December 2016: I am editing and adding photos to incorporate two Rwanda trips into this ‘one post of many pictures.’ The second trip, when I wrote most of this post, was in 2014 with grandchildren, Teresa and Steven. Here’s what I wrote then.
South Africa is sometimes called Africa Light because, with its generally good physical, organizational and governmental infrastructure, it’s not as heavy of a burden to live life as in some other parts of the continent. Now there’s some competition I think for the Africa Light title—Rwanda.
We arrived yesterday into this absolutely gorgeous country of red soil, green mountains, blue haze, tree-lined streets, sturdy (if not exactly beautiful) buildings, seriously good-looking people and a friendly calm environment. I am someone who bristles when people return from trips abroad and use cleanliness as one of their value judgments about countries visited. However, I must admit it does make a rather nice impression when a place is as neat and tidy as Kigali. I did read an article awhile ago that included a criticism of even this because it seems the government is paying people otherwise unemployed to sweep the streets and, for reasons I forget, that was deemed socialism or dictatorial or some such nonsense. Sounds like the WPA to me. And what we should be doing in the U.S.
I love it here. I came for the first time in 2010 after much reading about the country’s history, pre- and post-genocide. Also some literary accounts of the genocide. I visited the museum/memorial in the city and the churches preserved as memorials in the countryside, and just generally enjoyed the loveliness of this hilly city and the mountainous countryside on a bus ride over to Bujumbura in Burundi (Bujumbura post in Time and Place 2010). For some reason I never posted about that trip although I do have many photos. And here they are…
PHOTOS FROM 2010 TRIP:
Most important to my agenda on both trips was to visit the memorials: the churches where some of the worst massacres took place in the countryside and also the movingly and thoughtfully curated memorial in the city of Kigali. Here is an array of photos from the churches taken on the 2010 journey. The clothing you see is the torn, pierced, bloodstained articles worn by the victims when they were shot, bludgeoned, raped, and macheted. You’ll see some almost identical shots four years later when we get to the 2014 visit. The sad clothing just gets a little more stained from the damp and red dust that continues to wear away at the brightness that was.
Also from 2010:
President Paul Kagame is criticized for not bringing “pure” democracy to Rwanda. Hmmm…and just what might that be? What he has brought about (I would say ‘has been instrumental in bringing about’ except I think the transformation can largely be credited to this one guy) is a safe, pleasant, busy, productive place to be—not such a bad thing! And let’s all debate what a pure democracy would be. Since the U.S. government is basically a Corpocracy and, while we pay lip service to a supposedly cherished democracy, only slightly more than half of Americans even bother voting—who are we to talk about how the rest of the world should live.
There’s this too. In addition to all of the other fine things about Rwanda and Kigali, I slept all night for the first time on this trip. The morning coffee is good, my travel companions are happy and we have many things on our agenda for the next few days. This afternoon the Kigali Genocide Memorial Center. Funny how something as good as present-day Rwanda can emerge from something so very bad isn’t it? But then Germany is the leading voice of a generally sensible and prosperous Europe so anything is possible I suppose.
2014. Back in Kigali. I’m so eager for my grandchildren to experience this place.
My handsome travel companion and tour guide.