Murakoze; Thank you.
The last weeks I spent in Rwanda were filled with deepening personal and professional relationships. My husband, Brian, came to visit, and watching him engage with a culture that had become dear to me was heartwarming. We shared dinner with the rest of the team well into the evenings, sometimes with electricity and sometimes without, but always with stories from our day. We all relished in the shared experiences, some challenging, some humbling, and others inspiring.
We became so close with one of the other team members, that he offered to accompany us to the Genocide Memorial Museum. We roamed the halls for hours, trying to reconcile the images and events described with the warm, unified country that we had roamed for the last month. As we stood reflecting over the mass graves behind the museum itself, our friend told us his personal story of betrayal and loss. As I watched him fight through his memories to tell his history, I could only imagine the grief he carried within, every single day of his life and I marveled at his ability to carry on with his easy humor and warm eyes; his face still open to the world, his will to do good works still intact. I felt humbled and privileged that he was willing to reach into the recesses of his memory and walk that road again in the middle of the night, have that final conversation again with his sister, his brothers, his father. We both wept with him as he shared his experience. I truly can’t believe that I know someone who has lived through that kind of trauma.
Knowing what I know now, it’s still so hard to believe that I walked beside him, laughed with him, playfully teased and bantered, enjoyed his company thoroughly; and all the while, this was his story. You really can never know someone’s history, someone’s strength, until they give you permission to. I had read Rwanda’s history before having gone there and met the people behind the history. They say that when you give your time internationally, you always receive more than you give, and I agree.
This country gave me so much from a cultural, professional, and personal perspective. But its greatest gift to me was the emotional connection and personal relationships to accompany the objective story of their recent past. I can’t deny that on some level, it has changed me. And I’m glad it has. Thank you to Dr. Ciku, Dr. John, Dr. Egide, Innocent, and Janvier, to name a few, for the kindness and perspective you offered on behalf of your country. I came a visitor, but left a friend.