The Craziest Day Yet in Rwanda…or in My Life, Really

Before I get into the crazy antics of yesterday, I will fill you in on life in Rwanda so far (it’s already been a week! I can’t believe it!). 
It is seriously one of the most amazing countries I’ve ever been to. I mean, obviously it has such a horrible history, and that’s almost what makes it even more amazing – the fact that people here are trying to heal, and to forgive. I’m mainly staying in Kigali and then doing some day trips (to places like Gitarama, Butare, and possibly Kibuye). Next weekend, though, I’m relaxing in Gisenyi, Rwanda’s “resort town,” which is on Lake Kivu and is supposed to be beautiful!! I’m staying near the Hotel Mille Collines (of Hotel Rwanda fame), and I’ve eaten dinner there once. It was neat to see because of the history, but the hotel itself isn’t that spectacular. It might also have been the fact that the pool (people drank the water from the pool during the genocide in order to survive) and main restaurant were closed. My hotel is very cozy, with a  small swimming pool and garden. The staff are really nice too. The city is SO much bigger than I thought. It’s pretty much impossible to walk all around it – it could take 4 or 5 hours to walk from one side to another, I think. I had an interview in Remera district and had to take a taxi, and it was about a 15 minute ride (with no traffic), and that wasn’t the edge of Kigali. I’m located right in the centre, which is great. I’m pretty proud of myself, as I’ve figured out where the best supermarket is, I’ve located a coffee shop (that also serves great lunches), and I’ve got a Rwandan cell phone. The city is built on many hills, so the views are spectacular (though personally I enjoy the countryside more).
I’ve pretty much mastered the public transport system, although I’m still a tad hesitant to go on the motorcycle-taxis. Walking is better anyway. But the buses are great – the most expensive one is about $3 for the 3-hour trip to Gisenyi. I’m always the only muzungu on them, so I get lots of attention and stares. Usually I can bond with moms and their babies, which is fun even with the language barrier. And sometimes I get special treatment, with bus drivers wanting to know if I want a better seat up front, but I like sitting in the back with everyone else. It’s more interesting.
I arrived about a week ago, and have started my research. The interviews are going well – though I’ve only done 3 so far. But, to be fair, I did need a few days to figure out Kigali, get to a bank, get a Rwandan phone number, buy some groceries, etc. I plan to do more next week.

And  now I’ll get to one of the craziest days EVER! On Friday, I took the bus to Musanze (which was supposed to be 90 minutes but took about 2.5 hours as we kept stopping to let people off at different places, and we stopped at a small mall for a few minutes. But it was an adventure!). I walked the entire town (which isn’t that big) and visited a small genocide memorial/cemetery. Then yesterday, the craziness began!  It took as about 2 hours to trek to the gorillas, then we had an hour with them, and then trekked back out. We literally climbed a mountain – it was SO high! And I got a little altitude sickness (we were at almost 3000 metres above sea level) when we were at the gorillas, so I sat down for a few minutes so I wouldn’t faint. The group I saw was Group 13, and it has 26 members. It was amazing – we saw the huge silverback, a few females, and about 10 babies who were jumping and swinging and playing. The silverback was amazingly patient. He just lay there while all his kids jumped on him and around him. The guide said “he’s a good dad.”

And then I went to an orphanage where I met the “Mama” (the woman who takes care of all the kids), who is seriously one of the most amazing woman I’ve ever met! I fell totally in love with her – she is awesome! But she only speaks Kinyarwandan so I couldn’t really convey my admiration. But she was just so warm and sweet to me, even with the language barrier, and you could see how much she loved her kids. It was SO sweet! THe kids all sang and danced for me when I arrived, and then did so again as I left. When I arrived, they all came running up to the car (and I felt bad because I didn’t have any gifts for them, but I did give a donation to the Mama, which will likely be used for food, my translator said). Then as we went inside, one of the littlest kids took my hand as we walked inside. It was so cute! I fell in love with those kids and wanted to stay much longer than my timing allowed, as I traveled back to Kigali the same day. The translator I had for this (arranged by the tour company that also got me my gorilla permit and took me to the park this morning), wasn’t the greatest. He didn’t understand a lot of my questions, and as he was relating her answers, they didn’t always make sense. I had to keep clarifying, but I think I got a few good points out of it for my dissertation.

I then got on another matatu, and the next incredible thin happened! The bus stopped and I saw a man running towards it, carrying a child in his arms. THe boy had been in a bad accident and was bleeding (he was probably around 5 or 6, and his father was carrying him and an older brother (I think) was with them.) So I whipped out my antiseptic wipes and some kleenex and set to work communicating with the brother what to do, and then stopping the bleeding myself from the rather deep wound from his head while cradling his head and trying to soothe him (while another girl about my age had to keep looking away from the sight of it all. I kinda thought I would be like that, but then I just sprung into action. Not that he was bleeding THAT badly anymore – but still). And don’t worry – I didn’t come into contact with any blood! THe wound was rather deep, but small circumference-wise, so I didn’t touch any blood (and it wasn’t bleeding very profusely by the time they reached the bus). So yeah, it was a pretty crazy day! 

But that is why I love Rwanda so much.

About kbardswich

Writer. Photographer. Activist. Lesbian. Feminist. Traveller. Voracious learner. Part-time shit-disturber.

Posted on July 19, 2009, in Rwanda. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. It's amazing how much of life you can fit into one day, isn't it? It really sounds like this is an extraordinary experience for you!

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