The second half of the traveling week we went to Rwanda. Rwanda was kind of a rough trip for me. It was one of the hardest parts of my time in Uganda, but also one of my favorites. I learned a lot while I was there and I think it was one of the most valuable things we did.
We left for Rwanda early in the morning. It was supposed to be a 12 hour bus ride, but ended up taking close to 19 hours! I get incredibly motion sick, so I had a pretty hard time on the bus. The roads were in really bad condition and I think there was a good portion of the trip where we didn’t get above 20-30mph. It was a nightmare! Our drivers were awesome though! One guy drove most of the trip, and it was a difficult drive!
After a couple of hours, we made it to the Equator! We got to get out and walk around for a little while. We watched an experiment about how water flushes. On one side of the equator, water spins to the left and on the other side it spins to the right. Right on the equator it doesn’t spin.
We stopped for lunch at a hotel. We had a big group of about 35, so whenever we all needed to eat at the same time, it took forever. We were at that hotel for about 2 hours. We got to the border around 8pm and it took us a couple hours to get through. After we exited Uganda we had to walk in the dark to get to the Rwanda side. It took about an hour to get the whole group through and then we had to wait for our buses to get come. That took almost another hour. Then the border men made us unload all of our luggage from the buses and went through each suitcase one by one. It took an eternity. We had to show our passports again to get on the bus. My professor said it has never been that difficult to get through and never usually takes that long. So, we were really late getting to our hotel room.
We got up thursday morning and went to do some genocide memorial stuff. It was all really sad and a little overwhelming. We went to the memorial that had a museum attached. The memorial had mass graves holding over 250,000 bodies. It’s crazy to me that they are still finding bodies of victims and have a couple mass graves that are empty that they expect to eventually fill. It was really sad and I didn’t really feel like taking pictures of a lot of the things I saw. One room was filled with skeletons of victims and another was filled with thousands of photos of people who were killed that were donated by family members. That afternoon we visited a genocide site. It was a church where I think between 5 and 6,000 people were killed. Inside the church they had thousands of skulls and bones of the victims that they had collected. There were also coffins that the guide said held about 100 skeletons each. It was a very said and overwhelming day. One of our guides was 2 when the genocides took place. Both of her parents were killed and she was raised by her 5 year old brother who had to keep them in hiding for a while. Another guide that was with us lost his entire family. He was the only survivor and was 16. He had to hide in the woods for 2 months just living off of whatever he could find. What I think is amazing is that the people I’ve met have been able to move on. They are generally happy people. I could not imagine living through that and being able to move and on and have a happy life. I am so amazed by people I met there. They have suffered more than I could ever imagine and have been able to have happy and successful lives. They have so much faith and are just really inspiring. Rwanda is beautiful too. It’s a lot hillier and greener than what I saw in Kampala. The difference between Kampala and Kigali is pretty amazing. The streets are actually well paved and there are lane lines and street lights and traffic signals. I liked having smoother rides for a couple of days!
Thursday night we ate at the hotel Mille Collines. This is where Hotel Rwanda took place. It was nice to end the night where there was a positive ending. The hotel manager turned the hotel into a refugee camp and saved at least 1,000 lives. We watched the movie a few nights ago and it was cool to eat dinner where that took place. They had awesome food and a really great live band and I had a really good time.
Thursday we got up early and went to a place called Azizi Life. You can learn more about it here! They arranged for us to spend a day in a village with a family. We were split in to small groups and sent to different villages with a translator. It was a really great experience! They gave us skirts to wear and wrapped our head in scarves. I loved getting to talk with and understand these people a little better. We were with two women who were so kind and so happy! We started out the day cultivating. It was hard work and I didn’t really enjoy it. I can’t believe these women do it everyday. They are so strong. We then cut grass to feed the cow. While we were cutting grass, I met a little girl. I think she was about 4 or 5 years old and was absolutely adorable! She really liked me and was by my side for the rest of the day. I just loved her! It was really awesome to see that even though we didn’t speak the same language and have completely different lives, we were still able to communicate and become friends!
We also went and fetched water. The village was on the side of the hill and the water was in the valley, so we had to walk down the hill to get the water, then walk back up. It was hard. The water was heavy and some of the pathways we had to take were steep and narrow, and the women we were with do it multiple times a day.
After this we had lunch. We ate avocados, cassava and beans. I really dislike avocados, but I didn’t feel like I could turn them down. I’m very proud with myself that I ate the whole thing, but it didn’t sit well with me, so I felt a little off the rest of the day.
I also met a little girl who knits. She had two tiny little sticks as her knitting needles and was a hundred times better than me. I tried to get her to show me her work, but she was so focused on knitting she didn’t have time for my pictures.
After lunch, some of the other groups and their hosts came to our village and we were taught to weave. It was actually just braiding, but the materials were really cool. They use sisal plants to get the string and it was really cool to watch them get it and dye it. The colors were so bright! I got to make two bracelets.
While we were waiting to start weaving, some of the kids and women started jumping rope, and were having a great time!
This lady is 50 years old and was having a blast! I love the joy they have in their life. They talk about how incredibly blessed they are but they have so little by our standards. I just feel like I need to learn to be as grateful for what I have as they are for what they have. After weaving, all of the women started singing and dancing. It was really fun to watch and the little kids were so cute when they joined in.
We left and went back to the hotel. It was our first night of down time and it was good to not have anything to do. We were able to relax and hang out for the evening. I got sick that night, so I was able to fly back to Kampala the next morning. It was just a 45 minute flight, so a lot better than a long, bumpy bus ride.
I had a great experience in Rwanda. It was harder for me than I expected, but I learned so much and had so many great experiences! I need to find a way to go back!