Friday, June 1, 2012

Day 6

Paige: When I first wake up I find myself grumpy, tired, and questioning why I volunteered for this trip. After this initial disgruntlement, I step outside of my room to put on sunscreen and bug spray and I am surrounded by beauty. These opposite moments separated by mere minutes caused me to experience the strongest feeling I've had here: gratitude. Nate and I have both experienced gratitude in many ways while being here: Gratitude for the funding, gratitude for the interactions with Rwandans, and gratitude for everything that we have in our lives. With the word gratitude having such a huge impact on many of our thoughts, Nate and I chose the word for today to be gratitude.

Nate: While I'd like to think I have always felt gratitude for the wonderful life I live in the U.S., Rwanda has expanded that gratitude tenfold. It is one thing to read about how lucky we are to have running water, food on our tables, two story houses, etc., and it is quite another thing to walk down the road in Rwanda and have little kids run out of their one-room mud houses to shake your hand and try out the one English word they know: "Goodmorning!" (which they say far into the afternoon). It's really a shame that fortunate people often have no idea how fortunate they really are. I'm very excited to come home with a new appreciation of the life I live, especially considering that much of America's wealth is derived from the exact variety of colonialism/imperialism that is largely responsible for Rwandan poverty. Let me just say I have never been appreciative of the beautiful innovation that is the washing machine.

Paige: We started off the day with service in the village. I walked into the kitchen and was surrounded by carrots that needed to be peeled. We sat down in a circle and began to peel. While peeling we talked about Rwanda thus far. We talked about reconciling the service that we do here versus helping others in the surrounding communities. We thought about how whether we were making an impact. This conversation was interrupted by the kitchen staff bringing out a fried egg with onions on a delicious piece of bread. Again I felt gratitude. The best food I have had this entire trip. And I knew that the snack for us was a form of showing their own gratitude: gratitude for the help and gratitude for the company. Even though we spoke different languages and had little to relate to each other about, we could connect on mutual gratitude.

Nate: I did Karate from age 6 to the end of last summer, so I was very excited yesterday to discover they had a Karate club. I became considerably less excited when they told me they meet at 5am, but I made the trek this morning, and I'm so glad I did. There are only four members, two experienced ones and two newcomers, but they blew me away. The experienced guys were sparring and doing kata (the karate equivalent of a dance routine) as if they'd been training for a decade, but they can't have been doing karate for more than a few years. As impressed as I was, I was also disappointed that I had nothing to teach them. That's why I was overjoyed when it turned out they didn't know any self-defense. For the next half hour I taught them defense against lapel-grabs, hair-grabs, bear hugs, and wrist grabs. They picked it all up right away, and we all walked away sweaty and smiling. I felt so much gratitude to be able to give to the youth in a unique way. Over the past few days we have been discussing whether we were justified in coming all the way to Rwanda when there are so many people who we could have helped at home without thousands of dollars of plane tickets; I won't pretend to know the answer to that question, but the experience of sharing a Japanese martial art with Rwandan youth is one I will never forget.

-Paige & Nate

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