Over the past few weeks I've had the opportunity to share a piece of my world with my mom. Studying abroad in Rwanda restructured how I think about the world and how I view my role within the global community. The minds I was so fortunate to be surrounded by led me to consider situations in a more holistic and critical manner and dared me to imagine creative solutions to local and global issues. As the semester approached its end, the fact that my experience would be frozen in time was impossible to grasp.
When I returned home, my mom patiently sat and listened to my stories. She heard my tales of triumph and sadness, embarrassment and pure happiness, and everything in between. She let me show her hundreds of photos, most of which only differed slightly from their antecedent and subsequent ones. She watched me walk away in frustration when my words weren't doing my experiences justice. Thus it was incredibly special for her to come see my Rwandan home for herself. We decided to design a trip that would cater to new and old experiences, allowing me to share memories of Kigali, Kibuye, and Gisenyi, while also getting to explore Nyungwe Forest National Park and Volcanoes National Park together for the first time.
In the midst of a whirlwind of a week we flew to Kigali, reentering the beautiful city that was my home for four months. Identical to my arrival a year and a half ago we were greeted by the tease of nightfall, masking Rwanda's perpetual rolling hills except where outlined by the pattern of city lights. Throughout our time in Kigali, my mom was gradually able to attach images to my stories. I excitedly showed her all of our favorite spots: the Kenyan bar in Kimironko, where the soccer fans of the group would anxiously watch our teams compete against each other; the best place to get brochettes (which we aptly nicknamed "Brochette Bar"), the second home of post-semester stragglers; and Moucecore, our trusty guest house, home to both life-changing conversations and shenanigans alike. As we travelled around the city, I was the unnecessarily detailed tour guide. ("This is where we ate after we watched the Rwanda vs. Uganda game in the stadium. This is where I almost got hit by a moto.") In some circumstances my mom knows the memories associated with each place. In others, it's simply comforting to know that our moto ride brought us past the bar where my most meaningful interaction took place or that we drove across the stretch of road where Kigali finally felt like home.
It's impossible to explain the immense significance of each trip to the market, each moto ride, and each long conversation in a hole-in-the-wall bar. It's equally impossible to condense our experience together into a measly blog post. But I will always remember the smile on my mom's face when my four-year-old host sister, Alfa, dubbed her "Mama Aly" and the unspoken connection between mom and host mama, women who have loved and worried about me finally meeting their counterparts. I will always remember my mom's increased sureness on the back of a moto taxi, zipping around the city as if it were nothing. And I will always remember and appreciate her willingness to see Kigali through my eyes - cold showers, Mutzigs, long walks, and all.
To the infini-T community, thank you for letting me have my mom to myself over the past few weeks. In return, we are excited to share Rwandan tea and coffee, as well as stories of our adventures. We get the privilege of exploring the world and bringing back pieces of our travels because of wonderful people like you.
Stay tuned for more snippets of our trip!