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Rwanda: The Transformation of Society, Summer 2011


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    [post_content] => During this most recent home-stay I have started to realize the extent  of the differences and similarities between the American family that I  know and come from and many Rwandan families. There are many  similarities and differences that are still unknown to me but I have  learned some.

The most obvious difference is the size of families here. I have just 1 sister and most of my friends just just one sibling. The average American household indeed has 2 point something children. My homestay in Ngarama had many children, I'm not sure how many actually because kids came and went so much. There were around 8 kids at the house at all times, and that doesn't count the 2 who are off at boarding school.

Children here also do a lot more work than in the US. There are exceptions in both countries of course. But in Ngarama, where we didn't have running water, someone had to go get it at the water-access point at the bottom of the hill. This village was lucky to have one relatively close. Dishes had to be washed by hand after every meal. The floors had to be mopped and the clothes washed by hand. The ones who did this work a lot were from the ages of 7 to 17. Most American children would not be doing so much.

But some things are the same. My host family had a baby. Her name was Nesha. She was just over one year old. Like in the US, the baby is cooed and cuddled the most. She got Mango juice boxes and was played with by everyone. Just like American babies, she stuck everything in her mouth and was always getting into things she wasn't supposed to. She cried a lot and laughed too.

Family is important. In Rwanda and everywhere. [post_title] => Family Matters [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => family-matters [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2011-07-30 00:00:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 1970-01-01 00:00:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://yakyak.chandigarhsoftware.com/?p=43254 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 342 [name] => Rwanda: The Transformation of Society, Summer 2011 [slug] => rwanda-the-transformation-of-society-summer-2011 [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 342 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 251 [count] => 59 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 18.1 [cat_ID] => 342 [category_count] => 59 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Rwanda: The Transformation of Society, Summer 2011 [category_nicename] => rwanda-the-transformation-of-society-summer-2011 [category_parent] => 251 [link] => https://my.wheretherebedragons.com/category/summer-2011/rwanda-the-transformation-of-society-summer-2011/ ) ) [category_links] => Rwanda: The Transformation of Society, Summer 2011 )

Rwanda: The Transformation of Society, Summer 2011

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Family Matters

Cathrine Schwader,Rwanda: The Transformation of Society, Summer 2011

Description

During this most recent home-stay I have started to realize the extent of the differences and similarities between the American family that I know and come from and many Rwandan families. There are many similarities and differences that are still unknown to me but I have learned some. The most obvious difference is the size […]

Posted On

07/30/11

Author

Cathrine Schwader

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Exploring “spoonerism” in Ngarama: ….A scoop of boy trouts in Ngalama!

The story goes....but if I was to list two fascinating things that are making my days in Ngarama, the first one could be.... The warmth and the innocence of kids who always give welcome hugs to every “muzungu” ….. and the second one, the unexpected ability of this place to bring back my high school memories. The former seems to be commonplace in rural areas but the latter is quite a long story! The story starts with my high school English teacher introducing a new grammar terminology “Spoonerism”. Etymologically, he said, the word derives from a man called The Reverend William Archibald Spooner who was prone to speech problem where he mixed up the first couple of letters of words, creating humorous sentences. One of the most famous spoonerisms which was attributed to him was when he reprimanded a student because he had ' hissed the mystery lectures!' when he meant to say ' missed the history lectures'. Likewise, he could say ' a scoop of boy trouts...instead of what he had meant to say-'a troop of boy scouts!'. In retrospect, I wish he'd known the most amusing spoonerism, that of mixing up the “r” and “ l “ which prevails among Kinyarwanda speakers!...After a “ Dericious lunch” host brother “A” will potentially invite you for a fun afternoon activity using words like...'Would you rike to come with me to the lock?' ..What? ...the lock? ..ooh, I locked myself in my room the other day and my host Father had to replace the lock ….Host brother “B”: Uuuumh....lets go to “play” “Gode” instead of going to the “lock”!...Oooh, play? I play American football back in the States! Is 'gode' a Rwandan game?........and spoonerism perpetuates the conversation for hours...! After all, today, we had a memorable performance with all our host parents, brothers and sisters speaking the same “gratitude” language and packing our bags for the next trip to Imbabazi orphanage!

“Family is just accident…..They don’t mean to get on your nerves. They don’t even mean to be your family, they just are” (Marsha Norman)

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Rwanda: The Transformation of Society, Summer 2011

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Goodbye Ngarama,… Hello Imbabazi

Emmanuel Dukundane,Rwanda: The Transformation of Society, Summer 2011

Description

Exploring “spoonerism” in Ngarama: ….A scoop of boy trouts in Ngalama! The story goes….but if I was to list two fascinating things that are making my days in Ngarama, the first one could be…. The warmth and the innocence of kids who always give welcome hugs to every “muzungu” ….. and the second one, the […]

Posted On

07/30/11

Author

Emmanuel Dukundane

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This is a poem by a Nigerian writer, that illustrates the Rwandan spirit well..

An African Elegy by Ben Okri

We are the miracles that God made
To taste the bitter fruit of Time.
We are precious.
And one day our suffering
Will turn into the wonders of the earth.

These are the things that burn me now
Which turn golden when I am happy.
Do you see the mystery of our pain?
That we bear poverty
And are able to sing and dream sweet things

And that we never curse the air when it is warm
Or the fruit when it tastes so good
Or the lights that bounce gently on the waters?
We bless things even in our pain.
We bless them in silence.

That is why our music is so sweet.
It makes the air remember.
There are secret miracles at work
That only Time will bring forth.
I too have heard the dead singing.

And they tell me that
This life is good
They tell me to live it gently
With fire, and always with hope.
There is wonder here

And there is surprise
In everything the unseen moves.
The ocean is full of songs.
The sky is not an enemy.
Destiny is our friend

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An African Elegy

Liz Connor,Rwanda: The Transformation of Society, Summer 2011

Description

This is a poem by a Nigerian writer, that illustrates the Rwandan spirit well.. An African Elegy by Ben Okri We are the miracles that God madeTo taste the bitter fruit of Time.We are precious.And one day our sufferingWill turn into the wonders of the earth. These are the things that burn me nowWhich turn […]

Posted On

07/30/11

Author

Liz Connor

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    [post_content] => My host mother looked shocked when I shared with her that I did not know how to hand wash my clothing and could use some help. I told her that at home I use a machine wash and tried to justify myself by telling her that some of my friends at home don’t even know how to use a machine wash. My mother and the housekeeper giggled as they watched me whirl the soapy clothing around in the wash bucket hoping it would just wash itself and then she stepped in and helped. 

I laugh to myself thinking about the girls and I, three weeks ago, shuffling buckets of water back and forth between the common bathroom of our guest house and our room, feeling quite independent. We would groan when there was no hot water or we had to take a bucket shower and we made sure to make our daily stop at the alimentation to pick up bottled drinking water.

Today, I help my host brothers and sisters to carry heavy buckets of water from the water source to the house. We take long walks to the market and laugh together when we try to speak each other’s languages. My sisters spend hours a day cooking meals over a fire behind the house until it is so dark, they can’t even see what is in the pot. We look at the stunningly bright stars together while we wait for dinner to finish cooking. This lifestyle once seemed so distant, but now I feel a part of it.

Today I spent the afternoon cooking peanut sauce, kasava bread and porridge with my brothers and sisters in the back yard. We danced while songs by “Tsyumve Uhore” played on a little radio we picked up batteries for this morning. My older sisters and brothers speak to me in English as much as they can, and give me frequent mini-lessons in Kinyarwanda My host brother has officially taken over my ipod. He listens to it for 12 hours at a time, charging it in the church at night. It makes me laugh when he tries to communicate with me in Kinyarwanda but doesn’t bother to take out his headphones. We cook together, eat together, dance together, laugh together and pray together as a family.

Walking down the dirt road into town, we are greeted with “Muraho Neza” and often stop to chat. Visitors frequently stop by just to say hi, and help with the cooking. My family introduces me and we all sit together and chat over a plate of bananas. There are so many brothers, aunts, family members and friends I have lost count. The community of Ngarama really is just one big family who get the most joy out of each other’s company. My brother tells me that Rwanda is poor because they do not have machines, and yet, when I ask him if the people here are happy, he replies, “yes, very very happy.”
[post_title] => From Cheney [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => from-cheney [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2011-07-30 00:00:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 1970-01-01 00:00:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://yakyak.chandigarhsoftware.com/?p=43250 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 342 [name] => Rwanda: The Transformation of Society, Summer 2011 [slug] => rwanda-the-transformation-of-society-summer-2011 [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 342 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 251 [count] => 59 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 18.1 [cat_ID] => 342 [category_count] => 59 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Rwanda: The Transformation of Society, Summer 2011 [category_nicename] => rwanda-the-transformation-of-society-summer-2011 [category_parent] => 251 [link] => https://my.wheretherebedragons.com/category/summer-2011/rwanda-the-transformation-of-society-summer-2011/ ) ) [category_links] => Rwanda: The Transformation of Society, Summer 2011 )

Rwanda: The Transformation of Society, Summer 2011

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From Cheney

Cheney Hagerup,Rwanda: The Transformation of Society, Summer 2011

Description

My host mother looked shocked when I shared with her that I did not know how to hand wash my clothing and could use some help. I told her that at home I use a machine wash and tried to justify myself by telling her that some of my friends at home don’t even know […]

Posted On

07/30/11

Author

Cheney Hagerup

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A week before today that words "rural home-stay" were the most dreaded words of this entire trip. Everyone was under the impression that this was the big climax and rough patch that was going to divide the boys from the men!

As we await the arrival of our home-stay mothers to scoop us up and take us into war, we all just look at each other, trying to imagine what hell we are about to go through. But 30 minutes later, they are all sitting in front of us... and no one has their game faces on? No one is trying to make us work entire feilds or haul a wagon up an enormous hill? These are nice, friendly, funny women, who just look happy to be in our presence-non the less take an actual "Mazoongoo"(a white person) home with them.

Within less than a day the enitre group came to find that Ngarama was by no means the place that was going to break us, but, in fact, the place that would put us back together again! Ngarama is a small town in Rwanda, a place where the sky navy blue, filled with stars giving birth to milllions of other stars, a place where the air is light and clear, and a place where you can actually hear yourself think for a change. Sitting down on a bench, in a home full of teenagers like me, listening to the radio, I have never been so calm in my life. It seemed like I sat down the first night on that bench and got up with just enough for my family to hand me my going away gifts (a woven bag and flip-flops) and send me back to Kigali.

I can honestly say that in Ngarama were some of the nicest, warm-hearted people I've ever met-people who single handidly restored my faith in humanity. I was sad leaving, but at the same time glad, glad that they have put me in a mental state where I can go home with a sense of serenity and peace that I hadn't had before. There's something to be said about the importance of simplicity, and "Ngarama" about sums it up!:)

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Rwanda: The Transformation of Society, Summer 2011

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Ngarama Ngarama

Mallory Vaughn,Rwanda: The Transformation of Society, Summer 2011

Description

A week before today that words "rural home-stay" were the most dreaded words of this entire trip. Everyone was under the impression that this was the big climax and rough patch that was going to divide the boys from the men! As we await the arrival of our home-stay mothers to scoop us up and […]

Posted On

07/30/11

Author

Mallory Vaughn

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We’ve spent these last 5 days in our rural homestays in Ngarama, a small isolated village tucked away in the Eastern Province of Rwanda. “The people here live a simple life” we were warned before entering the warmth and hospitality of our families.

It was true. I woke up every morning around 7. My host brother would cut wood for the fire and we would boil the morning tea. My host sister would sweep dirt off the front dirt porch and I would take my bucket shower. My host mother would walk me to the market and we would buy food for lunch. Then it was time to cut more wood for the fire while my host sister washed the dishes or did laundry. The afternoons were generally spent chatting with the neighbors or playing with the children or fetching water. Then it was time to peal more potatoes and more plantains for dinner. When it was finally dark, the kids would usually bring the radio outside and under the feeble glow of the family lantern, we would watch them dance under the stars.

This rhythm and this schedule for 5 days. There really is no other way to describe it: A simple life. A simple, calm, relaxing, healthy life. For 4 days I smiled at the way things worked in Ngarama. Time seemed to stand still. No one was ever rushing. Everyone was kind and friendly and warm and happy. But on the fifth day, when I was peeling plantains with my host mom this picturesque life style that I had painted in my mind was put to the test.

My host mom began to talk about her life. She had been married at 18 and had her first child 9 months later. The new born baby girl was 2 months old when the genocide began. In a few short months, she had lost the father and his entire family. She took in her eldest sister’s son who was also killed. She remarried with a military officer a couple of years later only to find out that he was already married to a first wife who refused to let him financially support the 3 new kids he had with her. So my mom was left with 5 kids and herself to feed. But she found a job at the local hospital and can now send all her children to school.

My host mom may lead a simple life but she’s lived a harsh and complicated story. My story is simple. I have 2 healthy parents and a brother. I’ve lived in the same house my entire life. My grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins are alive and I get to see them at least once a year when we travel back to France. My story is simple but they way we live is complicated: Electricity, water, heating, and cooling systems dictate our every move. We have a truck that takes our garbage and brings it who knows where. We buy our food at a supermarket that sells product grown halfway around the world in laboratories. We drive a car that constantly needs to be refilled at the gas station whose oil pipes are connected around the entire world.

It’s easy to get caught up in the joys of a simple life and ignore the realities of a sad and complicated story. It’s also equally easy to get caught up in joys of my happy life story and ignore the reality of the complicated and potentially destructive system of living we’ve set up for ourselves. Ngarama started out as a vacation. I enjoyed 5 simple worry free days of vacation, but it’s complicated the way I view my place in the world for the rest of my life.

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Rwanda: The Transformation of Society, Summer 2011

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A Simple Life, A Complicated Story

Paulne Chery,Rwanda: The Transformation of Society, Summer 2011

Description

We’ve spent these last 5 days in our rural homestays in Ngarama, a small isolated village tucked away in the Eastern Province of Rwanda. “The people here live a simple life” we were warned before entering the warmth and hospitality of our families. It was true. I woke up every morning around 7. My host […]

Posted On

07/30/11

Author

Paulne Chery

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    [post_content] => Ngarama, is a quiet little town in the Eastern Province of Rwanda.  During the day there's always some children running around with their  friends, some adults going to fetch water, and some teens walking around  with friends and of course a radio. The radio plays the same songs over  and over, but that doesn't seem to be a problem for anyone, they still  enjoy it. At night it's so calm outside, the stars settle into their  spots and the moon is the only light that floods the streets. 
This town is the setting for our rural homestays. And let me be one to say that it was a great time. We connected with our families and they connected with us. The evenings were my favorite part of this homestay. Everyone would get home from a busy day, whether they were at school for semester exams, at work at the local hospital, at school teaching English, or just at home taking care of the younger kids; the evening was a time to come together and talk about the day. We would eat dinner by candlelight and laugh at the crazy things that the little 3-year old would come up with, whom by the way learned my name on the last day. He no longer ran around the house yelling muzungu, he decided to start calling me Cecilia.
Some nights my family would make me sing songs for them, at first I hesitated, but soon got used to the fact that they weren't going to stop asking me to sing until I did. They taught me some songs and and I taught them one. It was a group effort most of the time, but they did make me memorize a song, I had to sing it without looking in my book; it was pretty rough.
I helped wash the dishes every night and sometimes I was part of the kitchen crew. We just shared tasks and helped to peel potatoes or stir the beans. My family was big, I didn't ever actually have an exact amount. Most nights we had guests and I didn't really know who was actually part of the family. That's the thing about Rwanda though, you don't have to be family to come join for dinner. Everyone helps each other out without evening knowing their names.
Overall, the days were simply great in Ngarama. Here's another special moment that I had. Throughout the week I had the chance of visiting children from the local handicap center. This center is a nice place for children to spend their time. Their parents live in town mostly, but aren't able to provide them with the resources that they need. They attend school at the Primary school about a block away, and the rest of the time they play with each other and just hang out. When I went to the center, I just spent time with the children, some were in wheelchairs, so we just bounced a ball back and forth to each other. On the last day of school, they hold a huge ceremony for parents and students, in which they are given their report cards. I went to the ceremony by chance and happened to see three of the boys that I had been spending time with. When it was time to present them with their reports, the head master and 1st grade teacher let me walk up to the front and hand them their report. It was a special moment for me, because it was so unexpected. And I'm sure it was a special moment for the boys, because they remembered me from the days before, the excitement on their faces was pretty priceless. We might have not volunteered or actually helped out at that center, but that wasn't really the point, because if nothing else I think our presence made the children feel happy and excited to be there.
Ngarama was such a special place for us all, an I hope that the end of the trip goes as great as is has been so far.

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Rwanda: The Transformation of Society, Summer 2011

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In Ngarama the nights are so quiet…

Ceci Hernandez,Rwanda: The Transformation of Society, Summer 2011

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Ngarama, is a quiet little town in the Eastern Province of Rwanda. During the day there’s always some children running around with their friends, some adults going to fetch water, and some teens walking around with friends and of course a radio. The radio plays the same songs over and over, but that doesn’t seem […]

Posted On

07/30/11

Author

Ceci Hernandez

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Hello all from the lovely Eastern Province!


Students are all happy and healthy and thriving in their homestays. On Saturday, after Umuganda, or community service, we will head towards Kigalli, en route to Imbabazi orphanage in the north of the country. We are not ready to go home, so we are trying our best to enjoy each moment here in hillywood. Here are some highlights from the group:

Giselle- A highlight for me was when we visited the home for the handicapped kids because now I view them in a totally different way, they are just soo happy and they live with no fears or disappointments; their disability doesn’t phase them. They are just fascinated with life and everything in it. They are just born special, and everyone can learn from them instead of feeling bad.

Zach Mormann- One of my highlights from this time in Ngarama is going to ‘the rock’ with my host-brother and getting the chance to have a more in-depth conversation with him. I was able to learn more about his life and he learned more about mine. Having this conversation while looking out over the picturesque hills of the Rwandan countryside.

Zach Feldman- I apologize for this being so short but I think that the highlight of my time here was volunteering at the children’s center. I developed a close relationship with one of the autistic girls, Shimiye, and I know I’ll miss her. She was so full of joy and was clearly very enthusiastic about hugs. I hope that I can add more later but this is a short recap of my highlights here.

Pauline- I use to think that nothing could beat spontaneous dancing parties to Disney songs in my friend’s living room. Last night, I sat outside with my host mom and watched my 5 host siblings dancing to Kinyarwanda pop under the light of the stars and the lantern. Watching my 2 year shrimp sister bob up and down with a light blue hoodie pulled over head definitely beats Disney song outbreaks for me.

Cheney- I never thought that a simple, battery powered radio placed on the window sill could fill the air with so much joy. Yesterday, I spent the afternoon with my host brothers and sisters eating sugar cane, mangos and bananas and dancing in the back yard while peanuts were roasting over the fire.

Ceci- So I didn’t really know what to expect when we came to Ngarama, but I can honestly say that I have enjoyed my time here so much. Staying with our homestay families for most of the day is such a great and effective way of getting to really know the culture and lifestyles of the families here. One of the things that a lot of families do, is just break out in song regardless of the time or situation. Most often they sing church songs, but you can find them singing while cooking or while just relaxing in the living room. After the first day, they decided to put me on the spot and sing a song for them. I performed the song that we learned in Butare, and then they preceded to teach me for songs. It was a great experience and our evening activity consists of singing songs in both English and Kinyarwanda.

Rita- The instructors warned us upon our arrival in Ngarama that life here goes at a much slower pace. I settled in immediately to the slow rhythm with no problem and I am struggling to pick just one highlight from my homestay experience. I listen to the radio with my sister and when we lay down for an afternoon nap my Mama came in and put African fabric over us so we didn’t get cold. I woke up to a mug of hot milk from their cow with sugar to help calm my cold. My Dad showed me pictures of their 9 children and told me I am their youngest child.

Allie- Of the many wonderful, fun moments I’ve experienced in Ngarama with my family, one of my favorites was teaching my host brother and sister baseball, using avocados and a basket as a ball and a mitt.

Cathrine – The night before we came to Ngarama we went to the opening night of Rwanda Film Festival. The main movie was Africa United, about some children making their way to the World Cup in South Africa. It was very inspirational and showed the power of soccer to unite people. Soccer, or football as the rest of the world calls it, is powerful and I had my experience with it here in Ngarama. The other day I played soccer with my host brothers and some neighborhood kids. They were so excited that I would play with them and didn’t want me to stop when I got tired. It was a really connecting moment.

Mallory- I won’t sugar coat what my expectations at all: I thought this part of the trip would break me for sure. I was dreading it from the start, because, being from Atlanta, rural to me is having houses within a walking distance from each other. And, having the instructors repeat over and over again that the trip to the rural area was going to be very very slow was not exactly inviting or anything close to the hustle and bustle of Atlanta at night. However, within an hour of my home stay I was in love! Everything from the very strong resemblance of my Auntie in my home-stay mother to the sitting on a bench at night, listening to the radio, waiting for dinner. My home stay in particular is made up of my parents and a bunch of teenagers. At first I was worried that we would spend the entire time sizing each other up, but something just clicked. We don’t have to say a word and we get each other perfectly. My highlight: sitting and listening to the radio and looking up at the stars, and taking turns singing the songs-they sing the ones that are their language and I sing the ones in mines. Music truly is universal!

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Rwanda: The Transformation of Society, Summer 2011

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Highlights from our Group

All of Us,Rwanda: The Transformation of Society, Summer 2011

Description

Hello all from the lovely Eastern Province! Students are all happy and healthy and thriving in their homestays. On Saturday, after Umuganda, or community service, we will head towards Kigalli, en route to Imbabazi orphanage in the north of the country. We are not ready to go home, so we are trying our best to […]

Posted On

07/28/11

Author

All of Us

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Ngarama, Eastern Province, Rwanda, East Africa

I come home to a guest house, with a belly full of warm milk and a heart full of song, Someone taught all the small children in this town to hug every white person that they see. I am glad for this. Sometimes I need 45 hugs in a day.

Now. Night. The navy sky full of stars and Venus on the horizon.

I sit. I ponder the time that has passed. I consider the moons waxing and waning, the growth and change evident of a life spent in motion.

At what point did this country begin to live inside me?

Rwanda took residence. Her red dirt seeped into my skin, her plantains and potatoes became my diet, and her sun changed my tone. Her people, gently calling, Muzungu and holding my hand, became essential elements of my existence.

It must have been in January, when I came alone. I was allowed the quiet and space to observe. I was forced to struggle for words and significance, and to find the answers and questions for myself. I was caught in the contrast of the subtle nature of the people in and the extravagance of the environment. I was grappling with the heartbreaking history and the joy of a wide smile in an ebony face. I was sorting myself out, a woman, white, alone in Africa. I was at once exhilarated and agitated, free and trapped, and totally upset that my time was limited to explore this place. In all these distinctions and confusions, in all that space, and in the moment before the next breath, I found that I was in love. I knew I would be devoted. I knew I would come back.

Last week we walked through part of the Rift Valley. Sunlight was streaming through the savannah grasses offering a surreal quality to everything. We saw zebras, giraffes, buffalo and gazelles. We saw the majestic nature that God intended.

Africa is the womb, the cradle, it is just how life should be. And Rwanda, the tiny gem of a nation, has created a new admirer.

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Rwanda: The Transformation of Society, Summer 2011

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a reflection on this land

Liz Connor,Rwanda: The Transformation of Society, Summer 2011

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Ngarama, Eastern Province, Rwanda, East Africa I come home to a guest house, with a belly full of warm milk and a heart full of song, Someone taught all the small children in this town to hug every white person that they see. I am glad for this. Sometimes I need 45 hugs in a […]

Posted On

07/28/11

Author

Liz Connor

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Yesterday we went to Murambi in the Southern Province of Rwanda. It’s a quiet and still place, about a 3 hours drive from Kigali, surrounded by beautiful waves of green grass. It also happens to be the place where 50000 people lost their lives during the 1994 genocide. Now the top of the hill has been turned into a memorial. People of all sorts, muzungus and survivors, can drive past the sound of children playing, walk up to the tall white gates, and enter 6 consecutive rooms of the old technical school where the bodies of the victims are preserved with limestone and on display.

The drive back was a quiet one. Our group of 12 muzungus and 3 Rwandans was safely huddled together in the back of the van as the sun began to set behind the road. The sun was setting just as it had the day those 50 000 people were brutally hacked and murdered in the school classrooms where they thought they would find safe haven. The sun was setting just as it had that very same day, 7000 miles away, where my 2 year old self was climbing into bed. Light was slowly fading from inside our cramped bus, just as light was slowly fading from those rooms filled with the dead.

When I first signed up for the trip to Rwanda, I had known about this country’s tragic past. I knew that almost a million people lost their lives in 100 days but I couldn’t understand. I told myself that the only way I could fully grasp the reality and vastness of the genocide was by traveling to the country where it had all happened. I told myself the only way for “Never Again” was to bear witness to the sad and horrible stories of the survivors. But the truth is that massacres like this one have happened again. They’re happening right now and you don’t need to travel to a foreign land and enter a room full of preserved dead bodies to know that taking the life away from another human being is a bad thing that should never happen.

But there is one thing that I couldn’t have realized had I not chosen to come to Rwanda for the summer. People have moved on, despite the haunting shadow of a shameful past. The country has not remained frozen in the same way the rooms in Murambi are. It is a very powerful thing to think that somewhere around the world, when one person is watching the progress of the sun disappearing behind the horizon, someone else is watching it appear. It’s a reminder of how connected we all are. 17 years ago the sun set over a country in ruins. But as of right now, the sun in Rwanda is rising and I would not have known that had I not traveled to the land of a thousand hills in the first place.

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Rwanda: The Transformation of Society, Summer 2011

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The Sun is Always Rising

Pauline Chery,Rwanda: The Transformation of Society, Summer 2011

Description

Yesterday we went to Murambi in the Southern Province of Rwanda. It’s a quiet and still place, about a 3 hours drive from Kigali, surrounded by beautiful waves of green grass. It also happens to be the place where 50000 people lost their lives during the 1994 genocide. Now the top of the hill has […]

Posted On

07/23/11

Author

Pauline Chery

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