Students Experience New Culture in Rwanda

Emily Busch

Molly Cave, a chaperone on the summer trip to Rwanda, has been all over the world. She did not understand why her husband, Mr. James Cave, a junior high history teacher, continued to return to Rwanda – until she went. After experiencing the country for herself, she understood the draw of the beautiful country. “There is something different about Rwanda, it’s more intense than other places,” said Molly Cave.

This summer, 19 students and four adults went to Rwanda to learn about genocide and have a true cultural experience. However, Mr. Cave made it clear that their trip to Rwanda was not a mission trip––it was about learning about genocide and experiencing a new culture. “This trip isn’t about judging or changing; it is only about seeing,” said Mr. Cave. 

The students participated in many activities to experience the cultural aspect of Rwanda, including making baskets and bricks and going on a Gorilla Trek. “We also went to two orphanages and seeing the kids so happy to see you was so cool,” said sophomore Emma Eldred.

They also had a chance to meet Bosco, the man who received the money from the Lenten Common Basket, and Greg, the man who helped to coordinate many of the activities in Rwanda. “We wanted the students to go into the trip with an open mind; we wanted them to try new foods and meet new people,” said Mr. Kuntz, the other organizer. The students were introduced to many different types of roasted meat as well as a traditional banana beer.

One of the experiences on the trip was attending a traditional Rwandan Mass that was over two hours long. “We got to church an hour before Mass started, at first all the kids stared from afar, but then they came over and started playing with us, they touched our skin and our hair. If you had on bracelets or rings they wanted to keep them, but mostly they loved playing with the cameras,” said junior Rachel Bilski.

The students found that despite many differences, the culture of Rwanda is, in some ways, similar to America. “People were walking everywhere. It was like New York, only people weren’t wearing business suits,” said Bilski.

The cultural differences became apparent when the Rwandans who met BSM students showed their curiosity by examining the high school students’ pale, hairy arms. “After Mass there was a whole group of kids that followed us for at least a half a mile back to the hotel; another time I was at the market and this lady just started petting my head. I expected to see a little child when I turned around, but she definitely wasn’t a kid,” said Bilski.

Just walking down the street was different for the students. “They all hold hands. Guys and guys, women and men, and huge groups of little kids––and they would even come up to us and just hold our hands and walk with us,” said Bilski. Later they found out that they should be careful about holding hands with children, for the kids never wanted to let go.

Throughout the trip the students found a special connection with each other and their chaperones. “There was a bond built between the students, an intense connection, that could not be built anywhere else,” said Mr. Cave.

“People there are amazing, they are open, friendly and loving to everyone,” said Eldred, “It’s just an amazing place.”