I sat alone in the garden of the Kigali Genocide Memorial saying my final prayers. As I was stepping out to leave, she was slowly reaching the bottom of the the stairs.
She greeted me in Kinyarwanda, ending in "Amakuru?" ("How are you?") to which I responded "Ni meza"
Not expecting that I would actually respond to her in her language, her face lit up and she burst out laughing. She grabbed my hands, patted my back and continued to excitedly speak in Kinyarwanda. Smiling but having no idea what she was saying, I motioned I had something to show her and pulled out the small English/Kinyarwanda/Kiswahili translation book I had with me. She stood with me on the stairs going through the pages, slowly pronouncing the phrases, explaining (still all in only Kinyarwanda) their meanings, and laughing as I struggled. We put the book away but she continued speaking.
Still not understanding her words despite her lessons, I watched her body language and followed the course of her energy to listen to the story she was telling me. She showed me her hand with a deep line of scar tissue running across the palm with heaviness; she showed me the broom and bag she was using to sweep the leaves with purpose; she motioned her hands from her chest to the garden around to above with gratitude.
She finally waved over a man to come translate and fill in the things I had missed.
She was a survivor. She said the older survivors can lose their mind and still get lost in pain if they just stay home alone. She comes here to maintain the gardens because it is her way of finding peace, and she was grateful for the ones who come here to visit and learn their stories. She was happy we were both here.
We hugged and laughed and kissed each other's cheeks with a connection of difficult to explain comfort and appreciation. A connection of understanding a language transcendent of words.
I could feel her scar as she held my hand and said, "Urakoze gukurikira" - "Thank you for listening"
"Thank you for sharing" - "Urakoze gusangiza"