It’s so nice that I live close to work. Soon I will get to know my neighbors. I wonder if I stand out. Are people looking at me today? They were the other day but I think that’s because I wore that dress that K. referred to as “native” (even though it wasn’t at all) and not many people are wearing “native” attire here. I think I look fairly normal today. I have on my time tested black and white pencil cut skirt which tapers off respectfully just above my kneecaps. My top is a black three-quarters sleeve with a conservative straight neckline and I’m wearing my black not-too-high church/office/interview dress shoes that are suede lined in some kind of shiny synthetic shoe material. Hmmm is today a Holiday? It is Easter Monday after all but Mr. P was pretty sure it would not be a holiday. It isn’t in Canada either; at least it wasn’t when I was in school which was just last year. Hey, I think I really might blend in, save the dreadlocks. But they’re pulled back today so I don’t think people would really notice unless they were paying attention. …Not noticing as many people going to work today as I did last week. Maybe it is a holiday. Oh well, I might as well go and see. It will be better to check than to assume it’s closed. I’m pretty sure it’s open. Maybe some people have to work today, others don’t. That’s normal.
People are looking at me. I mean heads are turning. Not a lot, maybe every three people or so. I wonder how I look to them. Could they be looking because I look awful smart today? I think I look pretty smart if I may say so myself. Maybe I look like a high class or fashionable, or something. People keep looking down at-well, I’m assuming at my shoes. It’s either my shoes, or my dry legs, the left lega in particular. My skin started peeling pretty badly ever since staying in International House for two weeks for Coady orientation. I mean, I don’t have the smoothest legs in the first place, so when I say they were dry, I mean dry. I mean illusion-of-desert-made-from-zoom-in-on- image-of- dry-leg-for -Lubriderm Lotion commercial-dry. Thankfully, they’ve started to get better since coming here. Please believe I make sure I shea butter them up nice and moist every morning. Still, outside in the sunlight, I see that there are still little white flecks of skin on top of the glistening brown of the rest of my shin. So it’s either my shoes or my legs they’re looking at. I can’t really do much about either. I’ll just have to keep scrubbing and buttering my legs every day until they get relatively smooth again. As for the shoes, they’re in no way over the top, so I’ll keep wearing them. After all, people aren’t’ looking at me the way they were looking at this woman who I’ll call “Stiletto Red”.
The name should say it all. Stiletto Red wouldn’t necessarily stand out in other cities whether in Africa or North America, but in Kigali, in my neighborhood, she stopped pedestrian traffic. Mind you I’d only been in the city for about four days or so when I saw her, but she was the first of her kind here for me and for many others it seemed. Stiletto Red was tall, about 5’6 (wait, is that tall?) which I guess isn’t too uncommon for a woman here in Rwanda. What was uncommon was her long reddish blonde weavy looking weave that hung just between her shoulder blades. So far, that’s the only weave I’ve seen here. The weave was in close competition to what I believe was the main accessory which was, you guessed it, 5-inch (or so) cherry red stiletto heels. Now call me old-fashioned, but who wears screaming red stilettos in the daytime,a on a weekday, AND in a country where there are open gutters and as many unpaved roads as there are paved? Stiletto Red does, that’s who.
I was walking home in her direction as she was crossing to the other side of the street, and people were just straight up staring. I don’t think any other minority or oddball foreigner could have stolen the spotlight from her in those few minutes. There was something else red on her- a handbag or her top or something – I can’t remember right now. The weave and the shoes created enough of a blurred red diversion for me. Needless to say, for a few brief minutes, relief settled in as no one was really paying any attention to me. It’s not bad to get a little attention here and there but it’s usually good to know the reason for the attention.
I probably can’t put my hope in Stiletto Red strutting down this curved stone sidewalk again anytime soon. And like I said, the looks I’m getting now aren’t of the same shocked/unimpressed/impressed nature as they were towards her, so I should stop being so insecure and self-centered and just take the looks with a grain of salt. They don’t make me uncomfortable so much as they make me curious. I just wonder what it is I’m doing wrong or differently to make me stand out from everyone else. Am I walking with my torso leaned forward, rather than gracefully jutting out my legs as one girl had pointed out to me in Ghana? Do I have a curious look on my face that could only belong to someone new in the neighborhood? Maybe it’s just that I look nice; it doesn’t have to be a negative reason. It could just be that I look nice… Maybe I’m not the only person getting looked it, but I’m too focused on myself to notice if it’s happening to other women walking up the street. But I am looking around and haven’t seen anyone turn to look at anyone else… Ah well, who really cares? If anything, they’re right to stare, I am a foreigner, a stranger, a newbie, a freshie, and whatever the equivalent local terms are here. I guess I just thought I might blend in a little more because of my skin, at least until I opened my mouth. I probably do blend in to most people, after all many have already spoken Kinyarwanda to me while I mutter softly that I have no idea what they’re saying. But, there are some attentive ones out there, they see me…
Oh, the gate’s open. I guess it’s not a holiday after all. Good, there are a few minutes to spare; I need to use the internet.