Post by Diane
We have been in Rwanda for 4 days now – it feels like so much longer due to all that we are experiencing.
First of all, we are part of an amazing team (yes, I did just compliment myself). It is a joy to be around Austin, Oliver, Suzy, Darren, Eileen and Jonas as we make our way around this beautiful country. Jonas is our Rwandan guide, translator, negotiator and joke maker. He is 6’9″ of kindness, humor and intelligence.
The party that we had for the Dream Boys on Saturday was a lot of fun. The party did not go according to plan at all – but that was OK – we rolled with it (as my sister knows, that is just the kind of person I am). This was our first true interaction with the Dream Boys and they are delightful. We played soccer, we had sack races, we served cake, we had a yarn craft, we took everybody’s picture for them to take with them and then we helped serve lunch. We gave each boy a drawstring bag with a notebook, pens, pencils, a pencil sharpener and some stickers. We had the boys color their bags and write their names. It was fun to watch Austin, Oliver and Darren walking around the room and helping the kids write their names. The soccer game was lively and Oliver and Darren were surprised at how well some of the kids played. It was, from our perspective, completely successful and we came back to the guest house on a high – each of us sharing our favorite or most hilarious moments.
Yesterday we attended church, a lively affair that Eileen discusses in her blog. After church we went to the Hotel de Milles Collins – aka The Hotel Rwanda – where we had brunch. It was DELICIOUS! Austin had many different shapes and sizes of bread (an unbelievably picky eater) and Oliver was able to enjoy one of his favorite dishes….meat on a stick. We ate way too much and had to come back to the guest house to nap it off. After our naps, Suzy had a surprise for our group to thank us for traveling to Africa with her and Darren (truly we should be thanking her for her amazing planning). The surprise was dancers. A Kigali based group of street kids that participate in a program that teaches them native Rwandan dances performed for us. The joy on the faces of the dancers was incredible to see. It was thoroughly enjoyable.
Today was a full day and covered the spectrum of emotions. We headed out to Bugesera, an area of Rwanda that was the hardest hit in the Genocide. We visited Nyamata Church, which was very emotional for the adults in the group. Over 10,000 people were murdered in and around the church. The church itself is one large room and it has been maintained exactly as it was found at the end of the Genocide. There are bullet holes throughout the ceiling, the walls and the religious icons. The walls and the alter are still stained with blood. The benches are piled high with the clothes of the people that died there. Underneath the church they created a tomb for the bones of many victims and there is a coffin with the remains of a women that was raped and impaled. She is representative of all of the women that suffered a similar fate. The air in the church feels different than the air outside – it is heavier and it has the feel of despair.
Thankfully, after we visited the church, we headed to a school to serve lunch and have a home visit with Dieudone, the sponsor child of Suzy and Darren (and Jeff and Graham). Both of these activities were wonderful. The kids were fun and very interested in us. They are fascinated by our hair, curious about Austin’s and Oliver’s braces. They gather around us and want to touch us and speak to us.
The home visit went very well. Suzy and Darren had been to Dieudone’s home a couple of years ago and it was clear that the family remembered them. Suzy brought Dieudone clothes, shoes, a solar light and a soccer ball. The family was lovely and gracious and didn’t seem to mind Eileen and I taking thousands of pictures. As a bonus, Suzy got invited to a wedding in September by Dieudone’s grandmother. Nothing says “Successful visit” like a wedding invitation.
Tomorrow we head out to Kageyo and then to an overnight safari. It will be a long ride on a lot of dirt roads. Dave and I and the boys sponsor 2 kids in Kageyo so it should be a very interesting trip (the safari probably won’t be too bad either).
Talk to you soon.