After leaving Cape Town, my mom and I flew 4 hours north to Kigali, Rwanda. We spent 10 days exploring the country- learning about its history, its people, its land and its animals.
Although we came for the adventure, my mom and I took the first part of our trip to learn more about the country- its people and its history. We spent the first few days in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city. Much like South Africa, Rwanda has a complex recent history. In Mr. Clark’s elective about world genocides, we touched on Rwanda. It wasn’t until coming to this country did I realize the gravity of what occurred in 1994. In just 100 days one-million Rwandans were killed by a rebel force: their friends, their neighbors. We visited the genocide memorial, paying tribute to those who were killed just 17 years ago. Since the genocide the government has taken great strides to provide equal opportunities for all its citizens. Legislature regarding sanitation, the environment, reconciliation and technology has passed with great success.
We visited two villages to learn more- Agahoza-Shalom and the Reconciliation village. Agahozo-Shalom is modeled after an Israeli village- its mission is to provide a community and a quality education to orphans from the genocide. Its 375 students focus on learning critical thinking skills, rather than rote memorization. The village, perched on a country-side hill, lives by the motto- “see far, go far” inspiring its students to dream big. This village, run by the Joint Distribution Committee is focused on developing self-sustainability. We toured the village seeing everything from its grand wood-burning stoves to the new batch of 1,000 chickens that will be used for their eggs.
The following day we toured the rural area surrounding Kigali that has been touched by the United Nations Millennium Project. Drafted in 2002, there are 8 concrete goals for the mission to develop rural areas. We met a farmer who grows a special type of cassava that harvests in just 3 months, as opposed to one year. We visited a clinic with a new maternity ward, a school with brand-new wood burning kitchen, and a classroom full of smiling children showing off their laptops. The work that the Millennium project has done in rural Rwanda is astounding- bringing modern conveniences to areas that are in need of help.
The afternoon was spent at the Reconciliation village. The idea behind the village is to promote healing and forgiveness. In the village there are 10 families who were perpetrators of the genocide, living alongside 15 families that were victims of the genocide. Individuals not only live side-by-side, they work, play and plan for the future together. The community is built upon forgiveness. Two individuals told us their stories, translated from Kinyarwanda to English. Their ability to learn from the past and live in the now was truly inspiring. After listening to their stories, they asked us, “would you forgive?”
After many conversations and eye-opening experiences, we spent the remainder of the trip outside- filling our lungs with fresh air and sights to last a lifetime. We drove down to the Southwest of the country to Nyungwe Forest. We hiked and explored the national park for a few days. We hiked to a waterfall, hiked in search of chimpanzees and walked across a bridge suspended 80 meters off the ground- giving us a view from above the rainforest canopy. We met chimps, blue monkeys, golden monkeys, colobus monkeys and many, many frogs. The land is extremely lush and green- the beauty of the earth amazes me with each day.
We then headed north to Volcanoes National Park, home to the last mountain gorillas. We spent two days tracking the gorillas up in the forest. We met two troops- Agashua and Kwitanda. We came within feet of the whole family: the babies, juveniles, females, blackbacks and mighty silverbacks. They are incredible creatures to observe. We watched as they ate, cleaned themselves and their family, cared for their young, pounded on their chests and observed us as we stood just feet away.
After four months of traveling, I headed home for Cleveland. Adventures and summertime in New Hampshire right around the corner.
Sobonana Africa, ndiyathanda kakhulu!