Rwanda ….we hardly knew ye….

To be honest part of the reason (I think) I’ve hesitated posting on the blog this last while, is that there are several hard things that I wasn’t ready to deal with. One of them was our departure from Rwanda.

I realized just a few months ago that I never let myself grieve for the loss(es) we experienced when we left, and I needed to be honest and do that.

Susan tells people that when we lived there, I routinely came home and said “I can’t believe I get to do this- this is the greatest job I’ve ever had.” And it’s true – I felt like I was finally doing exactly what I had been made to do. It felt like I was able to fully use my education, lean on all my previous experience, and engage the specific skill set I have been given, all to work with a great team, in a country where things were improving significantly and quickly, and we could have a real impact in helping that development take place in real and meaningful ways.


The long-story-short version {at least as I saw it – and remember it} is that the last round of severe COVID lockdowns in December ’21 set the economy back on its heels, just as it was starting to recover. For so many firms the easiest thing to cut is paying others for advice. Suddenly we had completed work that was VERY slow getting paid, jobs we were about to start that disappeared, and engagements we bid on that were delayed indefinitely. We had an incredible staff of 12 bright, young consultants from Rwanda, Kenya, and Burkina Faso – and couldn’t keep things going the way they were.

We we arrived there, we moved from a village in rural Burundi to arguably the cleanest, most efficient, modern looking and feeling city on the continent. From a place where the two ‘dining options’ were the guy who killed a goat and skewered it, and the cantine at the hospital – to a city with dozens and dozens of restaurants. From a province without a single traffic light – to a place with photo radar on (what felt like) every corner. From a place where every other child yelled “mzungu” every time they saw a white person (that is…people on our team) to living in a metropolitan city with people from all over. Diplomats and NGO workers yes, but even more so business people, entrepreneurs, innovators, and educators from all over.

the moto riding was a bit different

When we first moved to Burundi we said we’d commit to two years because we had no idea what we’d do for schooling since we ‘were never going to send our kids to boarding school.’ We ended up staying over seven years. We moved to Rwanda and thought we could picture ourselves being there indefinitely…and lasted exactly 12 months.

The whole time we were there we lived under some level of COVID restrictions. Alma had no sports in school, no extracurricular activities, we often couldn’t go to church. We were so frequently having tests to show to get into places that I felt like I should just get a nasal shunt surgically put in the front of my face to make the swabbing go slightly faster.

Despite that – we loved it. We lived in a beautiful part of town – I could ride my motorbike to the office in literally 4 minutes, but from our house, we turned the other way down the road and were in the middle of corn and bean fields and could run for hours through beautiful scenery.

What could have been if we had moved there now? What if we could have lasted just 6 more months? These and so many more are questions I will likely never have answers to. But in hindsight, there are plenty of reasons for us to have been here in Kenya this past year or so.

If I’ve learned anything from the difficulties our family has experienced these last few years, one of the most meaningful, helpful, and difficult to accept – is that I don’t always get the answers I want. If there are clear reasons why everything happens – knowing them is far above my pay grade.

For an in-depth, and very insightful reflection on this topic – I highly recommend “Everything Happens for a Reason: and Other Lies I’ve Loved” by Kate Bowler.

There are so many good things that came from that year. Incredible friendships were forged in those difficult months. Space was given for additional healing after leaving Burundi. We learned a lot. We had a wonder-dog. It was beautiful.

But …just like that…the chapter in our life was closed. So I guess I’m saying – yes it was good, yes it was really hard to leave, yes there are reasons why it was good to leave, and we’ll also never know all of them. And I guess that’s the way life goes when you are a mere mortal.

  1. Just to be clear – I really don’t necessarily recommend you read this memoir from Moby, the 90’s electronica musician – especially since it’s actually the second of a two-volume work(!) I listened to both on audiobook while running, and found them …entertaining…but … can probably skip this one. Just wanted the title as it felt VERY apropos ↩︎