Saturday, May 31, 2014

Day 3: Umuganda & Kigali Genocide Memorial

Jetlag is awful! I went to bed last night around midnight and woke up wide awake at 1am. After forcing myself to go back to sleep I managed about 3 more hours of sleep. So today was a constant effort to stay awake. We got up and had some breakfast and then walked about 10 minutes to a suburb of Kigali to participate in that community's umuganda project. Umuganda is a mainly mandatory (those with money can buy their way out of it) monthly community service. Citizens cut grass, sweep roads, pick up trash, build various things,  etc. So we met up with a group of locals and they gave us machetes, a hoe, and something called a kopa kopa and is used for cutting grass by hand and cutting back large plants. Umuganda lasts around 3 hours, or 4 in our case. All of us chipped in and helped clear the side of a road so that the grass was very short etc. Then we walked up an incredibly steep hill that had us all panting for breath where we cleared the entire side of a road. It was a lot of hard work. Apparently most western tourists do not participate in this event, and neither do foreigners that work in the country. So the people of the village were very surprised to see a large group of white people coming to help. We met so many nice people, but it was amusing to be hacking away at some bushes in the 80 degree hot sun and turn around and see 20 townspeople staring at you. When they realized that you noticed they would jump and laugh a little. It didn't bother me at all, once they got to know each of us they were very interested in what we do and what it is like for us in America, etc. We made several friends during the service and the town hall meeting afterwards. Following the community service everyone there gathered on the hillside and they had a town meeting where they discussed a variety of topics from paying taxes, reinforcing the idea that there are no tribes in Rwanda anymore, and even discussing a guy that is having many women live in his house and they sneak out at night, and what should be done about it. It was very interesting to witness. Some of the people sitting with us were nice enough to translate what was going on so we could follow along. 

After umuganda we went to the hotel for a shower and some lunch. After we did that Dr. Rundus was lucky enough for his missing baggage to arrive on a flight into Kigali, after the company had no idea where they could be. He was very happy to have clean clothes for the first time in multiple days. 

Following lunch we went and visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial & Museum. It was a really interesting setup. Outside you can see mass graves that hold the bodies of about 250,000 victims from the Kigali area. There was also a number of special gardens, each symbolizing a different thing. One was for the early days of Rwanda when times were peaceful before colonization, the next was the divide created between the groups by colonization, and the next was reconciliation after the genocide. It was a very interesting display and it used a lot of symbolism to help show, through plants and landscaping, what happened to Rwandan society. From there you go inside where the exhibit takes you step by step through the escalation of persecution and into the genocide and beyond. There is even a very touching section on children victims that we, unfortunately, had to rush through as they were closing. All in all it was a very wonderfully done memorial and the other students on the trip were able to get an idea about the events leading up to, and during, the genocide. Well that is all for today. I'm so tired I'm about to pass out... hopefully it lasts 8 hours this time!!!!

Listening to the English Audio Tour

A series of mass graves where victims have been reburied properly. 3 Tiered levels of multiple mass graves to fit all 250,000+  Kigali victims

A window to see how the bodies are place inside, there is space in this grave for more bodies when they are accidentally discovered 20 years later.

The wall of the dead, listing the names of every known person that is buried in the mass graves. Many were buried, but never identified. 

A kind of eternal flame in memory of those lost.

Faces of the victims

Stained glass of depicting the start of the genocide

A lock from the 1994 Genocide

Stained class depicting the aftermath of the genocide

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