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I try to bring you to your senses, and you drive me out of my senses!
Wednesday, 11 May 2011 Written by Sandra Čuturić Nuić
Sandra in Rwanda Sandra in Rwanda Rwandan landscape Sandra in Rwanda Sandra in Rwanda

When my cousin, fra Ivica Perić, and I met in October 2009 after a mass in Kreševo, Bosnia, he immediately invited me to pay him a visit in Rwanda. At first I thought he was kidding, because we hadn’t seen each other for twenty long years. And he was probably surprised that I took his invitation seriously, and promised to come in February 2011. What was promised is now – fulfilled!

As I was preparing for the trip, I asked my husband to come along, and he replied: “You just go. I wouldn’t go there even if I were dead!”

And one of my sisters told me that she wouldn’t go there even if someone else paid for her ticket, and more than that, she wouldn’t dare go alone. My brother-in-law Marko promised to pay for my ticket if I really wished to go.

I planned the trip for a long time, thinking what to bring with me and what to wear. I tried to gather as much information as possible about the situation in the country - the culture and also about Rwanda in general. Just before leaving, I phoned my cousin Ivica in Kivumu and asked if he wanted something brought to him, but he just briefly said that he needed or missed nothing there.

And finally the month of February arrived - and the planned date of my first trip to Africa. I must admit I was a bit nervous, but I thought: “Come what may, you just put yourself in God’s hands and don’t worry, because he will show you the way".

I was greeted by rain in Rwanda. Fra Ivica told me that one is considered to be a blessing if he brings rain with him to Africa. But it rained the next day, and the day after that one. Almost every day it rained a bit. One day we were hit by hail chunks the size of a walnut, and Ivica told me, grinning: “Well, we had enough of that blessing, wouldn’t you say?“.

I was really thrilled with this land of a thousand hills - endless green, and beautiful people who greeted me with smiles on their faces wherever I went. All those cheerful, unburdened, honest, and uncorrupted children who kept shouting “muzungu” to me (that’s how they call white folks), running around me, reaching out to shake my hand or to hug me.

Whatever my mood that day was, the encounter with the children was always something dear to me, and they would give me new strength, forcing me to think, and to calm my troubled spirit. In the evening fra Ivica and I would sit outside, in the yard of the friary, looking at the moon and the stars, listening to crickets, frogs, and all kinds of birds singing and enjoying themselves.

For me it was magical, fantastic, and somewhat unreal. I was afraid that I would wake up and realize it was all just a dream, and not a present reality. After twenty-eight years spent living in Sweden amid flashing lights, rushing everywhere, so much constant activity, and eternal stress, where everything goes according to previously planned schedules, the African reality truly seemed like a dream.

I’m trying to understand how these men, women, and children, many of whom barely eat once a day, can radiate so much warmth, joy, caring, and satisfaction, while at the same time we in Europe just keep craving ever more, ever new, always something better than the thing we already have. And in spite of everything we possess, we’re never satisfied...

Before I came to Africa, my thoughts were often occupied with, “God, give me this or that; let it be this or that way.” Nowadays, I don’t think in that way anymore!

Every time I close my eyes, I try to relive that feeling of calmness, peace, and love, the sounds of nature and the heavenly glow. And I thank God for it. The only thing I ask of God nowadays is to be content with what I have.

Africa and, of course, my cousin Ivica who often used to tell me: “I try to bring you to your senses, and you drive me out of my senses!” have brought peace to my restless soul, if just for a brief moment.

Translated by: fra Branimir Mlakić
Edited by: Valerie Kae Ken

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