Yesterday we took a packed van to venture out of the city and into the hills and farmland of northern Rwanda. Stuffed inside were 11 bags, 9 students, 3 boxes of water bottles, 2 leaders, a guide, a driver, and a partridge in a pear tree. Summary: it was a CROWDED van. But that drive from city to slums to farms was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen from a car window. The engine revved as we took a winding road up mountains, alongside ridges, and down into valleys. The atmosphere transformed; the fashion, the buildings, the wildlife all changed dramatically within a couple hours.
The past two days have been spent in the countryside of Rwanda. We got to canoe in a valley at the foot of Volcanoes National Park yesterday! The ride down the river was a few hours long, but the beautiful view never let up. Even when it rained and one group tipped their canoe into the rushing water- we were laughing, smiling, and having an amazing time. Local boys cut some sugar cane for us and we passed pieces across our canoes to try some straight from the riverbanks. It was hard to eat, but sweet and fibrous on the inside.
Today we got to experience a day in the life of a village woman in Rwanda. A co-op group of local women farmers in the village got together to teach us their way of life. We dressed in colorful fabric and cultivated land for beans and cut grass for the cows. The grass was tied into a bundle, and using a disc made of a banana leaf, it could balance on our head (some more successfully than others). We walked down a mountainside with empty jugs, making one stop to feed the cows and the next to fill our jugs with water at the village well. During our journey we attracted quite the crowd of curious children! They followed us and giggled most of the time.
The traditional lunch they made is simple: just boiled beans and potatoes, with avocados, all from their farm. It sounded bland, and admittedly I was nervous of being hungry, but it tasted so amazing. Everything was freshly harvested right from outside and had so much flavor- I’ll never eat avocado in America the same way again.
Lunch was followed by a lesson on weaving. They strip big leaves of their green outside and are left with white fibers that they can dye and boil to make strong string. Each woman taught us how to weave them to make a bracelet that we could all take home. The day ended with a lively dance circle, our translators and the woman all sang together and clapped, encouraging us to enter the middle and show them our dance moves. I couldn’t stop smiling and laughing.
By Eva Tyler ’20, Music Therapy Major, Posting From Northern Rwanda