Today we took a little break from the city bustle of Kigali, and instead visited a rural village to experience a day in the life of a traditional Rwandan. It was immediately obvious as we were driving to the village that we weren’t in the city anymore. Much of the roads were not paved (“It’s like an African massage!” as our driver put it), and we definitely put the suspension system of the bus to the test!!
The moment we arrived at our designated household, we were greeted enthusiastically by about a dozen women. We were welcomed with open arms, enthusiastic voices, and even a singing and dancing circle. It was such an enthusiastic greeting that we all participated in the dancing (and yes, I felt slightly more confident this time around!). Eventually we were led into their house. Our delegation introduced themselves, and so did the women. All of them proudly announced their ages (ranging from early to mid-50’s), which surprised me - they looked far more youthful than their ages would have us believe.
We had a lot of work to do that day. First on the agenda - prepare food for lunch. We were instructed in how to chop up and dice the vegetables. These were then tossed together for a stew in a simple pot over a fire, which would cook until it was time for lunch. Like all the other food we’ve had so far, it smelled AMAZING, but we couldn’t linger and drool over the food. We were given small gas cans and instructed to collect water at a well about 20 minutes away. Although the cans didn’t look that heavy, they were VERY difficult to carry back uphill for half an hour. We took frequent breaks on our way back (but the women and children who were with us didn’t - very impressive!).
We also walked out to the field to do some hoeing and tilling of soil - basic farm work. I was intimidated by this at first, but thankfully Rwandan soil is very fertile and easy to till (as opposed to the tough, raw soil back in the states). It was repetitive, but not overly difficult. We were also instructed on how to balance items on our heads, traditional Rwandan-style (spoiler - we created a miniature “holder” out of leaves, which made things easier), and we used this skill to bring feed to local livestock.
After lunch (DELICIOUS), we were shown some traditional Rwandan crafting. This was exciting to me, because I am an artist and was eager to see some master crafters at work. The women instructed us in creating two objects out of plant leaves and fibers - a bracelet (which I chose to made), and some soccer balls (which most of the delegation chose to make). Both objects were were durable, efficient, and it was incredible to watch the efficiency in making them (Both projects were done in under an hour)!! After completing the crafts, some of our delegation went out into the streets for an impromptu game of soccer with local kids…it was great!!
I wasn’t feeling that well through the day, and planned to take things easy. However, I was struck by how quickly the women picked up on that, and how kind and accommodating they were about it. I was constantly asked if i needed anything, or if I wanted to take it easy, or if I needed food or water. The kindness was overwhelming, and definitely my big takeaway from today!!
I am traveling to Rwanda with the intent of a sponge - I want to absorb as many unique experiences as I possibly can, and bring them back to share with my culture. I am a multifaceted artist, and Rwanda is a treasure trove of valuable experiences to draw inspiration from. As a visual artist, I look forward to seeing unique handmade art, and letting it inspire an artistic vision. As a musician, I look forward to hearing vastly different than what I’m used to, and letting that inspire music from my soul. And as a teacher, I’m looking to see teaching methods different than what I have known. I want to bring these gifts back and share them with my culture.