To get a better feel for life in Rwanda I was fortunately able to spend a day traveling to the Rulindo district just outside of Kigali. While Kigali is becoming wonderfully developed with new homes and neighbourhoods and impeccably paved streets, life in the more rural areas of Rwanda is completely different.
Many of the Akilah employees, myself included, have gotten to know a Rwandan family, Gaston, his wife Francine, and their daughter Diane, very well. So one Saturday, Gaston and his family, my coworker, Purity, and I loaded in to a car to visit Gaston’s mother and other family members in their village in Rulindo.
Like my travel to Dhungkharka in Nepal, the dirt road to Rulindo is a bumpy ride up a mountain. From Kigali’s city centre to Rulindo is less than 50 kilometres (~31 miles), but the drive on a dry day (so the roads were not muddy) took nearly an hour and a half.
The journey was well worth it.
Once we made our way out of Kigali, the roads may have become worse, but the views became so much more beautiful. I resisted the urge to ask our driver to stop too many times, but I still couldn’t help but ask to hop out of the car for a few photos.
When we arrived in Rulindo, the views were even more incredible. From the road we walked down through banana trees to Gaston’s family’s house and were greeted by Gaston’s smiling and welcoming mother.
While there was certainly a language barrier during my visit (only our driver was comfortable enough in English to translate between Purity and me and Gaston and his family), it is an amazing benefit of travel to get to know people this way— without words. Just body language, actions, and reactions.
Their home was made with mud walls and a dirt floor with a simple corrugated metal roof. Gaston’s father died in the 1994 genocide and although his mother still suffers from injuries caused by an accident during that period, she somehow managed to raise 8 children as a single mother in this same home.
The family has a very modest farm of sweet potatoes and cassava with banana trees and avocado trees nearby and they shared a generous meal with us as their guests. We were only able to stay for a short afternoon, but I was overwhelmed with how kind and warm they were to Purity and me even though they initially knew very little about us.
Gaston’s family welcomed us to their home, cooked for us and fed us, shared personal information about their family, and said goodbye with never ending hugs.
They were thrilled to find out that I was engaged to be married and asked not only for me to come back for, but for me to consider asking my architect soon-to-be husband to build us a home in Rulindo so we could stay forever.
I was more than flattered. I hope that I can make another visit soon and bring Peter with me too!