Rwanda 2011 -- The Journey
This space is for students to share, publicly, their observations and reflections on the Harwood High School trip to Rwanda in February 2011. Students are also creating multimedia pieces with the facilitation and guidance of two "embedded ethnographers" from the Vermont Folklife Center- Gregory Sharrow and Ned Castle.
This video was created by Marley Cohen and Charlotte Thompson.
Thea, Marley and I discuss our experience in Rwanda with the hosts of "Someone Call The Girl Police!" on our local radio station WMRW in Warren, Vermont.
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In light of the recent events in Lybia, and to jump start a "conversation" of sorts, as well as address a heart-felt point Thea made a week ago when she said she was feeling powerless as innocent people lost their lives in Lybia, I turn to writing, which is to say, making sense of intervention -- responding to inhumanity, to cruelity, to injustice around the world militarily -- requires more than a passing conversation.
Il de Phonse was our driver for 18 days while in Rwanda, but so much more. It is safe to say the students enjoyed him, appreciating his gentle manner and kind gestures, such as packing all of our 30 suitcases into the van, staying with us all day and night while away from his family, providing us with moments of levity and key Kinyarwandan phrases when in need.
He is a sweet and selfless man who got really excited during our safari, chasing after wild boars while in search of giraffes! Which we obviously found!
Every Last Saturday of the month, Rwandans get together to work on a project as a community -- it is called Umuganda. On this day, we helped build a red brick house for "vunerable" women and their families in the Butare region of southern Rwanda. We worked alongside many Rwandans, creating mortar with our feet and hoes, casting heavy bricks and hauling them to the construction zone, did some masonry, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
This photo story of the construction of the house -- Umuganda -- was created by Naomi, Olivia and Caitlin. Enjoy...
The group biked from a quality control station to the washing station of the cooperative where Green Mountain Coffee Roasters buys its coffee. This is some great video work by Ned Castle. It was a wonderful day and a beautiful trek.
This is a photo story I created about a tea factory in northern Rwanda. Various people took the photos and recorded the audio. Enjoy...
I was given eyes to give you the gaze.
You were given hands to give me the wave.
I was given the wave to give you a smile.
You were given a smile to give me the hope.
I was given the hope to make the change.
You were given the change to make a difference.
Photography by Naomi and audio interview by Anna.
This is a funny photo story about Il de Phonse, our bus driver. Created by Jake, Thea, and Caitlin. Enjoy this moment of levity!
Play has no language barrier. It has no age limit. Play at its best is shared with another. If we are fortunate enough to play with others, time stands still. I would have never thought a ball (umupira) landing at my feet would mean so much. How many umupiras have landed at my feet before? This is how I came to know Olivier. The boy (umuhuungu) was throwing his homemade umupira at the family goat (Ihene) that had just taken a bite out of their corn. I tossed the umupira back to him and we tossed the umupira back and forth as we learned more and more about each other. The umupira somehow disappeared or at least I think it did but the conversation continued. Olivier was so proud of his English (Icyongereza), his vegetables (Imboga), and his family (Miryango). He had eight (Umunani) brothers and sisters. I asked him about a plant in his garden. He said it was a type of potato (Ibirayi). The teacher (Umwigisha) had become the student (Umunyeshuuri). He told me the name for corn was Ikigori. When it came time to go, I did not want to leave. It was hard saying good bye (Murabeho) to my friend (Inshuti Wanje).
The color of purple spreads through the red dirt and green hills of Rwanda. A color of forgiveness and peace. Walking next to the streams of purple, remembering and striving to understand. The thoughts that come and go with everything jumbled in your head. Sitting on the dust covered benches where 16 years ago trembling children, women and men sat, scared for their life and what they would lose. One million is a number that I cannot grasp, a number I have never seen, but when Individual belongings and terrifying stories that stop you from breathing stand for such a small percent of that million you start to think. You start to think of the thousands and thousands of other stories and belongings that stand for those million spirits. Yet when you walk through those red dusty streets it is civil. It is peaceful and respectful. Every face you pass you see forgivness in the creases and scars. Thinking of the millions of stories you pass just on a walk to the market and the color of purple painted, hung, and worn everywhere.
Prep Time: 0 minutes
Cook Time: 4 nights
Yields: Countless good memories
- 11 New Siblings
- 1 Mama Jacques
- 6 Bottles of Amazi
- 1 Huge apetite for rice/pasta, beans, plantains, french fries, avocado, and fish sauce
- A generous handful of late night chats
- 15-20 New words in Kinyarawandan
- 1 Family of rabbits, not to be eaten by Elizabeth
- A newfound appreciation for brotherly affection
- 1 Tbsp. Inside Jokes
- 2 very happy muzungu girls
1. Preheat outdoor temperature to 30 degrees Celsius
2. Combine all ingredients, stir occasionally
3. Add muraho and murakoze cyane to taste
I find that the small, intimate moments are sometimes the most effective storytelling opportunities. Below are two very short video clips of Harwood students at Teddy's Good Samaritien school. i think these provide a narrow, but honest, window into the tone and spirit of our experiene at the school.
After reading aloud to groups of 20-30 rambunctious pre-schools, the students take a moments pause in Teddy's office to enjoy a cold refreshment -- courtesy of the host.
Students hand out bracelets to three boys that are standing quietly against a wall at the edge of the playground.
One of the most exciting parts of this experience for me is seeing students take ownership over their work. Beginning with our workshop at the Vermont Folklife Center prior to the trip, Greg and I have been able to teach everyone the basic concepts of ethnographic field research as well as how to use the tools (cameras, audio recorders, video)--but the question always remains: will anyone be compelled to make something born of their own interest, rather than out of expectation and/or requirement from us.?
This video was shot at 11:30PM after an full day of exploring Kigali- the girls have already been working for several hours, and wouldn't actually finish the final version of "Grace" until after midnight. Perhaps I'm suffering from an excitement brought on by my closeness to the project, but I can't help feeling that Julia and Marley's sublte expressions during this first full preview of their piece is confirmation that something is going on here in Rwanda.
Photographed, recorded, created, and edited by Thea, Anna, and Olivia
We tasted tea to see which one was the best -- it was a much different experience than I had expected...
Or visit our REPStoriesofhope YouTube Channel
I walk into the house and I’m immediately thwarted with kids. Matrone is the oldest at 11. She has this feeling about her that is rather hard to describe. She’s mature, smart, and curious. We gave her and her sister Seta, who’s eight, the gifts we had brought. They accepted them quietly but with much appreciation.
This is an audio piece that was created by Julia Simoes, Marley Cohen, Naomi Koliba, and Ned Castle. This woman that we found, Grace was the sweetest most beautiful woman, with only a small amount of English vocabulary. On Wednesday afternoon, we split up into groups and and walked around Kigali. Our group ventured off the main road, onto a quiet side street where the only noises were school children laughing and playing. We stopped to take a picture of the variety of fences along the road, when a little boy and his older sister waved to us. "Muraho!" we called out to them, and the young woman beckoned us into her front yard. We soon learned she was named Grace and was 17 years old, only one year older then the three of us girls. At first, we just talked with her, slowly of course, learning about her family, her siblings, and her life. We asked her if we could record her and ask her a few questions, and at first she was very reluctant, as she was very shy, but then she started to open up as we all went around in a group and answered every question together. This was an incredible learning experience, and truly a woman I know I will never forget.
They say that time flies by when you’re having fun, and I have been having a blast. Yet it seems like we have been here a week when in fact, we have only been here for a few days. I feel that we are all so close now, and we are just one big happy family. It is so amazing here, everything is so amazing here. I love it.