Monday, May 7, 2012

May 7th: Arriving in Rwanda

After over 48 hours of travel we finally made it to Rwanda on Saturday. We ended up getting caught up in a storm in Chicago and had to sit on the tarmac for 2 hours, which caused us to miss our connecting flight in Zurich to Dubai. The airline re routed us through Frankfurt to Nairobi which was no big deal but when we got to Nairobi they weren’t sure where our plane to Kigali (the Capital of Rwanda) was and so we sat around for about six hours and let the Kenyans yell at the airline, eventually they “found” the plane and as we headed to the back to row 31 of the plane, which is where our tickets indicated that we should sit, we noticed that the plane only had 28 rows!! But they squeezed us in and found us seats, so no big deal; it’s all part of the experience J

Lama, the founder and head honcho of “Building Bridges with Rwanda”, the organization we are working with here, and his colleague Sedrick picked us up at the airport and showed us to our hotel for a quick freshen up! He then asked which of us wanted to join him to downtown as he had to help our team leader, Jim, pick up a cell phone. We all decided to join him for what we thought would be a bus ride, however before we knew it he had a caravan of motorcycles, or Motos, for us to taxi into the city centre. It was adventurous ride carving through cars and cutting people off, warning them with a honkhonk of course, and traveling at speeds I normally don’t even in a car, we made it (not with out my hand mark bruises on my drivers arms I’m sure).

Kigali is a beautiful city, it is clean and amazingly landscaped everywhere you look. There are huge roundabouts all throughout the city that remind me of Europe, and there palm trees lining the medians. The city is one of the cleanest I have seen, there are trash cans every where that say “help keep Kigali clean” and apparently the last Saturday of every month is dedicated to cleaning the city. Plastic bags are illegal, which is very cool because they often litter large cities in developing nations. Though all the statistics show that Rwanda suffers from great poverty, you wouldn’t really know it from cruising though streets of Kigali. Everyone tries their best to dress well and keep the streets and gardens looking immaculate. It wasn’t until our journey to our final destination of Gashora that we really started to see more intense signs of poverty.

On our way to Gashora we stopped at a Genocide Museum, which was extremely educational, beautiful and emotional. The museum was surrounded by beautiful gardens that all represented parts of the genocide, such as garden of self-protection, which was a garden of cactus. This was to represent that they needed to protect themselves as the international community failed to step in; a children’s garden filled with fruit trees as children are the fruit of life. As well as a fountain of rocks which represents reconciliation, each rock representing the rebuilding of Rwanda piece by piece.

After the museum we stopped at a former church that has been turned into a memorial site for the genocide. During the 100 day Genocide more than 5000 Tutsi people fled to this particular very small church to seek refuge, as in previous years churches had been protected, unfortunately many of priests were cooperating with the Hutu rebels, and most if not all of these 5000 Tutsis were killed in one day. Today, the church is filled with hundreds of skulls, pelvis bones, etc. laid out on display as a way not to forget. Blood and dirt stained clothing cover the walls and shoes are lined up by the front alter. It is an intense sight and extremely emotional to see first hand. The Sunday school building behind the church still has bloodstains on the wall from where they threw babies and children against it to kill them. It is impossible to comprehend and it is hard not to look at every single person here and wander what their story is, where they were during those 100 days in 1994, and how it has changed their lives.

The people here are so friendly and it is hard to understand where all their optimism comes from after learning about all that they have been through, but the more I talk to people the more I understand…..

We had our first day of work today so I will write more soon!!

DWC Team Member
Rwanda, May 2012

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