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Brenda’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 11 Jul 2012

Location: Muhanga and beyond., Rwanda

MapBrenda

We’ve been in Rwanda for 7 days and I haven’t written on here yet so I thought I’d better. I’ve spent a number of stressful days sorting out new travel arrangements due to some unforeseen circumstances with Peter. He had poked his finger before I left, on a carpet tack while ripping out a very dirty carpet. This poke resulted in a nasty infection for which Peter had to get daily IV’s of strong antibiotics. While we were in Nairobi he called to say that he had to have surgery that day to remove a lot of dead tissue and it was looking doubtful that he could to join us in Africa at all. By the next day, I received the news that he was NOT coming and I was faced with changing my ticket or remaining in TZ alone for another week after the last of this group left. Peter had up until his original departure date to decide what to do and then ended up choosing to pay to change his ticket and come at a later date rather than face losing his whole ticket, etc. Now I had to try and change my return ticket back. After a few days at the ticket office, a lot of time on the internet, a few sleepless nights and a lot of extra expenses I finally have a confirmed flight home!! I was picturing “Terminal 2” starring Brenda Lowe… (not Tom Hanks) taking place at the Nairobi Airport.

Today, we took an early bus out to Muhanga to meet my good friend Costa. Many of you’ve either met him or heard me talk about him before. Costa is an amazing guy who is the one of the most intelligent, thoughtful, insightful people I’ve ever met. He recently wrote a book which gives you a look into to the struggles he’s endured and how he has moved forward in his life.

A group of eleven of the Groundwork Opportunities out of San Francisco were in Muhanga also. I’ve mentioned them before. They most recently contributed some $ towards the shipping of our last crate in exchange for us to take 1500 library books to St Timothy’s School in Moshi.

We met up with the group and exchanged stories while Costa ran off to negotiate the use of a vehicle large enough to take us to The Murambi Technicole School, now known as the Murambi Genocide Memorial Centre.

During the genocide in 1994, the Tutsies that lived in the area had run to their local church for protection. They were convinced by the bishop and local mayor to go to the site of the newly constructed Murambi School as they would be protected by French Soldiers. Approximately 65,000 people fled to the school on April 16th. Subsequently, the water, electricity and food supply was cut off, the French soldiers left and the people were left to defend themselves with sticks and rocks. After five days, they were overrun and approximately 45,000 people were killed. The people who managed to escape the slaughter, fled to a nearby church where, later, most of them were killed. The bodies at Murambi were buried in mass graves. The French troops used the school as their barracks and played volleyball on the burial sites.

Some years later, the bodies were exhumed and 850 were preserved with lime. These bodies are on display in the various rooms of the school and the remaining ones were reburied in a mass grave on the site. Touring the facility was very emotional as we looked at the remains of babies and small children; one I noted, was still in the arms of its mother.

After a somber ride back to Muhanga, we enjoyed some food and drinks with the American group before heading to Kigali. We weren’t looking forward to arriving at the Kigali bus stop at night as it’s a crazy, busy place, full of aggressive people. Costa called a friend of ours named Wellars who met us with his van and gave us ride home. Wellars had previously driven the 2009 group of us to Tanzania so it was great to see him again.
Tomorrow, we plan to meet up with Costa again and make some mud bricks!!!