As I sat down at the Gorilla bar across the street from the local market, I felt a slight sadness wash over me. I was confused at first. After all, the morning and early afternoon had been so filled with joy. Perhaps that had something to do with it. I took a long sip of my beverage and began to recall the events of the day.
Our second day with the students at The University of Rwanda, College of Education had once again been an invigorating exchange of knowledge and ideas. After walking the thirty minutes down the main road it takes to get there–taxi-motos (motorcycle taxis) blazing by, the local people watching our not so inconspicuous group–we had arrived to the beautiful campus. Our welcome was warm, as it had been the previous day, however this time the enthusiasm was for reconnecting rather than making introductions. I felt more comfortable experimenting with new phrases. “Maramutze!” I said, Kinyarwanda for good morning. The students either replied back enthusiastically or laughed at my poor pronunciation, often both.
I later co-facilitated a session about Concrete Mime that explores bringing objects and environments to life through physicality and characterization. Though many of the techniques we were exposing the students to had been new to them, they picked them up quickly. The value of theatre as a tool for making connections and learning had never been so clear. Here I was, in a culture that was completely new to me, laughing and moving with people I had just met, all the while exploring the beauty and complexity of the world.
As we slowly attempted to make our way off campus, the conversations did not stop. I kept trying to learn more phrases in Kinyarwanda as the students laughed and taught me eagerly. It was not only the language they were teaching us, but also patience, generosity of spirit, and other behaviors that were so seamlessly being modeled.
Later that day we were exploring the beautiful crafts in the local market and a song was playing on the radio. I asked the vendor whether it was a love song and he confirmed my suspicion. “Bevuye K’imukera” he said. “From the heart.”
Forty minutes later we were singing together. Two local boys had helped me find a guitar, and as I played some chords in the marketplace, a crowd, including the young vendor, had gathered.
“In Rwanda! The land of a thousand hills!” We sang together and my heart bled.
As I sat at the Guerrilla bar, a sense of sadness washed over me. I had felt a love I never knew I was missing, and suddenly it was gone.