After a restful day in Moshi, we hopped on a plane early this morning for Rwanda. The air travel here is a bit like riding a bus. On the way to your destination, the plane stops, and you wait while other people get on and off. Our bus stopped in Kenya, then Burundi, and finally Rwanda. As we landed in Burundi, I eyed soldiers with rifles camouflaged in the tall grass. Something about this didn’t sit right. They weren’t out in the open and that made me uncomfortable. Wondering whether or not my instincts were correct, I looked up the travel warnings for US citizens and apparently we aren’t advised to be spending much time in Burundi these days. Something about Somalian terrorist attacks. As much as I love a good adventure, I am not particularly interested in Somalian terrorist attacks, so I was happy to just sit on the runway and pray those guys in the grass weren’t from Somalia.
We arrived in Rwanda and were greeted by Nur our guide and Mr. Frank our driver. Mr. Frank drove and Nur guided as we explored the beautiful city and visited the Genocide Museum/memorial. I feel so incredibly fortunate to be here. I am in awe of the resilience of this country and its people. I was drawn to this place for this exact opportunity. To stand among people who have survived. People who have met the most hideous challenges and have truly overcome their differences while collaborating in the rebuilding of their city. A mere 17 years ago, in only 100 days, over 1 million people were murdered in a country with a population of only 5 million. That’s %20 of their population. 10,000 people a day, for 100 days. Gone. In a country the size of Maryland. And, the events just get worse. On top of the 1 million murdered, 500,000 women were raped. One of the strategies of the genocide for complete eradication of the Tutsi people was infecting as many women as possible with the HIV virus. Any infected man working for the genocide was recruited as a soldier for the spreading of the disease. If Tutsi women were infected, they couldn’t give birth to healthy children, thus eliminating the growth of the Tutsi people. Some of these women are still alive today and still battling this disease. The statistics are horrifying.
Among all the sorrow in our day, there were some significantly uplifting moments. The positive side of this country’s past, is most certainly its future. It is recovering, growing, rebuilding. It is a beautiful city, with beautiful people, all who strive for the same goal. Their examples of forgiveness and perseverance should be lessons for us all. For if they can do it, why can’t we? The other positives in our day were most definitely soaking in the beautiful sights. The land here is breathtaking. The steep hills roll one after another, spritzed with the mists of clouds. The lush hills are blanketed in rich greens, with farm terraces spotting the slopes. There is no trash, the roads are newly paved, women carry giant bundles on their heads (with babies strapped to their backs), and children wave as you drive past. People are happy, extremely hospitable, and strong.
Tomorrow we get to enjoy another one of this country’s treasures, the mountain gorillas. Peter’s Tarzan, I’m Jane, and we are off to love on some giant primates.