Monday, May 2, 2011

The Land of a Thousand Hills

IN short, Rwanda is GORGEOUS!!!!! Every turn was just wow. First stop, Gisenyi to see Lake Kivu. I stayed with a PC volunteer outside GIsenyi meaning an hr and a half bus ride. Little did I know what that would entail. Picture as many people as a NY subway, but with ruts every 2 ft in the road, then add the fact there is only one pole to hold onto and people 3 to a seat on either side of you, then add the fact that you have a backpack and a grocery bag not to mention the huge backpack I had, and it was a dirt road with meandering turns. Then I think you will have some type of picture. However, on the way was SO beautiful and it was so hard not to take pics!!!!!!! The sun was setting so the light was hitting the houses as if it were an NG cover pic and the sunset over Lake Kivu could not be captured on film though of course I did try (see Facebook) but pls know this is a failed attempt. Then the people were SO nice, tying my bag around the seat, a guy offering to hold my bag for me and even helped me take the failed attempt pics. People in Rwanda: HELPFUL! And not expecting money in return (a first!). Arriving at the PC house I had NO idea I was going to be in a rural African village. This was my first experience living in this setting. But aside from the mold in the house, she had a pretty nice set-up: a big garden, a very impressive, resourceful kitchen which resulted in 5 WONDERFUL homemade meals, and her village was in the process of getting power. The next day we took a walk which involved climbing through eucalyptus forest that they sadly plant to chop down for firewood, and up many hills to the beautiful Lake Kivu with 30 children trailing us and I'm not exaggerating (see the pic if you don't believe me). Then she showed me the village and after having Rwandan tea with a family had more village children follow us. Everyone wanted their photo picture and it was a bit nostalgic of Ecuador with the kids all wanting to carry my water bottle. I also had a lesson in Congo Swahili.

The next part of the trip was a bit more grim. I went and visited the Kigali Memorial of the 2004 genocide where almost 1 million people were killed in 3 months! What bothered me most was my naivete towards the whole event. We are bombarded with the Holocaust in schools, but learn nothing of this RECENT event. IT was so real because every Rwandan has been affected and there are still many refugees outside of Rwanda. To read of how the people were killed or hiding in an outhouse and the profiles of the children was mortifying. The most amazing thing is that people are going to the prisons and forgiving their killer, letting them free and them helping to rebuild. They also had articles of clothing and to see a US university shirt and running shorts made it so close to home. It could have been anyone. AND the beginning of this whole thing was Belgium ethnically dividing the people into groups by how many cattle they had and then France financially supporting the genocide. I can't fathom a country wanting to help with such a thing. Rwanda was a unified country and then the colonizers came and did THIS. If you go to Kigali, you NEED to go to this museum. It is very well done and very moving. There was another section on other genocides going on in the world which I also had not heard about. Armenia, Balkan Islands, Cambodia, and of course The Holocaust. But why do we only hear about the latter?!?

On a happier note Butare was a WONDERFUL stop! My first stop was a place I heard had homemade bagels and turned out to be a women's coop that had the first all-women Rwandan drumming group and had homemade ice cream :) Check them out here:

I also visited Africa's largest mountainous rainforest which was GORGEOUS although transportation was a PAIN because buses went from Kigali only so you had to pay the price (double) from Kigali and have the middle seat where your legs were up to your chest and a person ahead of you leaning back since the chairs had no back support. Beautiful though! Met some more PC volunteers and was amazed at the contrast of the house of this one with the other one: indoor bathroom, 2 bedrooms, toilet, shower, and a ceiling!
On my way down to Butare, I saw two museums in Nyanza. One was of a king's traditional hut and the other of Rwandan art which was really cool because I saw mediums I had never seen before: colored sand and tree bark, and they all had an annual theme that related to the genocide. I couldn't take any pics. When I went to the National Museum, I was a bit jaded of reading after already having visited two museums and kept hearing singing and dancing sounding like it was coming from the back of the museum. After asking the museum and them having no idea what I was talking about and continuing to go back in the museum and hear the sounds again and again, I decided to investigate. I went out back and sure enough there was a dance class going on with a choir. THe biggest difference I noticed in what I saw was the acapella quality of the music. I never got the opportunity to see Rwandan drumming so I can't comment on that, but the dances were VERY different than that of TZ. First of all, the women did not shake their hips. There was a lot of stomping (yes like Appalachian clogging or even Irish dancing or tap) and they did a lot of birdlike movements with their arms outstretched. But apparently it wasn't a bird, but rather a defense and power symbol. It began to pour so I ended up watching quite a bit of the rehearsal and regrettably couldn't take photos or movies since I was just a student observing not a tourist (this would've involved paying $25).

And then it was onto Burundi.

No comments:

Post a Comment