Erneste sat in the rear of the Rover with Ceeya by his side. As he was gazing out the window, he would point out to us some of the homes that belonged to his relatives and friends prior to the genocide. Turning a corner as we neared his home, Erneste noticed his brother standing in the road with his friends. He began to chase us down the road with all of his friends in tow. Erneste’s father was eagerly anticipating his arrival as well, standing in the road surrounded by friends and family. In true Rwandan fashion, there were double hugs and many thanks to our group. From the road, we headed uphill along a small footpath. Erneste held his mother’s hand and later exclaimed how thankful he was to be able to walk to his home without becoming breathless.
Erneste and his family welcomed us into his home and had all of us sit in Erneste’s bedroom. We were in tight quarters, sitting face to face with our knees nearly touching. First, we rinsed our hands in a bucket with water, and then Erneste’s cousin presented us with a home cooked meal, including Primus. A small window in his room provided daylight for our luncheon. Following lunch, we headed to the rear of Erneste’s home. His family was so proud to show off their goats and cow. At this point, we were feeling adventurous and each tried some banana beer—eeek!
More exploration of their family farm ensued as we hiked up a hill behind Erneste’s home. Erneste was thrilled to have us there and wanted to show us his school as well—more uphill climbing. Erneste explained to us that he would have to leave for school an hour early in order to get there on time for his classes, while his little brother and sister only needed about five to ten minutes. We were introduced to his best friend once we reached his school. By this time, we were soaked, not just from sweat but also the torrential downpour that snuck up on us. Downhill was never a problem for Erneste. This time, however, he was stopped by a curious soldier who was camping out with a number of other soldiers to protect the district office from robbery.
Once we arrived back to his home, we grabbed a seat outside. Each of his parents made wonderful thank you speeches and presented us with gifts of baskets filled with fruit and nuts. The emotion of Erneste’s return was apparent to all those present. Erneste asked for a picture with his two mothers. Ceeya and his mother were touched by his request.
The time for our departure was nearing. We were escorted by the group downhill to the Rover with an air of sweet sadness. We were certainly happy to bring him home, but he will be missed until April when we return again. Erneste wanted all of us to extend another special thank you to the members of Team Heart who helped make his journey and surgery a success.