The silence is deafening. No sounds of horns beeping, traffic whizzing by from the left or right, or that crazy dog who barked all night long outside the window of my hotel. I got home after 28 hours of traveling and being sleep deprived, I just laid in bed listening to sheer silence. Had I not noticed before how quiet it was? Coming back home after a trip is difficult because you are not the same person that left. I am different. Rwanda and her people changed me. I had experiences that made me question my status quo. Even though I am home again, everything is different.
Sunday morning I woke up at 4 and went down to the webstore and unpacked my suitcases. I looked at all the product I brought back and was overwhelmed, overwhelmed by the stories of the artisans. Would I be able to share their stories well? As I took the woven bowls from the suitcase, I saw the ladies sitting on the bamboo mat, singing and laughing. I was back on top of that hill, the sun is shining and the ladies are sharing their craft with me. I look at the honey dippers and I remember being back in the workshop. I pick up the machete and start hacking at the wood praying that I would leave with the same number of fingers as I came with. The guys are excited that I am excited by their work. They keep showing me new pieces and watching my expressions. I pick up the woven banana fiber box of beeswax soaps. I was pretty adamant that I wanted to bring these soaps home and was looking for a way to create the perfect box. I just couldn’t give up on them. When I asked them to make a banana fiber box, I really had no idea how it would turn out. When they handed me the prototype box, I was in love. Perfect! They all smiled so big. Can we put a kitenge ribbon around it? “Sure!” I held the honey dipped candles in my hand. I was back with the bee keepers. I remember how shy they were when we 1st met. As I kept asking questions and they were answering them, I saw their confidence grow. They got excited when I got excited. I looked at the candles and remembered them walking me back down the hill to my car. “Please come back.”
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but these products represent the hearts of all the artisans. The responsibly of sharing their stories and doing it well is something I take seriously. I don’t want to let them down. Each one hugged me when I came to visit and embraced me harder when I left. We shared meals together and shared what life was like in each of our every day lives. Coming back from these trips are overwhelming and maybe that’s a good thing. Because if I am overwhelmed that means I brought them back with me in my heart. Seriously, how did it get this much product home?!?