I feel much more settled than I suppose is normal, but then again I have always felt that "normal" does not describe me. After all, it was just 3 days ago when I moved to a foreign country and culture without speaking the mother tongue. I have to say though that it feels good.
It has been a bit of a whirlwind, but I tend to operate best when my schedule is hectic, so these days have been good for my well-being. I will have to slow down QUITE a bit in the coming weeks and months, as there is a different pace of life here, much like “island time” in Hawai’i. Here there is Rwandan time. Time management is actually a new notion to this culture, and it is something that the village is continually working on with the family members who reside here. Each new student actually receives a watch for Christmas, and the seed that is the notion of time management is planted in each of their minds. I have already learned that if meal time is scheduled for 7am, it means that the food will actually be served closer to 7:20am. If the van driver is supposed to pick us up at 8am, he will likely show around 8:30am…it’s just how things go. TIA – This Is Africa and everyone entering this culture has to be flexible, understanding, and adaptable. Growing up in the theatre, where I was taught that early was on time, on time was late, and late is unacceptable, means that this is going to take some adjustment J
Let’s switch gears for a moment as I take you on my journey in Kigali…take one (as there are guaranteed to be many trips to Kigali over the course of the next year). In the span of 12 hours today, I embraced the capital city and its people. I began the day by walking through the outskirts of Kigali so that I could immerse myself in the living environments that many of the Agahozo students reside in when they aren’t in the village. The town I toured was Nyamirambo, and the people, the sights, and the sounds were all glorious in their own unique way. One thing I have noticed is that when locals find out you are from America, they tend to ask for “cash/check” which, although somewhat troubling, gives me a little chuckle each time I hear it.
Then I went on a 2+ hour hike up Mt. Kigali to the most spectacular man-made forest and lookout point over Kigali city. My cohort of fellows (pictured to the left) and I took a few moments just to catch our breath and take in the nature. It was a phenomenal hike! After a traditional (and might I add delicious) Rwandan lunch, we negotiated prices for cell phones and SIM cards (bargaining is a MUST here), and finished our day by touring the Rwandan Genocide Memorial (another MUST if you plan to visit Kigali). There are no words to describe what the Memorial meant to me, or what it means to anyone and everyone who visits it, but it touched me deeply.
I have to say that the highlight of the day was meeting 4 of the students from Agahozo (one of them is pictured with me to the right, atop Mt. Kigali). They were our tour guides for the day, and the adjectives delightful, radiant, and inspirational aren’t strong enough to do them justice. They were exceptional in every way, and I can not wait to meet the other 496 students who will arrive over the course of the next month. Over the past few days I heard from various staff members at the village describing the motives behind the work that they do and that in fact they, “do it for the kids." After spending the day with 4 of the kids, I now comprehend the totality of the staff members’ statements.
We all have heartbreak in our past, we have all experienced loss in some way or another, and we have all pushed through the pain to exist in whatever form possible each and every day. These children and the people of this country are different though - they have faced many things unfathomable to most of us, and yet I can already see a glimmer of hope in the eyes of most everyone I meet, sense the love in their heart, and feel the affection permeating out of their souls when I am near them. This is a country with so many people filled with so much pain, sorrow and hurt, and yet bursting with love, kindness and compassion. I think that’s a very valuable lesson learned today, and it’s only day 3…