There was a guy seated in my row on my flight from Toronto to Addis Ababa who was going to be volunteering in South Sudan as part of a missions trip. He had never been anywhere in Africa yet but was optimistic and eager to get involved with his organization. As the plane boarded and ascended into the sky, we discussed our work and I gave him some tips, such as “ALWAYS adhere to your organization’s safety tips”. He agreed that made sense, acknowledging that South Sudan wasn’t going to be a cakewalk. I wished him well for his one-year assignment. Hopefully he will do some good work while he is there.
While waiting for my flight to Kigali, a twenty-something girl approached me hesitantly. “Are you an American?” She asked me. I said I was, and asked the same of her. She nodded, clearly stressed, and I motioned for her to sit and join me.
It turned out that we live in the same town in the United States, and were both heading to Rwanda to do some volunteering. This was her first trip to Africa and she was a little nervous about it. I helped to calm her down and assuage some of her fears, telling her about cool things to do or see in Rwanda, relaying some personal experiences, and making her a simple Kinyarwanda phrase book of the most crucial sayings for someone new. We exchanged phone numbers and email addresses and made plans to get together next week once her orientation is done.
It’s always exciting to encounter other people who similarly want to make a difference, and it’s nice to be in a position to offer advice or counsel, being the more-experienced volunteer. I hope that they will be impactful in their communities and return to the United States with opened eyes, ready to tell others about what they have seen and what they did.
My Sweet Baby Sister got married last night.
When I left the country, I told everyone that sadly, I wasn’t going to be able to make it. This was hard for me– I love my sister more than anything in the world. We are the best of friends, incredibly close siblings, but despite this bond, the scheduling just didn’t make sense.
I had made plans to be in Rwanda starting in April, long before she had a date in mind for the wedding. She asked if I could postpone, and for a time, I was arranging things so that I could fly to the land of a thousand hills right after her wedding in June– but then June became July, and I just couldn’t justify that long of a delay. There were a lot of logistical concerns in play, and it wasn’t feasible. I was pretty bummed that I wasn’t going to be able to attend, but it was heartening that she understood. She gets me, and she’s proud of what I’m doing. Still, it was a let down all around.
Ever since I arrived in Rwanda, people have been telling me that I need to go. I tried to explain that I wanted to, it just wasn’t possible. No one in Rwanda really understood. “Family comes first.” Papa said. “When it is family, you do not have a choice.” When Sarah came to visit, she offered the same advice.
Then I got a message from my sister, expressing her disappointment that I wouldn’t be there, and informing me that I’d better come out to Colorado once I get back, so I can visit with her and her future husband. I was so torn. I promised I would visit. And then… I realized it wasn’t as insurmountable a problem as I had thought. I scraped the money together for a ticket on the same flight that Sarah would be taking back from Kenya.
Long story short, I made the wedding! And I certainly traveled the furthest to be there. After our Kenya trip, we flew from Nairobi to Addis Ababa; from there to Rome; to Toronto; and finally back to San Francisco! Sarah’s sister drove us home, and dropped me off on my family’s doorstep. They were so surprised when they answered the doorbell!
Needless to say, my Sweet Baby Sister was absolutely thrilled that I could make it, and it was such a joy to be there on her special day. She was a gorgeous bride! It was a beautiful service, an emotional and fun reception, and I could not be happier to welcome Aric to the family!
I wish them the best as we part ways for the next few years.
(Photo credits to me, Sarah, and Jessie)
Jane was the very model of a Peace Corps Volunteer. She loved her site, her community, and her host family. She was extremely proficient in the local language, and familiar with the lay of the land, both within Kwa Kolumba as many other villages within her region. She was hardworking, dedicated, passionate, and left a lot of love behind. She was everything you want in a PCV. It was obvious that she had touched a lot of people’s lives.
The second picture is Jane posing by a well-project she helped work on while she was serving. Though she has COS’ed and is returning to the United States, this well will service its community long, long after. How awesome to leave something physical behind! I wish I had undertaken a project like this back in Kagogo, before my own service closed.
Jane is all-around a fantastic lady, and it was such a treat to be hosted by her while I visited. What an honor to get a glimpse into the world of her Peace Corps experience!
(Photos courtesy of Sarah)
While we were in Kenya, Sarah took some sweet pictures of me and Jane!
Face paint! Jane has some art supplies like paints and pens and colored pencils which she shares with her host-siblings. We went over to have dinner with the family and the kids realized that watercolors can be used as face-paints if you get a higher concentration of them on your brush or finger. They had a blast decorating themselves, each other, and us! What artists.
Photos courtesy of Sarah!