On the way out
I’m sitting here at the airport now and wondering exactly what I think about this trip. The last couple of days, I was getting homesick and so I feel like patience started to wear thin. It was very difficult to get out cash and due to 2 spontaneous trips, I had run out, twice. At one point, I had visited 4 ATMs with no success. The other thing is that stuff isn’t super reliable simply because they don’t have the infrastructure in place to support the needs. That stuff was the same as it had been before, and actually in many countries I’ve visited before, but because I was starting to miss my family and my husband, the little stuff started to get on my nerves. As we arrived in Kigali, it was very busy and I realized that we were in a different world in Gisenyi. Our driver picked us up and took us to the orphanage. This orphanage only had 125 kids and was MUCH different than Gisenyi where the stench of urine and dirty sheep was almost unbearable. We drove by a market on the way home and they had a coffee shop. I was so amazed at the coffee shop and had I not been so hot, I may have tried to go in there and get some. I realized that we were in such a remote area of Rwanda. We were literally in villages and while Kigali still has it’s issues I’m sure, it was leaps and bounds ahead of Gisenyi in terms of technological advancement. Seeing the orphanage and the town, I found I had a renewed desire to be here. It was unfortunate that it was on my way out.
I don’t want it to sound like I didn’t enjoy Gisenyi because I did. One piece of the trip that I truly enjoyed was Angel. She was our interpreter since many people in Gisenyi cannot speak english (another thing different than Kigali). So, she went with us to the women and places like that to be with us, speak for us, etc. I loved getting to know her and had such a good time. I think it would’ve been a different experience without her. I also loved the slow pace of life. I was taking bucket showers, my sink had no running water, people were 100% self sufficient as I have written about before. People own their own livestock, have their own farms, make their own clothes, etc. I think I got to experience Rwanda in the way that most Rwandans experience it. I also loved spending time with the women and while it was not as much time in the orphanage, it was equally valuable.
The orphanage - I’m sad that I couldn’t spend more time there because there were three boys in particular that I adored. Emmanuel, Emmanuel, and Innocent. (FYI, there were also 3 other Emmanuels that I met - popular name). I really only got to spend two days with them because the third day, we cleaned out the library art supplies and organized it. It was a mess. The fourth day, we had an opportunity to see the Gorillas and I am so glad I went because it was absolutely amazing to see the animals in the wild. I wouldn’t trade that experience for the world.
My thoughts on the orphanage
- it had a stench that I can’t describe. One room smelled of urine, one smelled of something terrible but I couldn’t place the smell. They had sheep, pigs, goats, cows and chickens. The things that stunk the most were the sheep and the pigs. It was horrible
- the kids are SO excited about volunteers being there and they ALL want to be around you. So that meant, Charlotte and I, two of the worst school teachers ever, were trying to teach english to at least 40 kids that ages ranged between 5 and 15. Essentially, children were running around screaming, taking books off the shelves, etc. The art project was a disaster and while I enjoyed it, I don’t think we really did anything beneficial.
- Sports - the one thing I could talk to the kids about was sports. They really like soccer which I knew nothing about and basketball. We played 3 on 3 basketball and it was amazing. We followed no rules that had anything to do with basketball, but I was on Emmanuel and Innocent’s team and we won. I felt like that’s what we’ll do the rest of the time but we ended up cleaning the closet because it was such a mess. I realized that teaching is very difficult, especially with no structure, a varied age group and the inability to speak the language of the children.
So after experiencing that, I’m glad I spent most of the time with the women because even though I love the babies, I can’t help them in the way they need. Or maybe, two volunteers couldn’t help - they needed more. There are 600 children at Gisenyi vs 125 at Gisimba.
This trip has been such a build up, probably about 10 years, so I’m still trying to digest everything that I need to digest. My initial thoughts are that this trip was probably more for me than anyone here. I don’t think I really did much other than waved to a lot of people and attempted to speak their language. Maybe that had a bigger impact than I realize, but in my mind, I had imagined something different. I guess I was thinking that I’d be like, changing the world or something, I don’t know. What I have learned about myself is that
- I think I am actually a fairly generous person.
- It’s amazing how interested I am in travel, languages, and cultures. When we saw the traditional dancers at the Gorillas, I had to hold back tears. That sounds silly, but I was just so amazed, I could feel it in my chest
- I am fairly good at learning a language and remembering words. I’m not saying I’m coming back speaking Kinyarwanda, but I did an okay job at learning a lot of things in 2 weeks.
- My heart is still in Greenville, SC and I can become homesick very easily. I really love my husband and can take him for granted sometimes. I’m also very close to my family and actually my husband’s family, especially my mom. I’m not sure I could actually move that far away. In my mind, I imagine moving to Italy and having a goat and olive tree farm, but I would have a very hard time being away from my family.
- I also really love my dad and appreciate the experience and knowledge he brings to my life.
- I can remain calm in stressful situations and when in doubt, I pray.
- I really enjoy telling people I’m Catholic even though I’m not technically Catholic yet!
- I have some kind of weird connection to Michigan. Every time I get stressed out, I’m lonely, someone from MI pops up. It’s so odd.
- I feel like I’m fairly thoughtful. That’s something that’s changed over the years and I definitely have selfish moments, but I have become a thoughtful person and I am glad that I try to think of others, even if it sometimes means I’m uncomfortable myself. But not in a way that I feel like someone owes me something.
- Lastly, I have reconfirmed to myself that what I imagine in my mind and what things are in reality are completely different which means that any opinion I have of anything that I’ve never experience first hand is an illusion and I need to let it go. How did I form that opinion anyway?
I’m very grateful that I was able to take this trip. I absolutely love Rwanda, it’s an amazing place that I would recommend anyone visit. It’s very safe, in spite of what people say, and I even walked alone a bit in Gisenyi. People are just very friendly here, as I have written many times!