It has been fifteen years since the genocide. Rwanda has made tremendous strides toward healing, redemption. I am given the privilege of living in this country – from my front veranda, I can see lush mango, papaya and avocado trees, and the green valley. My children play with Danyire, Jiye, Samuel, Francine, Pierre, JoJo, Benita, Jadit, Christian. The rains pour down in the afternoon, bringing life to the red earth. It is a beautiful country.
I went to a meeting the other day at the Free Methodist church in Gikondo. Good people. Incredible hearts for the handicapped, the widow, the HIV-AIDS victim, the youth. We walk past the old church, being remodeled for a new Bible training center. 165 people were killed there. In cold blood. By their neighbors and friends, sanctioned by their Bishop. I am asked to see the future. To help with the future. Yet, the past is right there in front of me and I find myself fighting tears, seeing ghosts. The dead still speak.
Our security guard and gardener returns home from an evening out. He asks me for permission to return home to the North next week so he can pay his school fees and receive his diploma. He asks me in broken, yet understandable English sentences. I have been paying 8,000 francs ($12 USD) a week to study Kinyarwandan and I still can't have a two sentence conversation with Zechariah. He could not speak more than three words of English three weeks ago, but each night he studies a worn out 1970s textbook the gardener across the street lent him. And he can talk to me. I envy him.
Our househelper, Consolee, can barely stay awake by 3:00 pm. There are no Starbucks runs here. I tell her that she can take an hour break – I had assumed she would. One can't assume. I am the boss. I direct the program. If I don't make it clear that she can take a break, than she doesn't. I want to kick myself for not recognizing this earlier. I ask her when she studies for I know she goes to school six days a week after working for us nine hours a day. She says she wakes up at 3 or 4 am to study, before getting her five children up and ready for school. Her mother died when she was 16, so she had to quit school. Now she is determined to finish. I let her go early that day.
I met a woman on the plane. We are becoming friends, having weekly playdates with our daughters, taking Pilates together. She is Rwandan, but has only spent four months in Rwanda until now. Her family fled in 1959, so she grew up in Uganda. Her family returned to Rwanda after the genocide. She studied in the United States. Her family is of the elite. She asks me when I adopt if I will adopt a Hutu or a Tutsi. I don't hesitate to say, “It will not matter to us.”
The genocide is still the point in time by which everything else is defined here. The country wants to move forward. It is moving forward. I walk by people on the street and wonder what their story is. The number of crippled people here is staggering. No one needs to ask why they are maimed. I truly cannot begin to fathom the depths of the evil done by people to people. It has been fifteen years. My life here is good. We are doing good things to help build the economy. We will be forever connected to this country through our son's blood. My heart cries out for healing for this beautiful land. My soul is humbled by the people I meet. My mind seeks to grasp all I can learn so I can understand the stories of these people through their own language. It has only been three weeks. Time, time....