T.I.A (This is Africa)

IMG_2811Rwanda. What an interesting and beautiful place. I’m still just loving it here. The night feels fresh and peaceful tonight. While I sit at my computer I realize a bat has found its way into the dorm but it just calmly flies through the halls as I make a mental note to find a towel to push it out the door next time I see it flutter past so that the girls don’t lie awake wondering where it has flown to next and whether or not it is above their bunks. T.I.A

The crickets are so loud it’s like an orchestrated cacophony of chirps and tweets. I can tell the school’s new rules about homework time are under way because it is so quiet in the classrooms. My fellow dorm matron Gisele showed me how to wrap my hair in Ketenge fabric so I’m sporting the local look listening to the crickets and some reggae from Tanzania. I feel very content. I love it here.

Unfortunately, there are some things that leave me feeling less than content. For example, since East Africa is a resource poor region, the quality of maternal care is… less than perfect, shall we say. T.I.A. The other day, I sat observing a conversation in Kinyarwanda allowing the rhythmic language to flow into my mind and my co-worker translated the conversation for me. The young woman telling the story exposed her belly a few times, pointing to her abdomen. So, this young woman was delivering her first-born child and when she complained of labor pains the nurse would just slap her. Then, she got into an argument with the doctor just before delivering her baby via C-section. So his punishment to her for getting into the argument was to sew her abdomen back up with shoe laces. Shoe laces. She had them in for a year and a half and had to have them surgically removed. In this situation there just wasn’t enough respect given to the woman or respect over the female body in general and the incredible act of creating life. It saddens me how much women have to endure in malicious situations like this around the world.

Sunrise before jogging.

But on the brighter side, it is an interesting time to be in Rwanda right now for good reasons as well. Rwanda is the only country in the world where women make up more than half of the parliament. Just a few days ago there was a meeting of hundreds of people right here in our very own community center at the Gashora Academy where women running for election spoke out and discussed their plans for when/if they become elected. It is an amazing time to be here. Although I say this sans rose-colored glasses, the country really is making leaps and bounds. Just 19 years after the devastating genocide, the country is working heavily on reconciliation and uniting the people, poverty has reduced significantly and the economic sector is improving due to entrepreneurship, education and an emphasis on technology careers. The ammount of infrastructure and development happening here is pretty remarkable. Each time I go into Kigali, new buildings are sprouting up and taking shape. Potentially, this kind of development can be a model for countries around the world struggling to recover from catastrophes and to climb out of poverty. It will be very interesting to see how things progress here.

Well, the girls are coming back to the dorm for the night and I think I’ll surprise them with my new Ketenge look. As I sit here at the glow of my computer screen avoiding the bat, I can hear the girls’ laughter and unburdened voices making their way closer and I can tell they’re ready to run around the dorm and blow off steam before bed. That’s another aspect, (in fact the main part) I love about being here: These girls. These girls are awesome. T.I.A

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