Here it is: my home for the next 68 days. This is Kigali, a city upon several hills. I’ve been here a little over 24 hours now, so it is hard for me to navigate what exactly I am feeling. To post every impression so far would be impossible, but as I stare out my window at the bright yellow moon, a few things stand out to me.
Only here do you go the furniture store which is, in reality, a lot of nails and wood and well-equipped carpenters ready to make whatever you want. Things are done differently here, that’s all there is to it. You buy the milk from the local village and purify it yourself and scaffolding is made out of wood. It’s a different culture, but bits and pieces of both mine and theirs are similar.
Only here do you find a thirteen year old boy sitting on the couch wanting to learn English. He met my hostess a couple of weeks ago in the village and asked if he could come over sometimes to speak English. So when I walked downstairs this afternoon I met a young boy named Cedric. He’s first in his class and wakes up at 6 each day so he can walk to school in time. His mother is a doctor and he wants to work at a bank someday (because “banks do good things”). There’s ambition behind his shy smile and it is beautiful.
Only here is one able to listen to “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands” on the radio while discussing what it means to live in post-genocide Rwanda in its season of mourning. For the 100 days that the genocide happened between April and July of 1994, Rwandans will recognize what happened. During the first few days of this mourning period, the people wear purple (which is similar to the way we wear black) and joyful music is not something to be heard. It was a strange juxtaposition today in the car as I listened to the lyrics of the song playing quietly beneath our conversation. Honest questions and honest answers undertoned by the lyrics of a beloved Sunday school song. Did He have this part of the world in His hands in 1994? He certainly does now, otherwise I wouldn’t be allowed to be here at all.
Only here do you see trust at such opposite ends of the spectrum. There’s the one end where someone thinks the cause of their aunt’s death could be due to poison. There’s the other end of the spectrum where many will take a ride when it is offered, even from a complete stranger. I find myself in between, not afraid of being mugged by everyone, but also not willing to trust anyone enough to put my life or safety in their hands. I think that this is an okay place to fall, but I do want to trust. I think the unshakeable trust that many of the people here have is something to be commended, but I am a long way from it in most areas of my life.
I think what has surprised me most of all is the cleanliness and orderliness of the city. There isn’t a piece of trash to be seen and even though there are twenty walkers to every car, somehow it does not seem chaotic. There is a steady rhythm to the madness of mopeds, buses, women with bundles on their heads and people selling anything from flash drives to passion fruits. Each moves in the direction they intend and the dance is probably very similar from day to day. Perhaps, given enough time, I too will find my place in the dance. Until then I will keep my eyes wide open and try to take in all that is this remarkable city.