We’ve been in Rwanda for 6 days now, and I have fallen seriously out of my blogging groove. Overall, I’ve been okay with that. I am enjoying just being here, getting to be a part of this wonderful little family, and being immersed into the culture. We’ve had lots of adventures this past week, and we are thankful for all of them.
Last week, on Friday afternoon, we walked home from the feeding program with a group of children from an area of Kigali called Busanza. The experience truly gave new meaning to the expression “walking two miles to school, uphill both ways”! These children walk to and from school every day through one of the many glorious valleys that makes Kigali one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen. But walking through it isn’t nearly as endearing as viewing it from the hillside… especially when it’s raining! Believe me, I know.
It started raining about a quarter of the way through our trip on Friday afternoon. With all of the mud, rain, and excited children hanging off our arms, it’s hard to say which part of the trip was more difficult—attempting to climb carefully down the valley on our side of the canyon, or attempting to climb back up it on the other side to reach the kids’ community! With our feet slipping and sliding around in our wet flip flops, which were now covered and clogged up with so much mud underneath that we could barely lift our feet, the task was challenging, to say the least!
Having reached the top of the hill on the Busanza side, we decided to turn back towards home to get cleaned up and said goodbye to the children in the rain. Much more carefully this time, as we no longer had a minimum of four children each fighting to hold our hands and skip through the mud with us, we climbed down the steep, slippery pathway and back up the other side.
But when we were about two thirds of the way back up the hill on our way home, we were stopped by screams and shouts from across the valley. At first, we couldn’t see where they were coming from, but eventually two small children in recognizable school uniforms appeared into view. They were running down the hill from Busanza towards us, screaming and shouting our names. We stopped and waited until they had climbed all the way up to where we were to find out what was going on.
When they reached us, it was clear that one of the children was very distressed, but both of them were very young and had not learned much English yet. The older of the two, who couldn’t have been more than seven or eight (and that is already a generous guess, taking into account the fact that children here are often older than they look), managed to communicate in broken English that the smaller one was scared to go back home because her school books had gotten wet in the rain and she was afraid her that parents would harshly penalize her for this mistake.
Having a hard time communicating with these kids and not sure exactly what they wanted us to do about the problem, we were lucky when a couple of locals passed by and stopped to find out what on earth was going on with these two mzungus (white westerners) and the small school children, one of whom had broken down into tears by this point. They were able to have a conversation with the kids in Kinyarwanda (the local language) and confirm what we had already gathered about this child’s fears of being beaten when returning home with wet school books.
These locals tried to console our little friend and send her on her way, but nothing seemed to work. She only got more and more worked up as time went on! Eventually, we settled on the idea that we, along with our brand new 16-year-old friend who had stopped to help us translate, would walk the child home and explain to her parents what had happened with her books so that she would not be punished.
So off we went, back down into the valley, and back up the other side of the hill into Busanza. Weaving through maize, banana trees, huts, chickens, and mud, we eventually made it to the little girl’s home. By this time, the rain had long since stopped, and when we took out the little girl’s books to explain the situation, they had already dried up with no real damage! So, having completed our errand and finally calmed our little friend’s fears, we eventually turned to make the trip back home, once again. By the time we finally made it back to Fred and Trizah’s house, they were starting to wonder what had become of us! We were covered in mud, and ready for a much needed foot bath.
As crazy as the experience was, we loved it. We cherished the opportunity to identify with the locals and to show a bit of extra love to this scared, little girl. At the end of the day, I guess the moral of the story is, “Don’t cry over wet school books!”