|Kiziba, from the overlook|
|Connor surrounded by children in the camp|
Upon arrival, we already had many Rwandan children chasing our bus, and added another group of refugees from the camp, pecking at our windows as we waited to be allowed in. As we stepped off the bus, we were lead down to the library where we joined a group of the youth group in the camp. As we stood up to introduce ourselves, the refugees had a laugh at our age, as we quickly realized we were the youngest people in the room.
After we were told about the camp from the president of the youth group, we transitioned into a very powerful song, sung in 5 different languages, Lingala, Swahili, Kinyarwanda, English, and French. It was extraordinarily moving, hearing the 4 different languages sung out at the top of their lungs. We also realized that not only in this camp, but also in Rwanda in general, it is a commonality to speak at LEAST 3 languages. To me, this made me realize how jealous I am, in a way, that these people have such a wide knowledge of languages and definitely something I wish I could do.
Speaking of languages, following the song, we broke up into small groups to help connect with certain people in the camp. I met up with an 18 year old man (who looked older than 18) whose name translated to “January” in English, because of the month he was born in. We immediately went into conversation. Since his English was rather good for someone learning it as his 4th language, a conversation was not a burden, but more of a joy. Little did I know, I would be spending the next 5 hours with him. After we had been talking for a while, we began talking about the fact that I take German in school and he immediately wanted me to teach him some German. This was the best moment of my day as I was able to play teacher as I described simple German phrases to him that we continued to say until he had perfected it. I am extraordinarily excited to return tomorrow to keep working with him on it. It also was great because he later helped me in phrases in both French and Kinyarwanda, so that was very meaningful to me.
After talking for about a half hour, we were able to take a tour of the camp, and I ended up being directed around by January so we were able to continue our talk about life and language, one of the best hours of this trip. By the end of the time we had at the camp, I decided to give him the bracelet I brought with me, to give him something to remember me for, materializing the talks we had with each other. It was finally time for us to leave, so we hopped on the bus and rode it out to the top of the hill. Since we were walking back from the camp to our guest house, Robbie (the International Team Intern) did not want us to have to climb up the large hill leading out of the camp. As we reached the decline, we got out and walked the rest of the 6 miles in about 2 hours. We covered the real Rwandan hills with just a few slips in the middle. We saw the flat but we also saw the steep.
The most meaningful part of the walk was just listening to the surroundings, which is hard to do on a large bus, and just watching the village children stop what they were doing and fall into line with us as we walked. It was surreal how long they walked with us, to the point where we hoped they would be able to make it back home. Finally, we reached our guest house and immediately went to our rooms to change into our swimsuits for a soothing post-walk dip into Lake Kivu, a lake that was surprisingly clear - exactly what we needed after a long day already.
But what’s most important is what we all learned. Today I saw, first hand, that actions are greater than words because there is certainly a language barrier with the Congolese people, and even the Rwandans, but it’s what you do that can be the most important. For example, teaching someone a new language can be more beneficial than attempting to speak through a broken language and spending a day together is more important than struggling over how to put it in to words. Even on the walk home, a simple wave says so much that words cannot. It was extremely special to experience that first hand.