Muraho! I arrived in Rwanda from the US about two months ago to teach Advanced English at Sonrise Secondary School in Musanze, something I will be doing for the next year.
My work was made possible through an organization called Bridge2Rwanda, an NGO which works to increase the overall economical and educational development in the country of Rwanda.
Prior to my arrival, I researched the country by reading a stack of books, watching movies and receiving advice from people who have spent time here.
These resources taught me about the history of the country and reconciliation efforts following the genocide, as well as the boom in economic development over the past few years under President Kagame’s leadership.
Meeting a few Rwandans in the U.S. was especially helpful, as they gave me insight into the cultures, traditions, and overall lives of the people.
However, I never fully understood the beauty and rarity of this country until I saw it for myself. I never understood the heart of the people until I became a part of their lives. I never comprehended the strength of this nation until I became immersed in it.
Upon my arrival, I simply absorbed the novel sights of the country; people walking a.nd riding bikes along the road, the picturesque mountains, the women carrying babies on their backs and bundles or food on their head, children running barefoot carrying their water jugs and farms and huts dotting the many hills.
I have come to fall in love with the faces of the people and the rich colors of the landscape. I am frequently greeted with the kind words “you are most welcome here” and believe these words are genuinely spoken.
The people have welcomed me into their homes and taken me as part of their families. It is easy to forget that the color of my skin is different, although I am often reminded by the children yelling “muzungu!” as I pass.
We may come from different places and have different experiences, but we are ultimately all the same traveling through this adventure called life.
Rwanda has so much to teach not only the world, but also individual lives of people in this world.
I have been amazed by witnessing firsthand the capacity of the human heart for forgiveness and reconciliation. Rwandans have not forgotten their past but refuse to remain in it and strive to learn from it.
There is a strength and determination here that I have rarely seen in my lifetime; a strength that is contagious and a determination that has no boundaries.
I have realized that I have much more to learn from Rwanda than I could ever teach it.
President Kagame once said that “Rwanda is a purpose-driven country”, and I am honored take part in this purpose. I love my own country and am proud to be from America, but I hope to take back lessons learned from Rwanda that will make my country a better place.
One of my students told me he felt as though our lives were destined to cross, and I feel as though my life was destined to cross through the country of Rwanda. Rwanda will forever be a part of me.
The author is a teacher working with Sonrise School, Musanze.