by Ellie Hohulin
We are in Rwanda! Everyone is happy, healthy, safe and we have all our luggage. Our journey began with our nine hour flight to Istanbul, Turkey. The flight was smooth on Turkish airlines and most of us slept. We arrived in Istanbul and our flight to Kigali was delayed so we made it with time to spare. Another 6 hour flight to Kigali left everyone very tired but excited as we arrived in Rwanda at 1:30 am. We met Serge, our host, and Robbie and Steph (their interns) and they drove us back to the Moucecore guesthouse, where we will be staying throughout our time in Kigali.
With little sleep we all woke up tired but ready to see what Rwanda had to offer for us today. We began with breakfast and devos and then met Jen Kamari, Serge’s wife, and our other host. We had orientation with her for a good part of the morning, learning local customs, money exchanges, ways to greet certain types of people and the overall culture of Rwanda. After that we drove through the streets of Kigali to Jen’s bakery, J. Lynn’s. Driving through the streets of Kigali and observing the culture was the highlight of my day and many people said they would be perfectly happy just driving around for a few more hours, observing life and culture in the streets of Kigali because we learned so much on this first day just from that brief experience. There are motor scooters everywhere and people walk along the streets all doing very different things but waving often and greeting their friends with a smile and a handshake.
Once we arrived at J. Lynn’s, we had a great lunch of bagels, chips and Fanta (the term for soda in Rwanda) and we learned a bit about J. Lynn’s and how it has helped so many people in the community. We were then given the task to help build a gazebo, specifically, mixing concrete, digging up the exiting dirt and pouring the concrete into the square form as a base. We worked hard in shifts, taking frequent water breaks and with the help of Robbie, Teo (an employee at J. Lynn’s) and David (an employee at I-Teams), we finished the base of the gazebo, pouring concrete and wheelbarrowing it around until the job was done. After 5 hours of working, the sun was going down and we had finished our task. We grabbed cookies for the road, piled into one van and headed back to the guesthouse, enjoying the ride back through the streets of Kigali.
Tonight we will have dinner here at the guesthouse, debrief and then go to bed to get ready for another exciting day tomorrow. Although we were all tired today, there was great teamwork and sense of accomplishment felt in our group. We had an exciting first day in Kigali, we worked hard and got our first glimpse ot this extraordinary culture we will be immersed in for the next two weeks.