This is part of a series of posts discussing the real-life places, people and events that inspired scenes and characters in my young adult manuscript, “Kwizera Means Hope”.
Once upon a time in Rwanda, there was a Suzuki Maruti Gypsy (ours was all-white with our NGO name lettered in black on each side). The Maruti was a cute little cross between a car and a … a wagon … and a … a moped. I could push the car out of the way BY MYSELF. And sometimes I had to push it because it wouldn’t always start when we needed it to. Rwandan country roads were hard on a transmission.
I usually drove a Land Rover or a pick up, but every now and then I had to drive the Maruti. And every time I did, I felt like I needed to give her encouragement to get up one of the thousand hills of Rwanda. Rwanda’s nickname is Land of a Thousand Hills. One of its most famous hotels – the Hotel des Milles Collines, from the movie Hotel Rwanda – is named for that topography.
To really give someone, or something, encouragement, it must have a name. When I learned that the word for hope in Kinyarwanda was kwizera, I decided that was the perfect name. I called her Kwizzie and would pat her dashboard whenever we climbed a hill together. It worked.
When I decided to write about Rwanda for teens, the name Kwizera came back to me. And the fact that it means hope gave me the theme I needed for the book.