From Manhattan to Muramvya: What Moving Across the Atlantic Was Really Like

I know what you’re thinking, where in the world is Muramvya? Don’t worry, that was also my thought exactly when my boyfriend got offered a job there two years ago. To answer your question, it’s in the East African country of Burundi and yes, I’ve been living between the rural town and the States since he started working there.

 New York City views from the Squarespace office.

New York City views from the Squarespace office.

Oh the things you do for love, am I right? Giving up my life in New York was easier than I thought though. I had already been freelancing for a few months and my lease was about to be up anyway. Despite missing my close friends who were basically family, I felt it was definitely time for a change.

OK…so I didn’t go right away. I dropped off my stuff at my parent’s house in Richmond, Virginia and stayed a while. It was amazing taking a break from the Big Apple, but there’s only so much you can do there. So what better way to mix things up than with an adventure to a part of the world I never thought of going to?

Technically, I flew into the Kigali airport — which is in the neighboring country of Rwanda. It was a long flight and the Starbucks in Amsterdam couldn’t even get my iced coffee order right. I shouldn’t have expected much from Europeans who think one ice cube suffices for a searing cup of coffee. It was my fault, really.

As a neat freak, I couldn’t believe how CLEAN the city was when I finally arrived. It was so clean that they wouldn’t even let foreigners bring plastic bags into the country! That slowly changed after our getaway to Akagera National Park. The roads were still tidy, but I actually got tanner from the amount of dust that built up on my skin during the safari. Oh and I can’t forget the bites from the aggressive flies that swarmed our car. On top of that, I wasn’t able to figure out the shower and I sprayed water literally everywhere because the region doesn’t believe in bathtubs or shower curtains. You can imagine how I felt that day.

 A giraffe close by at Akagera National Park in Kigali, Rwanda.

A giraffe close by at Akagera National Park in Kigali, Rwanda.

 A closer snapshot of the giraffe at Akagera.

A closer snapshot of the giraffe at Akagera.

Looking back, I was sort of being a grumpy baby because throughout the day we were in walking distance from lions, giraffes, elephants and so much more that it was totally worth it. Plus, it was a solid way to start my journey. Then we were off to Burundi, but of course, Donovan didn’t remind me that it was going be to a six-hour drive. If you think six hours isn’t that bad, come back to me after driving through Rwanda and Burundi’s windy and bumpy roads. In short, I quickly learned Dramamine was going to be my new best friend.

 Fresh vegetables from the market in Muramvya.

Fresh vegetables from the market in Muramvya.

Fast forward to settling into our space. I have to say it was freaking cold upcountry. This time Donovan did warn me about the weather, but I obviously didn’t take him very seriously. I didn’t even bring jeans and I filled my suitcase with crop tops per usual. Both were dumb ideas, especially given how conservative the country is. I survived though.

That wasn’t really my biggest problem. Meat can be hard to come by in our village, so my body had to adjust to healthier and smaller portions. Good thing I packed a giant yellow sack of peanut M&Ms and Skittles from Costco. In fact, I was so hungry my first night that I had a good quarter of the M&Ms and too many rainbow candies to count. Again, it wasn’t my brightest idea.

Eventually, I got used to the lifestyle and learned how to cook along the way. The only skill I wish I picked up was speaking French or Kirundi. It’s such a barrier to getting to know the locals. Now that the holidays are here, I’m back home for a bit and you’ll be glad to know that I already made some Korean food for my family and I’ll be taking up some kind of French or Kirundi lesson soon. This is just a tiny taste of what I’ve been through, so please don’t think it’s all bad because even with the challenges, I wouldn’t trade my months there for anything. Follow along on my new travel blog for more stories!

x Isis