Ingoma Women Drummers of Butari Present Sweet Sounds and Sweet Treats!

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Today was a crazy good day! It was 100 percent and completely dedicated to the women of Rwanda! The Ingoma Woman Drummers of Butari are really famous in Rwanda and throughout the world. About 30 women from several parts of Africa have come together with one purpose; to drum! The woman range from all ages, backgrounds, and culture but have found a way to collectively express themselves. Typically throughoutAfrica, women drummers are seen as a very negative and degrading role in society; males typically drum. However, these women have pressed against the norm of African tradition and have inspired many other men and women across the world.

Ingoma is the traditional name for the drums the women were playing today. They are traditionally made out of cow skin, although sometimes they are made from goat skin. The different sizes of the drums affects the pitch of the drum, the smaller the drum the higher the pitch. The leaders of the drummers play the smaller drums and are responsible for changing the rhythms. Without those lead drummers, the rest of the group would be lost.

The women began shortly after we arrived and they played with supernatural strength for a half an hour straight. As they played, they danced and sang some traditional and original songs from parts of Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi. I was so impressed at their ability to sing, keep rhythm with their hands, dance, and smile at the same time without missing a beat.

The old concrete theater we were in had a high ceiling, and hallo walls, allowing for incredible acoustic sounds. We sat in rugged wooden seats with desk, like the ones used in schools. Every nook and cranny of the space was filled with the glorious sound of the drums. I tapped my feet and bounced my head to the beat with total appreciation for the experience. I was so captivated by these women, there was something special about them. Everything they did was with purpose; having oneness of mind and sound.

At the end of their performance, there was a time for Questions and Answers. Gloria Magambo (the manager of the drummers) translated Kinyarwanda to English for us. One question that we asked them was, "Why do you love playing the drums with each other so much." Here were some responses that stood out to me:
"I love it when we're all hyper… It feels like I'm in a trance."
" I love the syncopated rhythms combined with the singing and dancing."
" I enjoy our rehearsals!"

One of the drummers asked us "How do you feel watching us drum?" One girl said that she felt joy rising while watching them. I told the women that I was impressed with their rhythmic abilities and coordination and that I wanted to drum with them. After all, my dream came true when the women said that they wanted to teach the group a few traditional beats. I was especially excited to learn and play with them because I had not been a part of a drumming ensemble for almost 6 years. They showed us three beats; the first one was easy, but the second and third beats became more challenging. The women were impressed at how well we all played together, feeding off of each other's energy.

We ended our time with the women by visiting their café called Inzozi Nziza for a small lunch and ice cream! The vanilla ice cream was incredibly light, creamy and silky, almost resembling Gelato in its texture. It was a great finisher to our meal and hot day.

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Nyungwe National Park

Nyungwe National Park is located in Uwinka, Rwanda which stretches across about 1,019 kilometers and is bordered by Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The forest first became recognized as a National Park in 2004 and is the home of thousands of animals and insects. In the park, there are over 100 Elephant, 26 species of birds, 13 primates and more. The forest, as a whole, harbors more endemic birds, mammals, and amphibians than any other region in Africa.

We were shown a portion of the park by two tour guides. Throughout the park, there are trees bearing medicine, food, and toiletries.  I learned that there is a fruit that is related to the avocado family that grows abundantly in Nyungwe that only monkeys can eat. Unfortunately, I cannot remember what the fruit was called, but they looked like small oval brown  footballs, with a hairy exterior hanging on several trees.

After walking for several minutes through the park, we reached the canopy which hung ranging nearly 1,600 feet to 2,950 feet above the ground. The group of 15 total split into two smaller groups to walk on the canopy. I waited behind with the second group and I asked each person how they were processing the idea that we were going to walk across this canopy. Most of the group was a nervous reck until we started walking. The first bridge, which led to the main bridge, wasn’t too bad nor was it too high; however, once we got to the main bridge, you could see sky and mountains; it was simply breathtaking. While on both bridges, we kept a 2 meter gap between each person to distribute the weight. After walking patiently behind my friend Francis, I realized that my anxiety had leveled and I began to feel secure. I took a picture and recorded this experience. My body and mind were at such peace as the birds chirped and the water from the streams beat on the rocks.
Here’s a video on what I felt at that moment:

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Moo, Moo!!! Got Milk?

In Rwanda, having a cow is seen as a symbol of wealth. In the words of my teacher, Professor Drew Kahn, “Having a cow in Rwanda is like having a BMW in your driveway; it’s huge.” The cow, in many ways affects the entire vegetation of both the land and it’s people. Carol Townsed, an Arts and  Desgin professor at Buffalo State College made an interesting point that the cow provides manure for the soil, which provides crops for harvest, which provides  nutrients for the human body; its the circle of life- LITERALLY! Besides, now the babies and families of the village can have milk to drink!

Rwanda is divided into 30 districts, the Muhango district is one of those districts. Each district is divided into two parts: sectors and cells. The cell we visited was called Umbodugodo, which functioned as a co-op that supplied vegetables and cows to the entire community. We were going to the Umbodugodo district to visit a cow that we donated last year and donate a second cow this year.

Last year, the Anne Frank Project donated a cow to a family which was ironically named Anne. As we moved along toward the villagers, we saw large patches of strawberry plants, cabbage, banana trees, grapes,and pineapples. I heard the sounds of goats and cows. I could smell the animal stench, the burning wood, and the hay. When we climbed up the hill to the farm, we were happily greeted by the villagers. There were all women with beautiful cloths tied around their waist as a dress. They all had on black or brown sandels exposing their feet to the hot sun. Some of the young girls in the village stood inconspicuously, trying not to be seen or heard, yet their faces begged for attention.  A few of the women spoke to us in Kinyarwanda for a while; I was not sure what they were saying, but I knew that they were happy to see us.

We approached Anne who was being rubbed on and massaged by a man of the village. Slowly, he closed his eyes, stick his fingers into the cows left ear, and sang a lamenting song in Kinyarwanda. I said that he was having A MOMENT , but I later round out that this kind of interaction with the cows is a traditional way of blessing a cow in Rwanda. As he sang and lamented with tears in his eyes, a host of teens and young children from the village ran up in back of him and began to laugh and point at him. This incited great laughter in me as well, until I realized that this man’s prayer was being answered. Now he has wealth, now he has food, now he and his family have life!

Before we left the cell, the village led us out in a special ceremony. I heared clapping and singing from the villagers as they sang a call and response Kinyarwanda song in high alto. The closer I got to the singing, the more I could feel the rhythm in my feet. I began to dance. I  held one of the children’s hand in mine and we began to look at each other and dance. With huge smiles on our faces, I was slightly bent over to reach him, yet I felt genuine joy and gratefulness at that moment. Things that I take for granted such as food and water, these folks were rejoicing about! When the dancing stopped, the family we gave the cow to spoke telling us thank you. The women  held arms full of cabbage, onions, and cassava which they gifted us with, as a way to thank us for their new cow. We headed up the dirt hill which stood before us and were escorted to our bus by the villagers.

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Nyamata Genocide Memorial– A Heart to Heart with the Past

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Visiting New Life Church this morning and being surrounded by such great joy and many happy children was quite an opposite emotional experience in contrast to what I experienced that afternoon. I was not at all prepared for this. T

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Old clothes from victims.

he Nyamata Genocide Memorial Church was a Catholic church where 2,500 people were killed during the Rwanda Genocide. My heart and eyes were not prepared for what I was about to see. Before I walked into the actual church, I stood outside and looked up at all of the gun wholes in the ceiling of the church. I noticed how the black iron doors had been badly deformed because of the bullets that penetrated them.

As I moved further into the church, I took a sharp left into the first door I saw, leading into a quite and cool room. I could feel my heart pounding a bit as I looked down and saw babies clothes. As I moved into the room just a bit more, I could see the leg of a baby hanging outside of the cloth that wrapped her body. I freaked out thinking that was a dead baby; however, I found out that child belonged to a worker and that she was resting in that room.

Nevertheless, I left that room puzzled and I looked at the walls, they were tired looking and its deep red colour carried a deep sadness in it. I saw some sun piercing through the side of the church, so I moved toward that direction and noticed a wall with a pattern of empty squares which allowed some sunlight to creep in. In the square holes, there were old shoes and black boots. As I continued looking at the wall, I began to wonder who’s shoes those were. I moved further into the church and I looked up at the ceiling again, but this time there were even more bullet marks than on the outside. I walked on the far left side of the church, passing pews where huge mounds of clothes laid on top of each other. The closer I went to the front, the more and more clothes I saw stacked on top of each other. I wondered about the lives of these people whose clothes laid on the floor.  Questions like were they married? What did they do for fun? What kinds of talent did they have? Was anyone here the next inventor? I kept moving along and I noticed a pair of cast for someone’s legs. I saw old bracelets, shoes, necklaces, and watches layered on top of each other on these pews. These were the clothes and jewelry of a total of approximately 2,500 men and women, both Hutu and Tutsi.

As I continued toward the front of the church, I saw that there was a table with machetes, spears, wallets, ID cards, a broken pipe, money, and a watch sat. The weapons were used by Tutsi persecutors while the other merchandise were taken from Hutu’s before death. Behind that table stood a cabinet where the body and blood of Jesus Christ would be kept for communion; however, this had been shot up and pieces of the cabinet were left in shambles. Now, as I thought about how devastating this experience was becoming, I thought, How could the Belgians just leave these Rwandans by themselves when they were sent to be Peacekeepers during the genocide? Then it dawned on me that the Belgians wanted to stay and protect Rwanda, but once Tutsi persecutors continued to murder the Belgians, the Belgium government ordered their solders out. It was very beneficial on the Tutsi’s side to kill these Belgians for the world may see that if Peacekeepers were sent in to help stop the genocide, they would all be killed; not many governments trusted that their troops would return safe so the world stayed out!

I began to leave the front of the church and began to walk toward the back. I saw my friend Tie and she explained to me that in the back were where all the children were killed. The Tutsi persecutors did not have a surplus of ammunition, therefore, the picked up the children and slammed their heads against the walls which caused them to die a slow and painful death. Many of these children sat in the backs watching their parents and family die just a few minutes away, waiting for their turn. Their clothes were also stacked up in the back on top of each other. I noticed that the white walls looked stained with a deep reddish-brown colour, which had been residue of blood. I moved down into the lower level of the church, it was about the size of an average Western living room. There were glass cabinets that displayed skulls, other body parts, and materials of survivors such as ID cards and jewelry. The skulls had wholes in them from gun wounds. Some had cracks in their skulls from the force of machetes. If that wasn’t hard enough to look at, beneath that exhibit was a tomb with a white cloth on top of it. The woman who laid in that casket was brutally killed. Tutsi soldiers were in total control of how they wanted you to die. They could rape you to death, or they could kill you in a very slow and painful way, just as they had with this woman. The Tutsi persecutors drove a spear up from the woman’s vagina into her skull. Her body was displayed at Nyamata for a while until many expressed their dissatisfaction and disturbance from such a graphic event. When I arrived upstairs again, I stood near the place where the children had been murdered observing their clothes. Soon after, I could hear shouts of children playing just a few feet from the church. I felt both remorse and joy at hearing those children shout for joy enjoying life while standing in the presence of death.

I went outside to the see the other grave sites and it got even more disturbing. I first entered the beautiful garden space with beautiful flowers, then I walked onto the grave sights. The graveyard was designed very differently than I what I was accustomed to. The caskets were displayed underground and you had to take steps to view the caskets. I proceeded near the steps and began to feel my heart beat faster and anxiety run through me. My relationship to dead people has always been quite scary to think about for some reason, yet, I felt like I needed to go down there. I pondered about it for a while. There was hardly any light down there and the steps were deep into the earth. My friends Chris and Tie came by me and I asked if they wanted to go down. We all eventually agreed and proceeded cautiously. I got down the to the last stair case and almost turned back. There were caskets stacked on top of each other in rows, leaving a very thin aisle to walk through. As I continued through the tomb sites, I saw the skulls and bones of dead babies. I began to quote Psalm 23 The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures… As I said this scripture out loud  I could feel my heart slowing down. Chris asked me if I was okay and I told him that I was just quoting the Bible. When I asked if he was okay, he told me that his anxiety level had risen causing a tingle in his ears.

This experience made me think about the purpose of a church in the first place. A church is supposed to be a place where you can go and find peace from war, get closer to God, and have fellowship with other spiritually-minded individuals. My friend Alison describes it as “a place where you can close your eyes and open them again and know that everything is fine; where you could be vulnerable.”Churches during the genocide, however, were far from a place of peace and comfort.

I picked a spot outside to think and write and here are some things I wrote in my journal:

As I sit at the edge of this platform, I can scent the smell of old clothing and beautiful flowers behind me. I am questioning how I live my life. Do I live in a state of appreciation and gratitude, or a place of complaining, strife, anger, bitterness, and resentment….

Today at church, the Pastor talked about the time you are born and the time you die. He mentioned very clearly that those two dates are already fixed; however, it is what you do with that line (—-) in between those two fixed dates that determines the kind of life I have lived. I must always make good use of that line. 

As a participant in both the Anne Frank Project and as a Rwanda 2013 study-abroad, I feel compelled and charged to promote justice in whatever form that may be–food justice, equal rights, social justice, etc…. We kill others and ourselves when we hate, or judge… May there never be hate, prejudice, injustice, in my heart… its equal to murder!

In the midst of this dark and depressing memorial, there are beautiful flowers and trees which have lived to see this day… They have many stories to tell about what happened 18 years ago; exactly my lifetime.

After moments of writing in my journal, I heard the rain singing outside. I ran outside, lifted my hands in the air and surrendered to the rain. It was a refresher to me both physically and spiritually. We left short after with the memory of those who had died and hope for those who survived.  

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Church in Rwanda– Loving on Children!

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These children and more have a special place in my heart and the universe. God has great things in store for them. I was so happy to be spend my Sunday at church with them!

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My friend, Cristina Metauro, with the lovely children =

I LOVE HER!!! She could not stop hugging me and I could not stop hugging her :)

I LOVE HER!!! She could not stop hugging me and I could not stop hugging her 🙂

 

What a beautiful morning it was in RWANDA!!! I woke up early this morning to get ready for church. I had heard that church in Rwanda is like nothing else I have ever experienced; that was true! When I arrived to New Life Ministries, I looked at the huge brick church and I could hear the sound of the piano, guitar, drums, and singing. Shouts of joy and praise were ringing from the church to where I was standing. As we moved inside, I looked around to discover multiple nationalities represented. The usher greeted us saying “Muraho!” As a traditional way of saying hello, I shook his hand with my right hand while my left hand rested on my right arm. He seemed so pleased that we came. No sooner than when we took our seats, we too were jumping to the lively music, singing, and worshiping God. I appreciated the fact that I was able to worship and enjoy Jesus in Rwanda with my college friends. We sang loudly and harmonized as we theater students do and danced without shame or fear. Our presence was acknowledged by the Pastor during his remarks. The message that the Pastor preached was titled “Fix Your Eyes on Jesus.” He said so many good things and his message was based on Hebrews 12:1-4; AWESOME :).

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This is Tie… she keeps me in stitches, haha… Lauging just thinking about this picture! I love you Tie.

Finally, toward the end of service, two beautiful little girls walked up to us and decided to sit with us. They were so adorable. One girl started playing with my friend Eve’s hair and scarf. The other girl, who looked slightly older went to my friend Deanna and started to play with her bracelets and cardigan. Both of their eyes glowed and glared in admiration of each of us. At that moment, I began to think about all of the children in Africa and around the world and just started to pray for each of them. My eyes began to weal up with tears as I thought about those children who are or who have been abused. My prayer was simply, “Lord, protect them and bless them.”

The service progressed to a time of communion and so the children held my two friends hands and escorted them out of the aisle to go up to the front of the church and receive communion. As they led, the rest of us followed. The Pastor broke a huge piece of bread; almost as round and large as a Frisbee. We took the communion and began singing they hymn, Oh the Blood of Jesus. I LOVE THAT HYMN. As the song came to an end, my friends Tie and Allison could not stop singing. It was like a anthem that kept on ringing in our souls. We finally finished acapella and then we ate our communion.

At the end of the first service, which was in all English, we met some others from Oregon and Alabama, and decided that we wanted to experience a little bit of the Kinyurwanda style of praise and worship. We exited the sanctuary, only to be followed by a handful of beautiful children who came up to us with big smiles and hugs. We laughed with them and eventually gave up a few bracelets. They all ran to my phone when I decided to take a picture and they started to imitate my actions of how to use the phone; it was GREAT! My friend Deanna caught a good shot of me giving a 4-H bracelet to one of the children. That bracelet meant a lot to me because of what 4-H stands for (Heads, Hands, Hearts, and Health). This organization believes in changing the lives of young people all around the world, just as it has changed mine. I felt that by giving him the 4-H bracelet, even though it may have seemed simple, that I left him with the hope that one day his life will be changed, and as a result,  he will be able to change another person’s life. We are changed for the better so that we might bring others to change for the better.  This is what I believe and what I stand on. What an inspiration those children were. There was more to my day than this, but this was a great way to begin my week; in the house of the Lord with his beautiful children.

Giving a 4-H bracelet to one of the children after he kept pulling on it... Jaja! This is a symbol of changing lives.

Giving a 4-H bracelet to one of the children after he kept pulling on it… Jaja! This is a symbol of changing lives.

Blessings,

Muramuke

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Akagera National Park

More writing will be added soon, but here’s a look at some of what we experienced today at Akagera National Park; simply GORGEOUS!

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REMEMBERING OUR HISTORY; CHANGING A LIFE

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As I ponder on the history of humanity, I notice a devastating pattern; an atrocity which has perpetuated injustice, violence, and strife. A history that glorifies inequality and that seeks to divide people in hate rather than unite them in peace. This is what Rwanda represented to the world in 1994. The Rwandans recognize that they are all one people, who speak one language, and have the same history.

I spent the day at the Kigali Genocide Memorial learning of the countless number of lives affected by the genocide. The site was extremely beautiful and commemorated the lives of the victims in the most respectful and honorable way. From an artistic perspective, the museum was cleverly designed in a chronological order, allowing the order of historical events to lead from one room to the next. In the first exhibit, there were these quotes which I found very interesting,

            “In recent times, though, genocide has cast a dark shadow over our lives and torn us apart. This chapter is a bitter part of our lives, but one we must remember for      those we lost, and for the sake of the future.”

This is about our past and our future

Our nightmares and dreams

Our fears and our hope

Which is why we begin where we end

With the country we love

 

The Rwanda Genocide did not just happen overnight; there were a series of events which led to the eventual destruction and obliteration of society. Rwanda-Urundi was controlled by the Germans in 1895-1916 during World War 1, as incited by the League of Nations. Because of this, Christianity was introduced to Rwanda, leading to development in education and schools, medicine, infrastructure, and exporting operations. Along with the widespread of Christendom, which greatly impacted the political path in Rwanda, divisions in socio-economic classes were introduced. The population of these three classes was 84% Tutsi, 15% Hutu, and 1% Twa. Each group had identity cards which legally marked them into a certain class. If you had 10 cows or more, you were Tutsi, if you had less than 10 cows, you were Hutu, and if you had no cows, you were a Twa. The Catholic Church had introduced what is known as a “Hamitic” ideology, which suggests that Tutsi is better than Hutus. As a result, there began to be a shift in how these classes interacted.

In an effort to have “ethnic cleansing” in Rwanda, the government introduced the Hutu Ten Commandments, which defined how classes would operate under the new segregate law. Media, such as the radio, spread hate propaganda between classes. Finally, in August 1993, the Arusha Peace Agreement or Accords which was created to bring peace to Rwanda; however, surrendering to the agreement was seen as a sign of weakness to the government, so France was asked to joined to train Rwanda forces. On April 6, 1994, the president of Rwanda’s plane was shot. This was the beginning of the genocide.

Religion was used as means of power and control over the Rwanda government. As I walked through the museum, I thought about other genocides in the world such as the Armenian Genocide, and the Holocaust to name just a few, and how could history continue to repeat itself. I also found it interesting how religion was used in both genocide examples as a means of manipulation and influence. At some point, the question must be asked why is history repeating itself; what lesson(s) are we not getting?

I moved along throughout the exhibits and came upon a round-shaped room filled with cloth lines hanging the faces of victims of the Genocide. As I looked at the thousands of pictures displayed on the walls, I could not help but to imagine one of my siblings or parents being one of those faces. As I thought about that, I realized that these people are my family. We are all made of the same things and share in the history of all of our humanity.

As I fixate my mind on these tragedies and so many more alike, I am reminded of the power of forgiveness and reconciliation; a common way of moving forward in Rwanda. At the end of the memorial, the team spoke with Kiki, the director and founder of Professional Dreamer Organization, about restoring life back to Rwanda through story telling. The idea she had was to create a book titled The Book of Life, which included testimonials and letters from both perpetrators and victims of the genocide. The letters were to be written to those who died as a way to give life to the victims. Kiki mentioned how after the genocide, the victims were not remembered as people who had lives, they were remembered as victims. She said that every day we kill them by telling how they died. She wanted the letters to be used as a tool to show the world the lives of these victims and to also bring healing to those who suffered their loss.

Loving others enables us to change a life. While Kiki admits that bring restoration to Rwanda may seem impossible, it is still worth giving a shot. Talking to Kiki really helped me to see how art and theatre can be a tool to bring healing and reconciliation to a nation of suffering people. “As a human, I can be depressed and desperate, but never as an artist,” Kiki said. Her words have inspired me to find my message and to use my talents in the arts to share that message with the world.

Until next time,

Murabeho

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Day 2 in Rwanda- Embracing the Past and Moving Forward

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It is only day 2 of my time in Rwanda, and let me tell you, it has been quite a full day. After a few hours of sleeping under a net, I woke up and got ready for a breakfast spread of lightly buttered toast, scrambled eggs with peppers, mangos and corn flakes. Rwandan breakfast is a lot like American breakfast except that it’s a lot tastier! I became so addicted to the Rwanda hot sauce as well and I sprinkle it on most savory things. Around 8:00am, after breakfast, the team were going to the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village to witness a graduation ceremony.

On the way to the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village, we came upon huge banana and pine trees waving their broad leaves in the Rwanda sky. There were also long lanes of corn plantations standing tall in the air. On the side either side of the dirt roads, women marched in synchronized fashion, one behind the other. Some had children on their backs, while most carried large baskets of fruit, vegetables, or water on their heads. I am always amazed when I see those women carrying baskets on their heads without using their hands. Everyone had something to do, somewhere to be, and someone to watch. There were also young children who stood as bystanders; holding hands with each other, waving and shouting Muraho!

Clouds of reddish-brown dust rose in the air, smacking the white van we were in. Apparently the reddish-brown color I describe is due to the high levels of iron oxide which makes for extremely fertile soil and farming production. We encountered many mountains and small villages with houses made of clay and brick. I learned that over the last few years, Rwanda has been redeveloping its architecture of home material and design to accommodate its warm climate.

The Agahozo Shalom Youth Village is a school where orphaned children attend in hopes for a brighter future. These children are hand-selected upon application for their academic achievement and leadership skills. The spend four years of their lives living at this school, working hard to become the person they dream to be. Some of the students aim to be doctors, lawyers, actors, journalists, and artists. Finishing high school proved to them that they could accomplish any goal if they just worked hard.

As we entered, there were about 12 African drummers who played. You could feel the rhythm in the soles of your feet as we walked on the dirt path. Throughout the ceremony, there were African dancers and drummers who performed.  I was so inspired by their performance that at the end of the ceremony, I asked the drummers if I could play with them and thankfully, they consented.

Here are some great quotes spoken at the graduation ceremony:

“Education is at the forefront of everything.”

“If we see far, we’ll go far.”

“We are no longer orphans; we have a home [The Agahozo Shalom Youth Village].”

“Education is the gift that keeps on giving.”

“No history; no future.”

The ceremony included remarks from students and an unannounced appearance of the President of Kigali, Rwanda, Mr. Paul Kagame! It was so cool to see him there and congratulate the students. They were all very happy that he felt it necessary to be there and see them graduate.

Later that evening, we came home and had dinner with new friends we made from Kigali Institute of Education. Making friends in Rwanda is very easy, I’ve discovered. We sat at the table and exchanged our names and played the Guess How Old Am I game. As we played that game, I asked my new Rwandan friend, John, what the birthday traditions were in Rwanda. He told me that Rwandan’s don’t celebrate birthdays; they don’t celebrate the fact of getting older, although I am sure that they appreciate the fact that they have another day of life. After dinner, we all gathered in the living room and played African drums. We formed a circle and danced around with bells on our wrist and ankles, shakers, wooden sticks, and oral sounds. We danced and played for about 30 minutes until the sweat dripped down our backs. The night soon came to an end, we said goodbye to our friends and told them we would see them soon.

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First Day in Kigali, Rwanda- Day 1

1357744553442After 24 hours of traveling and with great expectation, the Rwanda 2013 team and me have finally arrived to Kigali, Rwanda. The team is comprised of 9 students and 5 staff from Buffalo State College.

We have each been preparing for this trip physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually for the past two months. The past two months have been filled with deeply thinking about the life of Anne Frank as a little girl in Germany during the Holocaust. Our thinking deeply about her life has developed within each of us an emotional vocabulary to accurately express her thoughts, feelings, and wants for the Jewish  people through a 22 minute play. The play is a conglomerate of extracted passages from The Diary of Anne Frank.

The energy of Africa is contagious; I could feel it in my blood the moment that plane hit the Ethiopian runway to Rwanda. We first landed in Uganda on our flight to Rwanda to see the red, and I mean red dirt that towered in patches on the lushly green, and I mean green grass. I think that’s what fascinated me the most about Africa– the rich and vibrant colors! And I must not forget the scent of the air that surrounded us; a sweet fragrance.
I could smell the scent of mothers with crying children in the wind. One woman smelt like she came out of a community of herbs and spices; like a pot of chicken soup.

When we drove up to New Life Guest House, where we are staying, we unloaded our bags and came into the house. The house manager, Judith, spoke to us covering some household logistics. We got into our rooms, settled down a little, then we went on an adventure to the market a few minutes away from the house.

As we left the house, we immediately met neighbors who stood inconspicuously on the dirt roads. I took the pin of a football that had been given to me and gave it to one of the village boys and said in Kinyarwanda  “Muharo. Amakuru?” which in English means simply “Hello. How are you?” The boy looked at me and smiled. He stood with another older looking boy, who could have been his older brother with a look in his eye that said where’s my football?
My friend, Shabar, took a second pin out of his pocket and gave it to the grateful boy. In Rwanda, it’s very easy to make friends by a simple act of kindness or giving of attention.

We reached the market, dodging cars,  motor cycles, and busy children along the way. There was a sound of women and men speaking in Kinyarwanda, some selling goods, and others playing music out of their businesses. We walked in a single-filed line, making sure that no one got lost in the hustle and bustle of the Rwanda streets. Many Rwandans, both adults and children stared at us as we walked trying to get a good look at the ‘new kids on the block. We met tons of young children who walked up to us and asked if we would buy their items. As we continued our walk, we saw several women, some carrying babies in wrapped tightly in bright dashiki cloth. The women carried huge baskets filled with mangos. We met them and choose three ripe mangos and left the market.

Tonight we had a delightful dinner prepared by the men of the New Life Ministries. We ate  spaghetti and meat sauce, fresh avocados, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, and pineapples. As we ate, I began to share my appreciation for the opportunity to travel with the theater department a non-theater major and to be so well received by the crew. The Director of Theater Arts and Performance at my college, Drew Kahn then said to me that in our lives if we never become theater majors, we should aim to be Human-majors, embracing the human experience and form of expression, which is story-telling. Throughout the trip, an important question for me to answer is what will my story be about my experiences in Rwanda. I look forward to discovering that more and more each day that I am here.

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Welcome!!!

Hello and welcome to Lazarus in Rwanda 2013! Woo hoo!!! For those who may not know, my name is Lazarus E. Lynch and I am a freshman Dietetics and Nutrition student at Buffalo State College.  I love writing, food, traveling, and meeting new people. I am so grateful and honored to be going to Rwanda with the amazing theater department students as the first freshman ever! I will be blogging, tweeting, and Facebook-ing daily my experiences and such.

As some may be wondering, the Rwanda Study Abroad Program is a two-week internship in January 2013 spent in Rwanda which focuses on cross-culture performing arts integrated with social justice awareness. Throughout the trip, we will be serving at orphanages, visiting genocide memorials, serving food to the hungry and performing pieces of a play on the life of Anne Frank.

For the past 3 years, I have dedicated myself to diligent study and efforts for hunger awareness. I realize that this trip will help me to understand and appreciate the relationship between theatre and social awareness. As an enthusiast for theatre, food policy, and social justice, I realize that corrective food policies are crucial to the eradication of hunger in the world and in my community. It is my passion to see social justice prevail by using my talents in theater to provide my peers with awareness of food injustice issues affecting the world in which we live. The Rwanda Study Abroad Program 2013 will provide me with an understanding of how to effectively bridge theater to agricultural issues affecting the country and regions of Rwanda.

It is with great joy that I write to you, my reader. As a blogger, I am often tempted to be more interested in who is following rather than the what the follower is actually following. For this blog, however, that is not what I am seeking. I seek a reader/follower who is hungry and thirsty for their hearts to be filled and emptied everyday. I am seeking a reader/follower who is willing to be vulnerable, let down his or her own guard, and experience the pleasures and pains of this journey with me. My intention for this blog is to be used not only as a tool for documentary, but to also reflect on what I am experiencing everyday.  My hope is that through this blog, you will be able to live vicariously through me, experiencing the heights and lows of my emotional and cr0ss-cultural experience.

As I journal throughout the course of my journey, I will be sharing with you those I will meet, how I may feel, the food I will eat, and the places I will see.  My expectations are simple: to understand the world in which I live. One of my favorite quotes in the world is “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine. 3. While I know that there are so many who wish to travel but cannot for various reasons, I use this platform of social networking to share the soil on which I stand. The beauty of traveling for me is meeting other people who share their inspiring  life stories with you. It is not long before you realize that deep down, we are all just the same; all wanting the same basic things: love, hope, and a little more peace.

Anne Frank judiciously concluded, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” As a student, I truly believe that the time to achieve social justice is now; moreover, change begins with me. This internship will provide me with an opportunity to learn about the relationship that theater has to social justice and nutritional issues in a more tangible way. Buckle your seat belts; we’re going in for a wild ride!!!

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