My Rwandan Thanksgiving?

Today was magical. So magical that I’m going to soak up data telling you about it right now.

Today I had roughly 20 of my closest village friends over for dinner and a concert and for what turned into the best day I’ve had in Rwanda yet. My village chief, some of my teachers, my neighbors, my pastor and even one of my favorite village grandmothers came over for a meal to celebrate what has now been almost six months in village.

The day before, I spent some time in preparation with my friend Sosthene. We bought cassava flour and potatoes and were able to find someone in a nearby village who had meat. I started personally inviting people in the village that I wanted to come, unsure of what this party would actually look like.

One of my friends Bernabeau asked what the holiday was. I told him it was “umunsi wa intare” (Lion Day), a day to celebrate the half muzungu, “half Rwandan” community member. On second thought, it sounds a bit egocentric but turns out it was a day actually celebrating the community rather than me. It’s my Rwandan thanksgiving. We plan to celebrate it next year too.

In the morning I went to church and sang in the village choir per usual. I was able to sing most of the words and dance some too, which was an improvement from the trainwreck that was my first day in choir! (Yesterday I danced in front of roughly a thousand Rwandans in the countryside but that’s a story for another day.)

The day was off to a good start. I returned home, listened to a solid encouraging sermon in English and started preparing the house. My friend’s children brought some benches, and we began setting things up.

Mama Bruno (best cook in the village) and Sosthene came over to help cook the meat and show me how to cook the cassava bread. I bought some Fanta and prepared some tea, also preparing a new song I wrote in Kinyarwanda about fighting malaria. Mama Bruno is a community health worker in the health center and also one of my English students. She’s one of the most sarcastic people in village and a great cook so she’s obviously awesome.

We started cooking, making jokes about hoping no one would show up so we could eat all the food. 
People started to trickle in. They all sat in a circle laughing and talking. I had a flashback to my going away a party for IJM in DC–to see people gather like this and to show so much love and support was simply incredible. It was incredible in DC, and now here. Here we were crossing a culture and a language barrier. It left me speechless.

They sat and drank tea, and I played my new song for them (three times per request) as well as some original music I wrote back in the states.

I’ll never forget that concert in the back of my village house. One of my favorites I’ve ever had the chance to play. 

We served the food, and we ate like kings and queens. Cassava, meat sauce, beef and fried potatoes for all. I gave a classic Rwandan speech and tried not to be emotional.

I told them in kinyarwanda how hard it was to leave DC and my community there. I then told them, “you are my family here. I invited each of you because you made moving to the village not difficult and helped me to create a good life.”

It was a special moment. 

Today made all the hard days worth it. I have found family here. I’ve found a new language, and though I still have really hard days, I thank God for a chance to be a part of this community and to have found love and friendship and family in a place that once felt so lonely. 

Cheers to two more years of Rwandan family. And many more years to come of breaking down barriers and finding love on the other side. Love always wins.


1 Comment

  1. Ryan, thank you for these stories. I decided to read your blog before tackling a pile of grading, and I’m glad I did. Thanks for reminding me of the beauty of doing small things with great love.

    Liked by 1 person

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