Rwanda Redux

I’ve been back from Rwanda for almost a week now. The experience feels unreal, surreal and really far away already.

I combed through my 2000 pictures to choose a few that sum up the experience for me.

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In addition to the famed mile collines, I will remember Rwanda as the land of blue skies and endless fields of banana trees.

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There are kids everywhere in Rwanda! They go about their chores and games with a smile and, always, a greeting for their friendly umuzungu neighbor. This guy is Uwineza, age 3.

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Fetching water, cooking on charcoal, washing clothes by hand, walking outside to use the latrine, bathing with a bucket — all of life was so much work there! And the dusty red roads (or muddy, depending on the season) added to the daily fight to keep myself, my clothes and my house clean. In this picture you see jerrycans, used to carry water, with bananas plugging the holes so the water doesn’t spill out.

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I worked with girls’ clubs at 3 different schools in town. This spring I gathered girls from each of the schools for a day of lessons and games. This picture shows one of the girls dancing during a warm-up game. Girls can be so quiet and reserved in Rwanda, I was really glad to see them get the chance to be silly and outgoing.

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Rwanda is a stunningly beautiful country. During one of the school breaks I went backpacking with some friends along with coast of Lake Kivu, the lake that forms Rwanda’s western border. It was idyllic. Tiny little tucked away Rwanda is gorgeous!

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I had about 200 students in Rwanda, ranging in age from 11-30+! I loved all of them. I was impressed by their hard-work, maturity, sweetness and vivacity. Despite hunger, poverty, illness, and having to travel long distances to get to school, they showed up to my class happy and ready to work. They spoiled me, really, a teacher couldn’t ask for better students. I was so sad to leave them!

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Friends & Neighbors 1

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Friends & Neighbors 2.

I got to get to know some great people in both categories who taught me a lot about faith and life in general. As with most experiences, it was the people who really made my experience in Rwanda what it was.

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If you think about it, giving up 2 years of your life to go live in a village somewhere to try to help people is a pretty crazy thing. The 30-odd other people in my group who were bold enough to take this adventure are some really wonderful men and women. They impressed me with their resilience, commitment, ingenuity, optimism and their big hearts. It really is a good group that I was happy to be a part of.

I feel proud in general to have been part of the Peace Corps. I feel enriched by my time in Rwanda. The world can be a big place and the world can be a small place, depending on your point of view, I’m just happy I got to see a little more of it.

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