I spent a lot of time thinking about the idea of returning prior to going to back to Rwanda.
What would it be like? What would it feel like? To go back.
I realized that is something I don’t often do – return, or go back.
I’ve moved a lot in my life – some of them where giant leaps across the country and I’ve mostly never gone back to any of the places I have lived. With the exception of going back to Alaska after we moved, but the last time I went back I was 15. Suffice it to say, that was a very long time ago.
So her it was, an opportunity to go back to Rwanda. What was this going to be like?
In the telling of this to someone I met within the last year, about living in Kenya 10 years ago and taking a side trip to Rwanda she assumed that I was married at that time and when I told her no I wasn’t, her reply was, “So you are going back as a completely different person.”
That really struck inside of me. Was I? Was I a completely different person?
In some ways, yes. In some ways, no.
Getting ready for this trip was like non other. In the past I had traveled quite a lot and never before have I had the pre-travel jitters like I did before this trip. I remember getting ready to go live in Kenya for a year and that Christmas right before I left was very emotional. I was leaving my family for such a long time and my sister and her husband had just announced they were expecting their third child – and I was going to miss all of that. It was emotional for sure.
Getting ready for this trip, it was the thought of leaving my kiddos and my husband behind that punched me in the gut. And all the “what if’s” that ran away with my heart and the ability to breathe properly. It was very emotional again, for different reasons than before. Being married and having children has indeed changed, reshaped, deepened, cut new paths in my heart and all of that has made me a different person.
So, yes, in the leaving, I am a different person.
But I felt that in the being there, I was/am the same person.
There is something very comfortable to me about Eastern Africa. The cadence in which they speak, even if I can’t understand most of it, the rhythm of speech sounds so familiar. The constant living inside/outside. The pressed close, squeezed in, zero thought of personal space. The importance of eyebrows in communicating. The spicy, addicting nature of African tea. The smell – oh glory the smell. Even on trash burning days – it seems right, even if overpowering. All of this seemed familiar and very much remembered.
The strange departure for me in my returning was that in my heart 2007 = Kenya and my trip to Rwanda, while it was amazing the first time, was a blip in that year for me and emotional for different reasons. While we were there my sister was due and my Kenyan phone didn’t work on the Rwandan network so every day I used Liz’s phone to check for updates on the birth of my nephew. My roommate through Africa Inland Missions, Jo, was finished with the term she signed up for after the Rwanda trip and was heading back home to the UK. We had just spent the past several month living out of each other’s pockets and I wasn’t prepared to face the reality that she was headed home and I was going to be returning to Eldoret. The two weeks in Rwanda the first time also provided a nice respite in my year – while we were doing hard physical work, it was so refreshing to see so many familiar and dear to my heart people. It was a complete jumble of emotions.
In returning 10 years later it was for me, a lot of deja vu and a deeper appreciation of what I had experienced before.
In 2007 I remember describing the overall feeling I got from Butare as, solemn and quiet.
In 2017 the over all feeling I would describe of Butare would be, growing, maturing, clean, peaceful.
It is not often that I get to go back to things or places, rarer still is to return to a memory. I feel there is a constant changing and moving forward in life. And I guess that is just how it goes. What is the saying after-all, “you can never go home again.” Not that Rwanda, or Kenya even, is home but in a way they are at least for pieces of me at a time. I think it’s all the moving I’ve done – the giant leaps across the country, and then later in life across the world that has always left me with a strange notion of home. Which I’ve spent a lot of time over the years thinking about and writing out …
Home .version 2.
I thought I lost my heart
in pieces along the way.
Truth is I exchanged those pieces
in the currency of love.
So if home is where the heart is
then my home is sleeping under stars
and red soil stained shoes and your laugh
and that tree they cut down for firewood
and the house with no water and the banda
with the spider and the pool where we
swam and your eyes that really see me and
your arms that build a shelter for my heart.
I don’t remember driving away from Butare in 2007. What my thoughts were or if I ever expected to return. I can say 10 years later the email of being asked to return was nothing I ever expected or imagined would happen and one of the best gifts I have ever been given.