Justin has said to me many times that he thought it would take about 1 month for me to settle in and be ready to engage with him and feel comfortable here in Rwanda and he was right. It has taken me about that long to feel awake, settled, comfortable and ready to begin working with him. He is a very hard worker and often doesn’t come home until 9 or 10pm and he is long gone before I even wake up in the morning. I have to be honest and say that it seems bit daunting to think that he wants me to come and help him. What can I do? What does he need? What do the people need? And am I the one who needs to be here helping him? Well, I came all the way here to do that so it appears so!
Yesterday he picked me up at 8:30am and we, along with his brother went to visit one of the cooperatives that the World Dancers didn’t get to meet due to our little itinerary mix up! It was in the city limits but it was way out in the rural areas that felt more like the villages we had visited earlier with the group. It was in a place called Bumbugo.
When we arrived there were people out in the field digging up dirt for a new crop of beans. They got a good laugh out of me taking a ho and helping out! These people work hard but what I noticed was that they also take breaks when they need it. It didn’t have the same feel as working in North America, it was not rushed but still very intense and felt balanced. There was a focus as well but still gentle chit chat and laughter.
Justin informed me that these were victims of AIDS that had come together to live and that 98% of the members were positive for the virus. Their faces would not tell you that they were victims as they offered big smiles and look right into your heart with their deep brown eyes. I have been told many times that Rwandan people hide their pain with big bright smiles.
(ok so they are not smiling in this photo because they were listening to Justin speak!)
It was nice to be back in the field with Justin and I was reminded of my time with the group and how powerful it was. It was clear that Justin has those experiences all the time and he says this is his mission and he does it because he is meant to do it. It was a blessing that he Met Betsy Kain from Goats For Life and now Janet from World Dance as he is rewarded with a paycheck, something he did without for a long time and I know he would do again if it came to that. His heart is in this work and he loves the people of his country very much. He is a wonderful provider for his large family and has been integral in making this journey of mine what it is so far. I am very grateful for him and his work.
(Offering from their hearts!)
(Justin receiving his gifts!)
We were presented with gifts, a large bunch of cooking bananas, a pot of beans and the chicken I spoke of earlier. It was so wonderful to see the offering coming from these people who have not much to give and yet they give so generously. It is this trust and love that I am looking to embody in my own life and it is through seeing real life examples of how I aspire to be that I can learn to do the same. It gives me the courage to give when I have very little as well. It also reminds me that unlike these people I now have my health back, I have many opportunities and I have support.
As I continue on my journey in life I see the potential being revealed and a new found gratitude for things I took for granted in my life. I have a new appreciation for the ways in which I can live, eat, learn, dress, travel, what I can own, and that I have the choice. Why am I choosing the route of self imposed poverty when I have so many things at my finger tips? I need to see what I had in a new light in order to fully appreciate it for what it was. I spent a lot of my life rejecting things that my society and culture offered me and now I can see how lucky I am, but it was because I did the work to climb the mountain and get a glimpse of what was on the other side. I am now standing at the top with a clear view of both sides and as I begin the decent I can choose which way feels right for me. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to view my life so differently and clearly. Now I feel like I really have choice, something which a lot of people in Rwanda don’t feel they have. I am very lucky and I will not waste it.