Monday, May 28, 2012

Day 3: Akagera National Park

Why would you want to leave this place,
The land of a thousand rolling hills.
Where the wind shares its secrets,
Of what was and what will.


We made our way to Akegara National Park today, three hours away from ASYV. We packed into our military-green Jeep cars and made it through the rugged terrain all the way across the country. Everyone was excited about the safari and all the animals we were about to encounter. But for me, it wasn't the safari that struck me that day—rather the ride up to Akagera and back. My Jeep was fortunate enough to have the main Akagera tour guide with us, Cecille. She was this passionate, energetic, loving woman, wearing her Safari gear and guiding us through the park. Although we really enjoyed our time talking, laughing and joking with her, while watching all the giraffes, zebras, antelopes and elephants, there was something from that day that will stay with me forever.

Our Jeep driver Aloys, a native of Rwanda, was very soft spoken throughout the day. He would joke around a bit, explain to us where in the country we were—but he kept to himself the entire time. But on our way back he began to open up to us. I (Jessica) began talking to him about the state of Rwanda today, the people, the culture, the food, the economy and social climate. I asked him what he does for fun in Kigali, what restaurants to go to, night clubs, etc. Then I said, " Aloys, can I ask you a personal question..." There was a pause, as he looked at me through his rearview mirror. There was a very particular tenderness in his eyes. A look that I get from many Rwandans. They are eyes that have seen hell and back, but managed to have faith in God and humanity. They are eyes that are resilient, strong, humble and so raw that it hurts me. But they are eyes that I have fallen in love with here in Rwanda—for they are the truth. He responded, " You are welcome to ask me anything you not be shy or hesitate." We began to talk about the war, the effect of the genocide on the people today, and where he wants to see Rwanda in the years to come. He said that he wants people to come to Rwanda and visit this beautiful country, so that they can go back and share with their people and their country what a special place this is, but also learn from them. We continued to talk for more than an hour. As he was talking, I looked out the window at the rolling hills, green valleys and the rays of sunlight that God was placing on this place. I waved at the young children running out of their homes yelling "Muzungu, Muzungu." They were innocent, pure and beaming with love. They were the essence of what humanity should be. 

However, what upset most of us in the group was seeing the expressionless faces of the parents behind these children as our safari jeeps passed by. It is difficult to fully absorb the differences between the genuinely happy and carefree children and their parents who seem to have a better grip on reality.  Traveling through Rwanda has definitely put our experiences here at the village into perspective. 

- Jessica and Ariana