Before coming on this trip, many people asked me if I was going with a friend, someone I already knew. And I said no, but building relationships with people is a part of this experience in Gashora and within our team. I remember our first team meeting, feeling excited and curious to know who these people are, and why they decided to come on this trip. This same feeling occurred as I stepped foot in Rwanda. I was anxious to meet people, understand this country even better than the prior research I’ve done, but most importantly to listen, interact and engage with people to comprehend what experiences they’ve had to become the person they are today.
Janet Burroway says in her book Elements of Craft Writing, “one of the ways we understand people is by assessing, partly instinctively and partly through experience, what they express voluntarily and involuntarily.” I have done this with Abraham, one of my interviewees for a class assignment, who is a man that owns a restaurant in the city center of Gashora. We have slowly but surely gotten to know this man and his family more and more as we ate at his restaurant everyday for lunch. For about a week, it took time to learn each other’s names and feel comfortable with one another. I observed this man through his actions of service and with the other customers and his co-workers/family members. There was no doubt in my mind that this man is incredible. His smile is infectious, he does anything he can to please his customers, and makes each visit special and personable. During the second week, we attended Abraham’s family’s church. Their appreciation for us coming and experiencing it together deepened our friendship. We got to talk and ask each other questions during our walk to and from church service, and I could tell that this man has had a lot of changes in his life but takes each one with joy. Off the bat when I got the interview assignment, I knew I wanted to talk to Abraham.
He has so much insight and is open to anything you ask him. In fact, he was so open that I only had to ask 3 of my 13 questions that I had prepared. I had many questions about his restaurant, but he went ahead and told me his entire work history that led up to owning Lakeside Restaurant. With knowledge of the people that work at the restaurant being his family, I asked if he wants his sons to take over the restaurant when they become old enough to. He immediately said no, which I found to be surprising because many family restaurants in America would be passed down to sons or daughters for generations upon generations. Abraham expressed the importance of finishing school and getting a good education because he didn’t finish school himself for many reasons. I was happy to hear that and to see how passionate he was about understanding the importance of having a good education while Americans typically take it for granted, with the easier ability to pay for it. I recall him saying, “as long as they (his boys) finish school, they can do anything they want. I want them to follow their dreams.” I told Abraham how remarkable of a father he is for allowing that freedom for his sons explaining that in America, many people have pressure to become the person their parents want them to be and don’t pursue their own dreams. He found that to be crazy!
Although our interview was cut short (I could have easily talked with him for 4 hours), I have made a great friend. He is noble, insightful, and great role model for his family. His heart is full of love for the relationships he makes with his customers, and he is much more than my initial reaction, a man with a smile on his face.