I am up early this morning, sitting in the garden of the auberge where I am staying in an area called Kimironko, a district of Kigali, the capitol city of Rwanda. The birds are singing, light whispy clouds fill the pale blue sky, there is wonderful aura of peace and quiet while the new day awaits the sun which has yet to fully rise over the lush, rolling green hills surrounding this most beautiful city.
It has been a busy week, filled with many Blessings and much Gratitude, culminating in a somewhat cramped, yet happily, very safe 10 hour bus ride that brought me from Kampala to here. After bidding the children in Bukedea a most moving and heartfelt fare well for now, along with many more goodbye’s in Mbale, Bududa and Mukono, I stayed in Kampala for a few nights where I rested and regrouped before leaving there on Saturday morning. Traveling west from Kampala for the first time since being in Uganda, I was treated to the beautiful landscape that is so different than the areas to the east and surrounding Mbale… rolling hills covered in a light velvet green that reminded me of my home town in central BC, some covered in crops, large, expansive compounds, most with iron sheet homes, huts becoming less and less frequent with each mile, large numbers of very ‘long horned’ cattle grazing on acres of open land with short hedges separating one owners section from the next, through trading centers with 2 and even 3 storey buildings fronting the main street until closer to Kabale, the town just north of the border crossing where the hills become more numerous and closely condensed, and terraced crops cover every possible inch of every hill in sight, creating a stunningly beautiful landscape of multi colored stripes rising to the sky…
Entering Rwanda, ‘The Land Of A Thousand Hills’ we wound along one side of a valley, the terraced crops continuing on both sides, the floor home to miles and miles of tea, then sugar cane and finally rice…so remarkably exquisite was the scenery that the Nigerian film booming on the inboard TV was almost completely drowned out (for me!) by the enchanting harmony of the land.
Unlike Uganda where I heard ‘Muzungu’ echo constantly upon my arrival (and all throughout my stay) the single word I have heard the most here so far is ‘genocide’. Quite mystifying and in dramatically profound contrast, the splendor I see and feel in the land along with the very warm, gentle and gracious people who have welcomed me in the fresh, clean, energetic and thriving city of Kigali, there is a very distinct, deep, even ‘quiet’ sorrow here that is most palpable for me and my eyes have filled spontaneously with tears many times these past 2 days. Over this next week I’ll endeavor to understand more about what took place here in 1994 and how people have and are continuing to move forward. It seems a good place to start is at the ‘Kigali Memorial Museum’ www.kigalimemorialcenter.org in the Kisozi district of town where inside I understand there are 3 separate areas… the first, dedicated to the Rwandan genocide; the second, to other genocides that have taken place around the world including to the Armenian, Jewish and Cambodian people; and the third, an area remembering the thousands of Rwandan children who died here in 1994. Outside there is a public grave site in a memorial garden where the remains of more than 250,000 people have been layed to rest.
But first… more contrast… I’ve just been told it is time for a breakfast that’s been generously prepared for me… (bread, tomatoes, onions, omelet, coffee, tea) and then a ‘hello visit’ to the nearby center where Nicole, the Canadian woman I have specifically come here to meet, has developed a program for several widows from a nearby village over the past 3 years, along with the help of people back home in Canada.
Till next writing then, in the local language of Kinyarwanda ( French and English are also spoken here) … ‘Oraho’ ( sp?… greetings of hello) and ‘Amahura’ ( I am fine! )
Ps… I have decided out of Love and respect for the Rwandan people that I will take very few photos while in their country, particularly none while I am in Kigali. I have learned that following the genocide many, many foreigners came flocking to this country with their cameras, took picture after picture of the carnage on the streets and then left, many never to be seen again. Understandably, some of the local people have an great aversion to having their photo taken…