Been in Kigali Too Long? Beware of MEIMOK Syndrome!

For you new arrivals, I urge you not to ignore this post, assuming it does not involve you. It will. Trust me. A few more desperate contract-renewals down the line, you too, will find yourself in the arms of your on-again-off-again heartthrob, drunkenly mumbling: “But I don’t have anywhere else to go!!!” …or perhaps you will be sitting on your porch watching your gardener trim your bushes—yes, trim your bushes—soothing your cat as you’re stroking him: “Don’t worry, I will never leave you…we will grow old together…aaaa! (…not quite sure how that last ‘aaaa!’ is supposed to sound, but…)

Whatever.

Regardless of the reason, over 65% of expats (usually females) that arrive in Rwanda under the initial idea of staying a few months, WILL end up staying. Possibly for a bit too long.

Following an incident of a serious mental break-down a few years back, medical researchers did several tests on the disheveled… person (OK, fine, it was a woman!) It was later diagnosed as a peculiar syndrome called ” My Existence Is Meaningless Outside Kigali”, also known as the MEIMOK-Syndrome. Luckily, the disease is curable, although for full recovery it is crucial to diagnose the condition at an early stage.

Now, are YOU in danger of contracting MEIMOK? Is YOUR identifier “that weird lady with all the cats?” or “the one that was supposed to leave three years ago”? There is only one way to find out, my friend. See how many of the symptoms you display, and how far along your disease has progressed…

MEIMOK Stage #1

After years of telling yourself, “I don’t need one anyway. I am strong on my own”, you finally broke down and got one. He rolls around in your bed, makes deep noises when you stroke him, and prefers eating breakfast alone after you’ve gone to work. He’s black and shiny, with impeccable grooming habits, and when he’s not busy chasing after some bird, he loves spending his evenings in your lap… His name is Mr. Fluffedi-fluff… or something along those lines. Yes, honey, you are displaying MEIMOK symptom #1, also referred to as the ‘cat-syndrome’. While it is a very early warning-sign, this is definitively a symptom to be wary off. You can still recover, though (with a fair amount of dignity left)… Just give Mr. Fluffedi-fluff away… Or get on the next flight outta here.

MEIMOK Stage #2

A friend comes up to you and announces she is engaged and/or pregnant. Your reaction is not: “Yay, I’m happy!” or “Yay, I hope I will be as happy one day”, but rather “God damn, who’s gonna share the carton of Drosdy Hof with me now? Shit, I need another cat.” Fear not: you are merely in the second stage… still plenty of time for you to find your way back to normalcy. (Or to get on the next flight outta here.)

MEIMOK Stage #3

You realize that you are forever doomed to accept bad service no matter which Kigali restaurant you go to, because if you ask to “see the manager”, the waiter will simply wink at you and be all: “Madame, haven’t you SEEN the manager plenty of times already?” Yup, you are definitely close to contracting MEIMOK full-on… (So… I heard there are flights to Europe like every day now…)

MEIMOK Stage #4

After another weekend spent floating around the many (read: two) nighttime establishments in Kigali, you decide it’s time you discover the countryside. See what them lakes are all about. However, the following Friday, upon arrival at the luxury lodge overlooking lake “burera-wahoola-rubaba-whatever”, you suddenly regret your decision, and immediately get on Facebook, scrolling down the mini-feed looking for any sign of people having fun. While finishing the bottle of whiskey you brought along, picturing your friends and enemies joyfully mingling on the many (read: two) dance floors in the city, you curse your foolishness and swear never to leave Kigali again. (“F*** the lakes!!! Next time I want to see a bilharzia-infested mosquito-breeding pool of water, I’ll drive to goddamned Nyarutarama, and have a gin tonic at Le Chateau.”)

You’re in the danger zone (read: DAAANGER ZONE!!!)

MEIMOK Stage #5

You did NOT give Mr. Fluffedi-fluff away, did you… ? Instead, you got a younger, blacker cat. And a little weird one with a strange tick. And just one more to keep the others busy. And some sad-looking stray cat your cleaner let in the house. Oh, wow… you know “the weird lady with all the cats”? Yeah, that’s you…. Get on the next flight outta here.

MEIMOK Stage #6

You answer every inquiry with: “Who told you that?!” For example…

  • New arrival at a party: So, do you live in Kimihurura?
  • You: (scowling suspiciously) Who told you that?!
  • Tall, gorgeous guy by the bar: So, I heard you renewed your contract?
  • You: (gripping your wine glass) Who told you that?!
  • Colleague: Did you go somewhere over the long weekend?
  • You: (sweating profusely, desperately trying to figure out who might have seen you, and then told your colleague…) Eh….who told you that….?
  • Your cat: Did you make a fool out of yourself again last night?
  • You: (hugging your pillow) Who told you that?!!!

You might want to seek medical assistance at this point. Or just get on the next flight outta here.

MEIMOK Stage #7

When a new arrival in her mid-twenties walks up to you (all bubbly and fresh and happy to be alive, her head filled with pink clouds and teddy bears and cotton candy and wonderful plans for how to make her NGO even more efficient) and asks you what you do here in Kigali… you throw your drink in her face, slap her, and scream: KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF MY MAN, YOU SCHEMING COW! DON’T THINK I DON’T KNOW EXACTLY WHAT YOU’RE PLANNING!!! YOU’LL NEVER TAKE MY PLACE…. NEVEEEEEEER!!!!

…it’s too late. You’ve got MEIMOK. You’ll never leave Kigali. You’re as good as inventory at this point. Enjoy the rest of your life here. And say ‘hi’ to your cats from me!

About Inga

Born and raised in Norway, culturally transformed in the US, and now residing in Rwanda. Studied biology, but teaching English in Kigali while finishing up my Master's, and debating future career options. At the moment starting up a cocoa plantation is at the top of my list, closely followed by founding an improv society. Severely technologically challenged, but somewhat creatively gifted. A great lover of the Universe, as well as cakes and salt. A passionate hater of small concrete rooms.