Glimpses from a sun-drenched elsewhere

Gabrielle Spear
Contributor

“What will you tell people back home about Rwanda?” my host sister and neighbor asked, me on separate occasions, a week before I left.
I paused, unable to articulate a meaningful response. I had been asking myself that same question for a while. “Be good

Photo of some locals on the sun-drenched beaches in Uganda (Photo: Gabrielle Spear)

Photo of some locals on the sun-drenched beaches in Uganda (Photo: Gabrielle Spear)

ambassadors to our country,” Rwandans always said. But that is such a loaded request.
“You,” I finally told them.
They seemed surprised.
“The hills,” I continued.
They laughed – a kind laugh, but a laugh all the same. As if to say: How naïve. How young. How American.
They do not understand how I can love a country that is not my own. Sometimes I do not even understand.
When I told people I planned to study abroad in Rwanda, they usually displayed looks of pity, as if a trip dedicated to understanding the complexities of genocide meant I would only experience sadness. But a country made up of survivors is naturally filled with life – the best kind of life, life that is thankful.
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Another Rivka: from oral history of Holocaust to Rwanda

Gabrielle Spear
Contributor

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Spear (left) with her host sister. (Photo: Gabrielle Spear)

“Sorry,” my host mom said when I found out she survived the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis. The word is a reflex born of a language barrier. Rwandans apologize for nearly everything, but this “sorry” held weight and meaning.
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