Hello! Sorry it’s been a little bit since I have blogged!
This is a post just to recap a bit of my trip to Rwanda last weekend!
I needed to go and renew my visa for another 3 months to allow me to finish out my time here….And, I had a friend (Katy) go with me!
I admit to a bit of stress trying to plan the trip…..getting bus tickets proved to be harder than we thought and finding a bus company (we thought) we could trust…..was difficult!
Finally we settled on traveling with Jaguar bus company- and planned to leave Kampala last Thursday. We took a night bus- and really, it was fine! We paid an extra 5,000 shillings (about $2.20 USD) to take a “VIP” bus. Haha…..not really sure what that meant- but we all got our own seats, so we were happy! Katy, another lady named Courtney and I made the journey from Kampala to Kigali leaving at 9:00pm and getting in around 7:00am the next morning.
Stopping at the border took a while- they are pretty strict about things in Rwanda….it is a really clean and organized city- so people’s bags were checked for trash and plastic bags (which are illegal!).
When we got into Kigali- we took a taxi to our guest house with the help of a guy that we had met on the bus. We showered and took short naps before heading out to explore the city!
Katy and I went to get breakfast and then made our way to our first stop- The Kigali Genocide Memorial. It was a very well done memorial- well laid out and thought about. There was a whole section devoted to Rwanda’s history and the story of the genocide, then an area dedicated to genocides that have happened around the globe, and a section to honor the children who were killed in the genocide.
It was pretty heavy stuff and a lot to take in all at once.
We spent some time after that enjoying Rwanda’s delish coffee and debriefing.
It was so sad to hear about what had happened there in a country that to me looked beautiful, where the people were kind and beautiful and genuine., and that was so clean and safe in comparison to Uganda. It was definitely a complicated situation and dynamics that led to the genocide in some ways….(and I am no expert), but I couldn’t help but be somewhat struck with the fact that the conflict and violence there first began with just very simple things that we all struggle with….selfishness and pride. We can all be led to do horrendous things when thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought to and without thought for others.
I really appreciated the fact that Rwandans were dedicated to remembering the genocide- lest they repeat it. Over and over again we saw and heard about the importance of learning from the past and moving forward in hope.
The Rwandan people were great- we met lots of nice people and people who were so helpful to us. And they were very proud of their country, the steps that they have taken to improve things there. In major contrast to Kampala (the capital of Uganda), Kigali (Rwanda’s capital) was so safe! We felt fine and safe walking around at night (which we do NOT in Kampala….it’s very unsafe), and even on boda’s they have strict rules….only one passenger on each and both the driver and the passenger have to wear helmets! And in Uganda, it is rare to see anyone wearing a helmet. The city was clean! Shocking compared to Kampala….which is a packed city!
I enjoyed my first time eating Indian food in Kigali! It was delicious!
Also- thank goodness to the Lonely Planet East Africa book…..it was our tour guide- and SO helpful for us in every part of the trip! I borrowed it from the Fowler’s….and am so glad I did- cause it was super helpful!
On Saturday- Katy and I spent some more time at a coffee shop not far from our guesthouse that was really cute- to just read and journal before starting our day. We met a girl there from the States who was in Rwanda writing her thesis paper for getting her PHD in History from Harvard….so we took advantage of that and were able to ask her some questions that we had about things in Rwanda.
The rest of the morning and part of the afternoon was spent going to a couple of church memorials in Nyamata and Ntarama about 45 minutes outside of Kigali. They were pretty sobering to visit- as inside of the churches…..there were piles and piles of clothes of the people who had died inside the churches which were supposed to be safe havens during the genocide in 1994. There were personal belongings of the people there……and seeing a superman shirt and a digital watch- were reminders to me that this didn’t happen hundreds of years ago….it seemed so recent. It was definitely hard to see all of that and to imagine the horror of the events that took place all over the country.
At both of the memorial churches- they had lots of banners and flags hanging around that were purple and white. We asked why they were these colors and were told that purple is the color of a funeral and white is the color of hope. I so appreciated hearing that.
On Saturday night we ate Ethiopian food! Again it was delicious!
And Sunday- we woke up early to get breakfast and coffee before heading to the bus station. When we got to the bus park- we were pleasantly surprised that the bus was even nicer than the other one that we had taken and that they seemed to be more professional in checking people’s bags before getting on the bus, etc. Katy said as we were boarding “Everything about this is just more legit!” (well….maybe for a little bit!)
Maybe 30 minutes into our bus ride….just on the outskirts of Kigali as Katy and I were chatting away……I felt like we hit a pothole- and next thing I know I looked up and we had turned and run right into a tree! People began screaming and freaking out….I then saw that what felt like hitting a pothole was us hitting a taxi head on. All the people from the taxi were screaming and running in every direction….just fleeing the scene. The only person that was hurt was the driver of the taxi whose face and chest were covered in blood. I don’t know for sure what his injuries were- but I think it was mostly cuts from shattered glass.
It was pretty scary when it first happened though….not knowing what exactly happened- if a lot of people were hurt, etc.
The road was SUPER muddy though and I think that the taxi must have just slid over into our lane or something.
The situation was handled pretty well though and in about an hour another bus arrived to take us the rest of the way to Kampala. Let me just say that the new bus was NOT VIP…..haha….everyone who got on the new one was making fun of it and saying how old it was!
Our view out the window of the bus while we were waiting though was BEAUTIFUL!
And, much scarier than the bus accident was the rest of the bus ride! Let me just say that ignorance really is bliss….riding there in the dark- I felt perfectly safe and sound…..but during the day- when I could see- I saw just how fast the bus was going and that we were on a super windy road without any guard rails….and like cliffs on one side! The scenery was beautiful….but it was really scary!
We crossed the border and got new stamps on our passports (mission accomplished!). Then made it back to Kampala at around 9pm. We were slightly sad to get off the bus just cause it was the last remnant of safe and clean Kigali before stepping out into crazy Kampala again!
I loved going though and was so glad to be able to see Rwanda a bit and to have that experience. Not that all of the things there were fun to learn about….but definitely an amazing opportunity to be able to learn about those events while being there.
And, I was humbled and so thankful for the God’s perfect protection in everything with this trip- and really just in general living in Africa…..He has been so faithful to keep me safe and healthy during my time here, and I am so thankful!
Thanks to all of you for your prayers for this trip!