Sunday, May 29, 2011

Day 2 -> Kigali to the Village


Isabato nzizo (Shabbat Shalom)!

Today, we finally had time to sleep in a bed and woke up early for an amazing breakfast at the hotel. Our group got to try all types of Rwandan delights, including passion fruit, sweet tomatoes, fresh juice, and coffee. We then drove on the bus to the Kigali Memorial Museum. We had met the founders of the museum, the Smith brothers, when they visited Tufts Hillel earlier in the semester, so it was really exciting to see what they have created.
All of us bought the audio guide so that each of us got to go around the museum at our pace.

The goals at the museum are: 1. mass grave for 250,000 victims of the genocide and more bodies are brought there every year 2. Serves as a national archive to preserve and document the official documents, narratives and personal stories of the genocide. 3. Educational museum meant for Rwandan people including students from every district to come and learn about the history of the genocide. This is especially important because history is not formally part of Rwandan school curriculum.

We are now going to try to explain to some of the main aspects of the genocide that we learned through the symbolism that the gardens surrounding the museum provided. The three gardens that stuck out at us were the Garden of Unity, Division, Self-Protection, and Reconciliation. The first garden started as a unity garden where there was a fountain in the middle of the garden and the entire garden was shaped in a circle, the shape of a traditional Rwandan home. The fountain had a stream that led to the next garden, the garden of division which represented the chaos that occurred during the genocide of the Hutus massacring the Tutsis as well as moderate Hutus. The drop down of the waterfall that connected the gardens represented the fall of Rwandan society and the disrupted harmony and unity of ancient times. This was shown through statues that were all facing different directions as well as benches that were separated is meant for personal reflection that emphasizes each person’s responsibility. The garden was surrounded by palm trees that shoes that even during this massacre that Rwanda was still a visibly beautiful country but the terror that went on was horrific. Thirdly, the reconciliation garden contains a fountain built up with rocks symbolizing the building blocks and steps that Rwanda has made towards a positive future. Finally, the cactus garden symbolized self protection since the needles on the cactus protect the plant. The statue in the fountain in the front of the museum represented the death and mourning and the water represented life and the elephants (Go Jumbos!) represents memory so that we never forget.

After our group went though the museum, Honore, a representative from the Museum, spoke to us and answered all of our questions. We then held a memorial ceremony in the gardens to commemorate those who were buried in the graves and to discuss some of our reactions to the images, information, and stories we learned today.

Back on the bus and we headed to lunch we went to a restaurant in Kigali Africa Bites for some classic Rwandan food. Peanut sauce that we put over rice, beans, spinach, and avocado!

We then drove the 40 minutes from Kigali to the village. We were so excited to be heading to the village. Everyone couldn’t stop looking out the windows. The Rwandan landscape is so beautiful: lushes green rolling hills, valleys, a huge blue sky, and so much red from the dirt. The mountains and hillsides were so green and the red dirt of the country.

After settling into our guest houses, we headed to the Mango Tree (where Ann Heyman formally bought the land for the village) and met the group from University of Pennsylvania who has been here for a week. They gave us a tour of the village, explaining to us where everything is. The village is so spread out, but we are already beginning to understand how things are laid out. The school is located at the top of the huge hill and looks out at the entire village. The idea behind this is that “if you see far, you will go far.” Education is to allow students to have a successful future.

We also learned the song “Deep Inside My Heart” that some members of our group learned during Tufts Wilderness Orientation their freshmen year at school. At Village Time before dinner we taught the whole village the song. Here are the lyrics:

            Deep Inside My Heart I’ve got an everlasting love
It’s shining like the sun and radiates on everyone
And the more that I give, the more I’ve got to give
It’s the way that I live, it’s what I’m living for

Our first meal at the village was highly anticipated and consisted of beans, rice, and sweet potatoes. We each went to a different table and it was definitely nerve racking to meet the students and get to know one another. We thought it would be like our first day of middle school all over again. The students, though, are so welcoming and friendly, that it made the meal very special. While it was sometimes difficult to communicate and to know if there was mutual understanding in what we were trying to say to one another, we started to get to know a little bit about the students including their names, what they studying, where they are from in Rwanda, and what clubs they are involved in. We are really excited for Monday when we begin to participate in village life and can take part in their Enrichment Programs (EPs).

The Dance Party after dinner was one of the highlights of the day. Some of us got to showcase our best moves: Dan introduced the famous “Shopping Cart” while Zac broke out his breakdancing skills with the “The Worm.”

The ongoing feeling upon our arrival in Rwanda has been exhaustion but the group was able to stay up to share some thoughtful thorns and roses (lows and highs of the day) including seeing the shy kids break out and dance at the dance party, being invited to eat lunch with some of the students the next day. On the flip side, the language barrier is something we hope we can ameliorate in the future.

Urabeho (Goodbye) and lots of amahoro (peace)

Tali and Jenny, 5/27/11

The flame burns for the 100 Days of Remembrance at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre.

Inbal visiting the Wall of Names.

The Fountain of Hope in the symbolic gardens of the Memorial Centre.
Dance party after village time. Zac went all out with the worm!

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