Ruzizzi Lodge Day
I am writing this post from the raised deck of my tent in the Akagera National Park listening to monkeys play in the trees around me. We are on the edge of the largest lake in Rwanda and I can see Tanzania across the lake. The lake is very peaceful and I can hear the gentle lapping of the water on the shore. There are hippos and crocs in the lake and there is the possibility of them coming up on shore in front of my tent. I am keeping my fingers crossed that I will get to see a hippo. The tent itself sits on a large stone platform at the end of a boardwalk. It is spacious with two beds and a full bathroom with a solar heated shower. It is wonderful!
Today was an interesting day. We started out this morning very early and headed east of Kigali to Kayonza. In Kayona Africa New Life has built a huge high school which is rated #1 out of 1700 high schools in Rwanda. The man that showed us around the campus is named John Africa – coolest name ever! We also got to see the primary school which was lovely and well run. It is testing week so we didn’t spend too much time there.
From Kayonza we traveled further east along “roads” to Kageyo. The “roads” are basically hard packed red dirt trails that go up and down the hills. They are rutted and uneven. As we drive we leave a cloud of red dust in our wake that covers everything nearby. We share the trails with pedestrians, children playing, goats, cows and people pushing bikes loaded down with enough stuff to fill the bed of a pickup truck. Thankfully, our driver, John, is very adept at handling the “road”.
Kageyo is way out in the middle of nowhere. It was, as I understand it, set up for the refugees that went to Tanzania to escape the Genocide and have now been kicked out of Tanzania. Any cows that were obtained during their time in Tanzania were taken by the Tanzanian government when the refugees were sent back to Rwanda. These people have nothing and they have a very difficult life.
Both of the boys that we sponsor, Habimana Jean Marie Vianny and Rwibutso Samuel, live in Kageyo. Our sponsorship allows them to go to school, get a uniform, shoes, books, pen and paper and have lunch everyday. Today we went to their homes to visit and to bring a gift of food to the families. Samuel’s family has both a mother and father as well as 2 sisters. Their house is very small and constructed of the red dirt that is everwhere. We sat on wooden benches inside a room that was about 5×8. There is no electricity, there is no plumbing, there are no creature comforts or decorations. The room is very warm and pungent. Samuel’s family was incredibly happy to see us, we were greeted with hugs and kisses and wonderfully happy faces. They thanked us again and again for giving Samuel the gift of education. As we sat inside, the neighbors gathered around the doors and window to see what was going on. Samuel’s family was unbelievably gracious and welcoming.
Habimana Jean Marie Vianny’s house is very similar to Samuel’s. He lives with his mother and siblings. For a second time today we were given a very warm welcome and greeted with very happy faces. As with Samuel’s house, the surrounding neighbors flocked to the house to see why the mizungus are visiting. It was a pleasure to meet these families and it is humbling to see the conditions that they live in and how joyful they are regardless of the difficulties that they face. The Habs, as Austin calls him, want to be a doctor when he grows up and hopefully we can support him in reaching that goal.
In general, things went much better than I hoped. I was a bit nervous to meet Samuel’s and Jean Marie Vianny’s families. The cultural gap is extremely wide and challenging to traverse, however, the people of Rwanda are so kind, welcoming and joyful that it makes the leap across a little bit easier.