Have you met someone who instantly changed your life?
I met this little boy in Rwanda who did just that.
I had been in the country for a while, and things were beginning to seem too normal.
You know, I am your typical traveler. Can't stay in one place for too long. So, I was ready to move on to the next country.
That evening, as I contemplated my decision to leave, I met a boy.
He saw my friends and I as he played football with his age-mates. He immediately stopped, the ball on the field long forgotten.
He slowly began following us. Hoping that no one would notice. Well, I noticed.
I waved at him, asking him to come closer. He smiled shyly and approached. After exchanging greetings, he posed the most bizarre question.
"Why do you take pictures?" he asked, pointing at my Canon.
I answered, 'because it's fun'. He looked at me like I had lost my mind and said, "But you can have fun with your eyes"
The little boy is Valens Ndayishimiye. He comes from an averagely small town called Kibuye, in the Western Province of Rwanda.
He is 12 years old but looks 7. He has intelligent eyes and a witty mind. He probably speaks 160 words per minute.
He is an old soul in a boy's body.
Valens having some fun with the camera
As Valens and I spoke, my Rwandan colleague acted as translator. Half the time, my friend was laughing so hard. He said that the boy belonged on a stage, he was too funny.
Two minutes into our conversation, Valens asked, 'how much is your phone?', directing the question at my beaten-down Tecno phone.
I waved it around and jokingly said, '100 Rwandan Francs'.
All I heard was a shout of laughter coming from the boy. He was amused by my silliness.
Once he caught his breath, he said, 'In which country can you buy a phone at 100 francs. I want to move there.'
Before I could formulate a response, he quickly asked,
"How can I get to Kigali?"
When I said 'by bus', he asked if the driver could allow him on the bus without shoes.
"Yes", we all replied.
He looked at us and pondered for a while. Then he said,
"If I go to Kigali without shoes, they will put me in a rehabilitation center."
Then he slowly looked down at his feet, then at our feet.
In that moment, I could hear him think.
How could a pair of shoes distinguish us so much?
That night, I wasn't thinking about my travel plans. I wasn't thinking about how bored I was, and how much I needed an adventure.
I was just grateful to have a roof over my head and shoes on my feet.
This is the reason why I am obsessed with traveling.
It opens our eyes and changes the way we view the world. When we see what is out there, we are changed forever.
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About the author
I am Angelica, founder and author of Afripas Travel. I enjoy sharing travel tips and recommendations from an African perspective. Subscribe to my mailing list to receive email notifications about new articles. Talk soon!