Taking A Walk In Their Shoes

Spending the day at Azizi

Spending the day at Azizi

The last few days have had a different feeling to them. I think it has to do with the fact that in a week from now we will be in America, not to say that I’m not looking forward to having Moe’s as soon as I return. But there is a fragility to our time here. Our experiences seem to have greater meaning knowing that we won't be here much longer, so I’ve tried to make the most of the experiences we have left.

The past few days we have really begun to live like a true Rwandan. Which is a huge difference from the 4-star resort we stayed at a few days before in Akagera. We spent Saturday, January 9th, in a program called “Azizi Life”. In this program, we are taken into the homes of Rwandan woman and we took a walk in their shoes for the day; from gathering water, to making lunch, hoeing the fields, dancing, and weaving. We split up into groups and we were invited into the woman’s homes where we introduced ourselves and were given traditional garments to wear. After that, we cut and prepared many different vegetables and the woman showed us how they cook their food. Then it was time to do some real work, we went into the field and began hoeing the fields to rid of any weeds. The fieldwork continued when we cut grass for the cows. Our next and hardest chore was gathering water. It was a 1-2 mile walk down a very steep hill and back up, but an incredibly necessary part of our experience. Water, a simple thing in the United States that we may take for granted. Following our water journey, we sat down and enjoyed a beautiful meal of avocados, beans, and sweet potatoes. During this lunch, we talked about the woman’s daily lives and they asked us questions about New York. The final and my favorite activity was learning about the weaving process they do to make different goods to sell. We gathered banana leafs and they cut them into strips for us and showed us how to make bracelets. Did I mention they don’t speak English? It was a very fun experience to make the bracelets. The woman that we worked with really became family. And they didn’t want us to leave. We celebrated our day with one last song, dance, and hugs. Now forever connected through a common story.

Our last Sunday was a full day of travel, to and from the Bisesero Genocide Memorial. This particular memorial is atop a distant hill where victims of the genocide took refuge and defended themselves.  For the three months of the genocide, they would go back and forth from the top of the hill to the bottom fighting and surviving. In total over 1,000 people survived on this hill, but many more perished. Our tour guide was a man that was part of this resistance. He told us stories of his time at Bisesero and even showed us the bullet wounds he had through his shoulder and arm. It was very hard to listen to his stories without getting upset and sad. But that isn't his intentions or Rwanda’s. I’ve said it before; I think the culture here is to forgive but never forget. The Rwandan people, our tour guide, really accepts what happened, forgives the perpetrators, and shares their stories to help others understand what happened. They do it in hopes that it will never happen again.

As our time in Rwanda ends, I keep reflecting on our experiences and how I want them to make me a better person, which is easier said than done. I really want this time in Rwanda to affect me as a person, I want to be more active in my own life, more caring, more kind. I’m not much of a writer in my free time, but I believe this blog will help me make sure I actually take these experiences and apply them to my life, even if I’m the only person reading them.