This is it – the final push, the last leg of this journey. At times it feels like I have been in Rwanda forever, but not in a bad way. It feels normal to be here. It feels like home, although it certainly lacks all the creature comforts of my actual home in the States (if I were to actually have a home and not have my life stockpiled in a 10x15 storage unit). There are other times though when I look at all I have left to do while I am here and it doesn’t quite seem possible that I only have a few weeks left in this country I have grown to respect and appreciate. Most of all, I cannot believe that my time is so limited with the kids of Agahozo.
I spent so much of the first term observing, learning, and asking questions. We were all somewhat thrown into this experience with a loose idea of our roles and responsibilities, and over time we have had the opportunity to more fully define our purpose here and autonomously choose how to interact with the students. The second term was a whirlwind filled with 97 overnight guests and 67 day visitors. I was thoroughly exhausted when the term came to a close and was so thankful that I had 6 weeks to recover. I often heard the students saying, "cousin, where have you been? Why do I not see you?" The truth of the matter was that very little of my time was spent with the students of Agahozo because I was tending to the needs of the various student groups from America who were volunteering their time in the Village. Although I have far fewer visitors and guests for whom I am responsible for this term, my days seem to be busier than ever. Writing reports and “instructions” for the next group of fellows takes up many of the morning hours and then I seem to be spending countless hours each afternoon with students helping them revise research papers (teaching them that cutting and pasting from Wikipedia does not a research paper make), tutoring English, painting fingernails, taking photos … I want to do it all and leave no stone unturned when it comes to them.
Just yesterday I sat with one of my girls for 90 minutes as she read a story about horses to me. It was precious time that I could not have imagined spending any other way. (Note: when she arrived in the Village 10 months ago, she didn't know any English at all and here she is reading a book to me!) On Monday, I taught one of my girls the song “Mama Mia” which was utterly enchanting! Each day brings new surprises and delights and I have come to cherish each and every one of them. The students' giggles bring me joy, their never-ending questions fill me with pride, and the ways in which they show me they care make me melt. The students at Agahozo have become my purpose in life for this term, and I have discovered how much I truly love and care about them. While being away from the Village for 6 weeks over vacation, I realized that it is the the students in Agahozo who make each of my days complete. They are the ones who make me laugh like a little kid again, they have helped me rediscover my silly side, and they have broken into my stoic heart and made themselves at home. I adore them and I already dread the forthcoming farewell when they leave for term break and I leave to return to America.
There is a facebook photo album for Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village titled "Faces of Agahozo." These are a few of the faces I adore.