Taryn – Overcoming Tragedy

“Why do bad things happen to good people?” is the common phrase that most people think about when a tragic event occurs in one’s life. This question has toppled my mind multiple times as for why bad things have happened to my friends and why it happened to them, not me.

It all started with my Grandma LC. She was diagnosed with cancer and was treated for it for as long as it would help. She passed when I was in 7th grade, and this was my first occurrence of tragedy. I did not grasp the reason why she had to leave us from Earth at that moment. A few years later, the tragedy in my life continued and soon escalated as my friend ST passed, my Grandpa BM passed, my friend NB passed, and friend ZL. Now, I wouldn’t say that I have a good handle on death, but I have a newfound meaning on what it means to be alive and living the life we’ve been given, especially last week when I received an email last week that a friend back home was diagnosed with cancer.

A year ago I was allowed the privilege to listen to Noemi Ban, a survivor of the Holocaust, at Western Washington University. Ban was 21 when she lost her mother, grandmother, thirteen-year-old sister and six-month-old brother. Although the loss and suffering she survived was tragic, her story and book “Sharing is Healing: A Holocaust Survivor’s Story” shows the importance of perseverance, determination, friendship, responsibility and freedom, the value of friends, family, trust and sharing in healing from a great loss. Though I never lived through an event like Ban, I have discovered the same importance of persevering through life by sharing how I’ve overcome the death of my family and friends, and continue to live as if everyday was my last.

My time in Rwanda has been short thus far, but I have learned exponentially more than I ever thought I would in two weeks. From my experiences with the Rwandan people, and our class readings/discussions, I have found that Rwanda is much more than the genocide, and African is more than just sunsets and safaris as Wainaina said in “How to Write About Africa”.

Although the tragic event of the genocide occurred in the 1990s, it doesn’t stop the people in Rwanda now from living. I have seen so much passion in the people I have met and become friends with here to rebuild their country. One of the first few days I arrived in Rwanda, I met a young man named Rogers. We talked a lot about Rwanda, questions that many of us had, and what he is studying in school. Rogers had an enormous amount of knowledge about politics and what they do culturally and agriculturally because “(he) knows what he wants (for Rwanda) because he doesn’t want to go back to where they were before” (in reference to the genocide).

This statement has proven to be true, as I have worked alongside the people of Gashora. I see dozens and dozens of people walking or biking miles away to fetch a canister of water or a basket of fruit for their family. Weaving baskets hours on end to make money. Carrying bricks, dirt, fertilizer, and rocks to become healthier through kitchen gardens. Children are in school to become an ambassador of change. And the smiles we receive from everyone’s face as we pass by.

What Rogers said has stuck with me until this day, and when he said “(it’s) what we can give Rwanda, not what Rwanda can give to us,” stays true to the actions and dedication I see in every Rwandan I have met and see in Gashora. Our thoughts about Africa are stereotypes, and might stay the same until we can see what the people can give to Rwanda, and how they want to rebuild their country together in unity.

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