I stepped off the airplane into the warm Kigali evening– exhausted from 26 hours of travel, sleeping in an airport, wearing the same clothes for a few days, and forgetting to stick my toothbrush in the carryon instead of the suitcase. But stepping off that airplane, all of that did not seem to matter. The air was warm and thick, and smelled like a mixture of tropical plants and red dirt. Something about that scent brought me back to northern Thailand, or even southern Brazil for just a moment. I felt my hair curl into ringlets almost immediately, a nice little bonus in my eyes.
After gathering all my things and passing through customs, I was greeted by Linda and a large group of her students. Hugs from everyone, smiles and a big welcome. It was completely delightful.
Let’s see– Linda is wonderful. We have sat and had some great conversations about our crazy adventures in traveling, hiking, and photography in the past few days. She has expressed just how difficult grad school is for an MFA in photography, and how we both probably belong more to the documentary photography world and definitely not the fine art world. I like her so much already.
Just as a disclaimer, I think I have taken about 10 photos so far, all on my phone. I have been just sleeping and trying to get adjusted to a new place! More will come, and good ones, I promise.
Home is a three bedroom house, with Linda (just for a few more days until she goes back to Connecticut for school), Vanessa (a CA girl volunteering at a center for boys doing sports with them), and me. Teo is the guard, and Milkshake and Coco are the adorable dogs, such sweeties. I sleep beneath a mosquito net, and even though it is just a normal necessity here, I feel a bit like a princess. Beyond the gate is a neighborhood bustling with locals– women carrying enormous baskets on their heads, babies on their backs, men with incredible loads on their bicycles, pushing them up the hill. Moto taxis are everywhere, kind of like in Southeast Asia. The air is warm and humid, but not suffocating. It feels wonderful to be able to walk around barefoot on the tile in my sundress with the back door open in January. It is always during the Colorado winters that I am reminded how I will forever be a Californian.
The market is a wonderful cacophony of sights, smells, and sounds. I was thankful that Raymond went with me to buy some fruit and veggies, as he had to barter for each item. Raymond works with Linda at the project I’ll be with for the next month. I learned how to balance on the moto taxi while holding my groceries already… nothing impressive for a Rwandan, but I felt pretty accomplished.
So, here’s a few answers to my most commonly asked questions right now:
1. What are you doing in Rwanda? Well, a bunch of stuff. For the first month I’m here, I’ll mainly be working as an artist in residence for Linda while she off at grad school. Her nonprofit is called “Through the Eyes of Hope”, go check out the work! She has taught the kids she works with photography as a means of income, and they run a small studio near their school. I’ll be doing a big art project with them throughout the month, as well as hopefully doing a bit of promo work for Linda. Look for updates on that, I’ll post stuff as we work!
As for the rest of my time, I’ve gotten connected with several nonprofits and ministries to help them do promo work. My goal as a traveling photographer is to help people with making their cause known– whether it’s new content for their websites, little promotional videos to show to their donors or churches back home, documentary work, or even family photos. I want to help out with media in any way I can. You’ll probably see work from a lot of different projects while I’m here, just because I’ve already met and been connected with a lot of wonderful people.
Later on, I can answer more questions about the rest of my travels, and what happens at the end of Feburary… we’ll see!
2. Do you have internet? Well, yes, I surely do. I bought myself a modem, and connect whenever I’d like. So, feel free to get in touch with me whenever you’d like! I love to Skype and chat!
3. Do you have a phone? Yes, I bought a local phone. I discovered that I do not actually know how to make international calls, but I’m guessing it would be expensive if I did… not too sure. That’s what Skype is for anyway. But if you are here in Kigali, I can definitely get in touch with you!
4. Do you feel scared? Nope, not at all. Before leaving, I felt a lot of anxiety, but it had much more to do with just the waiting process, and not with any of the things I might face here. Already, I feel welcome and incredibly safe. Linda has lived in Rwanda for many years now, and knows the culture pretty well. I have been educated on food safety, and just yesterday was reminded to always take my malaria pills with food 🙂 The drivers are a whole lot safer here than in Asia, and the roads are way better (at least in the city) than in Mexico. So… I’m fine. I get a bit nervous when I think about the future and what it holds, but the best cure for that is to simply breathe and enjoy the current moment. Let tomorrow take care of itself, today has enough to worry about now.
Tomorrow, I get to go to the studio for the first time. I will bust out my actual camera for the first time in a few weeks, instead of just the cell phone! In a few weeks, I’m probably going to go over to the boys center with Vanessa and photograph their celebration of having their own volleyball court built. I am also looking forward to meeting up with some Colorado connections here in Kigali– it’s such a small world!
If anyone runs into my parents, give them a hug for me! Someone PLEASE show my dad how to check my blog. I think he gets frantic when no texts come.