Thursday, July 24, 2008

Rwanda - Day 3

Mayor of Kigali

In the morning we were picked up from our host families and everyone was dressed in our orange WE-ACTx t-shirts. We were on our way to meet the Mayor of Kigali – Aisa Kirabo Kacyira. While awaited our welcome in a beautiful garden – all the girls chatted, took photos, some people were interviewed by a local film crew or radio station. Then the Mayor came out to greet us and apologized that she would not be able to do the official welcome since somehow our meeting was scheduled the same time she had a security meeting. We took a few photos, gave her one of our signature t-shirts and exchanged a few words. So the official welcome was lead by one of her colleagues. She expressed how important this exchange between young adults of Kigali and Chicago is. She thanked Dr. Mardge for making this exchange possible and hoped that the two cities would become wonderful friends and that the relationships between the girls would last a long time.


Our next stop was the place of economic development, providing income generation for the women. That is where all the women make the dolls, a variety of bags and shirts. By selling their hand-made products they are able to support themselves better. Each of us received a small tote bag with the official WE-ACTx Chicago-Kigali Girls Exchange patch sewn on it. We could choose among so many beautiful hand-batiked fabrics to find one we preferred the most.

Many girls bought even more souvenirs. The large, two-sided totes with the pouch seemed to be the favorite item. Each product has a tag with a name of the woman who sewed it. So many girls had the chance to take a photo with the lady who actually crafted the bag.

Later we sat down in a circle to talk about what else happens in Ramera. We met many youths and women, counselors who talked how WE-ACTx helps women and kids deal with HIV/AIDS. We talked about what kind of counseling services they provide, how they are trying to fight stigma in their communities. A few of the Rwandan girls are involved in HIV/AIDS prevention groups, so we learned what they are doing. And the Rwandans were eager to hear about how are we fighting this problem in United States and in our own communities.

Afrika Bite

For lunch we ate at the Afrika Bite again. We really enjoyed that place. Many Chicagoans really came to love not just the food of Rwanda, but also the drinks. I especially enjoyed the Rwanda green tea (they call it chai). And it seemed that everyone in Rwanda was drinking their tea with milk. I became a big fan of it. So I would drink the green tea with powdered milk and Rwandan honey whenever I got the chance. Others mostly enjoyed different pops and fruit juices. Lime Fanta (they call it citron) became the crowd favorite. Passion fruit juice (called agashya) was ordered constantly as well. It is a syrup that you mix with cold water. A few Chicago girls will try to buy a few bottles to bring back to Chicago.

In Claudine's Memory

After grabbing a bite we all went to visit Claudine's mother at her house. We met the family and sat in the living room. This was especially hard for Claudine's mom and Latrice. Latrice got to know Claudine through the few e-mails they wrote to each other before the unfortunate accident took Claudine's life. But now she never got the chance to actually meet her. People passed around photo of Claudine and spoke a few words in her memory. Claudine's mom said that Latrice looked exactly like her daughter and that she would gladly adopt her at least for the few days she is staying in Rwanda. We gave our condolences to the family and took some group photos.

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