Finally, after 24 hours of travelling we have arrived! If I had to describe this in one word, it would be 'long.' I met some interesting seatmates on the plane and am so grateful to have been next to them for such delightful conversation.
We rode from the airport to the guest house via bus, and all on the street there were people walking, waving, and enjoying themselves. The bus wound up and down the hills for quite a bit until we finally got to the hotel. I didn't take any pictures yet- too busy grabbing in the scenery.
Our room is a bit snug, but overall clean and neat. From our windows we can hear a wedding being held in the chapel. Those walking around are singing along to the hymns.
The weather is cool, and since I showered I have been sitting in a gazebo on the grounds, taking in the fresh air. Everyone is so friendly, and I am living for this language mix of Kiswahili, French, and Kinyarwanda when talking to people.
Can't wait to see what tomorrow holds!
There was a Kwibuka observance several weeks ago at Buffalo State. There are events that take place worldwide to remember the genocide and it is often a very solemn event. These Kwibukas take place during the 100 days in which the genocide occurred. This ceremony was very somber, but at the same time full of hope and togetherness.
I wasn't expecting to see many people from the community to come, but to my surprise there were some of my current and former clients there, along with community leaders from various groups from all over Africa. The ceremony and reception after was a time for all of us to reflect and join together, and it was so wonderful to see everyone chatting and discussing, and remembering what brings us together.
The guest speaker, Ms. Chantal Mudahogora, shared her story of survival and strength. I spoke with her afterwards about her research and work in mental health in East African communities, and she is absolutely inspiring.
Last minute I was asked to bring my camera; attached are some pictures from the day.
We are now less than a month away from travelling to Rwanda. It still feels far away, and I don't think it will 'hit' me until I get on the plane. However, with that being said I do feel a little nervous, but that excited nervous feeling- like as a kid waiting in bed for Christmas to come.
A lot of the families I work with either have family still in Rwanda or are from Rwanda themselves, and every time we meet, about half of our time together is spent on stories about their home, where I should go in the city, their family members who are still there, and- my favorite part- the food I need to eat.
Most people I have spoken to say to not have any expectations, but I do have one: to connect with people and form relationships. I don't think it will be hard, considering how welcoming of a culture we are travelling to. I am also grateful for connections made with fellow students during our prep time. Without AFP, I most likely would have never met anyone on campus from different majors- let alone formed strong bonds with them.
Our meetings leading up to Rwanda are dwindling down. The games and exercises we have been practicing for the teacher training I have been practicing with the English classes and job club at my work. I am surprised at how much these activities help to open people up, and how much more expression I have seen come from them.
Packing? I haven't started yet. I think the week of is when I will begin to pack.
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.