Today was a emotional journey. We started out by going back to the orphanage so that you could say good bye to your friends and so that we could tour the entire facility. As we drove down the bumpy dirt road we saw a long line of people waiting outside the brick wall. Apparently Wednesday is the day that those in extreme need come to the Home of Hope Orphanage to ask for any small food donation that they may receive. The line consisted of mostly the elderly and women with small children and babies. We drove through the gate and then began the ritual of coming to terms with this reality that was yours. We walked through the long hallway that passes the baby room (not able to enter that room) and then saw the room where you slept with the other older toddlers. We were able to see your bed, it was one of at least thirty metal toddler type beds in a long narrow room. We then passed by more rooms, one devoted to the care of disabled infants and toddlers and another the older baby room. Outside we visited the children who have been your friends and family during your stay at the orphanage. We put you down on the ground to see what you would do and you ran up and hugged one of your caregivers, which was so nice to see. It is obvious that you were loved and able to form attachments to your caregivers. You did not interact a whole lot with your friends, more so you almost seemed to be showing off to them a bit. You then ran back to us to be picked up and while dad was holding you and the kids where grabbing at your shoes you told them no and shook your finger at them. This went on for awhile, you getting down to interact and then coming back to us to be held or touched. I think this was a really good sign that you were able to make the transition from them to us and to have the change to say goodbye. Seeing the kids was hard on me, there are SO MANY toddlers and preschool aged children. Again it is clear that the nuns love them very much and it was nice to see that there were three recent college graduates here from the US volunterring for the week at the orphanage. There are just so many children and not enough adults. Lots of runny noses, running around, broken toys, and disjointed play going on. Toddler will be toddlers, especially in large numbers. I started to say to your big brother "See this is why I am always telling you how good you have it at home" and I had to stop because I started to choke up and he interrupted me with "I know, don't talk about it" indicating to me that he very clearly now understood. We then walked down to the part of the orphanage that houses the elderly and disabled adults. It is clear that they are so fortunate to be there and there are few places in Rwanda for the disabled and elderly if their family is unable or unwilling to care for them. The hardest part of the visit for me was seeing the disabled children and young adults. As a school psychologist I know just how valuable intervention and therapy is in helping individuals with disabilities. Especially those children with disabilities that render their bodies with little control but maintain their cognition in tact. This is where I just had to set my profession aside and take this all in as a mother for now. After leaving the orphanage we took a break to see a local art shop and then to grab lunch. We were joined by the girls who we had met who were volunteering at the orphanage so it made for a interesting lunch. They are young and adventerous and full of passion. Everything I wish I had been 15 years ago. One of them said that she was considering joining the Peace Corp and I openly encouraged her to do it with no reservations!
As if that was not enough for the day we then toured the Genocide Memorial. Most of the written information on the displays your dad and I had already read in many books about the genocide. It was so much more real though to see the pictures next to the text, to watch the video clips, to read about specific people who were survivors and those who took the risk to stand up to the opposition and saved lives. It was difficult seeing the actual pictures of those lost, brought in by their surviving loved ones for the memorial. Most difficult however was the children's display, the large blown up pictures of children who were ruthlessly tortured and murdered during the genocide. The descriptions of how they were killed were horrific. Small innocent children painfully killed by what could only be pure evil itself. From that room it leads outside to the memorial gardens, a beautiful, incredibly peaceful place. At the lower back of the gardens are the tombs that hold the remains of approximately 250,000 people. This number is overwhelming when you consider that it represents only a small proportion of the possible 1 million who were lost in the genocide. The world cannot forget, that what happened in your country was a holocaust and it can never happen again, not here, not anywhere. Yet I fear that it is all to easy for people to forget and to turn their heads when it happens on the continent of Africa. Someday when you are old enough I will teach you about all of these things as they are as much a part of your history as your life with us will be.