We have had a packed few days since we arrived! We spent most of Sunday sleeping, and sitting in the pretty courtyard at the Civitas Hotel sipping African tea.
On Monday morning we were honored with a series of official welcomes by the Rector, the Vice-Rector, Dean Nsanzabiga, and the Head of Literature. The degree of their enthusiasm for what we did last year was surprising and extremely validating. (And a big compliment to our students!) As we walked through the campus, we met several of the KIE students who were thrilled that we had returned, and were disappointed that the CUNY students they knew were not with us. “Where are they?” “What are they doing?” “Why have they not come back with you?” They remembered all their names, were impressed to hear that they had all graduated and were excited to hear that there would be another 10 students arriving at the weekend: “They are very welcome”.
We then started planning in earnest. We met with Stephen Buckingham to go through the schedule for working with the students from KIE over the next few weeks, and to catch up on what they had been studying over the past year.
That evening saw us at an official dinner hosted by the Vice-Rector and Dean Nsanzabiga, and which included the head of department and key faculty members. We had a working dinner to confirm their interest in an official relationship with CUNY SPS and to discuss details for a possible memo of understanding as well as to “exchange dreams”. There was an evident hunger for collaboration and the expertise we have to offer. There are many interesting ideas to discuss when we return home!
Tuesday morning we crawled out of bed at 6am (a challenge while still jet-lagged!) and after a breakfast of fresh mango, pineapple and passion fruit, we walked to KIE. There are so many changes in only one year! The traffic lights outside the hotel are gone, and have been replaced with a huge roundabout. New buildings have been completed and opened. Others are being constructed. As we walked memories of last year collided with new images. The streets were busy even though it was so early. The buses were packed, the streets were being swept, the stores already open, with people were walking in every direction.
At KIE, we spent the morning working with the year 2 drama students that we had spent so much time with previously. We gave them a photo collage and letters from last year’s students. (Thanks so much for taking the time to do this – it meant a lot to the KIE students – they were so happy to have them!) Again a barrage of questions “why aren’t they here? We miss them!” “Are they working? What kind of jobs do they have?” “They should come and work in Rwanda!”
After the excitement of reconnecting, the students threw themselves into the work.
Their enthusiasm was infectious and invigorated our weary bones!
After a brief pause for lunch, Jean and Leon insisted on taking us for an outing. We visited the Presidential Palace Museum, where President Habyarimana’s plane was shot down in 1994 – the precursor to the unleashing of the genocide. The debris from the plane remains in the palace grounds. It is extraordinary that the President was shot down over his own palace and his body recovered from his own grounds. Once again our Rwandan guide was at pains to stress the importance of remembering history – however unpleasant – lest we repeat it.