Thursday, 10 May 2012

The kindness of sisters

I am about to leave Nzige. I will be in Rwanda for another month before going back home, but I will be out and about doing curriculum writing in Kigali, organising and participating in the vso education sector conference and hopefully doing work at a couple of other TTCs. So I am moving to Butare (very temporarily, I won’t be there much) because it is on the main road and there is a volunteer with a big house that me and Lindsey can stay in. Also , I feel it is time to hand over my work to Julius now. He knows everything that I have done in my time here, he knows what to do next and he has a strategy in place to begin. It’s time to let go and move on, however hard it can be! I feel happy that I have achieved many things, but it is time to let someone else take charge now and give it their best. 

So I have been busy clearing out all of my stuff in my house in Nzige. This has been quite a challenge, it’s amazing just how much stuff I have managed to accumulate living in the middle of nowhere in a very poor place. It just goes to show how rooted in materialism I actually am, despite my efforts to change. I had lots of unwanted clothes because my parents brought me out some of my old clothes last summer, and I have wrecked or semi-wrecked a lot of even my newer clothes. So I filled an old broken suitcase to the brim with them, along with a few other things such as towels, soap, shoes and a few children’s toys. 

Over the last 16 months I have built up a relationship with the catholic sisters in my village, mostly because they own and run a restaurant right by my house which I often frequent, particularly in power cuts or when I just couldn’t be bothered to buy enough food at the market to sustain me for a whole week. One sister in particular, Vestine, always has a beaming smile for me and she really does brighten up my day. In fact I have never seen her look unhappy. She usually runs the restaurant alone so she is a very busy woman, but unfailingly cheerful, and incredibly patient and kind with my attempts at Kinyarwanda. 

So I knew that she was the person to give my suitcase of things to. I trusted her to find people who needed some help in Nzige. When we delivered the suitcase today she was absolutely delighted! She made me the biggest carbohydrate volcano ever for free and she told me that the things in the suitcase will go to help three orphaned girls who she has been trying to look after. She gave me a photograph which I’ve put on here. And later she came round to my house with lots more food, and I gave her some photographs of my family. And later still, she came round with a letter written in English (which must have been translated through someone else as we can only communicate in broken Kinyarwanda and French!) which said how much I had helped these girls. So I am sitting here feeling all emotional. I can’t believe that some of my old junk could really make such a difference and I feel so humble that someone could be so kind on receiving something which wasn’t even for herself.  

The people of Nzige pull together as a community even when people have so very little and there is a troubled history. Yes it does mean that everyone knows everyone else’s business but then that also means that people know when you need help, unlike back at home where people can die and no one even realises for months. If they know you are having a hard time they will not let you be alone, for example my TTC colleagues insisted on visiting my house when I was ill and also when my grandma died. Sometimes I thought I would rather be alone when I’m ill but then you realise how nice it is that people care enough to take the time to check that you are ok in person. So if there was one message I would take home with me from this place it is to take time to be with and be there for other people, no matter who they are and how different they might be from yourself.

The photograph of the girls that Vestine gave me. Vestine is the tall one in the cream coloured sisters outfit looking very serious for once and the three girls are the orphans.

The food that Vestine brought around to my house. The little fried balls are like traditional Rwandan doughnuts, the eggs come from the chickens who break through into my garden all the time to eat the leaves of my plants!

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