This summer, I was lucky enough to be able to travel to Rwanda with an amazing group of people under the organization Books and Beyond. We spent the first week travelling and getting used to the new environment. We definitely experienced culture shock, but after a week or so, Rwanda started to feel more and more like home. The second week, we got settled in at the house that we were to stay in for the rest of our trip and started our training to learn how to teach the kids at Kabwende Primary School most efficiently. The last two weeks were spent teaching at Kabwende. Over the month that we were there, we did things that I never thought I would do. We were all pushed out of our comfort zone and had to find our own way. It was tough at first, but we all made it and came out better people at the end of it.
After being back in the United States for a couple months, I am still reminded every single day of Rwanda and all the wonderful people I met. I never expected to form such strong bonds with people there. I am baffled by all the kindness that everybody expresses. It makes the environment feel thriving and happy. All the kids at the school were so full of energy and excitement. It was hard to leave them behind. We all became close to our driver, cook, and guard because they lived with us and we were always with each other. These people became part of our family and leaving them was one of the hardest things I have had to do. I am thankful for modern technology because it will enable me to stay in touch with a lot of the people I became close to.
One of my favorite days from the trip was the day that we climbed Mt. Bisoke. We had been begging our professors to let us climb one of the volcanoes that surrounded the area we stayed at. When we got the news that we would actually be doing it, I was so excited. I went into it with a positive attitude thinking that it would be hard but doable. There was a large group of people and we tried to stay together, but there ended up being a couple groups. One of the girls from the trip and I managed to stay in the first group and made it to the top of the volcano first! It was so hard getting up to the top. It was exhausting and there were moments that I just wanted to sit down and stop. I kept going though, and I am so happy that I did. When I got to the top and looked around my breath was taken away. There was a crater lake in the middle, and you could see all the way out and down the mountain. There was some fog rolling over the trees and sunlight beaming down. It was one of the most gratifying moments in my life.
In a perfect world, I would have enough money to go back and visit everybody in Rwanda. I am involved in Books and Beyond as a team leader this year, so maybe it will be possible to go back again. As one of our friends from Rwanda said, I will always have family in Rwanda. I will forever be tied to this country and its people. I have so much love and gratitude towards everyone. This was a trip that I will never forget.