Tuesday I went back to eastern Rwanda to help prepare the logistics for four AVP workshops that will be held in the Rwembasha IDP camp to train 80 individuals. The camp is located in Nyagatare district, a part of the country practically sandwiched between Uganda and Tanzania.
It took a long time to get there, but fairly good roads the whole way. The landscape in the northeast was flatter than any other part of the country I’d yet seen: the hills were gently rolling and the earth is almost yellow in color, not red. There is much less vegetation (quite dry and arid), and mostly just acacias dot the hills that are used more often to raise cattle than to farm.
We (myself, the financial coordinator of AVP, and a local facilitator) went to the Nyagatare District Office to ask the permission of the district authorities to hold the workshops. It was interesting to see local governance in action, though we were instantly herded back and forth between offices and experiencing the inefficiency of such bureaucracy slowed us down.
The camp itself is divided into a few different ‘camps,’ and the one we visited was made up of 70 families. One of the camp leaders met us, and as I was walking with him and asking some questions about the camp, I was told that there is no doctor and no school for the entire camp (70 families is a lot of people when you take into account how many children each family might have). I found myself again confronting the same issue I witnessed in Ndego—without basic needs being met, like food, education and health, how on earth can AVP hope to make any sort of sustainable peace? Same questions, different day…
After leaving the camp with the workshop dates settled for the next two weeks, we stopped by a milk processing plant and bought some fresh milk, which tasted like it had come directly from the cow maybe five minutes earlier (maybe it had…). I’ll go back to the camp next week to interview some participants on their experience directly following the workshop, as opposed to the past interviews I was doing which took place months after the workshops.
Back in Kigali now, and joined by Andrew (Haverford ’04 whose blog you can also read through Haverford’s site) and am having a great time hearing about his work which centers primarily around the work of HROC in the North Kivu/Gisenyi area.
So many people have written in response to my last post asking about the correct way to hug, and I should preface it by saying that hugs the way we know them are actually quite uncommon. There are numerous ways to shake hands, each indicating varying levels of respect or the cleanliness of hands. There are also ‘hugs’ which just involve touching the upper arms of another with your hands. When people embrace, the often don’t wrap their arms around one another, but rather come close and ‘faire la bise’ like the French – but three times is the norm. Men will sometimes also touch foreheads, once on both sides and then once in the middle so they are nose to nose (this is my favorite and by far the most intimate of friend greetings). There are many other combinations of hand shaking and arm holding, but it has been quite an experience trying to gauge what someone is going to do as they come at you…