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"Seven weeks to look, see, learn, and share some skills in Conflict Resolution…
For over a year this journey has gradually been coming together. But the seeds were sown over 40 years ago when serving in Tanzania with the Peace Corps."  

July 12, 2007


I'm working on the slowest computer in Gisenyi, Rwanda so I won't make with all the niceties.

After teaching a seven hour class of mediation on Sunday, I went to town on Monday am and changed money, and bought a cell phone, my first I 've ever purchased. I think more people here have cell phones than small pox vaccinations. They are carried by everyone because the land lines are as functional as the water supply in the dry season which is now. The water runs once a week (that's one day a week) in the quarter where I was staying. I was luckey to hit the water day when I was there. But washing is out of a bucket, the toilet is flushed that way too. And drinking water is bottled or boiled. In the afternoon on Monday I rode the bus with Eugene who teaches the Alternatives to Violence courses here. We travelled three hours through land that makes West Virginia look like a prairie state. JUst beautiful and every hillside cultivated from bottom to top. Impossible slopes to grow on, but the Rwandans have developed a technique. There's not much forest left, I'm not sure where the wood comes from to make the charcoal that most people cook on. Probably the Congo. We travelled to the northwest side of the country to a town called Gisenyi. I'm about 200 yards from the Congo border. There were a lot of UN soldiers (Indian) on very deluxe buses heading that way while we were travelling.

For two days Eugene, Marthe, and myself conducted the AVP workshop with some remarkable Rwandans at the Quaker church. Next door, young Canadian and American volunteers were carrying hod to help the Rwandan masons build a youth center. To say I taught AVP is a misnomer, I assisted Eugene and Marthe, but I think I connected with a few people who were there. The class was taught in Kinyarwandan language and translated to me in French and I did my part in French that was translated back. One old gentleman named Ignace (77 yrs.) caught my attention, and I sat with him and conversed in French which he understood. I told him that my wife Marie's grandfather shared that name with him. He said in front of the group that I was the first European that ever greeted him and treated him as an equal, and he came across the room and hugged me. Believe me, the biggest thing I contributed in two days was probably that moment, and for me it was the biggest gift. There are some tears in my eyes as I write this.

Lots of building is going on, the country is still in reconstruction after the war that ended 13 years ago. Streets are volcanic sand and projects of lava that stick through the sand. You can see 3 or 4 volcanos from here on a clear day. The latest eruption was 2002 and it destroyed forty percent of the neighboring town of Goma in the Congo. Tomorrow I cross to Goma to teach a three day course in mediation. I had the phone number of a man named Samuel who lives over there. I called and spoke French and he answered in English that he will come over tomorrow AM to pick me up and accompany me to the class site. Nice to have a cell phone, and to know that everyone else has one. Costwise it was thirty dollars and you buy cards to add minutes, just like home. NO monthly bill.

Cant send photos on this old computer.
I better send this before there's an electricity failure.
All the best ,
George

 

 

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