All in all the trip did make me look at life in a different perspective. We literally go through life taking certain things for granted, not realizing it, and the people that I saw in Rwanda have to go through great lengths to receive such things, but it makes me emotional on how little they need to be happy and it makes me that much more grateful to have to things I do. I loved putting the Rwandans story out there and in our bodies. We had so much fun with the teachers and students. I could tell they really liked story-based learning. I think it made a difference for them. An admirable quality the Rwandans have is forgiveness. I’ve heard it before, but to actually hear it and see it for myself it just astonished me. I’m not going into detail about what I heard but hearing the things associated with the genocide against the Tutsi was a lot and it just angered me so much and it got to be a problem mentally for me just thinking about it that I couldn’t understand how people could forgive such vile things, but on the other hand those survivors and families of victims honestly want to move on and live their lives and to do that forgiveness must take place. I’m sorry. I can’t say that I’m there yet, not that it happened to me, but hearing it it breaks my heart, and seeing what the country came from to what they are now it’s just beyond amazing. Their nation as a whole is beautiful. Their stories matter so much and it should be told. Through tragedy really does come hope.
The last couple of days of the trip after the teacher training were like “tourists days”, but that didn’t mean what I thought it did. I thought it would be easy going, but boy was I wrong. My body went through so much mentally and physically. It did me well in the end but I don’t think I will be doing anything similar to what we did any time soon. The monkey trekking did a number on me physically. For the first portion of the trekking in the forest we were constantly going downhill so with every step I cringed knowing we would have to travel back up and when we did I stopped literally every 15 feet or so and Drew was kind enough to stick around and stay with me while I struggled. There was even a point when we thought we were lost (mostly Drew.) but we kept in the path until we heard everyone else and I knew we were done. I was beyond relieved. Some days later we went on the Safari and besides the fact that I couldn’t bring myself to use the bathrooms on the park grounds because I just thought I couldn’t even though I needed to, it was nice. We saw so many animals, but zebras were definitely the majority. For whatever reason every time I seen a zebra I said “there’s a zebra cake!” Don’t ask me why. I just did. It felt like we were on a constant roller coaster in the truck we were driving in because of the ground but even with it it was peaceful and quiet at times and I enjoyed it. But being out on the safari for more than 6 hours tired is out but we ended our day at the lodge and a hibachi-styled dinner and it was delicious, then it was time for us to sleep our last night in Africa. We then proceeded to wake up and enjoyed a nice breakfast at the lodge and since we weren’t in Kigali we traveled a couple of hours back there where we had our final meal and said by to Francois and Solange who was so helpful and kind to us as they helped us navigate through Rwanda. And just like that it was time to leave. And because I longed to go home the flights back to Buffalo seemed longer, but over a day later we landed in Canada, went through the border, and it was then that I knew I was finally home.
Teacher training was what I was most wary about on this delegation. Despite me being a theatre major I thought I was going to have a hard time with the teacher training because even with what we knew about the teacher training a lot of it had to do with thinking on your feet and that was quite frightening. But honestly it ended up being one of my favorite parts on the trip. Once I got in the mindset to believe that the Rwandan teachers wanted to learn from me (which they did) & I knew what I was talking about (which I did) I went with the flow, had fun, and taught with my fellow teacher trainers Imani and Lucas, which also helped because we worked off of each other and if someone hit a rough spot in the teaching the others would make up for it, so it went smoothly. After undergoing various exercises with the teachers and then watching them put their body and action into their stories it was so refreshing to witness. Not only did they take what we taught them and applied it, but they enjoyed it, and I feel that is so important when it comes to teaching and learning because it makes you want to learn more and tell your story which is the ultimate goal.
We started our day as we usually do getting up and showered and to breakfast at the guest house. Then we went out to visit Les Enfants de Dieu for a story building workshop. Before we even got off of our bus the children were swarming it with smiles and waves. We then got separated into groups to work with the young boys, and we did our fun exercises. At first the games started off slow but the more exercises we did the more the energy picked up. By the time we got to the last exercise they were giving us and each other great ideas to go off of to create their stories. They didn’t even need our help at that point. After we got finished showing them our exercises to our surprise they presented us with some of their games, and we had such a good time. Once we had to separate and regroup with everybody it was almost impossible to separate the children from us. They didn’t want to let go and neither did we. But the head of that program rounded everybody up and some people had said some good remarks on what we had just done. We then parted ways and ate out at a delicious restaurant. We ate and headed out to pick up our bags from the guest house to transfer them to the Splendid Hotel. We got here and it was so nice. Not to mention I got a single room all to myself. We then had a beautiful dinner at the hotel and then a little later went to sleep for some well deserved rest.
I woke up again around 7:00a.m then proceeded to breakfast at the guesthouse. We story built for a couple of hours where we got together, did some of our exercises, and built on our story. It felt good to be together, working together, and having fun while doing it. After that we went to lunch at the beautiful Chez John. I felt so bad because I felt so underdressed because seemed like such an upscale restaurant. We were high up on the balcony and the view was fantastic, some people were actually lucky enough to sit at the fewer tables that were actually outside. The rest of the tables were inside, still beautiful none the less. The food was good there too, but that’s no surprise. We then went to a market where we had the opportunity to get souvenirs, which of course I bought some. This place was huge and so many people sold so many things. People sold decor items, fabric, dresses, jewelry, hats, food. This place seemed to go on forever with items to buy. We obviously had too much fun there because then we were running late for the next place we had to be which was Inema Arts Center for a traditional dance class. First we observed the beautiful art at this place, then we went to dance. I honestly thought we were gonna do a couple of steps, but boy was I wrong. Our dance instructor had us doing so much, and we all sweated so much, but it was so fun. We learned some choreography, then performed it a couple of times, and we were all ready to just drop right there after we were done due to our tiredness. We went back to the guesthouse to freshen up then we made our way to dinner at the Hut which was a pretty cool restaurant, and it had a pool. Who knew?? I liked this meal the most, because it’s one of my favorite foods at home, which was Alfredo, but I was also sad because I wasn’t even able to finish it because I was full from eating a snack prior to being there, so it was kind of a bummer, but what I got to eat was great. We returned to the guesthouse after dinner and went to sleep knowing we had to get up a little earlier than usual to work with some children the following morning.
I woke up before 7:00a.m. the next morning had breakfast with everybody and we boarded our bus into town to visit Nyamirambo Women’s center. We heard an inspiring story of how women were funded to sew clothes and various things of that nature, but my favorite part to hear was when the women knew that the funding would eventually stop they had the idea that they wanted to be independent, make their own money, and make a living for themselves, so they did, and they prospered into the comfortable business they have today. From there we went on a tour of that neighborhood, which was one of the poorer parts of Kigali, and we seen women doing hair in shops and was told that you would get a certain hairstyle based off of your marital status which was interesting to me. We saw beautiful artwork done along the walls on a street, and I witnessed food being prepared where some of us partook in the process, which was fun to do and watch. Then my favorite part of the day cane when we had a home cooked meal prepared for us by a lovely woman and let me tell you, I am a very picky eater, but besides 2 out of the 7+ dishes I ate everything and when I tell you it was so delicious I honestly wanted a takeout container of it and the recipes. No kidding. The next thing we did was visit the Kigali Memorial Center where we went through to learn about the Genocide including, how it was started, who was killed, and how they healed and forgave. But the part that got me and I’m sure everyone else was when we approached the last room of the children. It stated things like their favorite things to eat, favorite person, and things of that nature, and then at the very bottom of the plaque it said how they died. That tore me. It truly did. Like children are defenseless and innocent, and then that... They didn’t deserve it. No one did, but how could you live with yourself after doing that. It broke my heart. Then we went down near the mass graves to lay down a rose & had a minute of silence in honor and remembrance of the people who lost their lives to this tragedy. It was so sad just to think about it. To kind of change the mood we went out to dinner at the Repub Lounge where the food didn’t disappoint. It was a nice restaurant. I loved the view and mood of it. Then we went back to the guest house to go to sleep again to prepare for day 3.
. So today we traveled roughly around 30 hours between bus rides, plane rides, and layovers. Despite us leaving before 6am est. time we were all excited to go on this great adventure. After going through customs at the U.S./Canadian border we got to the Toronto, Canada airport a short while later to board the plane about two hours after we had arrived. Our first flight was about 13 hours. Out of those 13 hours I slept about 30 to 60 minutes. I guess I just couldn’t calm down knowing that I was leaving so far from home for two whole weeks. Maybe I was anxious? I don’t know. Restless was an understatement for me. I tried to fill my time with the movies offered on the plane and catching up on Riverdale on my laptop. I remember before I left my mom told me to pack snacks in case I didn’t like the food, but what I didn’t realize was that it wasn’t that I wouldn’t like the food, but I would be constantly hungry. I probably eat too much for my own good. But I was so hungry despite being served food about every four hours. I went through half of my snacks. So we had landed in Ethiopia, Africa it was probably 12:00a.m. est time, and 7:00a.m. Ethiopia time. I was so relieved to get a good stretch off of the plane. Our layover there was about 3 hours. We kinda just walked around the airport, freshened up, and sat until we boarded our next flight. Now I promised the second flight I would take a nap because, 1. I needed sleep and 2. I wanted to have some type of energy when we landed in Rwanda, Africa. So I did keep my promise and for about an hour of that couple hour flight I went to sleep, but then we landed. We got off the plane, paid for some visas, got our luggage, and was greeted as soon as we got outside. We were welcomed and it was beautiful. I then took in my surroundings and it was amazing. The trees, the air, and the view of the mountains in the distance was just magnificent. We took our bus to our guest house where we rested for a couple of hours before we met up for dinner, and I got my first experience of tasting Rwandan food. It was like nothing I’ve tasted back in Buffalo, NY. But one thing that really stuck out to me was the pili pili sauce, which is a very hot sauce. Anybody who knows me knows that I love spicy food and when prompted to try some I did, but with precaution. I dipped the tip of my finger in it and licked it and I swear I licked the sun. It was hilarious. But nope, never again. At least I tried it. After that we proceeded with dinner and then had cake for our wonderful Professor Drew for his birthday and then it was lights out. It was an exhausting day, and we all went right to sleep in our rooms.
We are just a few short weeks away from going to Rwanda! I am a healthy mixture of excited and nervous. I'm so scared that I will be leaving family, friends, and my home as I know it, but on the other hand this is an opportunity of a lifetime and I can't wait to experience it. I remember when I first got accepted into going to Rwanda I honestly didn't know what to expect, but I said it would only bring good. Now that we are and have been preparing for it I am genuinely just ready to soak in everything I will experience and I know it will only change me for the better. We have been preparing in our meetings by doing our group exercises which have ultimately brought us closer together. We have also been putting a story together that has been directly been created by the village, and it warms my heart to know that we have been doing it. It's something to be truly proud of. There are so many ways to tell our stories as individual people, but the way we do ours just seems to be such a special and effective way to do so and I can't wait to put it out there for the people of Rwanda. On a different note, I have yet to start packing. I am a literal mess, but I will be fine. Rwanda, here we come!
About the Author
My name is Lisa Shaw and I am a junior theatre major at SUNY Buffalo State College. I love reading, watching movies, and anything that involves music. I’ve always wanted to travel around the world, and Rwanda is a great place to start. Combined with the love of helping people, making them happy, and wanting to travel, I believe that I can really make myself useful on this delegation and bring back what I will learn from Rwanda to my community. Everyone needs to know they have a voice. My village and I are just here to show them a way to use them.