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Lake Kivu Hike

Group of students pose for picture

Week 3 Heading link

Little girl from the village giving me the best hug.

Celeste Jimenez, MS Student

This past weekend during our trip to Lake Kivu, the group and I went on a hike. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the feelings I experienced during it were much more than I had imagined. As we were walking through villages, we came across many friendly faces.

We walked by Baptist and Protestant churches. From the outside, you can hear the worship songs and people from inside singing along. Outside we passed villagers on their way to the churches. I loved seeing families walking together and all dressed up to the nines. It took me back to when I was a child, and I attended church every Sunday with my dad, brother, and sister.

Walking along the trail, I noticed how friendly everyone was, no matter their age. We passed several groups of kids, and they all waved hello, and said “good morning” or “how are you doing?” Two boys even stopped to shake our hands in a way that shows respect to elders, which I thought was very sweet (you shake using your right hand while holding your left hand on your right forearm). My favorite part of these interactions was the big white smiles as our group waved back to them. One little girl even ran up to our group and hugged several of us, which was the sweetest thing.

Pic 1 (Left): The Group at the end of Lake Kivu Hike; Pic 2 (right): Little girl from the village giving me the best hug

I thought it was interesting how excited they were to see foreigners. One large group of kids even followed us during our hike, and the older villagers had to tell them to cut it out. There was one little girl in particular that I could tell from her facial expression was sad when she was pulled back by an older child. However, after I waved goodbye to her, she had the biggest smile while waving back. I imagined the feeling I had from these interactions was how celebrities felt daily.

One thing that stood out to me was witnessing a little boy who couldn’t be any older than five carrying a water jug that looked too heavy for his little body. He seemed to be working. At first, he was curious about who we were, but he soon focused on the task at hand – carrying his water jug to where he needed to go. I also noticed other kids helping out with family duties. I saw many had holes in their clothes. It made me wonder if it was due to poverty or if they used worn-out clothes when working.

My biggest takeaway from the hike was the unity of the community we got the privilege to explore. Everyone seemed to know one another. Everyone seemed to look out for one another. And most importantly, everyone seemed to be kind to one another. In Rwanda, everyone is one; there is a community spirit of helping others. This togetherness is something Americans can learn from other countries..

Celeste Jimenez is in the graduate-entry nursing program at UIC and will be earning her Masters degree in December 2022. She is a first-generation college student and holds a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Oberlin College. She plans to earn her doctorate and become either a family nurse practitioner or midwife. She is Puerto Rican, born and raised in Chicago.

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