher didn’t show any sign of wrapping-up. It was very hot inside, which is normal there because most places aren’t air conditioned. As soon as the preacher finished his message, I made my way out as soon as I could. When it was noticed that some people started to leave (I wasn’t the first one to leave I promise), the ushers closed and guarded doors to stop people from leaving. I was in shock!

Then, I remembered that I was in Rwanda, where people can go on and on and ignore that others have other plans for the day or families to go to. Some religious or government events may last for 3-5 hours and people don’t complain or threaten to leave, even if it’s very hot! Like most Rwandans, this is something that never bothered me before, not until I moved to the US. Most events in Rwanda have a start time, not the end. Everyone knows that it ends when the last person leaves.

On the contrary, in the United States, you better be punctual in everything or you may end up in a room by yourself. Everything and everyone has a determined schedule. Unlike in Rwanda, a meeting scheduled to start at 10 am does actually start at 10 am in the US. As you drive down the street, there’s always someone in so much hurry to get anywhere but there. You certainly cannot be late for a meeting; everything is on time and according to the schedule. I am not saying that everything is perfect; but comparing to what I was used to in Rwanda, it’s definitely the opposite.

The aerial view of the Dallas Fort Worth Area

  • You complain often about “simple things”  

I like the name it has been given to justify the frequent whining reasons: “first world problems”. It does not matter who you are, there is always something to complain about around here everyday: a long line at the grocery store checkout counter, a long wait before you are seated at a restaurant or the meal arrives, how unfriendly the website browsing experience is, a slow internet connection, an order that took an extra day to arrive, a hard time finding a parking spot or parking too far from the door, a slow computer application, forgetting your phone/computer charger, no free Wi-Fi in a public place, and the list goes on.

If you live in United States, just recall one of your long days. If you live in a developing country just google “first world problems” and you will understand what I am talking about.

My fav hotel of all the time. Simple, friendly, clean, affordable!

My favorite hotel of all time: simple, friendly, clean, affordable! I whine less here 😀

I have to admit that it makes me sad when I find myself doing exactly the same. For instance, I travel often on business and get to stay at very nice 4 or 5 star hotels. Perhaps because of my hotel loyalty status (frequent traveler) or my employer, sometimes junior suites type of rooms get priced the same as a regular room or close for my stays. So, when I book one of those but the hotel staff doesn’t honor my reservation, I get so annoyed.

I feel disappointed when a fancy hotel room has towels or a room that is not so clean, a small bathtub, a TV screen that’s not as fancy as the hotel, or simply when I get a rental car that’s not the same one I booked online. I complain about US Airways all the time; this airline services have been so bad every time I flew with them so far. I was very disappointed when I learned their merge with American Airlines, my favorite airline. Silly things like these!!

When did I become so spoiled, I often wonder!! How do I get carried away and tend to forget my past hardships, for example when I didn’t have a place to stay at some point in life or food to eat? I have to say this though, growing up in a third world country, I learned to keep my frustration to myself.

To be honest with you, it’s easy to get irritated here for reasons I still don’t grasp myself. I’m not sure if it’s because of the possibility to dream here (the American dream!), or the freedom of everything that tends to make you take life for granted. Whatever the reason is, when you move to the US, you will know that you are home when you experience the first world problems and you aren’t ashamed to freely express your frustration.

  • You need some “ALONE” time 

I don’t know how it is in your home country but everyone knows everyone in Rwanda. Whether you keep your life private or not, people will know where you live, the school that your kids attend, when and who comes over to your house, everything. Don’t worry, you won’t have to give anyone a memo. For things they are not sure about, they will map out a scenario sometimes to complete your life story, in their view point.

A Treat by Embassy Suites during one of my travels!

A Treat by Embassy Suites (New Jersey) during one of my busy travels!

For example if you are my age and still single, they will come up with the reasons why you’re not married, even thousands of miles away. If you are too skinny, it’s definitely because you are poor and don’t have enough food. No explanation needed! Everyone is in everyone’s business. It gets better: when you have a ceremony, party etc., you have to invite everyone and their brothers. If you don’t, then there comes your enemies and you become a talk of the whole town.

Fortunately though, when you are sick or need help, everyone will be there even if they are not that close. They will visit and stay until you hope and pray that they will leave so you can rest your eyes and tired body. People will bring food and be there for you even if they are not your friends. So, that’s community in Rwanda as I know it. There is never a quiet time; there are always people in your home and everywhere, talking and whatnot. There’s no such a expression as “alone time” in Kinyarwanda, not for general use anyway!

SO, when you move to the US, you will definitely want some time to yourself, at home or somewhere alone, sometime doing absolutely nothing. If you have felt or been through any of these, welcome home! You are NOT into this alone! You have just been Westernized 😀


Bienvenue au Paris, France! 

I love what both the American and Rwandan cultures have to offer; I enjoy learning new things and writing about it. What has been your experience when you moved or visited a first world country from a developing country or vice versa?


The Power of A Small Act of Kindness!

You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” – John Bunyan

I have had the privilege of living both in the first and third world countries. Although the cultural differences are too significant to ignore, all human beings have a lot in common, regardless of their racial or ethnic origins, language, or lifestyles, just like Joshua said it well in the below snapshot. Whether poor or rich, strong or weak, important or nobody: we all get sick, feel hungry & thirsty, desire to be loved and respected, and eventually die. This life has an end; even the most wealthy person on earth cannot vouch to bypass death.

The other night I spent time with friends from church, having a great discussion on the wonders of God. We talked about many things including faith that moves a mountain and trusting in God. One man shared a story about a couple that I personally know too. This family recently decided to start giving to church and God’s ministries not only 10% of their household monthly income, but 20%. Shortly after they made this commitment, the husband got laid off from his job.

Surprisingly, they decided to continue on giving the same amount, even if it meant exhausting their savings. Several weeks later, the husband was offered a job that was way better than his previous. I was deeply touched! This couple remarkably puts God on display. I have seen it with my own eyes. It takes a special person to have that kind of faith, that God would still provide even in tough times like during the loss of employment.

Children Autographs at the Museum of Life and Science


I have witnessed God’s provision in my life, too. Right now I won’t be able to list every door that God opened in my life only because of the “YES” I put on the table. Jesus is my witness. As I pour my heart out to God, I am eternally honored to be His messenger to my siblings I love with all my being. Seeing a poor person or someone in need breaks my heart, especially when I cannot do anything about it. I simply cry. Out to God!

Long time ago in college, without a job or any income, I cried to God and He answered my prayer for one of my two other boys I call my sons. His name is Gilbert and you can read his story here. I humbly praise Jesus each day for the last 8 years, for this young man’s life. Gilbert is now a senior student in college. Yes God listens and answers our prayers, even when we just cry or don’t know what to ask. My life has been changed, for ever!

And I see God’s miracles everyday. This next story, I am only sharing it to encourage you who are reading this, to trust God. If boasting, I will in Jesus Christ, for it is written: “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6: 2-4

Like many middle class citizens, I have my own financial struggles to make ends meet. However, I am thankful, very grateful beyond measure, for every blessing from heaven in my life. Recently though, I met someone who did not ask me for a help but I knew that this person was struggling after losing a job. I closed my eyes and gave more than I normally can afford to give at once. I trusted God for the next part of my regular responsibilities. After that, to make things even worse, a personal need immediately arose, that changed many things in my financial plan. Honestly, I wondered if I would be able to take care of another project that I had previously committed to and there was no other way around it.

Just a few weeks later, out of nowhere, I received a message stating that I was expecting an amount, that turned out to be over 10 times more than I had given away, and NOT as a loan. I was speechless. I couldn’t believe what just happened. While what I gave away wouldn’t be nearly enough to sponsor this other project, God gave me what I spent and way much more, just like that. All other doors I fixed my eyes on were shut the same way they opened. GOD DOES NOT DO IT MY WAY, BUT HIS WAY! And this is the God I willfully share and worship, as long as I breathe!

The Reeds & I, 07/04/2013. Their beautiful faces melt my heart, to this day.


HONESTLY, I am not saying that it feels easy to freely give. BUT all acts of kindness you do are eternally engraved before God in the book of life. I hear many people being skeptical about giving to charities and non profit organizations. I came to a conclusion that if I give and the recipient misuses the donations, they will face God one day, there is no doubt about it.

If I give to a homeless guy across the street and he turns out to be feigning it, it’s his problem, not mine. My part has been done, and the Lord sees it. Of course it’s important to use your own judgement and see if an organization does what it claims to fund raise for. However, in the end, it’s between you and GOD.

I HAVE SO MUCH RESPECT FOR PEOPLE WHO ADOPT CHILDREN, ORPHANS. I selfishly tear with joy when I hear their stories. I have been dying to share some of the stories, and I am so honored and grateful that they graciously gave me the permission to write about them.

ONE OF THEM IS THE REEDS. I met them about 5 years ago, and they had already adopted 7 kids then, ranging from 9 to 15. They are currently in the process of finalizing the process of adopting 4 more, to make it 12, ranging from 4 to 20. I remember when I first heard some of their children’s stories when they were first adopted. Some would hide food under the bed, afraid of it being taken away.

I immediately pictured the dialogue between these wonderful parents and their children, assuring them that all their hard work is for them, that all the food in the house is theirs and that they are there to stay and be loved all their lives. During the visit when I first met them, I excused myself to go to my room to cry and thank God who placed my little brothers and sisters in the hands of the most amazing parents: SCOTT & DEBBIE REED. They are incredible. God only knows how much I love this family!



I AM ALSO HONORED TO WRITE ABOUT THE TUMEYS. I met them about 3 years ago through mutual friends. As of this writing, they had already adopted 5 children in addition to their biological 5. You can call them daring, I call them brave, amazing, selfless, loving. Through the eyes of these children, you can clearly see God.

Without their obedience and brevity, those 5 children might have died in the Ethiopian orphanages. I praise God, for the compassion He bestowed upon ROBERT & MAUREEN TUMEY. I always pray for patience, strength and grace upon all those who are moved with compassion to extend love to those who have no one to love them. Blessings will follow them all their lives.


When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to meMathew 25: 31-40

Be encouraged, and eager to help. It will be returned to you, in abundance!