From Johannesburg to Kigali

I could probably write a book on my two week experience in Rwanda. Not because I changed the world in 2 weeks, but because of the culminating meaning of the trip.

Many people dream about what they want to do when they grow up. For me – I had no freaking clue. I started off in fashion/modeling (dream, not reality) when I was 16, moved to business when I was 17 and signed my life away to the military at 18. Needless to say – I still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up.

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The one thing I have decided, however, is that I want to live a life of service; service to others, in whatever capacity. Make whatever argument you want, to me you have not known true fulfillment until you have the ability to life for others before yourself.

While meandering down this path, I decided to look into life as an aid worker. What better way to see if this was for me than to volunteer in a developing country? Which one to choose? Well, I was going to be in South Africa for the World Cup, so why not tack on a trip to Rwanda!

With its tumultuous past, seemingly quick recovery and uncertain future, to say Rwanda was interesting is an understatement. While I was placed in Kigali, the capital city, my initial impression was pretty much what one would think of an African country.

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First, I started off on kind of a bad foot – I missed my initial flight to Kigali from Johannesburg. My fault? Mmmm… note to self – leave at least 2 hours to check in at any African airport. I arrived an hour prior to my flight (having forgotten most of my money, credit cards and dignity in the rental car my friends dropped me off in) and was told by the Airline manager that they could not possibly let me one the flight. Apparently, an hour is cutting it too close. Their loss really since he ended up expensing a 2 night stay in Johannesburg as well as free transport to and from the airport…

So 3 days later, I finally was met by one of the local volunteers, Muvunyi. After pushing the car down a hill to get it started, we made our way down the dirt roads to the compound where volunteers lived in a family style housing.

Crawling into my mosquito-netted bed, I wondered what the next few weeks had in store for me.

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Adventure Found in a New Place

Have you ever dreamed of traveling the world? Living in different countries? Speaking new languages, seeing new people — challenging yourself in a way that you never thought possible? I did. It was all I ever thought about.

Sitting here in snowy England, I find myself in a quandary — what do you do when you have achieved your dream?

And then it came to me — you think of a new one.

“Be the change you wish to see in the world” – something always quoted but rarely actioned. What do you often talk/complain about? Have you done it?

Berlin in the Rough

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If I am completely honest, Berlin has never fascinated me all that much. Yes, I know my WWI/II history buffs are screaming at me – but it is the simple truth. The anticipation up to the trip there didn’t help much either – as the city break was meant to be a surprise Birthday present for my Ex. As luck would have it, we broke up months before the trip and I was left with 2 round trip tickets and a paid-in-full hotel.

Well Hell if I was going to waste that ticket! I made the trip solo and was left with lots of reflective time in the process.

West Berlin, while pretty, is fairly standard. Now East Berlin – that is something to observe, take in and explore. Whether you took a piece of the wall at that infamous moment in time in 1989 or are new to the city, the East Berlin that was once known for its stark depressive state, is a booming metropolis of history and progress.

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East Side Gallery

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Holocaust Memorial — controversial, but effective. Why the different heights and spaces? To get lost among the stone that represents the millions suffered under Nazi rule. Take a walk through the interactive memorial and understand history.

Gypsies?! aka “Traveler Community”

Today I learned something new — Gypsies exist. And we shouldn’t call them ‘Gypsies’ they are members from the ‘Traveler Community’ (kind of like Indians are ‘Native Americans’).
To be honest, they kind of have a bad reputation. In the UK, they are known for getting drunk and getting into fights. In mainland Europe, they have a bad rep for being beggers who steal all your money and attempt to scam you with sob stories. While these may all be true, the community has one constant in their culture — they are always on the move.
Have you heard of “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding?” Apperantly I am the only person in this modern world who has actually never watched the program – but it is your best bet for trying to understand this subculture of Europe. Weary of strangers, and an extremely closed community, the people are far from the Esmerelda cartoon character I imagined.