Sunday’s here are a day or rest and celebration so it was a very easy going day on the 3rd. We started it in the local market, that resembled a large and cramped flea market in the United States. During our time at the market, I was bombarded with many scents, sounds, and people. This overstimulation quickly subsided when we started bartering at the crafts section of the market. All the handmade African crafts were so beautiful. While looking for gifts from home, I met a young boy named Frank. Frank is a young boy from Rwanda and was incredibly sweet in helping me find everything I wanted and at a good price. Many of my peers bought from Frank and it was so great to see his happiness. After we left the crafts section I went to the fabric section where you can get almost anything hand-made, from shirts to skirts to dresses. I found some beautiful batiked floral fabric and I requested the tailor to make me pillowcases. He had never made them before but he was more than happy to try.
Following the market, we spent the rest of the day at “Inema Arts Center”. This was a house that was converted into a dancing, artist studio, and gallery. We were welcomed there with open arms and we took a traditional Rwandan dance workshop. Dance has never been my skill but it was really nice to try something new and put myself out there. After our dance workshop, we took a paint workshop lead by the founders of the arts center. We each were given a canvas to share and they made a huge paint pallet full or acrylic paint. I painted an abstracted female figure with expressive color and line work, one of the founders really liked my painting. He told me, “art [for him] is about breaking the rules". I really enjoyed talking to the founders of Inema and about their artwork, which is featured throughout the inside and out of the center. Our time at the art center ended with a dance performance of about 20 children, who attend the art center. They gave a beautiful and happy performance and at the end of the show, each child brought us into the performance to participate and to teach us some dance moves.
Unfortunately, the day after wasn’t all fun and games. Early in the morning, we traveled to a refugee camp an hour away from Kigali. Gihembe refugee camp is on top of a small hill with over 17,000 refugees. As we arrived our bus was immediately surrounded by dozens of children. They were so excited to see us they pounded on the windows and waved. This excitement from the children lasted our entire time at Gihembe. It was great to see how happy they were, but it incredibly overwhelming. I have used this word before to describe the trip but the children overtook me; grabbing my hands, going through my pockets, touching my hair. The situation became very claustrophobic. This feeling was also exaggerated that this small hill was full of so many people, animals, and buildings. Their houses and schools are dwarfed by my bedroom in Buffalo. It was yet another humbling experience. After touring the camp, we performed a play about Anne Frank that we have been rehearsing on, and the children and adults alike loved it. Not because they could understand what we were saying per say but because for 20 minutes someone outside of the camp really cared for them.
Where I last left you in my journey I was at an emotional high and again my experiences have made my heart stretch. I wanted so much to be happy at the refugee camp with all the refugees smiling faces but it was so hard. Small happiness comes knowing that the donations I collected from Frontier Central High School were actually going to children who really need them. Another one is knowing by just being at the camp showed the people of the refugee camp that we care.