Rwanda 2016: The Journey


This space is for students to share, publicly, their observations, sound, images and reflections before, during and after the Harwood High School travel study to Rwanda in February 2016.



Having to Leave

This is our last day, and I can hardly believe it. This trip definitely went by faster than I wanted it too. I've learned so much, but I think there's still so much Rwanda could teach me. I don't know if I've changed, but I hope so. The idea of going back to a life where you do exactly the same thing every day no longer seems very appealing. These past few weeks have been so much fun. I love going around and meeting students (young or old) of schools in Rwanda.

There's so much to love about this place. I think I'll miss the people most of all, though. We've made so many friends, and even most of the people we only met once are pretty friendly. Leaving homestays was one the hardest goodbyes I've ever had to say. Of course, I'll also miss the fruit here and the animals. I doubt I'll ever see a wild monkey in America. I'd like to see my family again, but it's going to be so hard to leave.

Stephen Rand's picture

Our Travel Itinerary

The flight and ground itinerary is attached. But also you can check the daily calendar in the left hand column.

Here's a map:

Second Time Around- part 2.

Hello Hello!
We are currently in our 2 day of homestays, and things are going well. We are all adjusting to not being with the group 24/7, and as expected it is a little weird for all of us. We have been able to meet up with the group a few times, yesterday morning we all met up at Umuganda, and this morning most of us met up with a few other pairs of kids to go to the market. The market was very fun but very overwhelming. I remember this from last year, the market is very crowded and in very tight quarters, so being there for extended periods of time is a lot for us. We decided to not go as a whole group this year, when 30 muzungus walk into the market together the people working all get excited and jack up the prices. We all got a lot of good stuff I think, a lot of gifts for you guys back home! Just to touch a little on my last post, homestays are going way better than I thought it would and I have been feeling much better, but we are all still very excited to go to Lake Kivu in a few days.

Second Time Around

Hi Everyone!

This is my first blog post of this trip, but my second time in Rwanda and let me just say there are so many different things about going for a second time. The first is obviously the group, I had such an amazing group last year and ended up with some amazing friendships from it, but going into this year I was already close with so many people here, its cool how relationships have changed since we have arrived.

During one of our debriefs a few days ago we did a high and a low for the trip so far, and my high was how easy this group is to be with. I just get along with everyone so well, even the people I wasn't super close with before. Looking at the rate this group is going, I feel like we may even hate each other by the end, but hopefully not.

The Colors of Lake Kivu

Green and blue,

the natural colors.

Green is beside me,

the trees, the grass.

While blue stretches far,

the sky, the distant mountains,

and the endless water, more silver than blue.

The others are here somewhere-

red roof,

brown dirt.

But my eyes are awash in the colors of calm;

the greens

and the blues.

New Beauty

So much about Rwanda is beautiful, but it's all different. I'm learning to appreciate this new kind of beauty. The people obviously look different from us, but they have their own kind of beauty and pride in the way they look. Food is just amazing. We eat some of the same things that we would eat at home, but it's all prepared differently. Everyone says this, but I need to mention the fruit. It is a million times better than what I've had before. I don't know how I'll be able to go back to eating half-ripe mangoes and polished apples.

The mountains remind me of home, but so much in the landscapeis different. The houses are rarely made of wood. Most are made of bricks or a special sort of mud, and they are all grouped so closely together. I love going outside to see palm trees and butterflies in February. A couple of us have melted in the heat, but I have been loving it 100%.

The First Days...

Hello Everybody!

I hope you all are doing well and enjoying the nice weather back home. It is a nice warm temp here with a cool breeze coming into the house, pretty much perfect. We have done lots of fun things so far, we went to Teddy's twice, and we visited 2 different high schools to drop off the days for girls kits and give presentations. Teddy's has by far been my favorite place so far. The kids were absolutely amazing and just so welcoming. They were up for pretty much anything we would do with them. We taught them a few different songs, like the hokey pokey, twinkle twinkle little star, row row row your boat, and a few others. We also colored with them for a while, and they loved to play with our phones while we tried to take pictures of them. There was one kid took my phone pretty much the whole time we were there, and took so many selfies I couldn't even count. Even though there was a language barrier, there was enough connection there that we could form a real relationship with them, and I can't wait to go back in a few days to see them again. 


Everyone is so sweet here. The kids are super adorable. The greet you by a hug or a highfive. Yesterday we went to the Good Samaritan and we taught them some songs: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Itsy Bitsy Spider and Hokey Pokey, which was tons of fun; and the story of The Three Little Pigs. I met a girl, though I dont know her name because I couldnt understand her, who really liked playing with my glasses and dancing with me. 

Overall I'm enjoying my time so much. I already know that I am not going to want to leave. 

The Market

There are so many things to talk about, but to make life easier I figure I'll stick to one for now.

This morning the group traveled to the market near our homestays for the first time. It was incredibly chaotic and crowded and every merchant wanted our attention. I think many of us were overwhelmed at first, but adjusted very well. We all had to learn to negotiate the price down because when a merchant sees a "umuzungo" (white person) they automatically assume we're rich and double the price. It is amazing how far money goes in Rwanda. Everybody bought a lot of fabric and other things, but not one person spent the entire $100 that we exchanged. Not all of the merchants spoke English, though I found I had a lot of success bargaining in French, and Griffin said he even used a little Spanish at one point. Shopping in the market was definitely a unique experience for me, and now that I have had some time to process it, I feel ready to return to the chaos another day.

Blog Post #1

Muraho Everyone!

Today is the first day that we have had the opportunity to have computers and you might be surprised that a lot of us were not even that excited about having internet access! We have been doing so many amazing things so far. We have been so many places and seen so many things. We have been able to visit Teddy's School. The children are absoloutely amazing and all of the Rwandan people are so kind and loving. We have also been to two additional high schools delivering Days For Girls kits! The schools were all very welcoming the first school had dancers come out and dance for us. It was incredible to see them and they were such beautiful dancers. Everywhere we go we are always welcomed so warmly. 

My favorite part about Rwanda is waking up in the morning. The sun is so beautiful and the air usually smells great! Along with that I love the children so so so much. We all are loving spending time with the children. My least favorite part is probable the freezing cold 30 second showers but our motto I keep in mind is improvise, adapt and overcome! Every day has its highs and lows and I cannot wait to see what the rest of the trip has to offer!


The first thing I noticed when I got here was the smell. Rwanda smells like flowers, and its kind of sad that I'm getting used to it and can't really smell it anymore. I already feel so much happiness in the first two days, so much that its a little overwhelming. Rwanda is such a beautiful place. The lanscapes here are stunning and I love riding on the bus looking out the window. 

Everyone here is so happy to see us which is kind of weird but I'm getting used to it. When we ride on the bus every person on the street stares at us, and some laugh and wave or scream. Its like their seeing unicorns but the attention is sort of cool. The kids love us and sometimes the happy energy they give us gets overwhelming. 

I can tell this is going to be a crazy and amazing few weeks. I'm still getting used to the humidity, and the food, but the culture and people here but everyone is wonderful and amazing and I'm so happy I have this experience. I'm still a little shocked that I'm in the middle of Africa and so disconnected and far from my home, but so excited!

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