I hope everyone’s New Year is starting off wonderfully…mine sure has! As most of you are probably aware, my birthday was on January 8th. While I’ve been here I had been wanting to hike Mt. Sabinyo for my birthday, a dormant volcano which is on the border of DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda. When one reaches the peak, he or she is in all three countries at once. It was a goal of mine to do this on my birthday. Unfortunately, planning and time was not on my side. My birthday snuck up on me and I didn’t have time to put anything together, so instead I decided to go to Rwanda (who says that?). Overall it was a fun trip, though quite somber. Most of the tourist sites in Rwanda are centered on the genocides of the 90’s. One of the sites visited was a church at Nyamata, where some Tutsis (the targeted clan of the genocide) were taking refuge from the Hutus (the clan doing the targeting). The church had been attacked by the Hutus and grenades were thrown into the hiding crowds. Inside the church (which has since been used primarily as a memorial for those lost) are numerous piles of clothing from the victims as well as skeletal remains of the victims who were hiding in the church and the remains found in mass graves around the area. It was very surreal, being at a site that was actually attacked and had blood shed over it. It really made me wonder how humans can do this to one another. What makes them think killing other men, women and children, is okay?
Kigali also has a genocide memorial museum which is more informational in nature. It explained the series of events, from the colonial times, leading up to the genocide as well as the aftermath of it. There were personal testimonials from survivors recalling the events and members of their families that they had lost. Also at the Kigali memorial are mass graves. The sheer number of people lost during the genocide is unfathomable. The numbers given were up to the 200,000’s. It really saddened my heart to know that people where (and still are) capable of doing this to one another. There was also a section at the Kigali site describing genocides around the world. It seems that it just takes one notion, one person to spark hatred in a group. I wish there was a way to promote understand in a more effective way…I hope organizations that are working to heal are also working to prevent further bloodshed.
While my birthday was somber, it was still fun. Kigali, much like Kampala, has a great deal of good food. Throughout the week I was able to partake in gelato, baked goods, pizza, and Indian food. The Rwandan beer (Primus) is also quite good. Overall, I’d say it was a very educational and rewarding birthday, even if I didn’t get to climb the volcanoes. I guess that will just have to happen another time.