Welcome to Rwanda
I was struggling to decide what to write my first post about, as in the five days I have been travelling I have experienced an overwhelming amount of new information and culture. Of these experiences, however, I think the most notable and the most “Rwandan” was my trip to the Kucikiro market. Our class has spent the last four days learning Kinyarwanda, the local language of Rwanda, and our teacher, Francis, took us to the market to help develop our negotiating skills (note: negotiating in a foreign language is EXTREMELY difficult and highly entertaining for observers). The market is not too far from where we are staying as a group, a college called IPRC (Integrated Polytechnic Regional Center), and thus was a short walk from the safety of our classroom to the shocking real world of Rwandan market trading. As soon as you step through the gates of the open-air pavilion, a huge variety of smells, sights, and sounds wage all-out sensory war as hundreds of people stand guard by their wares and try to sell you everything from fruit to jerseys to raw meat and more. It was completely foreign, and at the same time incredibly exhilarating. One of Francis’ friends was guiding our little group through the stands, and we began to pick our way through the market and find the items we were looking for– for me, a pineapple, or inanazi as it is called in Kinyarwanda. After several tense moments of broken speech with a merchant, I walked away with a pineapple that cost me 400 RWF, or approximately $0.60, a price both the merchant and I were happy about. Simply taking in the sights and sounds of someplace that was the opposite of anything I had ever seen before was an incredible experience, and one I am not likely to forget for a long time.
On the topic of academics, our engineering classes are designed around improvising solutions to medical equipment failures in a developing world hospital– somewhat MacGyver-esque in its approach, and extremely fun. It’s exciting to begin learning practical engineering skills that will allow me to help people directly; slowly, I feel like I’m gaining the right to call myself an engineer. Hopefully God will help me to learn what I need to learn and improvise where necessary in order to help the people I am with this second month.
The first week of my trip to Rwanda is coming to a close, and so far I feel like I have learned an incredible amount. I have had to continually redefine what it means to me to be “in need,” and although I know there is much more left to learn, I can see how I am beginning to stop taking things for granted– internet, running water, bathrooms, air conditioning, and more. It’s a steep learning curve, but I can’t wait to see what will happen as these next weeks unfold.
I’m already missing everyone at home, and I hope things are going well States-side!
All the best,