My time in Rutsiro is coming to a close. I’m not quite sure how I’ll come to grips with that.
It’s difficult to imagine life without the sounds of a village waking up around me each morning. The cries of small babies, the playful joy of young children, the bleat of goats, the chatter of greetings and conversations echoing across the valleys.
No more saturday afternoon football matches the whole community comes out to watch. No more friday nights at the night club with 20 of my closest friends. No more mass at the outdoor pavilion high above the lake spreading out misty blue across the western horizon.
How quickly my clothes will dry without the afternoon rain and near constant mist that hangs over our town! But how sad to miss the quiet that descends with the fog and the rain, the power of the thunder and brilliant show of lightening that is among the most frequent and dangerous in the world.
Will I be able to replace the shops and markets – and more importantly, their owners – who always have just what I need, including a good conversation shared over a counter full of fruits and vegetables? I know I can’t replace my neighbors who cook for me when I’m ill, laugh with me in the sunshine, share with me over dinner, and teach me with a genuine care that will touch my heart for always.
I could try to be thankful for the end of moto rides on muddy or dusty or rock-strewn bumpy roads, but in that pre-departure haze, even these have become sacred. I’ll miss the children shouting out for discarded water bottles, that I wish, but never seem, to have. I’ll miss the emerald green vista of terraced hills rising up and down along side. I’ll miss that hair-pin turn where the kids race across the valley as quick as they can just so they can stand and wave to me on the other side. I’ll miss the cascading waterfall down stepped black rock, the new steel bridge that was once out of commission for over three months, the house where I took shelter from the rain on my very first moto ride and the kids still shout out greetings every time I pass.
I’ll miss coming around the bend in the road just where the wide, shallow river winding through the valley comes into view. I’ll miss the village where I made friends while the driver fixed a flat tire. I’ll miss going up the mountain to Murunda and knowing I helped lay the rocks that make the muddy pass a little more navigable. I’ll miss the waves and greetings from pedestrians carrying bundles of grass or sticks or produce for the market on their heads and their surprised faces when I wave and shout back a hearty “Komera!”
In honor of my departure (I’d like to think), the paving of the road is finally on the horizon. The trees have been cut to allow for widening, topographers are out in force to survey the land, and heavy machinery has made an appearance.
Though I’m happy for the development this will bring to Rutsiro, one of the last remaining areas of the country without a paved road, I’m also sad it will mean things will never quite be the same when I return. But I suppose the road alone won’t be the cause of that.
Life will continue in Rutsiro after I’m gone. Some people will leave, new shops will open. The fancy hotel may eventually be finished. The forest will one day attract tourists. I hope they will see even half the beauty I have found living in Rutsiro.
I suppose, in fact, that though I am physically preparing to leave this home of mine, this home, Rutsiro, will never in fact leave me. It’s written itself upon my heart and soul with friendships and laughter, joys and tears, overcoming fears and braving new endeavors, and lots and lots of dancing.