The bittersweet day of our departure had finally arrived. As I finished up culling the nearly 5000 images I had taken this trip and sorting them to various individuals who had helped make the trip incredible, the day flew by. The team took one last trip across town to visit a co-op run by genocide survivors and widows who were creating some amazing quilts and home products. “Sewing Peace in Rwanda” was the slogan. Beautiful tapestries, aprons and quilts. We picked up a few last minute gifts for those loved ones in the States and headed over to the African Bagel Company for lunch. ABC had become a staple of our stay in Rwanda. Partly because we were living with Robin, who runs the ministry and has become known as the “Bagel Lady” but mostly because the bagels are amazing.
As we got back to the house we were quickly reminded that we were still in Africa. With images to cull, laptops and cell phones to charge, Skype calls and emails home to loved ones and showers to take we discovered the power was out. The African experience is so rich with these adventures. Just when you become complacent and the routine of internet and warm showers settles in, they are gone. Africa has a way demonstrating its progress, but isn’t afraid to show its but its roots as well.
After a few hours the power was restored and all the necessities of international travel were completed but that simple event seemed to stick with me. That’s what I love about Rwanda. The nation is in this very sweet state in transition. The vacuum caused by the genocide which ripped the country apart and finally gained international attention has quietly been filled with peace, reconciliation and forward progress. One refreshing aspect about the progress in particular is as nation they have not filled the void with Western corporations and American fast food. I’m sure the influence and financial investment from the international community is prevalent but my point is that its not slapping you in the face on every Starbucks occupied corner. No big box super stores, no empty calorie fast food, no ATM’s. As a community they are shifting toward Western philosophies as the banking goes on-line (amidst the power being off-line), cell phone use is rampant (although no voicemail), and even the kids in remote villages seem to know a couple English phrases (although it always seems to be “good morning” no matter what time of day it is).
As an outsider its both encouraging and refreshing to see this progress and growth, but in some its cause for concern. The nations forward movement seems to mirrors the growth of the US back when communities relied on each other for food, when as a nation we actually were industrious and produced rather than imported, and when the people were in touch with their civic leaders and respected their politician. Yes, the development of Rwanda is exciting to see and a privilege to be a small part of. I only hope they are able to retain their zeal for life, national pride and African culture as the investment of the West moves in and seeks to consume as it has in so many corners of the world. For now, Rwanda is on the move and I look forward to returning to the people, the culture and the images I have fallen in love with. Until next time, Africa.