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Brenda’s Travel Diary

Friday, 08 Feb 2008

Location: Nyamata, Rwanda

MapPlanet Ranger Feb 8th

We had an exhausting but rewarding day on Friday that started out with a visit to Alice’s home. She is the HIV positive woman that we met on our last trip to Rwanda. Alice and her two girls were the recipients of the house that was built by the DLC group following ours in 2006. She also received goats and items purchased from the $100 donated by Denise and Brian’s daughter, Mary.
I remember our last tearful meeting with Alice who, along with her daughters is living with HIV/AIDS. Alice, who was ostracized by her family and community because of her HIV status, had asked us to please come back to visit her. We had to explain that we were from Canada and that it was too far for us to come back for a visit. Remembering that conversation, it was especially exciting for us to see the look on her face when she saw us! It was a very emotional reunion. She was shaking throughout the whole visit. She looked like a different person now that her health has improved thanks to the medical and psychological care she is receiving from World Vision. This time when we said good-bye, we did tell her that we would be back to visit!!
We got to do a little shopping after we left Alice. The “Women Headed Household Association” ‘basket booth’ was close to Alice’s so we stocked up on baskets to bring back to Canada.
Our next stop of the day was the Espoir School right in Nyamata. Following a quick meeting with the principal who gave us an overview of the school, we were invited to sit in on a Primary 6 class and get some Rwandan sex education. The instructor was teaching the children about the reproductive system and, since there aren’t any textbooks, had to be quite an artist. After this we were thrilled when the whole school joined us outside and the children performed some Rwandan dances for us. I managed to film this while many of the children fought to get close to us. Following the dancing we tried to sing “Hokey-Pokey” to distract them but they were pushing each other and trying to grab at us. We finally made our getaway after promising that we would return later in the day.
We headed up into the hills to see Eileen and her family who live in the house that we built on our last trip. MJ finally got a good taste of the bumpy Rwandan roads. When we arrived, one of the first people that we picked out in the crowd around our vehicle was little Everest, our friend from the last trip. He was just as cute and skinny as ever! For us, there were a lot of familiar faces and you could tell that the people there recognized us. We took the gifts that we had purchased for Eileen’s family and went into the house. Eileen, with the help of our translator, told us how this house has changed her life and then brought out the album that WV gave her and showed us the pictures that were taken during the construction. It felt good to know that we had paid for and helped build this house that has made such a difference in someone’s life!
Our next stop was a tour of the Gakurazo Clinic where we would be dropping off our suitcase full of medical supplies. With only 6 nurses and a doctor that comes by twice a month, this clinic serves 26,000 people. Their inventory was about the same as last time we were there so the director was extremely grateful for our donation.
We headed back to the school to pickup T-shirts that Wendy had supplied for the children to draw on. Children from her area had drawn on the shirts for the Nyamata children and these shirts would be taken back to a classroom in Ontario to give to the kids there. While Wendy was in with the kids, MJ and I stayed outside and the kids crowded around us once again. It got quite out of control with the kids grabbing our hair and fighting to get close. We finally had to make our way to one of the classrooms and take cover. I don’t think I could ever get used to that, it’s really quite unnerving.
After leaving the school for the second time, we went to the Nyamata Church, which is the memorial site that we visited on the last trip. There have been around 5000 more bodies found around the immediate area since we were there last. New coffins were stacked in the sanctuary for the remains. The death toll has now gone from 35,000 to 40,000 at and around the church area. There is a cement plaque at the front of one of the crypts that I took a picture of last time. It has a list of names on it. I met a man yesterday who used to be a teacher and knew all of them. They were all colleagues of his and along with their family members, were thrown into the town latrine and stoned to death during the genocide. It is still so overwhelming to be in a place like that. I’ve read and watched so much more about the genocide that I have very graphic pictures in my mind when I look around and picture what had taken place there.
After getting back to Kigali, we decided to hook up with a guy that we met at the airport who is from Saskatchewan. He had been here previously on a WV trip and is now back considering a permanent move here. He told us where to take a cab to and then eventually met us there. We then proceeded to walk back most of the way of our taxi route to get to the restaurant. Things feel very differently here in the city compared to last time and we felt quite safe during our walk. We were in the ‘good’ part of town, near all of the embassies and the hotels that ex-pats frequent so that might have contributed to the feeling of well-being.
A couple of the WV guys joined us and we ate a fairly good meal of curried “chicken bones.” I had to use the bathroom while I was there so asked Innocent, a WV guy, which one I should use. I went into the one he pointed out and there was a gentleman at the urinal. I about-faced and again asked where to go. They said to keep going into that bathroom and I would see a door on the left. When I walked right in, there was a stall door with a women sign and the stall beside it was for men but they were in the same bathroom with the urinal in the centre. An ex-pat came in and while I was deciding what to do, started using the urinal while he was talking to me. I decided that I didn’t have to go to the bathroom that bad and quickly left the room.
By the time we got back to the hotel, we were grateful for our beds at the end of this long day!!!