Friday, August 8, 2014

Flash Back Friday - Rwanda 2003

Welcome to the Rwanda of late 2003. I haven't been back since, so I'm sure MUCH has changed, but I'm also sure MUCH remains the same. One of the many reasons to love Africa!

Over our Christmas/New Years holiday in Peace Corps in 2003, Paul and I decided to take a little weekend trip to Rwanda (from Uganda). We took a bus from Mbarara (Western Uganda) to Kigali. I don't remember how long it took, I'm guessing 5 hours. I do remember, when we crossed the border, feeling very strange when the bus (which was right hand drive) suddenly started driving on the right side of the road (the side we'd drive on in the US, vehicles drive on the left side in Uganda). It had been nearly two years since I had ridden in a car on that side of the road. Strange the things that one remembers!

We stayed the first two nights in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. We ate dinner at a rooftop bar where Paul got, what he still claims to be, the best nyama mbuzi (roasted goat on a stick) he ever had. I believe I tried a bite, but I guess I didn't have the same love for it as I don't remember even what it tasted like. 

Overlooking a busy road in Kigali

We visited the National Museum of Rwanda. I remember thinking it was strange that there was no information on the genocide in the museum since that was a huge part of the history of Rwanda. (The Genocide Memorial Museum opened in April 2004 on the 10th anniversary of the genocide, about 5 months after we visited)

Outside the National Museum of Rwanda

Rwandan countryside from a taxi - the Virunga Volcanos off in the distance.

In 2003 the country was still healing (which it will likely be doing for a good long time). People were polite, but there wasn't the outgoing friendliness that we always found in Uganda. There was definitely still an undercurrent of tension, the wounds were still very raw. Neither Paul nor I speak French so we got by with our local Ugandan languages, or rather a bit of our local Ugandan languages and a lot of sign language! I think if we spoke French or Kinyarwanda we would have learned more about the situation as it was at that time. 

We spent two more days in Gisenyi on the northern tip of Lake Kivu, at the border of Rwanda and the Congo. As there wasn't much tourism infrastructure in the country at this time it was a challenge to get there and once we were there, the setting was lovely, but the town felt abandoned. We originally planned a week in Rwanda, we were going to celebrate the New Year there, but ended up only staying those four nights and then heading back into Uganda for New Years Eve. 

Lake Kivu

Lake Kivu / Women taking their products to the market across the border in Goma

2003 Adventurers!

I'd be very interested to go back to Rwanda now, 11 years later, 20 years post genocide, and see the changes (I'm actually surprised I haven't been back there for work at some point in my career, but it is a big world out there). Developmentally Rwanda has been the poster child for African country progress - good economic development, significant government support for education and health care, and country wide progress in reconciliation and justice. I hope it continues on it's positive trajectory!

For more pictures from this Flashback Friday spot, visit my Rwanda gallery!

1 comment:

Marie said...

You both look like you were 12. ;)