We asked our new writer Sharon Bayingana to regularly share her thoughts and experiences in her own words 'behind the scenes with the team'. We hope you enjoy them!
Entry No. 1. Days 1 & 2 with Jeanne d'Arc Girubuntu
I sat down on the floor facing Jeanne d’Arc who sat on her bed, head bowed into her notebook as she concentrated on journaling her day; a routine we decided to adopt on Tuesday night.
In the awkward silence, my eyes paced around her room as I tried to find something to talk about. “Are you the only female rider at the center?” I finally asked.
“Yes,” she replied, quickly looking up and giving me a half smile out of politeness.
“How does it feel?” I insisted, trying to have a conversation.
“I got used to it,” she answered. At this point, I just let the awkward silence be.
“Ariko,” she continued, “When I first came, I did not think I would stay here for long. But after a while and getting to know everybody, I got used to it!’
Delighted that she was now engaging me, I asked, “do you like being here?”
Not having to think twice about it, she replied, “eh, cyane!”, giving me a genuine smile this time.
I smiled back, because I understood her. I knew what it felt like to love something so dearly and for it to come to you so naturally. But I didn’t know how it felt to be hurt by it.
“I have always wanted to be a role model for other girls in Rwanda,” she shared. “But since my injury, I am not motivated as much. Sometimes when I ride for a long time, I feel pain in my leg. I know I have to work harder than everyone else because I have a goal I want to achieve.” I looked at her and smiled, hoping she would, somehow, understand the words I didn’t want to utter: I admired her courage.
I entered Jeanne d’Arc’s room and found her sitting on her bed, writing in her notebook. I took my position on the floor again and tried to think of a conversation starter, again.
“So, you come here on Monday and leave on Friday?” I asked the obvious. I need to step up my game! In a manner I can’t quite remember, we had a conversation about her time at the ARCC and how she came to cycling. On a totally different note, we talked about being left in the house alone, travelling alone for the first time and many other things that made us laugh and talk for a little over half an hour, having forgotten to journal!
When we finally did remember to journal, she gave me her notebook to read through and help her correct some mistakes. The day before, we had spent about 40 minutes correcting the sentences, re-arranging them, putting the right pronouns and using the verbs correctly. This time though, somehow, she managed to put it together almost just correctly! We used half the time we’d used before to correct the sentences and then re-wrote everything, this time, in paragraphs.
I love being the one to spent these days at ARCC learning so much and teaching the little I know to these amazing people.