Kigali Love

Luke 4:16-30 “When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
        to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’

And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?‘ He said to them, ‘Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.‘ And he said, ‘Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.‘ When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

I had to be a day removed from all of the traveling in order to feel like I could write this. I don’t know why, but I felt like all of the business and distractions might not help my mindset when writing.

This past week, I was on my final retreat in Kigali and we began where things started. We were at the same guest house that we had been at when we arrived many months ago. I had the same room. Life had seem to come full circle.

We took time to process and to think about the future, which was helpful, but the true transition was more difficult than I could have imagined. I think you should know some of my struggles in transitioning. I don’t want you to handle me or try and fix me. I just want you to read and understand however you can.

1) Menus/drive throughesq ordering signs are often overwhelming due to all of the options I have and the descriptions that are given for each item.

2) Stores with lots of noises, aisles, and departments are draining and tire me out a lot.

3) People are at times more entitled than I’m used to and I don’t get why.

4) I keep catching myself starting conversations in Kinyarwanda.

5) People asking how I’m doing is leading me to not reply for some time. It’s difficult to explain this year in a text.

6) Drinking water from the tap is something I have to remind myself is okay.

7) The prices of things throws me. Sometimes I do a general conversation and think, “yeah that’s about the same as it is in Rwanda.” Or “that’s so much more here.” And also, “we have that so cheap here.”

8) I have one phone and so do most people. I don’t have to buy airtime or data bundles. I don’t have to turn my hotspot on from another phone so I can use my current phone. I’ve caught myself frequently thinking I’ve lost my other phone, only to realize that it’s back in Rwanda

9) Seeing a pile of notifications for messages, Facebook, WhatsApp, and various other services is overwhelming. I see the notifications increase and try to find a time to reply all at once, so that I can get it out of the way. It isn’t because I don’t want to talk to people, but rather, it’s because I’m not used to having this much access to ways people could connect to me.

10) Not walking everywhere is weird for me to experience. I find myself misjudging distances and being confused why we just don’t walk. In my head, I know that this city is bigger than Huye and that walking would take hours, but I naturally fall back into the pattern of walking everywhere.

This transition is still going on and I’ll continue to adjust, but I wanted to give you a sense of what I struggle with. There are many more things that I miss, like hearing choirs sing at all hours of the day and watching the sun over Huye mountain, but I know those things are still with me.

I’ve been asked by a few people if I’ll continue to write. Some really want me to, but I think I’m going to stop for now. I might pick it back up in the future, but I’ll need time to readjust, focus, and connect to those around me in an intentional way.

I’d like to thank all who joined me during this journey through reading my blogs. You’ve gotten a small taste of my life in Rwanda. I hope you enjoyed. I’d like to leave you with something if a gift. A lot of my titles of my blogs have been references to songs. Music is a huge part of Rwandan culture. Drums, chanting and signing are heard all over the country.

I wanted to give you a taste of the music that was on my mind throughout this year. It’s part of what I have called “My Story in Rwanda”. It gives you insight into my music tastes but also into the emotions I have been feeling throughout this year. Now, I give that playlist to you.

1) Calling All Angels by The Wailing Jennys

2) Name by The Goo Goo Dolls

3) Love by Nancy Adams

4) Return to Innocence by Enigma

5) Jesus is on the Wire by Peter, Paul and Mary

6) Far From the Home I Love by Michele Marsh and Chaim Topol

7) Only and Ocean Away by Sarah Brightman

8) I’m Still Here by John Rzeznik

9) Turn, Turn, Turn by The Byrds

10) Another Day in Paradise by Phil Collins

11) The Call by Regina Specktor

12) Ego by Beyoncé

13) The Least Complicate by The Indigo Girls

14) Feed the Birds by Julie Andrews

15) Not in a Hurry by Will Reagan & United Pursuit

16) The Steward of Gondor by Billy Boyd

17) This is America by Childish Gambino

18) Where Does the Time Go by A Great Big World

19) Take a Walk by Passion Pit

20) Little Wonders by Rob Thomas

21) Kigali Love by The Urban Boys

God has been doing some amazing things in my life this year and is definitely doing great things in Rwanda. I don’t know necessarily what my “plan” for life is from this point, but I’m taking it day by day. I hope to connect with you at some point, if you have any questions, or simply want to talk. If not, thank for joining this part of my journey and maybe our paths will cross again in the future.

(This is my bedroom at the guest house. I took this on the day I left. All of my bags were packed and I was just making sure nothing was left behind. I love this room for all of the memories that are held inside. It signifies so much more than a resting space for me. It’s part of this journey’s beginning and its end.)

These Small Hours

1st Corinthians 1:9 “God is faithful; by Him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

As I’m writing this, I have less than twenty-four hours in Huye. I’ve taught my last college course at PIASS and finished teaching at the primary school yesterday. I only have a few loose ends to tie up. I may edit one more document before I go, but that’s a small task which could be done in fifteen to thirty minutes.

At my home, my bags are all packed. All of my pots, pans, and various cooking items are set aside, ready to be moved. Later today, I’ll wipe down surfaces in my room and then it’ll look almost like it did when I arrived many months ago.

All of these events are externally giving the sign that things are coming to an end and I’m ready to go, but that’s not entirely true. Last night, I was sitting on my bed, reading notes, cards and letters that people have given me throughout the week. Tears filled my eyes and I realized that I don’t know if I’ll ever truly be ready to leave. It’s almost like something deep inside me wants to seek the next big adventure.

Everyday here has a rhythm, but there’s also new and exciting things that happens everyday. I’ve come to take joy in the exciting little things, like eggplants being ready for harvest and a ten year old being able to introduce himself in English, even though he’s only been learning the language for a few months.

I’ve been trying to live as fully in this community as possible since I arrived. Once June came, I was talking with a friend and we were discussing the desire to pull away, so that the pain might be easier to handle when we leave. I told this person that I was going to be as deeply involved in my community as I could be during this month.

Fast forward four weeks and I think I’ve done it. I know this because I found myself waking up earlier than I normally do in order to meet with people for breakfast, arrive at the primary school early, in order to be with the kids, teach an early class at the college, help set up seminars, and various other things. I’ve also been coming home later than usual after conversations with close friends.

At the beginning of this week, I started thinking about this as I was getting misty eyed thinking about leaving and the ways people expressed their gratitude to me. I’ve experienced difficult things here. I’ve missed important events in the lives of many important people in my life, but leaving Huye is the hardest part of this experience.

I want to take a minute and turn the hourglass on it’s side. These small hours keep flying by and with each passing hour, my mind fills with memories from my time in Huye. They’re positive, but often feel bittersweet. I’ve experienced many “lasts”, but I’m now experiencing THE LAST and that’s a whole different ball game.

Sometimes, I wonder if I’ve said all the things I should have. I think of how I could’ve done things, or what I could’ve improved. I wonder if I’ve made any form of an impact. Recently, when I get to these moments, I have looked at the gifts, pictures, notes and various other signs of relationships that have been built in this space.

Huye has shaped me in so many ways, and I’m so grateful that discernment led me to this place. God has done so many great things in my life through people and events here. Maybe my contributions were only a drop in the ocean, but some part of me likes to think I made a difference, maybe not a huge one, but just some difference.

I know wherever I go, Huye, in some sense, will go with me. The grace, love, hope, and generosity I’ve experienced in this place is truly astounding. There’s no way I could simply leave it here and turn the page as if nothing happened.

Many people thought I was losing it when I excitedly told them I was going to Rwanda, over a year ago. Now I find myself thinking that I’d be insane if I hadn’t come here. God called me to take a risk and I would do it one hundred times over again.

So, I sit here, looking at my empty room and know that even though I’m leaving, Huye is going with me and that gives me a sense of comfort for the moment.

(This is me with my coworker Floriane and my friends Ralph. We had just finished watching the Madagascar vs. Burundi match, because they’re both from Burundi. These two are truly amazing and I’ll miss them immensely when I leave. They’re hilarious, intelligent and great people to watch a match with.)

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

Ephesians 2:10 “For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

This past week has been amazing, It’s been filled with happiness, randomness and the beginning of my “lasts”. I’ve laughed and I’ve almost cried multiple times. Transitions are difficult, but they give so many moments you might wish you could stay in forever.

On Friday I began my lasts. It was also the first day that I would have to say a, “see you later” to a few people close to me. In my mind, I had everything planned out and the day was to be ordered a certain way, but that all was thrown out the window when I was told there weren’t classes at the primary school for the day.

I had scheduled to go to an NGO for an hour that day, but decided to go earlier than I had planned to see how I could help out. I arrived and most of the time was simply spent drinking tea, talking about my time here, setting up social media accounts, and dreaming about the future for this NGO.

The director and I reminisced about the day in October, when I first walked into the center. Time has flown by so quickly. I remember having no idea what to expect once I started there and now I’m helping this organization dream new dreams.

I realized, after two hours, that I had to leave and made a comment that I’d miss looking at the peace baskets in the center. They are so beautiful and I know many of the people who made them. Almost instantly, the director got up and began stacking them like nesting dolls. I was confused, then she told me that they’d be a gift and she’d give me one for each month. I insisted that I should pay for them, but she told me she wouldn’t accept the money.

We talked back and forth. I knew she wouldn’t accept me purchasing these items, so I asked if I could make a donation, but she could set the price. She laughed and agreed. After everything was settled, we took a photo, hugged goodbye and continued talking while I was walking away.

An hour later, I gave a few gifts to a family that has supported me throughout my time in Huye and have taken me in as family. We joked and laughed around lunch. It was a great space to be in, but I knew that I’d have to part ways with one of the people in this group, because she would be traveling. I savored the moments around the table and the moments I had with this lady during a seminar we both were asked to attend.

After the seminar was over, we exchanged our information, spoke quietly about our appreciation for each other, hugged (for the first time ever) and she offered me up in prayer…..I teared up, but finished my job of cleaning up after the seminar.

Today, the CRASPD (Center for Research and Sustainable Peace Development) hosted a “farewell” lunch for the interns, they said that they’d do something small for me later. At least, that’s what I was led to believe.

I arrived on time, but we didn’t start till thirty minutes after the stated time and it became clear that this was a “farewell” lunch for me as well as the interns. People from NGOs I have helped showed up, previous interns, whom I had worked with showed up, and the CRASPD team showed up.

We shared a meal and I realized how happy I was simply being in that space with all of these people. People that I didn’t even know a year ago. Slyly, two of the CRASPD team members got up and said they had to work out the payment for the bill. Conversations about soccer and politics continued while they were away. When they came back, they had a poster paper telescope and a bag.

The bag had a basket for on of the interns and the telescope was for me. This poster paper telescope had different observations, compliments, and dreams for me in the future. In three different languages, members of NGOs, interns and the CRASPD team wrote things for me. I was so surprised that I didn’t look inside this telescope.

Inside, they had asked for a local shop owner, who had worked with CRASPD previously, to order a shirt for me, in a traditional style. Two of the members of the CRASPD team picked out the design and the colors. They all chipped in for it and picked it up right before the lunch. While I was looking at the shirt, they proceeded to speak about my time at CRASPD, the work I’d done, their initial thoughts, their love for me, how they’ll miss me, and many other sentiments.

They were waiting for a response, but I told them to give me a second, because I was becoming emotional due to everything happening at once. They laughed, but it was the kind of laughter, as if they had just achieved their main goal. I thanked them all, talked about their impacts in my life and explained what my future looked like after this experience.

The meal ended with the promise to see each other on Monday and me explaining that I’d have a report resent to the CRASPD team by tomorrow. It was almost like any other day, but this day, I realized that I’m leaving. I felt it and still feel it.

Before these past two days, leaving had felt like an abstract idea. Like someone explaining an equation and you don’t see why it matters, but one day you use it in real life. It all kinda clicks from there. It makes more sense, has some clarity, and has a result.

All of these stories show the amazing generosity that I’ve experienced from people all over this country. Those who give out of scarcity, those who give out of joy, those who give out of hope and those who give for many other reasons. This is because we are together. We are in community.

I have taken on the practice of giving gifts and maybe I would’ve done that before coming here, but I see the beauty of giving more clearly since coming here. I’m so grateful for all of the people who have shown me this generosity and have led by example.

Finally, I am so thankful that God placed me in Rwanda. The relationships that have formed, the love that has been shared and the beauty of so many communities is truly touching. Some days I felt like I didn’t do anything, or I didn’t have anything to offer, but looking at it through the lens of these past few days has put things in perspective. All of these stories, relationships, and experiences didn’t simply pop up out of thin air, but I definitely think God played a part in making beauty out of the unknown I stepped into many months ago.

(This is the telescope, the shirt, and one of the peace baskets I was given. The telescope symbolizes my future being bright like the stars and this specific shirt was selected because it is in a traditional style, with an animal associated with Africa. This is so people will know I have been here, lived alongside the people, and like many people have told me, I am “Rwandan.” These peace baskets are intricate. They take great skill to make and are unique to Rwanda. You also get a glimpse of my room in the whirlwind of packing.)

I Take a Walk

Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

If you really know me, or have been following my journey in Rwanda, you know I walk a lot. I literally walk multiple miles every day. This is partially because I love the exercise and seeing Huye full of life, but also it helps me internally process things.

This past week I told my co teacher and the headmaster of the primary school I work at that I would be leaving in two weeks. I also told my supervisor and coworkers at the university that I would only be working for two more weeks. The conversations that followed each of my announcements was filled with praise, tasks to finish, and a bit of sadness.

I wanted to explain to someone what those experiences felt like, but at that time, I wasn’t immediately certain how to name the feeling, or feelings that I was experiencing. So, once my duties were finished for the day, I took a walk. I didn’t have any clear direction where I was going, but I didn’t need one. Sometimes, I think, it truly is more about the journey than the destination.

Over the past five days, I’ve walked just a hair under forty miles. It takes me two miles to get to my site and two miles to get home. I think that gives you a sense of how much extra walking I’ve been doing. All of this extra time has been spent, first internally processing, then conversing with people to express where I am and basically asking if I sound crazy or not.

When I first arrived in Huye I set a goal for myself. That goal was, every weekend, to go and discover a new area in Huye. This is a goal I’ve pretty consistently held to and these once unfamiliar roads have now become a great comfort. They are like companions I walk with, that encourage me to continue to process the emotions and transitions I’m experiencing.

I’m becoming very aware of my needs and hopes, not only for the rest of my time in Rwanda, but also for the life I’m coming back to in The United States. I’m going to be very emotional over the next few weeks and that’s okay.

Over the past few weeks I’ve taken note of how many things have changed in Huye since I arrived. New buildings have been put up, shops have opened and closed, sidewalks have been built and there have been even more minor changes I’ve noticed.

These changes are great and I really enjoy seeing them improve things around Huye, they signify great strides over a short period of time, but they also remind me of one of my last days in Chicago. We were asked, in my small group, if we were ready to leave The United States to go to our various countries. People replied in many ways. Some were very energetic, while others were more hesitant. One of the people in my group said that they weren’t certain they were ready to go, but it felt like it was time to go. That statement resonated with me and does so again.

I don’t think I’m ready to go, yet it is starting to feel like it’s time. I know I’ll miss many things happening here, and that’ll be rough for a bit, but life goes on and it’ll be okay. Holding the life I have here in tandem with what life might look like in The United States can be draining at times, but I think that’s part of this experience. It also makes the world feel much smaller and more interconnected in ways that we might forget.

Talking to people at the places I work was just the first step in having last’s and “saying see you laters”. I’m not certain what the rest of this transition will look like, or how it’ll feel, but I do expect I’ll be walking a lot over the next few weeks.

This image sums of what Huye is like for me. It’s a city with many different resources and directly in and around it, there are farms. Walking on the streets, I see people going to work at the district office and people going to work harvesting different items. It’s unexpected, interconnect and is part of what I’ve come to know as Huye.

Tea Time

Acts 2:2-4 “And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the spirit gave them the ability.”

People drink tea literally everyday in Rwanda. I’m not over exaggerating. Almost every family in Rwanda drinks tea everyday. Normally people will have multiple cups of tea in a day. A good number of people drink tea more than water.

When I visit YAGM who live with host families, tea is served two to four times a day. If I’m a part of a seminar or workshop, I have tea two or three times each day.

During a normal week, I usually have a cup of tea three times. I have tea on Monday, Wednesday and Friday as part of what is called, “tea and talk”. This event started due to a few members of staff wanting to improve their speaking of English, so they asked for myself and another teacher to join them for tea.

We have tea and maybe a snack and we talk about anything that comes up during the thirty minute period. There’s no pressure for anyone to talk, no tests, no attendance and all are welcome. It has been a highlight of my time here.

This past week, I was the only native English speaker at tea time because the other native speaker was teaching. The conversations began with the usual pleasantries, then moved into everyone’s various research they were doing in their fields. It was amazing.

Honestly, I didn’t fully understand the research many of them described, but it sounded so interesting. The passion gleamed in their eyes and they became so animated as they explained the importance of their work. It was awesome to witness all of this in a thirty minute time period.

Someone asked what I was thinking, and I said that their work seemed so detailed and it was humbling to be at a table with so many intelligent people. One of the lecturers of Geography looked at me and said I was intelligent too, because I could speak English so well. I remarked that they all could speak Kinyarwanda very well and I wished I could speak their native language as well as they do because I find it beautiful.

The group collectively just smiled at me and then one of my first friends at PIASS, who was at the tea time, thanked me for the comment.

They all left to go back to their various jobs, but I took some time and poured another cup of coffee (if I’m lucky the staff will bring a thermos of coffee for me). I thought about the beauty of language and reminded myself of many months ago when language was so frustrating to me.

In many ways, things from then to now have changed a lot. This includes but is not limited to my understanding and competency in speaking various languages. Language, which once frustrated me, has now been a source of beauty and joy for me.

I think it’s amazing how God uses language to build relationships and how relationship are built, even if two people may not be able to vocally communicate. So many of my relationships have become deeper just by me learning, and trying to speak Kinyarwanda. I’m not fluent, but perfection isn’t the goal. The goal is to be in relationship and to show others I want to be understood, but even more than that, I want to understand.

So, that day, I finished my coffee and had a conversation with the head of the student cafeteria, completely in Kinyarwanda, as she cleaned up. I asked her if one day she’d join us and she said her English wasn’t good enough. I told her that it’s open to all faculty and staff and it’d be great to have her anytime. She smiled and thanked me. Maybe one day she’ll join us, but even if she doesn’t. The languages spoken in those spaces with be beautiful and relationships with continue to grow.

There have been a few kittens who have been roaming around PIASS. This is the one is saw. This one was eating corn that the monkeys had thrown on the ground.

Where Does the Time Go

Isaiah 43:18-19 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

There’s a month left till I leave Huye. I try not to think about it much, but people frequently remind me of this fact. I’ve found myself having a similar feeling to the one I had at the end of a good summer of camp. I’d want one more week, one more weekend, even just one more day to continue doing something I love.

It’s an interesting feeling right now and I wish I could give you a day here. Maybe if you had a day, just one, you would know what some of this feels like.

The feelings when:

I first arrived in Huye.

People began complimenting my Kinyarwanda.

I travelled by bus alone for the first time.

Someone said I had become African.

I’m sitting on a roof at my site placement and look over the hills at another country.

One of my students does amazingly on the TOEFL and yet I won’t be here when she receives graduate school acceptance information.

My P6 students tell me they’ll miss me.

The night breeze passes by as I read a book in my hammock.

Light rain falls on me as I walk home.

I made a Rwandan dish and messed up multiple times, but finally figured it out.

I was able to teach one of my friends to make chapati.

A sandstorm occurred right before a hard rain.

A kids says that I’m a superhero, like Iron Man or Spider man.

I’m giving one kid a piggy back ride, while one holds one hand and another latches on to my last arm.

I have seen markets all around the country and become really eager to explore.

The list could continue for much longer, but I think this gives you some idea of many situations I’ve experienced and how they each might impact me differently.

I remember when I first arrived in Rwanda, people told me my time was short. At that time, the year seemed like a decent amount of time. Now, I think they were right. It’s hard to imagine I’ve been here as long as I have and I find myself wondering where the time has gone. This time is too short.

I’m still here and living each day as fully as I think I can. I’m trying not to drag my feet and I’m aware of the various ways I need to tie up lose ends, but some times these things are more easily said than done.

Many amazing things have happened during my time here. I know God is doing great things in my life and in this country. I keep finding myself in the place I was in at the end of each summer. I want another month, another week, another weekend, maybe even just one more day, but I am slowly accepting that my time is coming to an end.

I’ve had a poem by Emily Dickinson on my mind over the past few days and it’s informed this post a bit. Maybe you’ll enjoy this work as well.

(This is normally what a rainy day in Huye can look like. It was only rainy lightly this day. The sky was a blue/grey mixture and spanned all across Huye. We’re supposed to be in the dry season soon, but Huye doesn’t seem to have received the memo.)

Are We That Different?

Galatians 6:9 “So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.

There are many aspects of life in Rwanda that are different from The United States and some that are very similar. It might be hard to imagine how life can be similar in a country around eight thousand miles away. In a country that by some standards is considered, frankly, poor. I’m going to share three stories from my time in Rwanda that have been on my mind recently. I won’t tell you what to gather from them. I simply hope you’re able to see similarities, to how life is in The United States, or find commonalities in how people act all around the world.

My country coordinator and I are going to Huye. I’m anxious and excited. We had visited Huye previously, but this time, I’d be staying.

We were riding along, talking about different documentaries and politics, when a man on a bike, who had been holding onto a dump truck (this mode of travel is pretty common) hit a pothole and flipped. My country coordinator parked the car at a store and proceeded to get a First Aid kit out of the trunk. As we walked over to where the accident had taken place, we saw cars going by as if nothing had happened. We waited as they zoomed by, trying to find a gap in the traffic. A group of men had moved the bicyclist out of the road, but then, they were simply crowded around him.

We finally reached the man and my country coordinator proceeded to put on gloves, but I stopped her. Something came over me. It was this feeling that I could do this and that in someway, I should do it. I’ve been trained to deal with various injuries since middle school and have been lifeguard certified since I was sixteen. It kinda felt like this was something I could give, even if the man would have no clue who I was, or what I was doing. I put on the gloves and proceeded to take care of the man’s medical needs. My country coordinator translated what I was trying to tell the crowd and attempted to calm them. She also handed me the items I needed when I asked for them.

I did everything I could and the police arrived. My country coordinator offered a prayer and we proceeded to the car. We sat in a period of silence for a bit. My hands were shaking, but I hadn’t noticed till that moment. We then proceeded on the journey, discussing what had happened and our hopes for his recovery.

I’m going to a soccer game where kids from my primary school will be playing. Somehow I was roped into doing this. It’s okay, but I already know this will take all afternoon, because things rarely start on time.

A few of the teachers and I were walking together, when one of them told me not to try to talk to the kids that I’d see near the soccer field. I was confused at first, but then I saw a sign and realized that the soccer field was behind a facility that cares for any child with a disability. When I asked what exactly was meant by “disability”, I was told everything from autism, to blindness, to missing a limb. As I walked down the steps to the field I heard a little voice call out, “umuzungu”. I turned around and saw three kids sitting down and looking at me. I started talking to them and was almost immediately discouraged by one of my teachers. I finished my conversation and went down to the field.

As I was standing on the sideline, a kid came over and started petting the back of my hand, which was on my hip. (Picture a Wonder Women pose). I looked at the kid. He didn’t notice. He began running his hand along the side of my pant leg and then rubbed my shirt. I asked his name and he told me it was “Bon Vie”. He then started explaining how to play soccer to me. (He was touching my arm hair at this point.) I continued to listen to him as he repeated the same sentences over and over. He then asked my name, so I told him.

Once he understood it, he said we were now friends and that he was going to leave. I smiled and went to shake his hand. He smiled, didn’t seem to acknowledge the outstretched hand, but instead, waved at me as he walked away.

The match is over. Both of my school’s teams won. Everyone is happy. Chanting and cheering could be heard all around the open field. I’m ready to go, but notice one of the kids limping.

I walked over and asked him if he’s okay. He told me he was. He continued to walk, but winced. I asked him if he really was okay. He told me that the coach had said he’d be fine and the kid needed to just walk it off. I asked the kid if I could look at his foot. He let me. I knelt down in the grass, took off his footwear and proceeded to figure out what was up. After a few questions and tests, I discovered that he’d rolled his ankle.

I told him I’d wrap his foot the next morning at school, and asked if he could make it to the school so his parents could pick him up. He told me that he could make it. As we walked on the road, he began to fall behind the group. I asked if he’d like me to carry him back to the school. He told me no. We walked a bit longer and I noticed that he was even further behind us. I asked him again if he’d like me to carry him back to the school. He said no. I went about my business for a bit, then realized there was a pretty large gap between he and the group. I went back to him and asked why he wouldn’t accept my help. He told me he wanted to, but didn’t want to seem weak in front of everyone. I thought for a bit and told him that we’d find a way to tell the story, so no one would shame him.

The story we created is that I really wanted to help him and insisted that I carry him. He begrudgingly obliged because he didn’t want to hurt my feelings. He jumped on my back and we pressed on towards the school. When kids saw him on my back they smiled and laughed. Some asked why I was carrying him and he completely threw out the story. He told them his foot hurt and that I wanted to make sure he didn’t make it worse. I carried him all the way to school. (About a mile) I put him down on a ledge, so he could sit and wait for his parents. I reminded him that I’d wrap his foot the next morning and told him I’d pray for him as I left.

(The sign next to entrance of the faculty where the children are cared for. It is one in French and Kinyarwanda. The sign reads, in English, “Humanitarian work for the protection and development of the difficult child.”)