It’s been six months since our Style For Justice trip to Rwanda.
Goodness, I miss it so much.
I miss the ladies I was with and the people we met and the crazy drivers and the fact that our smart phones didn’t work and so we spent our time talking and laughing and not worrying about clicking away at our phones. I miss waking to the strangest bird songs while wrapped in mosquito nets and the morning lattes and the ways my heart was broken and opened and stretched.
But most of all, I miss my friend Solange.
Isn’t she just the most darling lady you’ve ever seen?! This photo was taken on the day we visited her home and met her family and the day I made a soul-friend who couldn’t even speak my language. (I wrote a bit more about her in this post about Twirling in Africa). A few days later, IJM & Noonday hosted a dinner for all of the sewing group and their families, as well as a handful of IJM clients and I sat with Solange and her family. That hour of visiting with them was the highlight of my whole trip and probably ranks at the top of my favorite moments in all of my life.
I’m not sure how it happened, but the conversation turned at one point from me asking a million questions about their family and schooling and country to them asking me the most endearing-a-little-bit-embarrassing-wow-our-lives-are-so-different-but-really-not-at-all types of questions. Solange’s oldest son, Jean Luc, his cousin and uncle asked about my pale skin – if it got hot in the sun like theirs (yes), what the dots were (freckles), what it felt like (same as their dark skin!). They asked about flying on an airplane and how you relieve yourself and I told them you can get out of your seat and walk around and that blew their minds. We talked about the ocean and snow and I shared a package of cheezits (a hit) and almonds (not so much). They taught me Kinyarwandan words and laughed and my terrible pronunciation. I taught Solange a few English words and it turned out she could speak them beautifully. We wrote out phrases to practice and she told me she loved me very much.
That was our last night in Kigali, Rwanda and it was a teary goodbye. Thankfully, she has an email address and we’ve been able to email back and forth since July. A grown-up pen pal, if you will.
Our emails are funny – she writes in surprisingly good English and tells me of her family or her prayer requests or the ways she is praying for our family. I write and ask questions :) I just love learning more about what life is like for a 40-something mother in Africa and finding ways to relate. If I learned anything from the trip it was that while we are so different in many external ways, we are truly all the same inside.
One of the things I value most in friendship is honesty, but it’s been weird figuring out how to be honest with my friend from Rwanda. It’s hard to type in an email, “we’re heading up to the mountains to go skiing for the weekend!” when I know that opportunity or even idea doesn’t exist in her life. I want a true friendship that is based on sharing our lives and day-to-day experiences and it’s challenging to do that when what is normal in America is so not-normal in Rwanda. It has made me step back and appreciate what I have, but also dig deeper for things to talk about and share and ask questions that transcend our cultures and socioeconomic status. I never would have expected a trip to Africa to teach me about humanity and friendship the way it has.
While in Rwanda we collaborated on designs with the women at the sewing co-op for Noonday Collection. We split into teams, came up with products and brought them back for vote at a nation-wide noonday trunk show this summer. The votes were counted and two items were selected, the seamstresses have been hard at work and we’re excited to announce that they are now available for purchase!
The art work I made was turned into a journal (with really nice, thick paper I might add) as a fun extra.
The clutch was my very favorite of all and the big tote is super great for carrying at the beach, to the market, at the gym. Best of all, ordering any of these items supports Solange and her co-workers half-way across the globe. There is a limited quantity of each, so hurry over to Noonday to order!