I’ve always felt a pull towards Africa, perhaps as early as 5th or 6th grade. My heart seemed to know what it wanted and it was to help the children here. But it was never a firey, all-consuming goal, it was more like a quiet, constant knowledge that one day I would go to Africa. And now, here I am.
Wide, green fields and small hills flew past as we drove from Kigali to Musanze, about a 2 hour trip. The taxis don’t have AC so the windows were down and it was a bright, sunny day with temperatures at a perfect 70 degrees F. The way there was a long, windy road with lots of sharp turns, but I wasn’t car sick. Instead, I felt a deep sense of peace. I felt comfortable here, as though some part of me was coming home. I didn’t know what to expect when we got to Musanze, but being the second largest city in Rwanda it was more urban than I had pictured. The large mountains that surrounded the area seemed to be standing guard over the people here, and there were lots of green trees and colourful plants, making the air smell like it does after a thunderstorm. The city was bustling, with paved roads, banks, storefronts, and markets lining most of the streets–people were everywhere all the time.
The longer I’m here the more certain I feel that this is where I should be. Day by day, I find myself falling more and more in love with Musanze, with Rwanda. I have read about the history here, the struggles, the culture, the desire for positive change, and seeing the way the country is just 22 years after a genocide astounds me. There is a quiet strength here, a stubborn will to keep going no matter what. Going to school in the morning people stare and wave at the white girl on the back of a motorcycle and I wave back. At school the children run their fingers through my hair and giggle at my freckles and I laugh with them. Frank and Emmanuel at the hotel where I’m living make sure to check in on me everyday and see that I have everything I need. When I’m the only one there, Emmanuel eats dinner with me so I’m not alone. At church on Sunday, everyone shakes my hand and asks me how long I’m staying. I’ve made so many friends at Sonrise, both teachers and students, and they always say Hello Erica! On the bus ride home I’m never sitting alone, the students love to sit next to me (one fell asleep on my shoulder), and even the high schoolers like to talk with me.
There are hard days when I miss Virginia and my family and friends. When I wish they could come visit and share in the joy I have found here. But I know that my journey is not theirs. So we plan Skype dates and send snapchats and text on whatsapp–even with the time difference we make it work.
This morning I woke up to the sound of really loud, squawking birds right outside my window. It happens every morning and, weirdly, it’s growing on me. For breakfast I had three bananas (they’re small here), two slices of watermelon, a piece of toast with honey, and passion fruit juice. Then I went to meet the motorcycle that takes me to school. I wasn’t stressed or anxious or worrying about tomorrow, I was able to just be there in that moment. It felt good. It felt like love.