Thoughts from Rwanda: The Experience

Saturday, May 21

I saw a boy going to the well the other day. He was probably about 7, and he was carrying several 4-liter water jugs on a string. I still do not know how he could carry all of that weight (at least 100 lbs. of water), home. I huffed and puffed after just carrying a gallon of water just five minutes from the well.

Rwandans are hard workers, but I don’t think I realized that until I participated in the African Transformation Network’s (ATN) simulation of the Rwandan Experience.

Our guide Peter, a worker of ATN, showed us how to cut bananas, bamboo, and fetch water from a well. We dressed in traditional African attire, skirts and headdresses, following along to learn the work of a traditional Rwandan family.

After carrying 22 lbs. of bananas on my head (only half of what a Rwandan carries) and walking just five minutes to fetch about a gallon of water (far less than half the time and weight most Rwandans are used to), I was sore and out of breath. My fingernails were dirty for two days after harvesting and peeling bananas for dinner. My clothes were stained and damp from sweat.

Rwandans do this every day.

Everyday women wake up when the light shines through their doorless entryways. They bend over to sweep their dirt floor and yards with a bundle of sticks and a baby strap to their backs. They fetch at least 44 pounds of water from a well up and around the hill, and they harvest the crops and prepare meals for their family. They clean beans and separate corn kernels from the cob.

Rwandans do this every day, and I can’t wrap my mind around it.

I’m used to getting water from the tap, whenever I want it. I’m used to pulling out a snack from the fridge or pantry, whenever I want it. I’m used to brooms with handles and furnished house floors. I’m used to spending time studying, playing, or experiencing new things, not just surviving.

I appreciate my luxuries, but I am jealous of their strength.

Towards the end of our simulation, our group was welcomed into the home of a Rwandan family. We sat on benches made from wooden planks inside their boxy home made from a sand mixture. The only furniture was a table and the benches against the walls. The people talked with us and laughed with us. They were content, and they had joy.

I appreciate my comfy couches and flat screen TV, but I am jealous of their simplicity.

I’d like to live like a Rwandan for more than just a day. I’d like grasp their full culture, work ethic and simplicity. I’d like to master balancing 40 lbs. on my head and cook a whole meal just over a fire.

I don’t feel inconvenienced by their lack of material items and easily accessed necessities, but I find comfort in their peace of working so hard yet living so simply.

Check our more about our Rwandan Experience on


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