Pastor Paul, our "Rwandese father," has accepted us as his own and treats us with such care and kindness. I know we are wearing him thin, running him ragged, however you want to put it. He has done everything imaginable for us, from setting up appointments, driving us all over the country, and finding us proper lodging for our time here. He has accepted us as members of his church, as his own American daughters. (Funny story, the other night he gave Jerrae, Carolyn, and I a curfew – we had to be back from dinner by 7:30 pm – any later than that it would not be safe on the streets. He’s so wonderful.) We are attempting to get Pastor Paul to Minnesota in September. We will be fundraising for his airfare, so if anyone’s interested in helping bring Pastor to MN for about 3 weeks, let me know!!!
There is much to do over the next few days. Today, Saturday, we head to Gitarama to look in on a project that combines genocidaires and survivors in building homes. Gitarama was also a site of massive violence against women during the genocide. This should prove to be an interesting day. Sunday is quite full, as we have our 3 hour church service, then a wedding, then gacaca. We have been invited to a traditional Rwandese wedding on Sunday! Yesterday we went to purchase fabric and were measured to have traditional fashions created for us… We get to pick those up today, too. So fun! I’m looking forward to sharing in this experience. After the wedding, I believe we will head over to a gacaca proceeding. I could go on about gacaca, but let’s just briefly say that it is a traditional form of dispute settlement and has been transformed enough to be used to help deal with all of the perpetrators of genocide. During gacaca, perpetrators stand up in front of 100 to 200 members of the community and confess their crimes. Members of the community are able to also stand up and accuse the perpetrators of crimes. This process is used to lead to unity and reconciliation… That is probably the most basic description of gacaca I could provide here, and it really does not enough properly describe the process – oh well. At any rate, Sunday should be a full day.
Monday we have set aside to do some shopping. We have yet to do any souvenir shopping, so we hope to visit some art collectives and other special markets so that we may find some things to bring home. Tuesday I believe we will go swimming again (yea!) and then possibly host a going-away party for ourselves. Should be fun! And then comes Wednesday, which will consist of us packing and heading off to the airport. I will be home Thursday afternoon…
I am looking forward to home on many levels. I miss my family, my friends, my cat… I miss not sleeping with inch worms that are more like centipedes. I miss being able to flush a toilet and bathe in warm water. I miss reliable internet services.
I am going to miss Rwanda so much, though. There is something about this country that pulls you in, that makes you fall in love with it, that makes you never want to leave. A part of me will always be here now, I know that. I will come back, as soon as possible.
I will miss the honey, the tea, the hills, the simplicity of many things… I will miss Pastor Paul and Safari Fred… I will miss the children, the women in the sewing group… I will miss feeling as though every day I’m making a difference. I will miss walking up the dirt path where I sprained my ankle… I think I may even miss the nice hotel manager that appears to have taken a liking to me. I have built relationships here that I do not want to let die. I do not want to disappoint these people, I do not want to make promises I will not be able to keep. I want them to know that I care about each and every one of them, that I love them all and that I wish for all of them peace, unity, reconciliation, growth, happiness, love. I have hope for their future, mainly because most of them also have hope for their future.
This trip has been an incredible experience, one that will stay with me forever. I will always remember the brutality of the genocide and the beauty of the countryside. I will always remember the strength to carry on, to overcome, to heal… I thought I understood the meaning of forgiveness before I arrived here. I knew nothing of the word nor of the effect of forgiveness. I have learned a lot during my time. I hope that I will be able to grow from this experience, and that I will be able to always share the stories with anyone who listens. I know this may take time, that my life here was and is complicated… for those of you who care enough to listen, please have patience with me as I try and deal with what I have experienced.
I love each and every one of you. The love I have in my heart is something I know I need not shy away from... It makes me vulnerable, I realize, but it also makes me who I am. My passion for others is what defines me. This trip has helped me to understand that about myself… This is my reason for being and my reason for pursuing this line of "work."
Time is up, I must go… Thank you for reading through this entry and sharing in my experiences with me.