Kigali reminds me of Morocco more than anywhere else. French (Belgian actually, sadly no waffles spied yet) influences, heat, and clearly there’s a lot more money here than Malawi.
Rwanda is tiny – I looked it up, its a third of the size of Tasmania. So many mountains for such a tiny space! Been carrying contraband all over the countryside – plastic bags are banned here.
I’ve also been riding motorbikes around town. As a passenger, to clarify. Or “boda bodas” as they’re known. Sorry Mum. But I’m telling you now that I’m still alive and not going to do it again. There were helmets, okay? I only squealed once I think, and now after about six times I’m pretty comfortable on them…
Road rules are not really a thing, sides of the road are a mere suggestion. Lanes? Ha. However many cars you can fit, that’s how many lanes there are. I imagine its rather like south east Asia from what I’ve heard, crossing the road = walk and they will go around you, and follow the locals.
Language was easy in Kigali, generally. Less English out here in Muzanze, kind of sandwiched between the borders of DRC and Uganda. French is coming back to me though, find it gets a warmer response than English.
Muzongo is the stock standard term for someone who is white, but its not a bad word, used all over East Africa even where there are no common languages. Today I bought a mango on the street from an old lady, and her friend said to her “muzongo something haha” which I assume was like “white girl is buying a mango, hahaha”. I love that they think we don’t know what it means!
It’s hard to adjust to “Africa time”, which is totally a thing. I have to keep my impatient Westerner attitude under control sometimes. Kigali is a city of slow walkers. But I am thankful that I am far less of a novelty here… not everyone wants to greet me like in Malawi. Feel much safer and will walk around at night a little (only after I did so with a man and realised it was actually fine).
The genocide memorial was an excellent museum. Very professionally put together, neutral, informative and modern. The weight of it hit me quite hard at first. So… horrifying to see it all laid out, the calculating hatred and pure evil. By about a third of the way through I became kind of desensitised, detached. The upper floor of the museum is dedicated to other genocides of the past century, most of which I knew nothing about. It was really interesting though, and really cool of them to put the Rwandan genocide in context. I also like the French spelling of genocide, jenoside.
One of the rooms was a “children’s room”, which I thought was like a display for kids, help them understand genocide (retrospectively, why would anyone do that!?). No. Room full of pictures, with blurbs describing children’s favourite foods, first words, best friends etc, and finally how they were killed. Oh with photos. If the rest of the museum wasn’t confronting enough, then this should’ve done the trick.
There are 250,000 individuals remains buried at the memorial. The hardest thing to stomach, I think, was something the museum said, and I’d never heard and I hope its untrue. But in 1932, the Belgians classified everyone who had more than ten cows as Tutsi, and those with less as Hutu. So, if its true, effectively the massacre of a million people in a hundred days comes down to cows. Fuck.
The disconnect is weird. I have handled a lot of dead peoples bones at uni – children even – who’s families donated them to science. With only the occasional passing thought as to how these used to be people. Many skeletons were old, they worried me less. But the children… it amazes me that those children’s parents could allow them to be used for education (and I am grateful that they did donate them). But seeing photographs of skeletons of those have been brutally murdered is so much more confronting than actually handling real bones. For me anyway.
Sorry for not very good writing. Been typing on my phone as I go when I stop for lunch and that kind of thing. Gives you a more “this is my reaction to this”, however probably doesn’t make for engaging, easy reading.
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