Kwizera the Suzuki

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”.

I.  Maruti

Suzuki Maruti GypsyOnce 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.

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