We were only gone for a short time but I honestly feel different. I keep seeing the faces and hearing voices of all of the amazing people that we met while in Rwanda. Our amazing guides: Yvan Gisele, and Aime. Danny, Charles and everyone else from Beausejour. The two Thierrys from The Bar Stella. The girls from the Gashora Girls Academy and the boys from Les Enfant de Dieu, and beautiful little Daria. Our guide at the Ntarama Genocide Memorial who was a genocide survivor, the Rasta man at the market in Kigali, Grace from the other market in Kigali who remembered my name and gave me a free bracelet as a gift, the beautiful people at the Pygmy village that we visited in Musanze, the Intore dancers at the Amahoro Cultural Village (especially the man with the 100 watt smile), dancing with those dancers again before going gorilla trekking, the brilliant staff from Never Again Rwanda, and of course the lovely women of the basket weaving collective in Musanze who weaved baskets with us. The woman who taught me how to weave spoke no English and when she found out that I was not Rwandan she smiled and put her arm next to mine and pointed back and forth. I took this to mean, "We are the same." I could have cried, but I didn't, I just smiled, nodded, said "Yes! The same!" and made sure to hug her extra tight when we said goodbye.
I'm so grateful for all of these people as well as everyone else who made this trip amazing and made it possible. I'm grateful for the conversations that I was able to have with the people that we met as well as my classmates especially Ms. Cami Gysland! Many times we would talk late into the night or early in the morning about what we were experiencing and the truths that we were learning. The commitment to truth and healing through truth telling that Rwandans seem to have is something that impressed me the most. I plan to incorporate this practice into every area of my life and various communities.
There were several highlights of the trip many of which I have already mentioned. One that I haven't talked much about was gorilla trekking. Gorilla trekking was definitely an experience and even though it was not one of the main reasons or draws for me to go on this trip, it was an amazing experience to see actual mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. It was very cool to see mothers and babies and big silverbacks and to observe the way that they function as a family and a society. We got to watch them for an hour and as we observed them (from no more that five or six feet away from them) you can bet that they were observing us as well.
A few falls and journeys in and out of sink holes later, and we were out of the mountains and left with only our memories and as many pictures as we could snap. The trek was kind of like the entire trip in that way. It felt extremely long as we were there because of all that we were doing, but as soon as we got back, it felt like we had only been gone a short while.
I truly cannot wait to get back to Rwanda someday, hopefully sooner than later.
Love from St. Paul,