Queenslog July 22, 2023
Greetings from Kigali, Rwanda!
I’m exhausted and overwhelmed and have no idea how to even begin to process all that I’ve learned at the Women Deliver conference here.
So let me go through some random thoughts:
This is a beautiful place and the people are kind and friendly. I have made what I hope will be lifelong friends here.
I can’t wrap my head around the traffic here. It’s a controlled chaos. People cut in front of each other. They pull U-turns anywhere and everywhere. There are 1,000s of motorcycle taxis everywhere that swarm around cars at intersections. But it all magically works. Honking is a well understood form of communication.
Security is a thing— to park in most shopping areas you must go through a guarded gate. In some cases, the car is searched inside and out. While there is heightened security near the convention center etc. due to the number of dignitaries in attendance, the guard stations are common here.
While there are coffee shops here and there and nice restaurants, fast food doesn’t appear to be popular here. This is slow food – mostly sourced locally. There also doesn’t appear to be pre-produced frozen food. There are delis where you can buy pre-made foods, but everything is made fresh and sold to be reheated if necessary.
At the conference itself it has been truly a gift to see women from every country and culture here. Our Rwandan hosts have made everyone feel welcome.
I’m pleased to see many women here wearing comfortable shoes such as nice sneakers with their business attire. In some cases, they will switch into heals later, but mostly everyone stays in their comfy shoes. It’s about time, I think, don’t you?!
There are just over 6,000 people here. Each person here is working to make a difference in their community locally, regionally, nationally, and globally. You can be sitting next to someone and having a delightful conversation and find out they’re a member of parliament in their country or leader of a global organization. Most of the women here are women like me – working in whatever way they can to improve the lives of the people around them.
It is humbling to say the least.
It will take me weeks to process what I’m learning about myself and my place in the world.
Turns out the United States is not, in fact, the center of the universe. We’re not really well liked around here. Well, anywhere….
While there are large delegations from other countries, I’m not seeing many American political leaders here. I think there was one from the United Nations and Stacey Abrams. There are Americans from the service sector here, but I haven’t found many. When I meet people and tell them I’m from the US – I don’t necessarily get a warm reaction.
My whole goal in coming here was to learn. And that’s certainly been taking place.
Honestly, I think everyone, in particular white people, needs to be in a place where they’re the minority – where you’re forced to step outside your comfort zone and lived experience. It is sobering to say the least. I’ve found that even when I think I'm being polite, or kind, or aware, other people may not interpret my actions in the way I intend. It takes humility and conversation to fully communicate and interact with others with different experiences and perspectives. It’s hard and painful and necessary. I’ll be writing more on this later after I’ve had time to process it all.
What I know for sure is that we have far more in common with the other people on the planet than we don’t. We work hard to care for our loved ones, we do the best we can to support our communities and all of us seek acceptance in some form or another. There is far more that is good in this world than bad, but collectively we can all make a difference. My friend from New Zealand taught me a saying:
“With my basket and your basket, the people will thrive.”
We have work to do, but we can and need to do it together.
I’m exhausted, but the next week holds plenty of time for rest as well as adventure. Stay tuned.
What am I listening to: Milck This artist performed at the closing ceremonies of Women Deliver this week. I hadn’t heard of her music, but I love it! The lyrics are powerful and inspiring.
What am I reading: White Women: Everything you Already Know about Your Own Racism and How to Do Better. This experience has taught me I need to learn more and do better. This book is helping me do that.
Genealea and I are doing a giveaway for our followers! During the month of July we are challenging you to donate one hour of your time to your favorite community organization or charity.
To participate, pick an organization to donate one hour of time to. Take a photo of yourself doing the work and send either Genalea or me a DM with details about what you’re doing and why. You’re not required to post the photo – but if you do, tag Genalea_Barker or me @adventuresinkarmalot!
August 1, Genalea and I will enter everyone’s name in a drawing for a free autographed copy of her book and some special treats from me including a souvenir from my trip to Africa!