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Brenda’s Travel Diary

Monday, 06 Apr 2009

Location: Kigali, Rwanda

MapMonday April 6th
Wow what a long day! After fighting with the internet for hours last night, Pola and I ended up going to sleep at 2am only to be woke in the morning with a phone call from Costa. He wanted me to email him our World Vision Itinerary so I had to crawl out of bed and face the computer again. He called me later in the day to ask if I had emailed him what he wanted, I said I did and he said, “Oh, I haven’t checked my computer yet.” I thought, “Didn’t you phone me at 7AM so I could send it?!”
Since we were awake anyway, we decided to get ready for the day. We had everything carefully and efficiently planned out. We were running out of time to do all the things we wanted to, so we needed to make the best of our last few days.
Val had been out with some people from the Baptist church and came back to tell us that they would like to take us out to look at a couple of projects they had on the go. We called up our reliable ‘cab guys’ from the day before and set out to quickly check things out before we got on with the rest of our day. (Have a look at the cab picture in the next set of pictures and you’ll see that we don’t exactly ride in style around here.) We drove out of town, up into the hills and eventually pulled over at a random spot on the side of the road. The Pastor and the Administrator of the Development Department were our ‘tour guides’ and took us hiking across a mountain path, in, what turned out to be, very hot sun. We eventually met up with a group of people working in a field on the side of the hill. They were part of the “Guardians of Hope” group who are adults living with HIV/AIDS. They support themselves and each other in a number of ways, one being this growing coop. We had a very detailed account of ALL of the group’s activities, which always takes twice as long when it’s being translated and feels like four times as long when you’re carrying heavy backpacks in the sun. A cute little boy had followed us over from one of the huts we passed, so I amused myself by giving him a truck and building roads through the ant’s nest I later realized I was almost sitting on. As I watched the girl's skin turn from ‘winter white’ to pink in the sun, I realized it was time to remind our hosts of our schedule. (At this point we were mentally crossing one of our previously planned activities for the day off our list)
We hiked back to the van but then drove even further out of town; up a mountain actually, to a village called Bumbogo where we were going to be visiting a Child-Headed Household that belongs to the Church’s 'Guardians of Hope' group. These kids had lost their mom in 1994 (genocide) and their father had passed away a few years ago after first marrying their evil-stepmother. This woman had tried to steal their home away from them, the mess was eventually sorted out, and the four of them now live on their own. The walk to their hut through the banana grove on the side of the mountain was quite spectacular and the scenery was absolutely beautiful. The walk back up to the van was long, hot and the scenery wasn’t quite as beautiful. (We once again mentally crossed another planned activity off our schedule.)
After heading back to town and grabbing a quick and delicious lunch, we headed over to the (2nd biggest) market in Kigali. This is where the locals shop so there weren’t a whole lot of Mzungus hanging out there. We needed to purchase items to give to Alice and her girls (who you all must remember from the last two trips) and the 5 sponsored children that we’ll be visiting on Wed in Nyamata. We were very thankful that Laurence had agreed to help us (and were thinking maybe, just maybe, we might get to that list of ours.) Other times when we’ve had to do shopping for families, we’ve had the WV men ‘helping’ us. This is a country where only woman do this type of thing so you can imagine how well that’s gone! Laurence made a great list, detailed right down to the prices she expected to pay, and asked us to give her a few minutes alone in the shop for the ‘negotiations’ before showing ourselves. This would keep the prices down as once they catch sight of us ‘rich’ Mzungus they like to charge double. We just HAD to find something to occupy ourselves so made our way through this giant maze of a market and found an area where they were selling things like drums and baskets for amazing prices. We bought an armload and headed back through the gauntlet to our van. Laurence was still shooing us away from her stall, so we went back for more baskets. We created a small riot when we took a few pictures; soon everyone wanted some of the action. After dumping our second load in the van, we headed back to the stall where Laurence was still at it, pen and paper in hand. She gave us ‘that look’ and we moved out of view of the vendor. (At this point we gave up on the idea of doing anything off our list!) We stood for a time questioning how this quick little shopping trip could possibly go so wrong! We’d been there for so long that even the locals had quit staring at us! Eventually we were called over by our ‘negotiator’ and told that we could now carry the heavy purchases through the market to our van. We arrived back at Chez Lando just in time to meet up with Costa.
Costa..what a guy! I knew the girls would just love him when they met him and they did! He hasn’t changed a bit.... MJ and Wendy and he says “Hi!” to you both!
Costa thought it’d be a good idea to have us over to his place to meet the family. Liz and Wanda decided to stick around here, so the rest of us headed out with Costa. He suggested we’d use the bus and we got off up near Hotel des Mille Collines. I mistakenly thought his house might be near there. We walked through a Mardi-Gras-like crowd for at least a solid hour, up and down through the rolling hills of the city of Kigali. We walked in places that no Mzungu has been before, I’m sure! I tried to get a few shots on my camera and Costa said he would be sure to smile so I could see him in the dark. (His teeth are the only things you can see at night!)
We finally arrived at his house and had the best evening! We met his wife Bernadette, his son Gentle and his 2 month-old daughter, Queenie. The kids are both adorable!!! Bernadette’s brother Yves and sister Denise also live with them. This is the family that I mentioned in my Blog last year. I omitted the details of what happened to their family during the genocide because it’s that horrific!
We feasted on a platter of fried sardines, chips and onions which is a very traditional Rwandan meal/snack. Costa shared with us his work with genocide victims concentrating on the areas of reconciliation and forgiveness between victims and perpetrators. Amazing stuff!
The whole genocide feels so recent with all of the talk and activities of this memorial week. As we were driving home I remarked that it was almost the same time when, fifteen years ago President Habyarimana’s plane was shot out of the sky above Kigali's airport marking the beginning of the genocide. Ironically, his plane actually crashed in to his own compound!
The radio was playing a speech about what has happened in Rwanda since then and how this country has progressed and moved forward from one of the worst atrocities in history. The people here have forgiven each other and, through their acts of reconciliation, are setting an example that the rest of the world could learn and benefit from. Tomorrow we will be going to the Memorial Ceremony; this was my main reason for wanting to come to Rwanda at this time. Paul Kigame will be among the speakers; I think he’s such an amazing leader and can’t wait to see him. Once again it’s in the middle of the night so I’d better sign off. Thanks to all of you who’ve sent messages…it’s always nice to hear from home!!!!!