One of my best friends just wrote me that imploring comment about my recent posts on Rwanda. So I figured it was time to break out the upbeat posts for a while, and let you know you can (temporarily) retire your hankies and wallow in my Pollyanna side.
Actually, there’s a lot to love and celebrate about Rwanda. First and foremost, the people. Almost everywhere you go, little children tear out of their homes, race to your car with arms furiously waving hello, and try out their best English: “Good morning, Muzungu!” (Muzungu means “white person” and as a pasty suburban American, I can tell you it’s pretty intoxicating to finally be considered exotic).
Traveling with my 21-year old daughter Lulu was a total bonus – not only because I got to enjoy her company (and she actually seemed to want to be with me), but because seeing the country through her eyes gave me a totally different perspective. For instance, she was really struck both by how hard the people work (Africans as a whole are industrious beyond belief…
…and how deeply inter-connected the people seem to be (which makes the 1994 genocide even more difficult to understand).
In Rwanda, nobody walks alone. When people are at the water pump filling their 20-liter containers with water for the long walk home, they are laughing, talking and visiting.
When men are hauling 50 kilos of bananas on their bikes, they’ve usually got a friend or two along helping. Rwandans live so closely together (there’s tremendous density of population) and they have such big families (the average number of kids per family is six), there are always packs of kids playing and working together, older sisters tote younger kids on their backs, and families are rarely apart. Lulu loved that! (although it’s also her worst nightmare)Divorce is practically unheard of, everybody walks everywhere, and people spend the vast majority of their time outside in the year-round temperate climate. In rural areas, there are precious few cell phones or electronics and the countryside is spic-and-span. Plastic bags are banned, roadside trash in nonexistent (thanks to a mandatory country-wide cleanup the first Saturday of each month) and women vigorously sweep their dirt front yards every morning and evening.I have to say that I believe President Kagame has done a remarkable job of leading the country, preventing another war, bringing home the educated diaspora to lead the recovery after the genocide, purging the government of corruption, and trying to help the poor find a way out of poverty with a livestock program (modeled after Heifer’s!!) called “A Cow for Every Poor Family.”
I know there is a lot of controversy over Kagame’s authoritarian control, and I’m no expert on African politics, but from what I saw there were a lot of progressive things happening. And less political rancor and toxic discourse than… ummm, here.
Hope was in the air and people seemed really grateful for the things they had….like each other.
So there’s my post– and not a tear-jerking moment in sight!
Stay tuned for the next post about shiny, happy heifers (not pictured below).
It has been April since I last posted. I have been on a non-stop task driven work mode that has left me fairly depleted. I am thrilled to finally have a real moment to enjoy your fabulous blog and view the absolutely captivating photos and stories of the Rwandans. Truly, many Americans could take a page out of the life-styles and values of these awe-inspiring people.
Lulu, hats off to you as I know this was a hard trip and your mom was blown away by your stamina and good spirits. Betty has been a lightening rod to us all by giving us a healthy serving of global issues on a level that is engaging, informative, uplifting as well as access to make a difference in our own small corner of the world by supporting Heifer International!
Bravo, Cheers and Hugs!