We had an amazing time in Rwanda! It was wonderful for many reasons. The Rwandan landscape is breathtaking, the development is astounding and happening at a very quick rate, the genocide memorial, the forgiveness, and the stories are incredibly humbling. We find that it is still very difficult to summarize our experience, but we will do our best.
Our vacation began the moment our plane left from Moshi. Because we had to delay our flight, we were not completely convinced that we would even have a trip. As soon as the plane wheels lifted from the Tanzanian pavement, we were relaxed and excited about the trip.
Due to our extended stay in Tanzania, we are finding that our perspectives are drastically changing. We did not expect any refreshments on the 30 minute flight to Nairobi, the first leg of our trip. We assumed that African budget airlines would not offer such frills that top dollar U.S. airlines rarely offer. To our surprise, they offered us refreshments! They gave us a generous portion of roasted cashews and a can of Diet Pepsi! After that, they offered tea and coffee, which we gladly accepted!
Our layover in Nairobi was 5 hours. The flight was delayed, so our layover became 7 hours in total. Many people were upset and angry because of the layover. We were not, and we have to admit that this is the first time we’ve been excited about being stuck in an airport! There were very nice coffee shops and many duty free shops; to us it felt like we were at the Cherry Creek Mall in Denver! We even found a restaurant that had burritos! See the photo below!!! Good Mexican food simply does not exist in Moshi so this was a real treat!
We arrived in Kigali a few hours late. The airport customer service was phenomenal in assisting us to contact our friend that we were staying with so that we could be picked up. A friend of hers came and picked us up from the airport and took us to a hotel where there was a dance competition. To understand the dance competition, you must understand the organization that Deb, our friend we were visiting, volunteers for.
Tubahumurize Association is an organization that provides therapy and therapeutic activities for women who were traumatized by the genocide. Therapy is conducted in group and individual formats by a Rwandan psychologist who also experienced the genocide. The therapeutic activities include sewing, quilting, making jewelry, dancing, and Bible study. The dance therapy is taught by a group of teenagers who were orphaned by the genocide. Deb worked very hard with this group to compete in the dance competition. Below is a photo of some of their products.
The competition was very large; on the final night there were over 200 people in attendance. Also, a very popular Rwandan rap group preformed at the competition. The top three groups were paid, with the first place getting 1,000,000 Rwandan Franks, or $1,667. This amount is almost twice the average annual income for Rwandans. Deb’s group performed traditional dance; they were creative, inspiring, and unique. The other groups all performed “hip-hop” dances; they looked like teens in the U.S. In our opinion, they should have finished second, but they finished fourth out of fifteen teams. They were one place short of receiving a monetary award. It was unfortunate for the group, but they did an amazing job! Deb is exploring options for them to attend a local dance studio so that they can further improve their dancing skills!
The next day we were able to explore Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city. The development could be seen in all corners of the city and with every level of economic status. There were large sky scrapers, construction cranes, tin or clay roofs on every house, LED lights serving as street lines, impeccably clean streets, and well-maintained roads. It was as if we were in Europe. We could not believe how developed Kigali, and the rest of Rwanda, is. We will discuss the development in Rwanda in more detail in the “Inspirational Tid-Bits” section later this week.
The highlight of the day was breakfast. We had real bagels!!! We went to a place called ABC Bagels for breakfast. ABC Bagels is a non-profit that works to provide vocational skills for people who were formally living on the streets of Rwanda. We each had a bagel sandwich. They were phenomenal! The best part was the cheese!!! Moshi does not have very good cheese, and we love cheese! We are at the point in Moshi where we do not even buy cheese because it does not taste good. We were amazed by the bagel sandwiches and ABC Bagels!!!
The next day we took a trip to Lake Kivu, a lake that is on the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We drove through the land of 10,000 hills! A few of the hills can be seen below!
We were originally going to visit a city called Gisenyi, but we got lost and ended up visiting Kibuye, which was also beautiful! We met three British people that afternoon and had dinner with them. They were traveling to Gisenyi the next day, so we decided to help them out and give them a ride! The drive to Gisenyi was very beautiful! We drove by beautiful chai tea fields and the volcanoes between Uganda and Rwanda where the mountain gorillas live! We were not able to see any gorillas because it is so expensive to see them, but the volcanoes were amazing! See below for photos of Lake Kivu and the tea fields.
We returned to Kigali that evening. We had dinner at a wonderful pizza restaurant! There was an amazing view and we felt like we were at the finest restaurant in the United States! We ordered a four cheese pizza, which included Gouda, goat cheese, mozzarella, and brie!
On Tuesday we visited the Genocide Memorial. The memorial symbolized the Rwandan genocide and provided information about the history and aftermath of the Rwandan genocide. The memorial also provided a brief history of five other genocides including the Holocaust. Although it is extremely difficult to put into words, we will discuss the Genocide Memorial in more detail in the “Through Our Eyes” section.
We had a lovely dinner with the director of the Tubahumurize Association and her family Tuesday evening. We had true Rwandan food, learned about their family and life in Rwanda, and heard stories about those they lost in the genocide. We are continuously amazed by the love and forgiveness that the people of Rwanda exhibit.
The next day we flew out of Rwanda. We were sad to leave, but we were excited to return home. It was such an amazing trip and Rwanda was so beautiful! Now, we feel like we are more energized to complete the next third of our trip! We were excited to return to BCC and meet with our Tanzanian friends again!