There are hundreds of highlights from Rwanda that I want to share with you all, but that would extend this blog indefinitely. Over the next several months and years, I will share Rwanda via programming, workshops, talks, and more so stay tuned.
In the meantime, I looked through my Rwanda photos and pull 9 highlights from the trip!
Check them out!
I've realized that life is a movie and we are all actors! So getting to practice what I/we always do was an exhilarating experience!
The Anne Frank Project (AFP) challenges drama-based education participants to explore the freedom and power inherent in the story-telling process by using body and other interactive activities.
The question we repeatedly asked ourselves throughout our preparation and DBE education work was how do we shift from sharing our stories primarily using our brains (i.e. (over) intellectualizing our stories) to sharing our stories using our hearts and bodies (i.e. BEcoming our stories).
Thank you Drew, Eve, and fellow AFP villagers for the opportunity to develop these skills and receive feedback on my acting and other theater skills.
**Back of the Bus Antics**
After the nearly 24-hour journey to Rwanda, I vowed to stretch my 6'4 frame wherever and whenever I could, including on the bus that we rode on for the majority of our trip. When the back of the bus was not carrying our luggage, there was a back row with 2-3 feet of extra legroom available! As you can imagine, this became home for the remainder of the trip.
Later, Eric and Willie would join the back row and it was 'lit-insky'!
We cut jokes, laughed until it hurt, and watched Eric seemingly talk to the entire city of Kigali through the back window of our bus! We sometimes had guest members too!
**Conversation with Pastor Yves**
Following a tour of Urokundo village, Pastor Yves, pastor at Urokundo village and father-like figure to many of the kids living at Urokundo, and I found time to chat before dinner with the kids at Urokundo.
I noticed Pastor Yves's heart by his presence and the outlook on his personal journey. He is grateful for his role at Urokundo and for the opportunity to be a role model and figure for Urokundo children who do not have these figures in their life.
I felt the depth in his humanity when he shared with me the difficulty he experienced after learning the stories of many of the Urokundo village children (and other children growing up in poverty and without education Rwanda). Moreover, Pastor Yves expressed his pain and complex sentiments around a government mandate (indeed, a complex issue that deserves your own research) that requires Urokundo village (and other orphanages) to transition children to foster parents and or extended family within the year. These children will be placed in new and unfamiliar environments...some for the best, others for the worst.
These individual stories and the interlocking systemic complexity were enough to bring me to tears.
I am thankful for the conversation with Pastor Yves, the cry, and the feelings of sadness I felt that day.
I think it is humanizing to be in touch with the suffering in the world.
This way we can smile and give light to those around us...much like Pastor Yves.
When I'm asked about Rwanda, I am quick to share that, "My trip to Rwanda was not a vacation"
Rwanda with the AFP was an intense cultural immersion and "heart-stretching" experience that challenged us as individuals and a collective. The journey required an intellectual, emotional, physical, and spiritual investment that we all recognized as both envigorating and laborious.
Our group meals served as a break from that experience and were perfect moments to practice self-care, recharge, and recalibrate as a group! We worked to be present with each other as we shared our meals. This process was aided by tasty meals...every bite!!! :)
Kids have much wisdom built into their spirits.
If we older people allow it, I think kids can teach us older people about love, freedom, and joy...if we allow them to.
The kids I met in Rwanda hold a special place in my heart. Many of their stories are of relentless challenge and resilience that was a times difficult to sit with. Their strength was inspiring.
The children we met were sunbeams of light and hope. You could feel it coming from them!
I soaked it in!!
**Meeting new friends through DBE**
Drama-based education (DBE) challenges participants (and its facilitators) to BEcome present with fellow group members in order to develop individual and collective stories. This looks like a lot of collective breaths, laughing, listening, collective problem-solving, and do-ing with ones heart and body.
During this "heartstretching" process, a natural group phenomenon occurs where participants begin caring deeply about fellow group participants. In DBE this is called village-building! During the DBE village-building I added friends to my village!
**The Market and Eric's Finesse**
During the end of our trip we traveled to a market in Kigali. The market is an active entrepreneurial center for many buyers and sellers of local Rwandan goods including: fabrics, seamstresses, collectables, souvenirs, and other items. The AFP group definitely stood out as tourists (remember large groups of white people are not the norm in Rwanda, Africa, and many other places outside of the United States) and we quickly became the center of attention for many sellers (which deserves its own analysis at another time).
Many of us engaged in bartering, which is a tricky game if you haven't had practice. Even with practice, I knew I had the best purchasing power with someone from within the culture, so I was quick to find Eric to help me barter some gear.
Watching Eric work was hilarious, I wish I understood Kinyarwandan to truly understand, but the non-verbals said a lot.
Nonetheless, Eric finessed an amazing deal on a lil sumn' sumn' you all might have already seen at a speaking engagement or a musical performance!
**Views from Kigali**
While in Rwanda, there were several moments I pulled out my phone to capture a place, group, or sight that was beautiful, but stopped. I realized that it was impossible to capture the beauty of many of the moments that I experienced with photo and/or video.
BEing present with Rwanda was how I captured most of it and because of that my soul is forever etched!
Here are some moments I did capture!
Willie, my roomie and fellow African brother (from Burkina Faso), went through transformation during our Rwanda journey that me and others in the group were privileged to witness. One of those transformations led Willie to cut his locs.
Early in the trip, Willie mentioned he wanted to cut his locs for future business endeavors and a desire for change! I suggested that Willie make the memory in Rwanda and I saw the light bulb go off (even though it flickered at times haha).
During some downtime, Eric set up a barber appointment with a local barber and soon after Eric, Willie, and I were on the way to the barbershop.
I remembered how hard it was to see my locs go in college (Yall remember dreadhead Reuben) so I recognized the complex emotions Willie felt, but after some laughter and support my guy Willie transformed into 'new Willie'!
And we documented it all!
Reuben Faloughi, M.Ed., is a fifth-year doctoral candidate studying psychology at the University of Missouri (MU). He recently defended his dissertation, which examined the effects of an intergroup dialogue-based diversity and social justice course on students' multicultural development. The course, now required for all MU College of Education students, was heavily influenced by personal experiences in the AFP/Dr. Kahn's drama-based education training, Division I athletics, the Fall 2015 student movement at MU, and other transformational life experiences. Reuben will complete his Ph.D. on internship at the University of Florida and graduate in Spring 2019. For more visit: