The cancelled flight turned out not to be cancelled. “It was a virus,” explained the agent at the Ethiopian Airlines desk. We arrived the next morning in Kigali, Rwanda without further incident and met with Albert, Gadi and Musa, three friends, orphans of the genocide trying to make their way into adulthood with less than optimal support from family. Some have found distant relatives who have helped them along. Others have really no one and struggle to make schooling or work happen after high school with little additional support.
Shelley wants to stay connected with these young Rwandans whom she taught in 2011 when we lived here in the north of the country. I taught family medicine at the hospital in Musanze while she taught deaf Rwandan children to speak English, and other incredibly remarkable things. She also taught these children of the genocide at Imbabazi English, computers, music and leadership. Their stories are remarkable for many reasons, including their upbringing at the farm of Ros Carr, an American who lived in Africa for 50+ years and wrote a book called “Land of a Thousand Hills” where she describes feeling compelled to turn her farm into an orphanage as she watched the slaughter taking place during the genocide of 1994. She had never had children, but after the genocide, she returned to her dismantled farm, rebuilt it and had over 100. For most of these young adults, Ros was the only mother they knew. They would argue at night about why they were Ros’ favorite child. Each year they continue to come back for a memorial service in November. They write stories and poems and sing songs about their mother, who was 82 at the time of the genocide and lived until she was 94. They plan to create a documentary called “Letters to Ros”. They continue to look for ways to connect to the outside world and for ways to get some additional support. However, as with so many areas of life, the loudest bird is not always the hungriest. It’s important to look for the one that doesn’t complain and suffers quietly, though they are just as much in need.
We had a supper with ten orphans last night plus three children of the orphans. Several are married now. A few pictures, a little catching up on things, mostly a chance for the orphans of the Imbabazi to see each other again. They want to call Shelley mama, mainly because they want to know someone as mother.
Things we’ve learned since being in the country:
- The Adventist Church is planning to begin a medical school at their university campus in Kigali. I don’t know if anyone is connected to that project, but I am interested.
- The family medicine doctors we trained here in Rwanda are a bit like orphans, needing to fit into the preexisting French style medical hierarchy they inherited, into which family medicine doesn’t fit well. There is no family medicine residency in the country at present.
- Musanze in the north where we lived, formerly known as Ruhengeri, is growing a bit, against the backdrop of five volcanoes in Volcanoes National Park along the border with Uganda and Congo.
The towel rack has fallen off. There is only one towel. The shower head has broken and shoots water out sideways. The toilet seat is broken. The toilet doesn’t flush. They ran out of tile on the floor. The mosquito net is not centered over the bed, so only our feet are safe from malaria. The TV has several channels, but they are all the same, a blank blue screen. The overhead light doesn’t shut off, but has just enough electricity to keep strobing all night long. The electricity quits at 6-9 each morning, precisely when we need it. The strobe light stops at that time. There is no shower curtain. The view overlooks the clothes line. There is only one pillow. We love it. It feels just like home.