There was always something different about this trip. A few months ago I had found myself crying for home, with deep feelings of heartbreak and loss. My soul needs regular top ups of Rwanda, it craves it, yearns for it. Though this time around, compared to my younger years, I didn’t have to just sit and feel sad. That realisation was an overwhelmingly empowering one. Rwanda is something that is attainable – I don’t have to wait on anyone to make it back home – I have full control of the outcome of my happiness.
I am here on the flight to Rwanda, and my heart is crying. I miss my parents so much. I wish they were still alive. I just want to see a fragment of them. I’m writing so that I don’t break down a thousand miles up in the air. I know it’s good to cry but sometimes my feelings around Rwanda are so overwhelming that I feel I can’t breathe.
It’s a funny thing what we see as home. It’s only when I go back to Rwanda that I realise how much I miss it. I want my children to love their homeland. To learn about it’s pain, joy and past. And understand the stake they have in shaping it’s future.
I wonder what my parents are up to now. Dancing, singing, laughing, being. The force that pulls me back to Rwanda every time is more powerful than anything in the world. Even though I have so few memories of the life I once had, my heart strings get pulled back time and time again. I’ve learnt to answer it’s call instead of fighting against it and wrap myself tightly in it’s arms.
I have built myself a strong and fulfilled life, one that I hope are making my parents proud. The walls are strong, I can feel the ground. I wanted to build the foundations so they were solid to support my children. There was a time that the thought of having a child, and looking at a reflection of my parents broke me inside. Restarting the family tree gave me a great feeling of anxiety and dread. And now, I simply can’t wait. I see all the goodness that I have inherited from them, and I’m so excited to pass it on.
In the midst of the tears, I am here on the flight thinking, ‘damn, I’ve done good’. I’ve pulled through. Made something of yourself. Journeyed through from trauma to strength with so much grace and class. And I’m thankful for every heartbreak and struggle, because it has allowed me to lead me to today – and today is pretty great.
It feels nice to be back. Arriving into Kigali felt like a soft comfort blanket being pulled around me. The noise, smell, and life is now more familiar, more soft, more like home. The first time I got on a motor taxi, I clung onto it as if my life was on edge. Now I find a great feeling of freedom and a space to think during the journey.
I went to visit a friend for coffee. I feel very lucky to have made friends in Rwanda that over the years have become like family.
I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 22… Actually, feeling 28! Happy birthday to me! The reason why I’m here. The best birthday gift to myself: home. Birthdays are for doing what you want, and this is it! It’s pretty wonderful to be able fly over and celebrate. I spent the day with a glass of wine in one hand and pizza in another – what more could a girl want?
My time-hop reminded me that this time 4 years ago I got my first flight s back to Rwanda as my birthday gift. I remember practically crying with happiness for making what felt like an impossible dream come true. The first journey back was the hardest, but that first step literally changed everything. I’m now in my fourth visit, and I’m blessed to have re-found a home, a safe place I feel safe, closure, and a small sense of walking in my Rwandan parents steps.
One of things I was most anxious about this trip was travelling around on my own. My level of Kinyarwanda stretches to about 5 words, which makes interactions interesting. I really struggled with looking Rwandan but not ‘feeling’ Rwandan a lot during my first few visits. The language barrier has been a huge challenge, with an endless imposter syndrome and feeling of only ever having one foot in and the other in limbo.
I have accepted that I’m not going to miraculously be trilingual overnight. Realistically I would need to move to Rwanda and immerse myself in it for me to fully match the outside to the inside. Until then, I will continue to do regularly top ups of home, continue to be kind to myself, and well, you never know what the future may hold.
I took my first road trip to Musanze to see the caves. I had heard about it from someone’s YouTube channel. It was a long journey there and back, but every second worth it. The caves are at the Volcano National Park, and the views around are simply breath taking. It’s on my bucket list to make it back to trek the volcanos. There’s something captivating about the beauty of Rwanda.
To end the day I got have dinner overlooking Kigali. Whatever angle I look at Rwanda, I fall in love with it. Over and over again.
Today has mainly been spent sitting very still getting my hair done. A whole 7 hours of it. I love being able to completely transform myself through my hair. It’s a stamp of identity. Abracadabra!
Today started off with eating too much breakfast, then lying very still for it all to digest. Food tastes so good here, that sometimes it’s difficult to slow down.
I decided to go visit the Genocide Memorial. It’s now my 3rd visit, and each of them have held such a special meaning. I was only planning to spend 2 hours there then head home, but found myself being there for the whole day.
The memorial is my way of paying my respects, and to have the space to mourn for my Rwandan parents. And boy do I miss them so much. There’s times that I feel like my heart is being ripped apart. Coming to terms with loss when I was little was really hard. I just didn’t know what to do with all the razer blade feelings. I wanted to mourn, but not seen ungrateful – to cry my heart out but not seem forever unhappy. I used to wish so many times that my parents had passed away in a more convential way, where there’s a funeral, where you’re given that space to feel sad and hate on the world for as long as you need to. The memorial centre has given me permission to grease and the strength to build myself back again.
I’ve always held on to the idea that they never really left but just turned into my guardian angels. Whilst leaving me with their great genes, resilience and hope for a better life.
I had a day trip Butare to visit the National Museum. On a normal day, a visit to a museum wouldn’t be my number one choice activity, but one of the goals for this trip was to learn more about Rwanda, and discover it properly – outside Kigali.
It was so good to learn more about the history. To find out how my family lived all those years ago.
This country has an abundance of so much richness and strength. Often when you think about Rwanda, you only think about genocide – when actually the country is built on so much more than that.
Rwanda, you’re even more beautiful now I know more about you.
It wouldn’t be a visit back without going back to where it all started. Today I journeyed to Byumba to where I was born. I’ve no real memories of it all before, other than fragments of horror like images which I’ve no idea how to work out which are the broken pieces of reality. Yet every time I go, it’s where my soul feels most at peace. I’m captivated by it’s beauty, and the soothing feeling that this is where my parents once walked. When I was a kid I wondered so much what home used to be like. I’m glad that now I have something I can touch, feel and see. Byumba, you’re just as beautiful as the first time I met you again.
I visited a friend who used to be in the orphanage with us many moons ago. Now he’s built numerous schools in Rwanda, with hopes of building a university. Education is platform for opportunity, yet not everyone has access to it. I’m hoping to work out a way to set up a scholarships fund to support young people excel through education. It’s my bucket list dream that I am slowly working towards.
One of the best things about this trip has been all the solo road trips to discover the endless beauty of Rwanda. The first trip back in 2013 left me with a bucket load of anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, and a good years worth of intense depression. Sweet heavens I’m proud of the journey from then to now. Rwanda, you will forever and always have a piece of my heart. Thank you for letting me fall in love with you all over again.
All aboard the homeward flight back to the UK. Everytime I leave Rwanda, I question why I’m leaving in the first place. There’s going to come a time where the sporadic visits won’t be enough, but until then, I’m glad that Rwanda is there to welcome me home every time I come back. I am so proud of myself for how much I’ve grown through all my visits. For the strength to have gotten back up after the trips and falls – and the ability to take in every step of this incredible journey.
Goodbye isn’t forever. Goodbye isn’t the end. It only means I will miss you, until we meet again.
I’m really proud that I can now say that I’ve accomplished my childhood wish of finding inner peace and feeling in harmony with my past. Not the usual “when u grow up, I want to be…” but I felt every fragment of the wish when I found myself sobbing in the middle of the night exhausted over feeling so broken. The pain of Rwanda used to hold me back from so much happiness – and now I feel an unprecedented feeling of freedom.
If that’s not something to shout from the rooftops, I don’t know what is.
I’ve built myself an armour from all the pain and turned it into something good. Mamma, I’ve made it back, and now I’m invinsible.