How a Popsicle stick got me to Rwanda

Shelly RosenOver the years I,  have been asked why Rwanda and what is it that draws me to a place that is usually referenced in peoples minds by genocide and the mountain gorillas.So here is a bit of how the my story and journey to Rwanda began.

The story begins in 2005 when my son William was a fifth grader in the Seattle Public schools. His assignment was to write a 12 page report on the country African country of his choice.  By chance and the draw of a popsicle stick with his name on it, it was his turn to choose, he chose Rwanda.  When he came home and told me about the paper and the country he had picked, my response was “where?”  I knew nothing about Rwanda.  Honestly, I didn’t even know where the country was or how big, rather small, it was.  So he began his own research. But there were mountains of obstructions. What he found was vast amounts of information about genocide but little else. Our own Seattle Public Libraries didn’t even have one book about Rwanda, anywhere in their system.  So I began to help him with the research, something I learned I loved to do.

Our search lead us to a coffee shop on Capital Hill in Seattle,  that sold Rwandan Coffee.  In hopes they might be able to share anything about Rwanda with us, we went on a research date.  Not only did they have coffee and some agricultural information about Rwandan they had a Rwandan contact. They shared the name and email address. The next best surprise was this contact was living just outside of Seattle.  When we got home I emailed this mystery man, Arthur.  My email to Arthur told him that I was emailing for my 5th grade son and asked if he would be willing to answer some questions about Rwanda via email, phone or over a cup of coffee. He responded quickly and said a “yes.”  The following wee we were back at the coffee shop waiting to meet.

The first time we met Arthur, William and I learned more about Rwanda than we had learned in weeks of research. There is also one more important piece to this story. William soon realized, at age 12, that the commonality of the Holocaust and the Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994 were parallel histories.  As he was beginning his Bar Mitzvah studies, this made Rwanda even more of a draw for me and for him too. Neither of us could understand this repetition of history and I now had more questions that I could not find answers for.

William completed his paper, with a final grade of an A+.  Like most kids once his paper was done he was ready to move on.  Summer vacation was after all just a few weeks away.

For the next ten months I consumed everything I could find on Rwanda, genocide and the Holocaust.  Arthur and I had also spent many hours on email and conversations about Rwanda and contemplating history.  He became much like a new found brother.  Our conversations at times we over coffee or even family dinners.

One family dinner in January of 2006, I asked him when he would be returning to Rwanda.  His response was he would be leaving in six weeks.  I like most envious at home moms, in a silly tone, said “I’ll go with you.”  What transpired next was something none of us expected.  Arthur very seriously looked at me and said, “You either come with me, or don’t ever ask me again.”  I knew he was serious and it was now or never.

Six weeks later, you guessed it, I was on a plane to Rwanda.  I thought this trip would be a way for me to see if I could come with two boys aged 13 for a little volunteer work as required for their Bar Mitzvah’s.  Suffice it to say that is not what happened.

Upon landing in Rwanda and my first steps off of the plane, I knew that I had landed somewhere unique, special, haunted and magnetic.  There was no way for me to know what would transpire over the next six days would change my whole life and I would find the focus and passion that would drive my life forward.  There was something about Rwanda that grabbed me to my core and would not let go.  I became more driven then I had ever been. I was eating, drinking, dreaming, reading, watching and talking Rwanda nearly 24 hours a day.

Today I believe my family and friends were certain that Rwanda was another passing fancy and that I would run out of steam for it.  As of today the 22nd of February, 2013 I am still going strong with my passion and am thrilled beyond belief at where this journey has brought me.

To learn more about my story and Intore Expeditions watch for our continuing story posts on this blog.

 

74 comments... read them below or add one

Comments

  1. Loren on February 28, 2013
    Reply

    I love this story, looking forward to the next installments. Is there an option to subscribe to RSS feed?

  2. Mathilde Mukantabana on March 1, 2013
    Reply

    …And so the story goes. You are now stuck. Rwandan to the core! Welcome home Shelly

    • admin on March 1, 2013
      Reply

      Mathilde – I would not say I am stuck. I would say privileged to be there. Warm, sunny, friendly, safe, beautiful and
      an amazing place to learn things that will change your life forever. It is all about the lens. Murakoze Mathilde – I love
      my second home. Shelly

  3. Shelly on March 1, 2013
    Reply

    Loren,
    Thank you for your kind words. I am looking forward to adding to the blog. The next installment will be about Paul. Thank you also for inquiring about the RSS feed. We have it added now.

    Kind regards,
    Shelly

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