Thursday, April 8, 2010

End of a Journey

So yesterday/today are my last moments in Rwanda. Yesterday was the anniversary of the 1994 genocide, so it turned out to be a pretty somber day. I had heard about a ‘Walk to Remember’ walk talking place in Kigali and 4 other East Africa countries to take a stand against genocide and remember those lives taken by it. I asked if muzungus could partake, not wanting to step on any toes and obviously having no idea how to approach a day like this, and that was welcomed. A last minute change had the walk starting at Parliament – a last minute change that I luckily knew about, because for what happened next I am forever grateful.

I stood 5 feet from President Paul Kagame. Let that sink in. Ok. Well, for those of you who don’t know, Kagame led the revolution against the genocide in 1994. It is because of him Rwanda functions so well. It is because of him that Rwanda is a little safe amazingly growing bubble in the middle of Africa (um. I mean it borders the DRC…so come on). Kagame is an international hero. Clearly I support him – but not everything – we can get into that later. But do I support everything Obama does? Yes, ok bad example. But I just really really like Kagame. And I was in front when he spoke, so I could have reached out and touched him. It was incredible! Absolutely amazing (minus the fact that the speech was in Kinyarwanda so I had no idea what he said – but someone translated it later). I feel like it was just meant to be.

Not that I’m ready to leave. I feel such an overwhelming sadness to have to leave Rwanda. It’s such a different feeling than leaving Australia back. It’s an all-consuming painful hurt thinking about never seeing my students or Mutessi again. I truly hope I can come back one day, and I will do everything I can to make that happen. But, until that day, I will never ever forget my experience here. I will never fully be able to understand Rwanda – none of us will. But I feel like I have a sense of the amazing culture, prospering city and incredible people.

I’ve realized there is no way I will stop traveling. I’m only young for so long, so when opportunities like this happen (aka when I make them happen) I have to do it!! I’m taking advantage of being 23 and able to pick up and go. Once I have my millions of adopted children that will be a bit tricky. Anyone thinking of doing field work: JUST GO! I had so many barriers I put up – being scared (#1), grad school, not having friends (a valid concern), but thinking about not having done this?! For what? A couple nights out in DC? Not that I didn’t miss all my family and friends, but they will be there when I get back. Nothing can compare to the people I’ve met, the stories I’ve heard and everything I’ve experienced.

I’m just so glad I did it. I have such a better understanding of the world after this. I also have such a better understanding of what and who is important in life. Most importantly, thank you to my incredibly supportive family! I know it was tough and you were worried, but your support got me through all of this. And to my friends who stood by me – thank you! Your emails and anecdotes really made me laugh and remember what I’m happy to come back to. So for now, Goodbye Rwanda!

PS – There will be more blog posts – so look out all you readers; I could probably call all 8 of you and tell you the stories, but I will not waste this blog!


  1. I'm so very proud of you!
    Your courage to go it alone coupled with your love for the human race brings tears to my eyes.
    Yes, you have made a difference, you have encouraged, cared for, and brought comfort to people who otherwise would not have it
    Thank you for being you
    Safe Travels

  2. That's incredible Nora. It's the first of your blog entries that I've read, and it was really touching. It sounds like you've had an amazing experience you'll never forget.

    I completely support your urge for everyone to get out there and do something like this at least once. Yeah it's scary as hell at first, but after a week you forget why you were so scared.

    Admittedly, when I did it, it was to Japan, a comfy 1st-world country. So I know I can't fully grasp your experience... But I can appreciate how overwhelmingly awesome it is to be completely inundated with so many new and different things at once... and the overwhelming sadness of leaving the amazing people you met along the way and knowing how unlikely it is you'll ever see them again.

    I hope you get to get out there and keep doing stuff like this. Congratulations.

  3. So you have only just left the building and already I feel distraught. You have been brilliant to work with, it really wont be the same without you!

    They might not know it yet but the babies will miss you too. I'll give Mutessi many hugs and kisses from you. I'm going to try to get her photo for you before I leave, (which shows how much I like you given that I'm willing to face the wrath of the sisters!!).

    Hope to see you in London some time soon (well after November).

    Don't forget about us!!!

    Mary x

  4. Question: were you as close to Pres Kagame as we were to Joe Biden approximately 1 year ago? If I remember correctly, that proximity made the 2 of us giggle and scream like Hanson I can only imagine your solo reaction.

    As you know, I often use humor to conceal emotions, which I often pretend not to have because they're awwwwwkwarrrrrrd. But I continue to be incredibly proud of you and can't wait to see what you do next.

    Your number one fan,

  5. Wow crazy about Kagame. Sorry I missed you that day. I hope your readjustment to life is the US isn't too hard. Miss you already!