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Brenda’s Travel Diary

Saturday, 09 Feb 2008

Location: Kigali, Rwanda

MapPlanet Ranger Day 5

Today, we decided to visit the Genocide Memorial Centre in Kigali before we went to Nyamata. The centre, through photos, video and personal objects, gives a history of the events leading up to and what transpired in the 100 days of the genocide. Wendy and I had visited the memorial in 2006 but I found myself much more affected by it this time. There is a section dedicated to the memory of all of the murdered children that was especially hard to go through. In another room you sit watching a video, surrounded by glass cases with articles of bloody clothes hanging in them. On the video, one of the subjects talked about stumbling among the corpses on the streets and seeing a baby lying in the dirt nursing off it’s dead mother. She said she was so traumatized herself that she could not even pick up the baby and help it. I don’t know how people have survived psychologically, through all of the horror they have witnessed!
We were invited to visit our friend Franklin’s home for dinner, so headed out of the city. Franklin lives with his wife Christella and their 15 month old, daughter Laura out in Nyamata. It was so nice to spend the day in someone’s home like that and not as a visiting sponsor family. Other friends and family gathered also, so the house was pretty full. Most of the talk centered on comparing Rwanda and Canada and looking at pictures. We had a lot of fun and they really made us feel welcome.
Zantas, an elderly man from next door, invited us over to meet his mother. He was the retired teacher who was telling me about his teacher friends being killed in the latrine. He had five children; four of his sons also perished in the genocide. Apparently though, one of his dead sons had had an affair with a French woman before the genocide. She had gotten pregnant and communicated this to him but he hadn’t told anyone about his baby son before he was killed. She came to Rwanda last year with her son to meet his father’s family, not knowing who had survived. The grandfather did not know of this child’s existence so is very grateful to have this child, who is now 16, in the family.
The “Grandma” that we went to meet is a few years over one hundred based on the ages of her some of her surviving 12 children, but told us that there were enough things to count in life so she doesn’t bother counting years! She was the most shrivelled up, adorable thing you ever saw! We asked her what advice she has for us “younger” people and she said “Don’t look in the past, always look towards the future,” and “Don’t rush everywhere, take your time!” I’m sure some of you will enjoy seeing the videotape of her talking about Rwandan courtship, she was priceless! She sang us a song and then asked us to stay the night with her so we could ‘sing and dance all night!’ I can just imagine what this lady has seen in her lifetime in a country like Rwanda!
We had to tear ourselves away from this enduring elderly lady and head back to Franklin’s since our driver wanted to be back before dark. Knowing we’ll see Franklin next week made it easier to say good-bye.
We had to settle up with Claude and our driver before setting a price for our trip to Kahama. This did not go well and after haggling, arguing, a few phone calls and some tag-team negotiations, Claude left in a huff. We went for a drink, patted each other on the back for being so tough and then wondered how we were going to get to Kahama in the morning!