I know I’ve already posted my final blog post. BUT! If you’re interested in following my new adventures check out http://www.petitebriller.tumblr.com/. Thanks a bunch!
I’ve officially been back in the states now for a week and its been quite the whirlwind experience. After spending over 24 hours in an airplane, from Kigali to Entebbe to Qatar to Washington D.C. to Seattle, I was welcomed home by hugs from my folks and younger brother. It was like I entered a time warp and ended up in the Northern Hemisphere, with its dreary, cold weather. Once our Go ED group landed in D.C. we all grabbed our luggage, quickly said our goodbyes, and headed off to catch our connecting flights. It was hard leaving those who I had grown very close to the past four months, but I had to remind myself that it was a ‘see you later,’ and not a goodbye…
While I have enjoyed being back home again with my friends and family it has been hard experiencing reverse culture shock as I reintegrate myself into American society. Going to Target the other day was an intense experience and I have never been so happy in my life to leave that store. While our consumerism has been hard for me to see and experience, I’m thankful that it has made me uncomfortable. The day after coming home, I went through my closet and filled a few garbage bags with clothes, shoes, and bags I don’t need. I never would have thought getting rid of things would be so healing. But I also came to the realization that my belongings don’t have a hold on my life like they did before I went to Africa. Thus, despite the frustrations of culture shock, I’m thankful for recognizing the change in myself.
This past weekend I was able to go down to George Fox to see all my friends who I’ve missed dearly. It was a much needed time to relax and catch up with people, and it made me excited to come back in January. I’m truly thankful for such awesome people who have supported me in my endeavors the past four months.
While this chapter of my life (and this blog) has come to close, I’m reminded of how amazing of a experience I had living in Rwanda and Uganda. I met some pretty neat people who impacted my life in a way I had never experienced. I came face to face with my depravity as a human in a way I have never known, which caused me to fully appreciate my hope in Christ. I have seen death but have been embraced by hope and joy. I have laughed and cried. And I have chosen to say ‘see you later,’ and not goodbye. While I dearly miss living under those sunny African skies, I know I will return again someday soon. So I close my final blog post with praise and thanksgiving. Thank you Lord for an amazing journey in Africa. Thank you for all the Rwandans and Ugandans I met and befriended. Thank you that this is not the end to the greater journey I am on.
I haven’t been the best about blogging the past 2 weeks with all the craziness that accompanies the end of a semester, let alone one in East Africa, but here’s some of my highlights as I’m preparing to return home.
After Safari we had our annual Go ED Thanksgiving feast that was amazing. We had everything from roasted chicken to goat to rabbit to green bean casserole. It was a beautiful time filled with good friends and awesome food. I’m so glad I got to be a part of the celebration, I truly have so much to be thankful for, especially my Go ED Family.
After Thanksgiving we had our final week of classes with Antoine and Olive. We all managed to furiously read a couple of books and write a handful of papers, but its nice now having it all done. Our Oral Literature presentations were really fun as all the practicum groups did skits surrounding the proverbs, short stories, and songs they obtained from the locals while on practicum. Sarah and I made a video that was a modern take on our narrative about the friendship between a snake and a frog. Mikey said it reminded him of something that should be in an episode of Portlandia. That was probably the best compliment ever. Thanks Mikey.
Our last final was for Antoine’s class where we had a research paper and a test. Kimmie, Sarah, and I did ours on Witchcraft and the effects it causes for those who profess to be followers of nontraditional religions, such as Christianity and Islam. Sarah and I heard a lot about witchcraft while we were on practicum, especially because Mukono has the highest percentage in the country of Uganda. Crazy huh?
After we’ve finished up with finals a lot of us girls have been clearing through our closets and making room for our souvenirs. Also, Michael, our director has been leading us in our debrief sessions, and yesterday happened to be our last one. Every time we’ve met together its been an emotional time of reflection as we are preparing to return home and experience reverse culture shock. While I am excited to see all my friends and family again, its going to be a difficult time for reintegration, especially with the materialism that surrounds the Christmas season. What can be expected of my personality is that I will be disgusted with grocery stores and Wal Mart. I will probably live a more simplified life and get rid of a lot of my belongs that I don’t necessarily need. And while I’ll always be Cosette Greeno, my heart and aspects of my demeanor has changed due to the heart wrenching and joy filled experiences I’ve had here in Africa.
Last night we had our cookie Christmas party which was a blast! We took lots of silly pictures, ate cookies, and danced off some calories. Then we all got together to watch the movie project I created for this semester. It ended up being over twenty minutes long with all of our videos and pictures but I could tell by the continuous laughter my mission was accomplished. I’m so thankful for all of my friends I’ve made here in Rwanda and Uganda, especially my Go ED family. They have been a source of constant encouragement and laughter amidst the difficulties of living in a different culture. I know getting on that airplane tomorrow is going to be hard, and it will be even harder in DC having to say goodbye as I hop onto my final plane to Seattle.
Its Sunday morning here at the Go ED house and I’m still a bit sore from the nasty sunburn I managed to get, but looking back on my experiences this weekend it was totally worth it! Early Friday morning we got picked up by 3 Land Rovers (that were pretty sweet looking) and headed out of Kigali towards Akagera National Park, which is a 3 hour drive north. It was really great getting to see another side of Rwanda and I’m amazed by how diverse this country is, even though its the size of the state of Maryland. Once we turned off the paved road and onto a bumpy dirt one, I got extremely excited, especially when we spotted a bunch of zebras right as we entered the park. When we got to the park office area, I switched vehicles and sat on the front top of a rover/cruiser with Allison! Even though my butt was sore after sitting on the bars for a few hours and I managed to get smacked by tree limbs, it was probably one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Once we got to the base of the valley we off-roaded a bit over to some water buffalo, water buck, antelope, and zebras! Then we moved on to the Giraffes! Our three vehicles surrounded 4 of them and they were so amazing to see in the wild. After that we continued on in the loop around Akagera where we were lucky enough to find ELEPHANTS. Recently there was a fire in the park (most likely started by poachers as a divergent) and the elephant herd migrated to Tanzania. And lately some of the elephants have started to come back to Akagera, so we were so blessed to see two of them. Then we managed to race a bunch of muddy wart hogs as we made our way to the lake shore where a bunch of hippos were hanging out. They are literally gigantic in the wild and our drivers kept reminding us to stay close to the cars when we got out for lunch. More people in Africa are killed by hippos then any other animal on the continent, crazy huh?
After lunch we got to see a couple more giraffes before heading down south to our camp site. I switched seats on our vehicle and got to sit in the top back with Andrea. I loved seeing the view of the park from up there and I didn’t want to get down until we hit a rainstorm..but even then I would have liked to stay up on top. We managed to run into several groups of baboons..and man are those things huge and ugly in real life. They look nothing like Rafiki from the Lion King. Once we got to our camp site I was literally blown away by our view. We sat on a hill overlooking a lake, and the opposite shore of the lake was the Tanzanian border. So I can officially say I’ve SEEN Tanzania, but I would still love to go there someday. Aidah, our awesome cook, got to join us for the first time and she whipped out an amazing potato soup for all of us and popcorn while we sat around the fire. The area we camped was well known for leopards and baboons, which was crazy to think about. We had to store our food in the vehicles and get ride of anything else they might want to turn into a midnight snack. Aidah asked us, “What time will the baboons arrive?” She definitely doesn’t like them which was pretty hilarious, especially the next day when she chucked a water bottle at one.
I woke up at 5 am the next morning to watch the sunrise with a bunch of the girls. Even though it was a bit cloudy it was still one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. I wanted someone to pinch me. We literally were camping in the middle of nowhere in Africa and the view was absolutely breath-taking, and I didn’t want to leave. But, sadly we did around 9:30 to finish up our safari. I sat on the top back of the cruiser with our SLC Kat and it was great getting to chat with her as we dodged menancing tree branches. We stopped for lunch at a lake known for fishing and crocodiles, and shockingly we found out that one of the local fishermen was taken recently by one. We also got to see more of the maribou stork, which are the hugest, and nastiest birds I’ve ever seen. They’re all over the place in Kampala and I managed to get pooped on by one when I was there last month. After getting back in our vehicles we got to stop by the old vacation house of President Habyarimana, who was the president right before the 94’ genocide. His plane was shot down over the Kigali airport and the Tutsis were blamed for his death (which was not true). The next few days were the beginnings of the horrific genocide that claimed a million lives. So it was bizarre seeing what used to be the late president’s lake house, especially because him and his wife were awful people. Apparently, he was incredibly superstitous about traditional beliefs and he would visit an oracle (kind of like a priestess) on one of the small islands in the lake.
I was sad to leave Akagera but I’m so thankful for such an awesome experience. I don’t think I could ever go to a zoo again. Africa has definitely spoiled me. Today I’m probably going to be working on homework and possibly going to Chez Lando for lunch. Michael and Adele, our Go ED directors, are here for the last 2 weeks with us and its so great to have them! We’re going to be celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow evening, which everyone is excited about! Soaking up as much as I can these last two weeks. Man has time flown by.