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Brenda’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 21 Feb 2008

Location: Kigali, Rwanda

MapPlanet Ranger Feb 21st
Yesterday, Wednesday, we dragged our suitcases over to Chez Lando and checked into our favourite little hotel. We then decided to head down to the craft market and buy some souvenirs to take home. There is quite a selection of great things to choose from here vs. Tanzania. The Rwandans are famous for their woven baskets, which are just beautiful. A small one with a lid takes two weeks to make. We left the market when we had too much too carry and congratulated ourselves on helping to boost the Rwandan economy.
We were talking about the baboons that we had seen the day before as we were driving back to Rwanda, and I realized that I forgot to mention them in my Planet Ranger entry. I want to point out that even though we are in Africa, we had not seen one form of wildlife except for a few varieties of birds. (Unless you can count goats, chickens and cows as wildlife.) We were driving down the highway and as we looked ahead, there was a (herd? flock? gaggle? swarm?) of baboons spread across the road. We all yelled at our driver to stop. I turned the video camera on and passed it to MJ in the back. She turned it off and pointed it at the baboons. After about 10 seconds, Athanase pulled away saying that it was too dangerous to stop because there were thieves everywhere. That was about as close as we came to any kind of safari activity.
For dinner, we picked a place out of our Planet Ranger book to eat at that served Indian food. We all agreed that it was the best food we had ever eaten and the service was amazing. There were waiters hovering and watching so close that when you talked with your hands, they would come over, thinking that you wanted them. They even had chicken dishes with real chunks of meat and no bones!
While there we met two very interesting guys. ‘Mzungus’ always say “Hi” to each other in hopes that the other might speak English and you can have a real conversation without any language barriers. Jack and Achille, stopped by our table to chat and then brought their laptop over for us to look at. Jack is from the States and has started a non-profit organization called “Project Rwanda.” The website is projectrwanda.org and is really worth a look. They are supplying people here with bikes to haul coffee in the Butare region of Rwanda and among other things, also have a road bike team in training, called “Team Rwanda.” I had said to the girls previously that it would be great if Penticton could sponsor an athlete from here to compete in our Ironman Canada Race and then here we were talking to the person who is training these guys. It would be impossible for any of them to compete in a race like ours without help because of the poverty issues here. Jack has selected, is coaching, training, equipping and promoting a Rwandan National Cycling Team with the goal of successful participation in International Cycling competition as a means of promoting this industry within Rwanda and providing increasing awareness and national pride for Rwanda internationally. He said that if we could sponsor one or two of his guys he would train them for swimming and running also. Of course I laid awake half the night trying to figure out how to make it happen. I’m sure some of you will be hearing from me on this…even you Illinois guys!!!
Today, Thursday, we were picked up by Costa, (WV) and we headed out to Nyamata. Wendy had asked the WV staff to purchase goats for some of her families. Giving goats to a family provides them with a sustainable income and even changes their status in the community. There is not enough land here for cows so goats are the preferred meat animal. The families were gathered at the ADP office to receive the animals and the sack of corn that Wendy also bought. It was great to see the kids again. They were the ones that we had met when we first arrived.
When the families were on their way, goats in tow, we headed out to purchase a bike with some of the donated money I had left. The recipient is named Bosco and lives with his 18 year old brother, Jean. Their parents were killed in the genocide. Jean quit school and farms their tiny plot of land so that Bosco can attend school. It would have been great to see his face when he sees the bike, but they weren’t home so it will be delivered later today.
(Warning: This might be troubling for some of you to read.)
We stopped at the Ntarama Church before heading back to Kigali. There was a young girl at the front gate that was to give us the tour. She had lost her family here during the genocide. The 5000 people that were murdered inside this church were mainly women and children. The men had tried to fight off the militia and Interhamwe with rocks and sticks but they were no match for the machetes, guns and grenades. The entry into the one-roomed church is two big open archways at the back side of the building. It has the familiar purple ribbon above it, which is used at all genocide sites. Along the back wall of the church there are deep shelves that go right to the ceiling. The two middle ones are filled with skulls, many of them so little, and the others shelves have various other bones stacked on them. All of the bloody clothing is hanging on the walls, from floor to ceiling, running the length of the church and also above on the tresses. At the front of the sanctuary are huge shelves holding the possessions that had been brought into the church that day by the people. There is also a wooden box filled with school exercise books and other paper items.
There is a mud building behind the church that is partially destroyed by fire. The people in here were burned alive and you can still see bones lying in the rubble. The Sunday school building was beside this and our young guide was showing us the blood all over the walls. We’re looking at this and thinking, this 24 yr old girl is walking us through this place, pointing things out to us while most of her family were killed here. I looked at Casius, the WV guy that was also with us, remembering he had lost four brothers and many of his other relatives at this spot also. I asked them how they felt when people like us tour these sites. They replied that they thought it was strange that we would want to but said that it was important that we know what happened here in Rwanda. They don’t want any of us to forget.
On the way back, to Kigali, Costa told us his story of what happened to some members of his family in 1994. I was going to write about it but I think it would be too troubling for some of you. As much as I’ve read and seen, his story was one that I will never forget. It was a sobering end to our last day in Africa.

We board our flight to England at 6:00am so pending any unforeseen problems, should be eating fish and chips in London by Friday evening.