Greetings! This year, I opted not to post at all during the course. I've now been back in the US a little over two weeks and have wrapped up most course-related tasks - and decided that I could now offer some of my own thoughts.
First, this group of students was pretty darn spectacular and for that I'm profoundly thankful. Second, my staff colleague, Caroline Hilk, was fantastic. I can't fathom doing this work without another non-student along. Caroline, thank you, thank you, thank you - for everything including your photos! Though he may never see this, I want to publicly thank our guide, Yvan. He remains as amazing as ever.
This course was a little longer than that offered in 2012. Those who went gorilla trekking visited all three of the current national parks in Rwanda; others visited two. We visited all five provinces. In retrospect, I think we spent a bit too much time moving about. But, then, we also had terrific experiences everywhere we traveled.
In 2014, when I traveled to Rwanda alone, I met with my colleague Kazu Sasaki at the Protestant Institute of Arts and Social Sciences (PIASS). At that point I just wanted to learn more about what he was doing with the Peace and Conflict Studies program. Then I got this wild idea. How about a workshop with Hamline and PIASS students? Fortunately, as a result of my Fall 2014 First Year Seminar, I met three outstanding students who were willing to take this on. Sadly, one of them was unable to join us. But, Marissa and Tess remained and did terrific work. On Saturday, 4 June - as you can read here and here - we spent the day with the PIASS Peace Club. It's safe to say that the day exceeded all expectations. Why? Students were able to have one-to-one and small group conversations that would never have happened in a formal setting; e.g., a meeting with an NGO. And, the PIASS students were incredibly open about their thoughts, experiences, and questions. And, not just with regard to the genocide and, for example, issues surrounding Rwandan ethnic identities. Why, for example, do we in the US use the term "African-American" when we have no idea whether someone is of African descent? Take it from there. It was nothing short of fantastic. It was one of those experiences that you dare not try to replicate. I could give my own blow-by-blow debrief of the rest of the course. I'll spare you. In short, it was exhausting and wonderful.
Okay, just a couple of snapshots -
I've been following Team Rwanda off and on pretty much since its inception, as well as the blog of their Director of Marketing and Logistics, Kimberly Coats. They just happen to be headquartered in Musanze! So, while others were "chasing" gorillas, Kimberly generously gave us a tour of their home, the Africa Rising Cycling Center. Very cool for this (former) cyclist!
As others have noted, while in Huye we visited Inzozi Nziza for ice cream, twice - at the demand of the students. In addition to the ice cream, I highly recommend the film, Sweet Dreams, available to stream on several digital platforms. Here are a couple of Pipers enjoying the treats!
In closing, a few things of which to take note. First, a "hold the date" note. On the evening of Monday, 14 November, we may be kicking off a photo exhibit - part of International Week - with a panel discussion. I hope you can join us. I'll post details here and create a Facebook event later.
Second - and this is very, very, very preliminary... but I'm exploring the possibility of the Center for Justice and Law offering an educational trip to Rwanda - open to all - in January or May of 2018. This would be a non-credit, abbreviated version of the course. If you're interested in knowing more as things unfold, please contact me to be placed on a mailing list.
I'm going to cut myself off here lest this get too long. Thanks for "joining us" in our journey!