As I reflect upon my life, I am very thankful that I am still alive today. I don’t take any day for granted anymore. I grew up in one of the most difficult times in my nation’s history. As everybody rushed to seek refuge, many people did not make it. I was very young and despite what was going on, what I remember the most was not having something available to eat.  Regardless of your situation, not having something to eat sucks. It is an experience that I would not wish on anybody. The younger you are, the worse it feels. Please, bear with me as I share my story for the first time. I hope you have plenty to eat whenever you are hungry.

  1. War and famine in refugee camps

Between 1994 and 1997, there was a big genocide in my home country of Rwanda, followed by a civil war and some conflicts between two government regimes. Around mid-1994, my family decided to escape to DRC (the Democratic Republic of the Congo) because the situation was getting worse and there was no peace. I was 5-years old at the time. My family had to gather up a few belongings ( small amount of food, a few clothes, etc) together and took the road to the Congo. We could not take our car in the middle of a war with bullets and military roadblocks everywhere. We had to walk for what I believe what was about 2-weeks. I was too young to remember, but it was a long journey to refugee camps in the Congo.

Rwandan refugees on their way to neighboring countries. This is what the scene looks like when you have no choice but to leave your home country searching for peace

 

During the war, food is scarce and gets very expensive. Obviously, for small developing nation who depended on agriculture, nobody was digging the fields or harvesting what they had planted. I remember somewhere along the journey, we would run out of food. People would share what they had until everything is finished. The old would give their meals to the young. Lots of children did not make it to the refugee camps in the Congo. They died of hunger and their corpses were simply left behind along the way. Even though it is 20 years or so after, I still remember a few gruesome scenes at the time. Honestly, I cannot count how many times I went seriously hungry from Early, 1995 to end of 1997. It is way too many. But Let me share one near-death experience at a refugee camp around 1996, probably.

 

At the refugee camps, we were 100% depended on UNHCR and other international charities for food. However, this one time, rebel groups had prevented food trucks to get to the camps. The war was at its peak and it was simply too dangerous for any food to get to the camps. We waited for like 3–4 days without food or clean water, which meant total starvation. We all drank dirty water from lakes and other dirty sources. I don’t remember how many days I went without food but it was a couple days or so. This is how it goes when you have no food.

*First day*: You can survive your first day without food, no problem. It still hurts, but you can manage.

*Second day*: Depending on your resilience, many people’s body starts to give up. No matter how strong or resilient you are, you will start to suffer. Eating whatever you can get. Many people will even start to throw up the small amount of water they drink or anything in their digestive system. Your throat becomes very dry, you get headaches, your belly will hurt badly. But for the most part, you will survive the second day too.

*Third day*: Your whole system will get weaker and weaker. Many people cannot make it to this day. It is tough, terrible, and most kids do die on this day if they don’t get food, unfortunately. If I did not get food on this day, I would not be sharing this story with you today. I would have been dead, long time ago! Thank goodness, I am here today. Now, I have plenty of food and water and cannot miss any meal.

*Forth day*: If you can make it to this day at all. You would have to be a champ. At this point, you can only sit or lay down. If you stand up or attempt to walk, you will faint. Your eyes get all blurry and your body is in total disarray. It is a “no bueno” situation. You are very fucked up and better die at this point! I am sorry to say. It is very sad but true!

*Fifth day*: You are a dead body! Nobody makes it to this day, without food. Hopefully, your corpse gets disposed of properly. And your soul makes it to heaven or whatever safe/happy place that your faith (belief system) tells you.

Anyway, if you have spent at least two days without any food, you have to be careful when you finally get some food. You have to take it easy on your throat. You just cannot eat anything right away. You have to start with soft stuff. Juices, porridges, and other soft drinks or food. Whenever you swallow, it is going to hurt as if you have a serious sore throat. It is not comfortable at all. Then, you slowly start eating regular food such as rice, beans, and whatever, but it will take you at least 6–12 hours for your throat to heal ( if not more).

Whatever the circumstances, not having something to eat is very bad. I am not talking about forgetting to buy some food or snacks at the grocery store. I am talking about not having resources to buy or to get food that your body needs. It is not a pleasant experience. It feels bad and I would not honestly want to know what it feels like. It simply sucks!

2. Poverty ( and the Christian practice of fasting)

Fast forward from the life in refugee camps, after the war ended, my family came back to Rwanda. But unfortunately, my dad, who was the primary supporter of our family passed away. Now, my mom had to assume the responsibility of raising 3 children on her own. It was a very tough life. You can read more about it as I have shared a detailed story on another post on Quora.

Anyway, my mom did her best to raise us. Sending us to good schools, putting food on the table, and clothes on our backs. But, sometimes, we did not have food to eat. My mom would get sick and she would spend all her savings until we had simply nothing. My siblings and I went to bed hungry several times. My mom is a devout Christian. So, sometimes she would trick us and schedule “fasting” for our entire family. We would pray for prosperity and that God provides for our family with food to eat and intelligence in schools. However, looking back at those fasting schedules, I think she knew when the money was about to run out so she would tell us ahead of time that fasting was on the way.

At this time, I was a teenager probably between 14–16 years old. I loved to eat and whenever food was available, we ate plenty. I hated “fasting” so much. As I grew up, I would ask myself why this crazy Lord had to make people suffer so that he can answer their prayers. The whole thing was a mystery to me. To this day, I do not understand it.

I love food. I love to eat. And if God can’t help me when my belly is full and healthy, I am honestly out. I don’t want anything to do with such deity. My common sense seems to help me live a very satisfied healthy life at this point.

Anyway, today, I am in a much better living conditions. My family and I are doing very well. We have plenty of food and a healthy family. My country, Rwanda, is one of the most peaceful, organized, and prosperous countries, not just in Africa, but also in the world. Check out the photo below of my home city of Kigali, Rwanda.

Check out my recent meals a few weeks ago in my hometown of Kigali. I am very grateful for the life I have. I do not take having plenty of food (on the table) for granted.

Roasted potatoes, beer, and Brochettes! Any bar you go to in Rwanda, they will have these 3-items. It is a good combination, drinking, and eating.

 

This is a Rwandan buffet. All you can eat for $ 6–7 dollars. Very cheap, but yummy as hell! It is a combination of rice, beans, fresh french fries, sweet potatoes, soup, spaghetti, meat ( fish, beef or chicken) and other local spicy ingredients. When I am hungry, I can easily finish two of such plates with drinks.

 

I love food from everywhere. This is a Vietnamese dish that I love to eat at a local restaurant every Sunday nearby my home. It cost me about $ 22- $ 25 dollars with a beer.

 

Thank you so much for reading! Hope you will have plenty of food to eat! A roof over your head and clothes on your back. Peace!

Lots of love and respect.

Didier Champion

 

Bonus articles:

I have shared more stories about my life and my country today. Feel free to check them out! It is a miracle how one’s life and a country can change so much for the better in a very short time.

  1. 10 Amazing facts about Rwanda and reasons to visit in 2018 ( Rwanda Today, 24 years after genocide).

  2. My experience with poverty, how I got out and changed my family financial tree for good. ( Article on medium)

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