Until Next Time, Rwanda!

I don’t want to leave Rwanda.  It has been an incredible journey.  Went back to Kimirongko market to pick up more gifts.  That place is a slippery slope because there is literally everything you need under one roof.  I’ve started making friends with the fabric salespeople and tailors too.  I think they’re confused by my hair and surprised by my attempts to converse with them in Kinyarwandan.

Had the most delicious lunch at La Sierra with Dr Julia Weinkauf and Dahea.  Julia has been such a wonderful mentor here.  I am so grateful that we got to meet her.

Before I left for the airport that afternoon, Eric, the president of the Imanzi troup, came by the hostel to say bye.  He is very ambitious and wants to make Imanzi into a traditional Rwandan dance company after he graduates from college.  I really hope the troupe grows and eventually becomes as successful as he hopes!  He told me that Shaka, our costume designer, made a bracelet for me and really wanted to give it to me, so we took a quick last minute visit to Shaka’s house on the outskirts of Kigali.  Shaka is one of the most talented and artistic people I know.  Our beautiful costumes are thanks to him.  He designs all of them and even makes some of the parts.  He also has a small workshop and makes jewelry in his free time.  As my goodbye gift, he made me a beautiful leather bracelet that says Imanzi.   Why is everyone here so kind to me?!?

Even though I was sad to leave, I felt so loved as I left the country.  It was quite different than my arrival in Rwanda.  I managed to say a final goodbye on the phone to the Imanzi dancers during their practice, Dahea and Eric helped me with my bags at the hostel, then Caroline and Jola (HRH nurse and doc from Butare) drove me to the airport, partly so I can take a bag home for Caroline and partly because they are just extremely nice people.

Lessons from my summer in Rwanda:

1)      Development work and research in a 3rd world country is not as simple as it seems, but it still can be rewarding with the correct attitude (I had an extremely idealized view of how it would be like to work in an African country before this but now I have a more realistic understanding about working in healthcare abroad).  I want to come back to Rwanda in the future though!

2)      An open mind and curious spirit is all you need for wonderful adventures

3)      Research isn’t exactly my cup of tea, but I wouldn’t have known without my experiences this summer

What I will miss about Rwanda:

1)      My Imanzi dancers and family!!!

2)      The amazingly kind people of Rwanda

3)      Living in a house with 3 loving dogs and lovely company

4)      The wonderful HRH and Rwandan docs, nurses, and staff at CHUB

5)      Adventures on adventures on adventures!

Thank you so much to all of you who have followed this blog this summer!

Amahoro (Peace), Lye-Ching Teta

Pioneering Spirits

Today, Dahea, Sean, Lisa, and I decided to go back to the twin lakes (Lake Burera and Lake Ruhondo) to retry our failed adventure from a few weeks ago.  If you don’t remember, the travel suggestion in the guidebook was prefaced with the fact that it is only for those with a pioneering spirit because no one has ever tried it but the plan would hypothetically work.  It was a long journey because we didn’t really know what we were doing most of the time and it was hard to find someone who spoke English.  However, thanks to our collective perseverance and bargaining skills, and thanks to a few kind students who helped us as translators along the way, our journey turned out to be a great success!IMG_3685IMG_3722

We took a bus from Kigali to Musanze, another bus to Kidaho, a bicycle taxi to the shore of Lake Burera (Gitare), and a private boat across Lake Burera to the strip of land separating the twin lakes.  Then, we walked across the strip of land, stumbled/ slid down the steepest hill, took a commercial boat to the island in the middle of Lake Ruhondo, took a boat taxi back to shore, walked into a village, took another bicycle taxi and bus back to Musanze, then headed back to Kigali.  The lakes were so beautiful and serene.  I loved being in the Rwandan countryside for one last time.  It was a beautiful day out.   IMG_3687IMG_3694 IMG_3707IMG_3713  IMG_3727

Stumbling down the steep hill to get to Lake Ruhondo
Stumbling down the steep hill to get to Lake Ruhondo

 

Confession: half the reason I decided to go back to Musanze in the first place was a food stop during the bus ride where they sell the most delicious goat brochettes and roasted potatoes.  Needless to say that we feasted both on the way there and on the way back.  IMG_3676

Akagera Safari

Visited the Akagera park on the northeastern part of Rwanda with Dahea, Dr. Cindy, and Rebekah today.  We saw giraffes, zebras, water buck, antelopes, warthogs, baboons, hippos, and more!  It was a loooong day in the jeep (almost 12 hours) because we went for a day trip, but it was so worth it.  We even chased a herd of antelope for a little with the jeep, which was so much fun.

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African hair!

On Wednesday, Fionna walked with me into town to ask a few salons about prices for braiding my hair.  So, on Thursday, I went to the market to get my hair braided!  I honestly had no idea what I was getting myself into. It was a 2 ½ hour ordeal. The hairdresser braided pieces of yarn into small segments of my hair, then tied up and burned the ends of the yarn so they wouldn’t fall apart.  The fire freaked me out initially because I was not expecting that.  I’m pretty sure she burned some of my real hair too in the process…oh well nbd.  I literally looked like Medusa with my hair down though.  But at the end, she put little metal clasps onto some of the braids and put my hair into a bun.  The tension on my scalp is slightly uncomfortable, but all the girls here here say that they get a headache for a day after getting their hair done so it’s normal. I’m now one step closer to being Rwandan. IMG_3534IMG_3516

Goodbyes are the worse

I hate saying goodbyes.  Yesterday was my last practice with the Imanzi troup. I am so sad to leave them and will miss them so much! I am incredibly grateful that I met these dancers.  They are a very special group of people. They welcomed me into their family with open arms, inspired me through their dedication and hard work, and made me smile.  Spending time with them these past 5 weeks in Butare has made me so happy. 

Today during out end-of-practice pow wow, I brought little Rwandan cakes for everyone and gave a little speech in Kinyarwanda to tell them how much I have enjoyed dancing with them and how much I will miss them.  Rwandans love speeches after all.  My Imanzi family members responded with so much love and such kind words.  I even got a marriage proposal from Jean Paul (our coach who’s brother got married last weekend and who’s house we helped clean)…  In return, I asked him how many cows he would give the family for our wedding and if the Imanzi dancers would perform at the wedding for free haha. All in good fun. Then, they surprised me with gifts!  It was so sweet.  I was not expecting anything at all.  Fionnah and Ange had been running around all afternoon to put the surprise together.  They bought me a small Rwandan drum and made me a photo album, so I would not forget them (like I would anyways!)

The photo album had pictures of everyone, adorable messages from some of the members, and the following messages (typos included) sprinkled throughout:

“Lye-Ching Teta,

It has been a pleasure having you among us…

You have opened a new door for our culture to spread all over the world…

You showed kindness, openeness and a welcoming and loving heart that made us feel enjoyed of having such a wonderful friend like you…

We love you so much and we will miss you hard!!!!!!!” 

Oh man I was trying so hard not to cry. Giving everyone goodbye hugs and kisses was the most difficult part, because I wasn’t sure when I would see them again.  I am already brainstorming ways to come back though.  Maybe I’ll get some funding to come back for an elective clerkship during 4th year.  Or maybe I’ll find a rich sponsor in the US to pay for some of them to come perform at a wedding hehe! I am so touched by their kindness and I can’t wait to dance with my Imanzi family again.

PS. The Imanzi dancers wanted to greet all my family members and friends in Malaysia, America, and all over the world…so hello to all of you who are reading this!

Rwandan Wedding Performance!

What an incredible experience.  Performed with the Imanzi troup at a wedding in Nyamagabe this past weekend.  It was an incredible adrenaline rush and so much fun!  I loved getting to wear the ankle bells and dressing up in traditional Rwandan clothes for the wedding.  Ginni and Dahea arrived a little late but they still managed to watch most of the performance, which was great.  I know that I messed up the choreo at times during the performance, but everyone was so positive and complimentary afterwards.  I really admire the camaraderie and incredible support for each other among the Imanzi dancers.

 

The coach helping me get ready
The coach helping me get ready
Some of the boys
Some of the boys
The girls
The girls
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The girls with the choir and some of the boys

The space was larger than usual and the ground was uneven, which made the performance slightly more challenging, but we did our best. At the beginning of the ceremony, the dancers line the path for the bride and groom.  Then we start with a part called the presentation.  After the first part, we change and then perform again in the middle of the ceremony.  We end the performance with a “faceoff” between the boys and girls, and then some of the dancers freestyle and try to get the wedding guests/ bride and groom to dance with us.

The dancers lining the path for the bride and groom
The dancers lining the path for the bride and groom

 

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The final faceoff between the boys and girls
The final faceoff between the boys and girls

The bus ride home was one of the liveliest bus rides I’ve ever been on! Someone was drumming while everyone one else was singing, dancing, and yelling the entire trip back to Butare. The energy and excitement was contagious.  I had no idea what they were saying but I couldn’t help but laugh and clap along with them.  There were 2 wedding performances on Saturday, 1 in Nyamagabe and 1 in Butare.  The dancers from both weddings met up in Butare for a final debriefing, then we headed to Jean Paul’s house.  It was fun to be with everyone again since we were split up during the performances this afternoon.  Dinner was funny because as we were eating in the courtyard, someone brought out 2 huge trays piled full of random leftovers.  We were starving because no one had eaten all day, so everyone dug in with their forks or hands, and we devoured the food within a few minutes!  We ate, drank (so much Fanta!), and danced until we were exhausted.  Parties with dancers are definitely the most fun parties.  What an exhausting but incredible day with my Imanzi family.