IF you ever wondered how glamourous life is in the diplomatic lane for diplomatic spouses in Singapore, then you should be following this new column that covers the activities as well as interviews of the members of the Diplomatic Spouses Group (DSG).
We went straight to the top to find out more and talked to Mdm Alda Ntezilizaza, wife of HE Guillaume Kavaruganda, the High Commissioner of the Republic of Rwanda in Singapore. She has just handed over the leadership baton to the next Group Coordinator of the DSG at the beginning of this year.
You just completed (on 31st January 2018) a very engaging period as the Group Coordinator for the Diplomatic Spouses Group (DSG). How was your experience?
It was a very beautiful experience, I learned a lot. I got the chance to know my fellow Diplomatic Spouses and their cultures better. It was a pleasure helping them organize different events throughout the year.
One thing that never stops amazing me is the generosity of the members of this group. They are always willing to share their favourite place, hobby or interest, whether artistic or cultural, with the others.
It was also interesting to help the different groups within the DSG communicate with each other, and help bring harmony and unity among the larger Group. Not to mention research, centralize and distribute information.
Who is the new Group Coordinator of the Diplomatic Spouses Group (DSG)?
Our dear colleague Mrs. Katarzyna Kosiniak-Kamyzsz, Spouse of the Ambassador of Poland & Dean of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps (DCC), kindly took over as of 1st February 2018.
What are the types of activities held generally?
We have a variety of monthly activities. The main one is the Coffee Morning, which is held at a different venue, usually at an Embassy Residence, an Embassy Office or elsewhere. Each month a different Diplomatic Spouse presents his/her country and culture to the whole group.
Other activities include smaller groups such as the Book Club, the Cooking Class, the German Class, the Gourmet Group, the Mahjong Socialites, the Movie Club, Parlons Francais!, the Tennis Club and the Walking Wonders. In 2016 we had a Spanish Class. In the near future there may be new groups such as Fun Bowl(ing) and Museum Enthusiasts…
We also enjoy visiting museums, boutiques and shops such as Hermes, Tiffany’s or Fabergé; official Institutions such as INTERPOL; companies such as Procter & Gamble and other interesting places. The visits are organized by the DSG or one of the diplomatic spouses, or by the Dean of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps.
Now and then there can also be one-off special events or invitations such as Master Classes with international Chefs!
How do you work together to welcome new people and orient then into Singapore?
Whenever we learn a new diplomatic spouse has arrived, we send her or him an invitation to join us via email, sharing what are the different activities organised by the DSG. Often, way before that, we might have already met at a reception or an event or have been introduced already by the Dean’s Office, or the diplomatic spouse’s embassy.
As for orienting them, as soon as the new diplomatic spouse joins the DSG, we first start by sharing useful addresses, contacts and tips. Nowadays communication is easy thanks through our own DSG Facebook and DSG WhatsApp groups. Anyone can ask a question and get a reply from members of the group.
Share with us something about your country.
+ Rwanda is a young country with 60% of our population under the age of 30.
+ Many know Rwanda as the “Land of a Thousand Hills”. But not many know that we also have dormant volcanoes that we share with our neighbours Congo and Uganda.
+ We are part of the Great Lakes Region of Central Africa that includes Lakes Kivu, Muhazi, Burera, Ruhondo, Cyohoha, Ihema, Gashora in Rwanda, Lake Tanganyika (in Burundi), and Lake Victoria (in Kenya and Uganda). One of the sources of the Nile originates in the western part of Rwanda.
How long have you been posted in Singapore?
My husband and I have been in Singapore since mid-July 2015.
What are your favourite places in Singapore?
I have many. To name a few, I would say the Botanic Gardens for its peaceful rhythm, Little India for its vibrant atmosphere, the Bras Basah area for its artistic character and many eateries as well as Holland Village’s neighbourhood of cafes
What are the responsibilities that come with being a Diplomat’s Spouse?
I believe traditionally the role means that you support your spouse’s work in welcoming and hosting delegations from your country when they visit; this includes local and international guests at the embassy’s official residence and office, or at an outside venue.
You may also have to now and then organize gatherings or meetings with your fellow countrymen who may be the spouses of your embassy’s staff, professionals or students.
Another responsibility is to help organize or co-organize and plan the reception of your country’s National Day reception. This also means that on that day you are at the side of the Ambassador to welcome the guest of honour and entertain all the guests.
And another responsibility is to attend numerous functions with the Ambassador, or on your own. These can include national day receptions, local annual ceremonies and events, launchings of exhibitions, talks and conferences. And, of course, attend events hosted/organized by your fellow Diplomatic Spouses.
Can you share with us any memorable anecdote about coordinating activities here?
The first time I coordinated an event, two of my fellow diplomatic spouses joined me at the launch of a jewellery exhibition. We all thought that it would be a brief tour of the exhibition, followed by a cocktail reception… Actually, the three of us were treated to a private tour of the exhibition with our own personal guide!
Next, we gathered with all the guests to listen to a Q & A session with a jewellery historian. Once again, we had a pleasant surprise, they sat us at the front, in the place of honour! Only then did it hit us, we were the guests of honour! In our defense, we were all first-time ambassadors’ spouses… While this job certainly comes with a lot of duties, it also brings nice surprises and perks.