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Monday, April 21, 2014

Hello Rwanda

The early morning sounds drift in the window, waking me from the exhausted sleep of many hours travelling. Thirty four long hours, four flights, and an unscheduled stop and an afternoon of planning had pushed my body further than imaginable. My body had collapsed eagerly into the welcoming embrace of a turned back double bed the night before. As I wake in this land of a thousand hills, a rooster crows somewhere in the distance, his incessant pre dawn crowing waking a slumbering world. A dog barks, birds sing an unfamiliar song, causing my mind to focus and my eyes to open. It is pitch black! The expected shards of daylight do not materialise. What time is it? Inky blackness hovers around me. Pushing back the draping mosquito net, I heave my sleep drenched body to an upright position, perching on the edge of the bed my feet hit hard cool concrete, and wakefulness comes rushing in. I check the clock, it is 3:00 am, what .. only 3:00 am! It is my first morning in Rwanda and she has welcomed me with open arms. 

Yesterday we had crammed all assortment of bodies and bags into the coaster that would take us to our guest house. Eighteen people tightly wedged together, luggage stacked high, one on top of the other, just high enough to afford the driver his rear view. No seat belts and we were off, on the wrong side of the road, whizzing past colourful outposts, bright signs and an abundance of people. The contrasts commanded my attention, Coca cola signs and western familiarities stood out against a backdrop of carefully balanced baskets atop the heads of graceful Rwandan women. Faces stared back at us, curious looks and questions in their eyes. The wind whipped around us as we sped along main roads teaming with moped taxis and walkers everywhere, passing bullet pitted government buildings, reminding us of Rwanda's suffering and unforgotten past. Banners of hope hung from strategically placed vantage points, a single word - Kwibuka (remember, unite, renew) announcing the resilient spirit of these people. 

The road to the guest house is narrow, dipping to reveal a winding stretch of bare earth falling away to a fiercely gouged red earth. The road leads our coaster down hill. We pass clay baked brick walls littered with shards of broken glass, jagged edges upright and fiercely alert. Carefully embedded along the top of the walls, the broken pieces of glass alarmingly stand to attention, a warning that to breach these walls would be costly! Double iron gates quickly swing open at our arrival and close just as quickly behind us as bolts are lodged in place. The outside world shuts behind us, and we are welcomed to the surroundings of carefully attended gardens and quaint green arbours for quiet contemplation and steamy cups of tea. A flurry of greetings and unpacking followed before we wearily trudged a flight of stairs, heaving over stuffed bags of belongings and resource behind us. We had finally arrived and despite the weariness of travel there were smiles on all our faces. 

The guest house sits nestled between an assortment of closely huddled buildings. My room is simple, whitewashed walls, patterned curtains, a wooden desk and two beds adorned with embroidered quilts, a mosquito net swings happily above the bed. My two story view stretches to an undulating view of small singular dwellings as far as the eye can see. Yesterday, I stood at the window straining to absorb every sight and sound, soaking in the newness of a different country, allowing all the months of planning to swell inside of me with recognition and understanding. I was here, breathing in what had taken months of deliberations. Lingering fears melted away as rising expectation filled every ounce of my being. 

The land of a thousand hills awaits.

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