This morning I woke up at the hotel in Muhanga to the loud screaming squack of what felt like a human being attacked until I realized it was the birds. At 5 am. On the balcony. Screaming into the room. So, I cleaned up up my part of the room, shooed them away and sat on the balcony for a while, then walked for a bit outside.
Our trip today was to a Mudugudu (comparable to a block club) on the outskirts of the city. There is a cooperative in the city of Muhanga called Azizi Life, and through them you experience the traditional village living and culture for a day from these various Mudugudus. When our bus pulled up, the women were immediately smiling and began to sing and dance to welcome us before they showed us their daily tasks.
We cut sweet potato, boiled water, shelled beans, cut dodo leaves to boil. When this was done, we grabbed two 5 litre plastic bottles and walked for about 20 minutes to the well. Along the grassy path were cattle and goats and a rooster. At the water spiget, which let out to a river, there were many children collecting for their families. Often a child's first chores in the home is to collect water and cut grass to feed the animals. I am just amazed at how young these children are and how it is safe enough for them to walk alone to this place. This pushed my mind to reflect how different our cultures on micro mezzo and macro levels truly are.
When we got back, it was time to help cultivate the land and cut grass. We only did a half an hour of work ( about 1/8 of the field....it is also a small field) before the women decided it was time to cut grass. I used the sickle a bit, bust wasn't very good. Fellow AFPer Janae was really getting into it and was just chopping away. The women LOVED watching her go. We formed rings from banana leaves to put on our heads to help us carry the grass back to feed a family's livestock. Spoiler alert: I pet a cow. It was the woman's dowry price from when she got married. They knew I was married amd asked if my husband paid a dowry for me. I told them that we just bought my gold band, walked and got married quick and he went back to work. She was amused bt this and gave me a hug and a big thumbs up.
We ate when we got back, and after eating the lunch we assisted in preparing, we went outside to make bracelets and balls from banana fibers.
There was this 2 year old there, Divine. She was absolutely adorable and so open and welcoming. It was sweet to watch her begin to assist in all of the household tasks at such a young age, and to observe her beginning to learn the banana fiber weaving. I held her for some of the time. She would hold my St Ann pendant I wear and go 'Yezu!' Before kissing it and then me on the cheek. Quite possibly the most endearing piece of the day.
Before we left we danced and sang some more, and it was a little sad for us to leave them.
These are steadfast and strong women, and this morning trip gave me much more of a cultural understanding that I hope to bring back in my work, and has taught me a lot about daily rural life in this country. I am very grateful to have gone today.
This evening we went to the Urukundo Foundation to meet 'Mama' as she is called, and have dinner with some students who live there and the staff. I sat with Govith, a farmer at the Foundation, and we shared a bit about planting. Eric, foundation secretary, was next to me and helped to interpret for Govith and chatted. We connected over our religious background and talked about our college studies and future career goals. Unfortunately he is in school in Kigali this weekend but will be back on Monday.
After dinner was devotional, and it was sweet to see the children learning the same songs I did growing up. Also from going to some Kinyarwanda speaking churches in Buffalo, I could even sing along to some of their songs (shoutout to Rwagasore!).
After songs, we did some team exercises with the kids, and performed a skit of the Three Little Pigs. The children danced for us and we all joined in towards the end. We prayed and then returned to the hotel.
Rwanda has begun to implememt fostering instead of orphanages, so I am looking forward to see how this has affected Urukundo and the country as a whole, and how this is able to fit in with their cultural norms and values. Luckily we have several days here to get a grasp on this new system.
Tomorrow we begin teacher training all day. Can't wait!
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.