Margot Crandall

Margot Crandall

I am 20 years old with a big dream of making the world a better place.

Rwanda 2/24/11

 Posted by Margot Crandall at 5:00 pm  Rwanda  Comments Off on Rwanda 2/24/11
May 102011

This will be my last post about my journey in Rwanda. I’ve had a hard time missing Rwanda since the second I got on the bus in Gisenyi. As I’ve been pondering and pining away for the past, I have come to the conclusion that no matter what is going on in my life, I have to live in the present. I need to be passionate about whatever it is I am doing, whether it is just going to work everyday, or developing new talents and hobbies. My last night in Kigali Lynn, and I talked a lot about “the circle of life.” All of us came from all over the world for the same purpose and were placed in a home together to learn and grow from one another’s examples. We laughed, we cried, and formed life long bonds and now it’s time for the next phase of our lives. Although it’s time to move on I realize I didn’t have these experiences just for that short time in my life, but I will have these things with me for the rest of my life. Another thing I discussed with my “sisters” is how strange it is that we as human beings put ourselves in situations that will be emotionally hard for us. I knew I would be working with people who have had some of the worst atrocities happen to them. I knew I would form bonds, and then have to be ripped away from that. I knew this would be one of the hardest things I ever did, but there I was in Rwanda. Why do we do that?
Well this is my closing of my time in Rwanda. I hope I brightened someone’s day, I hope I helped change a life, but I know the people of Rwanda have changed mine.

Rwanda 2/18/11

 Posted by Margot Crandall at 4:59 pm  Rwanda  Comments Off on Rwanda 2/18/11
May 102011

One of the things I’m most proud of about going to Rwanda is that I actually went! This post is for people who want to volunteer. I wanted to go to Rwanda so I did some research, talked to people, found a reputable organization, picked a time to go, found a program I would enjoy, and applied. I got accepted, and spent the next few months working hard, and saving every penny I earned. Before I knew it I was crying my eyes out on the way to the airport. Yes, it is a scary thing to do! Going halfway across the world by yourself, but it’s all in the experience in becoming a stronger person. I have to admit I called Laurent after my second day at the clinic, crying saying it was harder than I thought it would be. I expected him to tell me that it was okay, I could come home. But instead he gave me such wonderful words of encouragement. I was able to get up the next morning, and the next until I loved everyday and was excited about the day. I don’t think he understands the impact he had on me. I will forever be grateful to him for being so wonderful in my time of need. So this goes to show you that it doesn’t take a special person to go volunteer; anyone can do it. It just takes a little bit of courage, passion, and encouragement from loved ones back home. It was some of the hardest weeks of my life, but as I’ve told several people: I wouldn’t change a second of it for anything.

Rwanda 2/17/11

 Posted by Margot Crandall at 4:58 pm  Rwanda  Comments Off on Rwanda 2/17/11
May 102011

Well I’ve been back for a day now and I am experiencing some severe culture shock. I don’t know why I’m having such a hard time adjusting back to my “normal” life. The only thing I can think of is because this time while traveling I wasn’t just a visitor, I lived, and worked in a community, and hung out with our local friends on the weekends. I had no one from back home to remind me of my “normal life.” When I landed in DC I saw this white stuff on the ground, and it literally took a few seconds to register that it was snow! Second, it’s so weird to no longer be the extreme minority, and not to have everyone stare at me everywhere I go. I really don’t enjoy not being a queen anymore either! I can no longer talk about whatever I want in front of whomever I want because now everyone understands the language I’m speaking. All that aside it has also been mentally and emotionally hard to be home. It’s hard going back to your previous life when for the last little while all my life has been about is others. It’s weird to be walking around the gardens, and art museum in Pasadena feeling completely idle and unneeded.

Rwanda 2/16/11

 Posted by Margot Crandall at 4:58 pm  Rwanda  Comments Off on Rwanda 2/16/11
May 102011

I can’t believe I am going home. In some ways I feel as if Rwanda has been my home for years, and in other ways it feels like I just got here. I have mixed feelings about going home. I do miss Laurent so very much and I definitely will enjoy the comfort of my home, but I will dearly miss Rwanda and everything that comes with it. I will miss all the people that I served and made such strong bonds with. I will miss the fun I managed to have everyday. I will miss all the ridiculous and inexplicable things that happened everyday. I will miss all of the hard experiences I had everyday, that have made me a stronger, better person. I will miss the other volunteers that were so wonderful words cannot describe, I will consider them my second family for the rest of my life. I’m a few minutes from landing in LA now, most of all I hope I can bring home all of my new knowledge, love, strength, and compassion with me. I will always keep Rwanda and these lessons close to my heart.

Rwanda 2/14/11

 Posted by Margot Crandall at 4:57 pm  Rwanda  Comments Off on Rwanda 2/14/11
May 102011

Today is my last full day in Rwanda, and I am having a hard time coming to terms with that. I miss the ease of my life back home, along with friends, family, and the boyfriend, but I just feel like being here brings out the best in me, and I’m scared to go home and lose that. We had quite the ordeal trying to get breakfast somewhere, (we had to keep reminding ourselves about Africa time) but finally settled for getting a few groceries at Nakumat, our favorite grocery store.
After that we made the long bus ride out to Neomatta, which is a town that houses a church, which is now a genocide memorial. During the genocide 10,000 Tutsi’s went into hiding at this small church. They though that if they were in a place of God they wouldn’t be murdered. They overestimated the killer’s morals, and as a result every last one of them were tortured and killed. Inside the church they had heaps of clothing all over the pews. The clothing was a reddish/brown color stained from the blood of the victims. All of the clothing was from the people who were murdered there. Out in the back they had mass graves. You could walk down underground to look at them, some were in coffins, but there were hundreds of skulls and bones just set on shelves.

Seeing all the cracked skulls, and how many of them there were, made the genocide so much more real to me. It was a very haunting experience I will never, ever forget.
Marit, Ellen, and I decided to visit another church nearby. We hitch hiked our way there, we got really lucky. This man took us all the way up there instead of just dropping us off on the main road. If anything, I will always remember the kindness everyone showed us there. This church memorial was even worse than the last one. In one of the Sunday school rooms there was a huge red/brown stain covering a wall. The man there told us this is where the babies and small children were murdered, by being smashed against the wall.

I have no words to decide how I felt standing there looking at this. I know I will never be able to get that image out of my head. I will never understand how people could do such things to innocent children.
Later that night I had a tearful goodbye with my sisters as they took the bus back to Gisenyi, which I am already homesick for. Lynn (who is flying out the same day as me) and I then went and had a romantic Valentines Day dinner together. Haha. When we went home to the guest house I’m unfamiliar with, my moto driver dropped me of on the wrong street, and I spent the next hour wondering around in the pouring rain, walking down deserted, dimly lit alleyways searching for the right house. I was trying not to panic, and then out of nowhere like an angel Lynn appears with an umbrella to take me home. I have never been so happy to see someone in my life.

Rwanda 2/13/11

 Posted by Margot Crandall at 4:55 pm  Rwanda  Comments Off on Rwanda 2/13/11
May 102011

First off I would like to say that there is something significant about the fact that my first day in Rwanda was January 1st, a day known for new year resolutions, and change. And my last day, Valentines Day. A day of love.
Well I’m spending my last few days here in Rwanda. All the girls came to Kigali to see me off. Baraka, Yves, Fiston, and Patrick all asked if they could escort me, but I’d rather have my sisters with me. I still had lots of candy with me so on the bus ride to Kigali I walked up and down the isles passing it out. Everybody loved me after that. Then “Hero” by Enrique Iglesias came on and the 5 of us girls got so excited and sang every word very loudly. Needless to say we made quite the spectacle of ourselves which is okay because everyone stares at us as it is, so we might as well give them something to stare at. We got a round of applause when we finished! That afternoon we went to hotel Rwanda (Hotel des Milles Collines) It was still strange to see things I recognized from the movie, and be in a place where so much happened. On the way out we took some photos by the Milles Collines sign, and silly Synnøve got dirt on it from her shoe, so then Marit being the amazing friend she is got a water bottle and tried to wash it off, the guard that was watching was having an absolute aneurysm at this point, so we just briskly walked away. Then we got stuck on a roundabout in the middle of busy Kigali for about 5 minutes with all of my luggage. Good times. Later that night we met some Kigali volunteers at our favorite restaurant for a goodbye dinner. The hotel we were staying in was so sketchy we hid our valuables in the ceiling! That night I squeezed into a bed with Ellen and Marit. Good thing we became best friends because we definitely were cozy.

Rwanda 2/7/11

 Posted by Margot Crandall at 4:53 pm  Rwanda  Comments Off on Rwanda 2/7/11
May 102011

Today I did a home visit to my dear friend Immaculée. She lives so far away from any and everything. It was quite the trek there and I ran out of water, so walking in the blistering heat was not the most fun thing I’ve ever done-but totally worth it. The lady taking us there was so funny, every time I would ask how much longer (I admit I was acting like a 5 year old child) she would say five minutes. Uncle Fester was getting quite upset at this point, and said if we weren’t there in 5 minutes she would have to carry him the rest of the way. Luckily for her sake we got there in a timely manner. Anyway, when I first told Immaculée that I was going to come visit her, she started crying because she was so happy. When I finally got to her house we sat down, she only had a little wooden bench so I sat on the concrete floor. She told me all about her life story: She was married to a Congolese man at age 16. They had two children together, but he started sleeping with other woman and passed on the HIV virus to her. At the time he was a soldier in Congo, and he died in a battle. So now she has 2 young children, HIV, and no husband. I will say this over and over again, but she is one of the kindest women I met there, so happy and full of life.
On the way back home I decided to try to be a Rwandese woman and carry my pack on my head. I must admit I was quite successful and walked for many miles with it on my head, much to the amusement of all of the villagers we passed. One man even commented that I’d make a great Rwandan wife!
**Funny side note: One day while drawing blood at the clinic I kept trying to get the next in line to come sit down, so I would say “umva” which I thought meant next. Every time I said it people would just stare at me, and I was getting so frustrated. A little bit later Tim informed me that “umva” does not in fact mean next, it means listen… Guess that explains all the stares I got from everyone.

Humor In Rwanda

 Posted by Margot Crandall at 4:52 pm  Rwanda  Comments Off on Humor In Rwanda
May 102011

Tonight while hanging out with our Local Rwandese friends, Patrick changed our lives forever. Patrick told Synnøve that she reminded him of someone. A few minutes later he said, “Oh I remember, but it’s a boy.” Of course we started laughing really hard, then he continued on to say, “He plays football for Arsenal.” Synnøve was quite offended at this point, and seeing this Patrick tried to redeem himself, “Oh… but it’s not your muscles! It’s your face!” Talk about adding insult to injury. One of the other guys we hung out with told us he thought we all looked a little fat until he tried on Clara’s jacket and it was so tight on him. Thanks guys, you really know how to flatter the ladies.
Tim, and especially Lynn (from England) have the funniest expressions. One day Lynn said something that describes someone who isn’t quite all there as, A few scotch eggs short of a good picnic. Synnøve tried to say it back and ended up saying, Not enough scotch to have fun with eggs at a picnic. Haha
Synnøve’s computer, which she borrowed from her mother, has a piece of tape on the top. One time Lynn asked why there was a piece of “plaster” on it, and Synnøve replied by saying that her mom thought people could watch her through the camera.

Rwanda 2/5/11

 Posted by Margot Crandall at 4:50 pm  Rwanda  Comments Off on Rwanda 2/5/11
May 102011

We have 2 new volunteers in our house. One from Denmark and one from England/USA I already love them so much! I did a home visit yesterday to a lady named Emmerance. She told us about her experience during the genocide. She showed us 4 scars (skull, neck, hip, and leg) she got from machete wounds. One night the inahawyne came after her. They dragged her out to the street and chopped her up. They left her for dead and ran after another Tutsi woman. Some people had watched the whole thing and ran out and rescued her and took her to a clinic. Yet another woman with a terrible background, and yet she is so sweet and kind.
The next day at the clinic this lady named Florentine asked to speak to me in private. She told me her husband is abusive to her and her children, so she has been coming to the clinic to get depo shots to prevent having another child being brought in to this. But her health card was expired and she couldn’t do the necessary things to get the shot and she had no money for the health card. After a series of events I was able to get her health cards for her whole family and she got the shot. Then best of all I introduced her to Lynn and she is going to join the GBV (gender based violence). Serving and helping others is the best feeling in the world.

Rwanda 1/28/11

 Posted by Margot Crandall at 4:49 pm  Rwanda  Comments Off on Rwanda 1/28/11
May 102011

Today helped lift my spirits a little bit. After the usual blood taking I went and helped/learned how to make beads with the Isangano co-op (HIV + women). Their cheerful singing, and chatter was just what I needed. These ladies are without a doubt the loveliest people I have ever met. They were so loving and happy for me to join them. I decided I want to do as many home visits to them as I can. After we finished with the beads, Lynn and I walked to the “arse end of no where” to visit Abubachai and his wife. His mother and brother were killed in the genocide, while his father and sisters were spared because they were in Belgium at the time. However his father died soon after and when his sisters came back to Rwanda to look for him they couldn’t find him so they went back to Belgium. They are coming to visit this summer, and it’ll be the first time in 17 years that he’s seen them. After the genocide, he was a soldier in Angola. He was shot in the foot and it got infected and had to get amputated so he now walks with a fake leg. Everyone’s lives seem so grim, yet they are the kindest people I have ever met.

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