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Published: January 9th 2012
We arrived in Kigali, the capital, on Friday, from Nairobi. You instantly feel a different vibe here, younger and more vibrant. You seem to get to "see" more of the city from the taxi, because there are so many hills in Kigali (and, it turns out, all over the country). The effect is that there is always a great "view". Our driver, arranged through our modest hotel, was having trouble getting his older model Toyota up some of the steepest hills. Then he turned onto the dirt road where our hotel was located, and I really started worrying whether we were going to make it at all! The main roads are well paved, but the lesser roads are still dirt, which means that after a big rain they are terribly rutted, and there is just no money to repair them.
We stayed one night at the Step Town Motel, which has the greatest view of all, being at the very top of one of the highest hills. The staff were extremely friendly, and spoke English as well as they spoke French. It appears that several years ago the current Rwandan parliament voted to change the language of "extra" schooling from
The Road to the Step Town Motel
Not an economic priority to fix these
French to English, as they believed it to be more useful in the world market. It seems a bit sad to consciously give up a language, except when you think that French, for many Rwandans, may just have been one more colonial language.
We took advantage of our early arrival in Kigali to visit the genocide memorial centre the first day. It is very well designed and put together, including portions about the lead up to, during and the aftermath of the killing. But it is very hard to understand or really fully take in. It leaves me wondering about how the Rwandan people can (or have) gotten past such a terrible event. Everyone that you see who is over 20 years old (the genocide was in 1994) makes you wonder how they were affected by this. We in North America have armies of counsellors to deal with sufferers of PTSD from various causes, all arguably less traumatic than seeing hundreds of your family, friends and neighbours brutally killed. Rwanda has very little resources to offer such services, and there seems to be no part of the country that was unaffected. If there are legions of psychologically and physically
Rwandan Farm Fields
With walkers carrying water bottles
scarred people, they were not visible to me.
What I think is that Rwandans have survived because they had to, and they appear to have done so very proudly. On Sunday we travelled to the southern part of the country, passing through dozens of villages. I was struck by both the beauty and neatness of the country. The entire country is covered with hills, and all of those are covered with farm fields, most planted at the most precarious angles. There is rarely a speck of garbage anywhere, and many of the most modest homes have small flower gardens in front of them.
Everywhere you go people are walking, or biking, or riding in taxis. This is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa, and yet there are very few private cars. There are trucks delivering all sorts of goods, and then legions of the small but crowded taxi-vans that many people use to get around - when they are not walking. On foot or on bikes, there is little that they won't carry. And people seem well fed and busy. As we were riding through some very remote country on Sunday morning at 5:00 am
on our way to see chimpanzees in the rain forest, there were a lot of people already up in the small villages walking to whereever they had to go for the day's work.
Although there is a lot about Rwanda's past that will continue to trouble me, there is also a lot about their present life that is very hopeful.
That's all for now. We really would like your comments on anything you read on this blog, and thank all our family and friends for "tuning in".
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