Thursday, June 10, 2010


On this past Thursday we had decided to head off to Rwanda! Krista and I were going to meet our two other Beyond Borders classmates, Cat and Nev, in Kigali. After a long time of traveling we finally made it to Kigali in one piece. We slept in the city for the first night in very cramped beds. We had decided to cram the four of us into a double room. Just a reminder to everyone, a double room consists of two single beds. Now just imagine how uncomfortable that is! I was very grateful though because the hostel had hot water. That was a treat that I was not expecting, hot showers. I had not realized until that moment how much I miss hot showers. I haven’t had a hot shower since I left Toronto, although in Kampala they are not sorely missed. In Kampala, by the time that I get home after riding in the extremely hot matatus (like a bus but it’s a crammed van) a cold shower is very welcoming. In Kigali however it is very chilly. I had to buy a sweater before I left, being warned about Rwanda’s cold weather, and I put that sweater to very good use throughout the trip.

After we woke up from the cramped sleep we set off for the Rainforest National Park (not it’s formal title, but I forget the real name). Along the way we planned to stop off at the genocide memorial. This memorial had preserved the bodies of all of the Tutsi who were killed at the poly technical school in the area. The Tutsi were led to believe that they would be safe from the Hutu in this area. They were then kept in the school for a week without any food or water when they became very weak. When the Hutu rebels knew that they were weak they entered the school and slaughtered all of the Tutsi .The Tutsi were too weak to fight back and they all died: men, women and children. They were then put into mass graves before the Hutu rebels continued on. The memorial had dug up the bodies and preserved them so that people can witness the effects of the genocide.

When we got to the memorial we were the only people who were there. This could be because it is out of the city center, because it was an afternoon on a Friday or because it is not as well known. Whatever the reason, we were the only people who were there and so we were the only ones given a tour. There was not as much of a tour, rather we were given a short background of what happened and then we were led around from room to room. The sights were indescribable. There was room after room after room of the people who were killed and laid out. You could still see the marks on the skeletons where the machetes hit the people. Once you entered the room the smell of death entered into your nostrils. The people were not set up in any elaborate way; they were simply laid out on wooden platforms, all next to each other. The rooms which they were put in were small dark rooms with one window to let in a tiny fraction of light. Some of the skeletons had their faces distorted in a silent scream, which they would have forever. It was possible to start imagining the looks on their faces when the Hutu rebels came into the school. The last rooms, which made the memorial so powerful, were the rooms filled with the children. There were so many children who were killed at this school in Rwanda. I could not even imagine what these children’s last thoughts would have been. The memorial was extremely powerful in showing some of the darkest sides that human possess. As we left the memorial I could not help but letting a small tear make its way out of the corner of my eye. We drove away, stunned into silence for a long period of time.

The rest of our trip in Rwanda was filled with the magnificent views of the country side. The hills are absolutely gorgeous and the landscape can literally take your breath away. There were several times when we stopped and we got out of the car and looked out at the landscape. Rwanda is one of the most beautiful places on the face of this planet. Rwanda is a country which seems to be more developed than I assumed that it would be. I do not know if we never passed a slum area, although we did a lot of driving around, but it seemed as though areas in Kampala (and Nairobi too as I heard from Cat and Nev) were worse than what I was seeing. This needs to be taken with a grain of salt, because there are still many areas where the people do not have electricity and they do not have houses which would meet North American standards. The area seemed to be developing at a great pace. The roads were all paved (with no pot holes!) and the country did not have an excessive garbage problem. Rwanda is a beautiful country which I hope to return to one day.

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