\nI woke up this morning to the sounds of birds chirping amd light filling the room. After getting ready, Travis and myself took a walk outside. It was quite a sight to see so many people walking around, cleaning up, and so bustling...all before 7am! It was quite funny to see all the stares, though not at me. Travis' dreadlocks were quite the focal point for many around.
\nBefore I began breakfast, I was finally able to meet in person the son of one of my friends. I had some small gifts for him, so he stopped by quickly. It was so great to meet him after months of only whatsapp communication!
\nAt breakfast new friends were made! There was a group from Sud-Kivu in DRC that were attending a 4 day tournament for sport here in Kigali. We sat and ate together, using a mix of swahili/french/english. This was there last day before departing so unfortunately it was a hello/goodbye breakfast.
\nOur morning program consisted of a tour of the Nyamirambo Women's Center and part of the Nyamirambo neighbourhood. There was so much information given by our wonderful tour guide and it was interesting to hear the history of the neighborhood and its own subculture within the city. We saw how bunga was made and the time and effort that goes into crushing the cassava leaves for dinner. The neighbourhood people were extremely friendly and creating connections with some made me feel the smallness of our world. After Whatsapping some friends from home, it turns out they are from this area!
\nLunch was absolutely delicious- a homecooked meal. There was dodo leaves, cassava, potatoes, cabbage, and beans. It is safe to say I was comfortably full after that meal.
\nWe left Nyamirambo (I honestly could have stayed there for the next two weeks) and embarked to the Kigali Genocide Memorial. In one word: heavy. Working with refugees and repeatedly hearing traumatic events I have learned my triggers and know what I am capable of handling at a given time. With that being said, there is still a lot to process and a lot of notes written down to review. It felt quite personal to me so for now I don't feel I should write more on this.
\nHowever in the museum I met some people in fancy suits. They are actually all elected mayors from towns in Kenya amd were at the memorial to learn about the genocide and see the rehabilitation over ethnic tensions, as they stated this is something they are currently seeing though of course on not such a grand scale. We chatted a while about shared social issues before they departed.
\nIn the memorial there is a whole room devoted to 'psychological counseling.' I walled in out of curiosity- it was a refreshing shock to see a mental health portion of the memorial. The volunteer and I chatted as best we could and exchanged cards. The interventions used are tailored to the experience of the memorial visitors, and that they are currently receiving more Rwandese coming to this office after walking through the exhibits. I am amazed at the acceptance of an office such as this, as from experience there has rarely been a time that mental health assistance was ever accepted by clients of mine. I look forward to learning more from them.
\nA note to my interpreters in Buffalo that are reading this: I have now experienced traffic here and there is no way to negatively compare my driving to this. Clearly my skills for cars are better suited to this country, haha!
I am honored to have been given this opportunity to go to Rwanda and look forward to growing from this experience, both professionally and personally. The Great Lakes region in Africa is of great interest to me, especially as a resident of the Great Lakes region in the United States. I currently work as a refugee resettlement case worker at a local agency in Buffalo. Conflict resolution and community building are two topics that are crucial in my work, and I am eager to both share my stories on those subjects and learn from the stories of others. Ultimately, through our collective stories, I hope to witness and engage in the solidarity that has developed in Rwanda since the mid-nineties. My hope is to bring that knowledge back to my work in Buffalo. The lessons learned can then be put into action by aiding in the development of programs that will have a positive effect on the families and communities that I serve.