I have been in Rwanda in since the June, and I’m guilty in confessing this my first blog. I have been hesitant to starting this first blog because it is my first time blogging ever! But here it goes. Rwanda has in many ways surprised me. When I first arrived, I had all sorts of expectations of what I would see. Knowing some of the history, and the fact that it is a developing country definitely predisposed me to certain expectations. Needless to say, many of these expectations have been surpassed and shattered. On the day that I had arrived, one thing that ran in mind was how beautiful to eye the country was. Driving around the capital, Kigali, it wasn’t long before I realized why Rwanda is called “The Land of a Thousand Hills.” Every corner you went to in the city, you would most likely be on top of a hill overlooking a beautiful sight. I have shared some of the pictures I took on these hills in this blog. Even now, as I am writing this blog, I am sitting in my backyard having an amazing view. Here is what I am currently looking at:
For the past month, I have been working inside the capital. But on the first day I got here, I made my way over to Huye (or Butare depending on which name you prefer to use). It was there that I spent my first 10 days in Rwanda. The research project I am working on, titled “Evaluating the Impact of a Thoracic Surgical Skills Simulation Workshop in a Resource-Limited Setting” started off at the University Teaching Hospital of Butare. UVa has been an integral part of Human Resources for Health (HRH), a program that strives to improve health infrastructure over the course of 7 years. It has partnership with many US institutions such as UVa to help improve health infrastructure. One of the ways UVa has been involved is through teaching thoracic surgery through simulation in the teaching hospitals of Rwanda. I would recommend learning more about HRH, and how it is involved to anyone interested in global health. Anyways, our theme of our research project is assessing how effective or ineffective the simulation project has been in expanding the thoracic surgery training in Rwanda. Since one of the teaching hospitals is located in Huye, that is where we started our journey.
If I could describe Huye with one word, it would be peaceful. Besides the midafternoon rush (surprisingly its not during early morning or late afternoons), it is a city with not a lot going on. There are basically 2 main streets that get you to the different parts of the city. Besides those streets, there are just cobblestone path that take you to the inside of different neighborhoods. The bed and breakfast I stayed during my time there was found one of these cobblestone roads. It is owned by a Belgian lady who had currently lives in Belgium but rents it out online. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind having that place as a long-term home. Here is what the outside of the house looked like overlooking yet another hill in Rwanda! In addition to the house being nice, the breakfast they served was the highlight of day. This is the level of happiness it brought me every morning:
Working at the hospital in Butare was the right dose of international healthcare exposure I was hoping to experience. Walking around the hospital on my first day, I saw what seemed like hundreds of people waiting to get medical help. There were so many people that they couldn’t all fit in the waiting areas, so had to go lay on the grass and wait. This was not my first time seeing something like this, but it refreshed my thoughts on the lack of health resources in certain parts of the world. After this initial exposure, I was looking forward to getting to know some of the staff, getting to know their opinions on healthcare there, and getting to know how well they managed to take care of so many people. I was surprised to find out there were only 4 surgeon faculties in the whole hospital, besides the surgical residents. It surprised me even more because this hospital is one of the four referral hospital in the country, and gets patients from all across the nation. Although the four surgeons were working in a situation where such odds were stacked against them, they didn’t beat up and worn out as I expected. I was glad to see that they were handing the situation well, and worked very well with the limited resources that they had. After spending 10 days in Huye, we headed back to Kigali to carry out the rest of our project. Our project in Kigali was pretty much the same as what we did in Butare, but just at different hospitals. Here are some pictures of us walking through the operation room in Butare:
With the hospitals in Kigali being much better funded, it was easy to see the difference in atmosphere from the hospital in Huye. The cities were by in large very different too. Kigali is much bigger, and the development is much more here. The streets are pretty much busy all the time, and some areas more than others. It is the place where people from the different parts of the country come to meet, in addition to thousands of foreigners that come from all around the world. There is a lot more to see and do here in Kigali that it requires more time management to balance time for work and time to explore the city. Like the famous saying goes, “work hard, play hard.” Almost everyday, there has been a cool place to explore living in Kigali. The city is reach with Rwandan culture fused with cultures inherited from other parts of the world. To start off, the food is AMAZING here. The ingredients are just pure organic, and the people just have secret that makes the food taste good here. Even international restaurants such as Indian and Ethiopian taste better than a lot of the places I have been in the states. The reason why international presence has been solid here in Rwanda is because of the booming economy. With different investors, and international workers also come different food; which I must say I enjoyed very much. My initial goal of budgeting on food didn’t work out too well, since I tossed that budget a while back now. But it also helps that many of these places have great prices.
I would be remiss if I didn’t write about my experience interacting with the people of Rwanda. More than else, my favorite part of this trip thus far has been getting to know the people. The people were extremely welcoming, and were interested in finding about my culture as much as I was interested in finding out about theirs. Here are pictures of the some people I have had the pleasure of getting to know, and had a great impact on my time here:
As promised, here are some pictures I took of the hills in Rwanda. First one was my home in Butare. And the last one is one of my favorite pictures taken in Rwanda. It is right next to the Genocide Memorial in Kigali. It reminds me of how beautiful the city is, and how much it has come since the genocide in 1994.