We have all officially been in Rwanda as a whole group for over 24 hours now and we received the warmest and kindest welcome, as if we have lived within the community for years. After a peaceful and rightfully due long night’s sleep, my day began with a lovely breakfast at our hotel and a brief exchange with Jackie, one of the servers at our hotel. She embodies the generosity and kindness that all of our hosts have shared which has exceeded our expectations. After my attempts at speaking some greetings in Kinyarwanda, Jackie has agreed to be my language tutor! Yego! (Yes!) Language is so important. In our excursions through the city I’ve realized even more how my lack of familiarity with the Kinyarwanda language is halting my ability to interact with the people I meet along my path in Kigali. My modest French has proven useful, however, the eye contact or exchanges that I have received warrant more than my nonverbal or minimal returns. I want to be better able to commune with those who may look and wonder, “Who are you?” “Where are you from?” “What hair?!”
Today we got to enjoy the life of the town. Andre, Patrick and I walked to a church service and then continued to explore that part of town. Our journey culminated in a lunch under what we think to have been a fig tree with delicious bread, cheese, meat, Danish and mango juice from a market we happened upon. As we sat and ate we were greeted by lovely children who saw in us the opportunity to practice their English by asking “How are you?” It was so sweet as they would pass and wave with such openness, sincerity, and yet, caution. Speaking of children, we had the pleasure of meeting Stephen, his wife Alphonsine, and their twins, who were a bundle of energy, leaping and running about with Joey and Michael, both of whom they became very attached to .
The afternoon involved a tour of Kigali led by Jean and Leon. We walked through the center of town where we gained a sense of the businesses that are present and of what the city might be like on a busy weekday. I’ve definitely learned that one must walk with purpose because the cabs, like the ones in NY, whether they are bikes or cars, will keep it moving, so you better keep it moving! I was surprised by the number of times today that I was approached by children and women for money and feeling at an even greater loss for words. It reminds me of the privilege I have and am seen as having as an American and that I must responsibly carry it.
We’ve begun our in-country work on our sessions and are beginning to experience firsthand the challenges of sharing and exploring our work where language may be a hindrance, time insufficient, and conflicts with our pedagogical and personal values and the tasks at hand. It is a privilege, great responsibility, and honor to be able to be a part of this experience and to grow and learn from it. I look forward to the days ahead of further dissection, moving and meaningful conversation, exploration, and relationship building.