We made our way to the Rwanda border and exited the bus. We met a nice girl from Germany who had been on the same bus, so the three of us talked as we crossed into Rwanda on foot. It took about an hour to go through all the visa and immigration mashery, and we narrowly avoided an international incident over some plastic bags in our luggage. Turns out plastic bags are illegal in Rwanda – brilliant! Except that J has a neatly organized system for all of his belongings and the system would surely crumble without the plastic bags. Luckily he was allowed to keep the plastic bags and then we caught another bus on the Rwanda side into Kigali, the capital.
We noticed a difference immediately from our experiences in Tanzania. Here in Rwanda, our bus was clean and new and we received a printed ticket for our journey. Surely this is a freak occurrence. The windows were clear and you could actually see out of them and they worked properly. The roadside bushes were manicured and the streets were cleaner. What is going on here? I mean, it was no small town USA suburb, but geez, what a difference from Tanzania.
Kigali was the first ‘normal’ city we’d been to in quite a while. OMG the excitement! We checked into a hotel and proceeded to the nearest café we could find for internet and a latte. Oh heavenly latte, come here to me. There were supermarkets and stores and a movie theater, oh my! We actually went and sat in a movie theater and watched a movie can you believe it? We watched Will Smith in Focus in case you were wondering.
We’d read in J’s guidebook about a restaurant called ‘Heaven’ that was said to have great food. Yes, yes we should go there! We feasted on gorgeous food and red wine; finally red wine – and a salad. I was never so excited to have a proper salad! Our bellies were full and we slid blissfully back into a state of contentment.
We spent the next several days exploring the hills of Kigali and all the city had to offer. We of course visited the sobering genocide memorial. Oh, there’s so much I could say about the 1994 genocide, but it’s all been said before in countless books and articles.
I think one of the most shocking things about it to me is that I knew so little about it. I was seventeen when it happened and I’m embarrassed to say I was more concerned about the dramas with my then high school boyfriend than I was with the massacre of almost one million people in a tiny African country the size of Vermont. I was just oblivious to anything outside of my small life in the U.S. and I didn’t even remember hearing much about it on television. My lack of knowledge may have been due to my age; I’m guessing it was widely covered in the news, but as I’ve read, the U.S. intentionally kept its distance and that just seems deplorable.
I know it’s always a hot button topic of how much of our U.S. budget should be spent overseas and I know there are plenty of arguments for keeping it in the states; certainly there are plenty of worthy people/causes it could go to. There’s also the argument of why should we send our men and women into harms way to risk their lives for a country we have no ties to. These are all valid arguments. But when people are dying, how can we turn our heads? We’re the bigger stronger country, aren’t we supposed to help those smaller and more vulnerable than we are? Isn’t that what we teach our children, to stick up for those who can’t stick up for themselves?
I do want to talk more about all of this and how traveling has so deeply changed me. I have more of a worldview than I did before; that is to say, I actually have a worldview now, whereas before I had no real appreciation or understanding for life outside the U.S. Anyhow, I’ll have to come back to all this in another post.
After Kigali, J and I headed northwest to the town of Gisenyi. It’s right on the border to the Democratic Republic of Congo and on Lake Kivu, a popular spot for weekend holidays. Stay tuned to see what J and I get up to at the lake.
Thanks to all my family, friends and blog readers for my birthday wishes. It’s so nice to hear from all my people when I’m so far away on my birthday. I’m so lucky to have all of you in my life… xxxooo from Africa!