Kigali. Confusing Kigali.February 10, 2016 in Rwanda ⋅ ⛅ 11 °C
Apparently our really long and confusing walk from our first day arriving in Kigali was not enough to teach us a lesson. We started off our first morning here thinking we could walk to the Kigali Genocide Memorial. We set out, following our lonely planet book we were 2km away... We asked about 5-6 different people along the way all pointing to different directions. Even the motorcycle taxi men had difficulty telling us where it was... After an hour of walking, we gave up and took a moto-taxi. Turns out we were in the right district, maybe 4 blocks away. But with all the hills and wavy turns, we wouldn't have found it alone.
The memorial was an incredibly emotional and eye opening experience. We spent over 3 hours here reading their displays, seeing their photos, hearing their video testimonies. 1,000,000 people dead in 100 days. Their neighbours, the same people with whom their kids played the day before, were now the ones murdering their family before their eyes. I learnt a great deal. Now, everyone I cross on the street who's 27 years old and up, I wonder what have they seen? 1994 was not that long ago, I was 6. I would remember too if my family was killed all around me. What these people have seen, I can't imagine. Before leaving I was asked to write a message of my experience. I responded "I find it incredibly overwhelming to think of a message to write on a piece of paper right now...", and the man responded "that's perfect, write that". So I did.
Our afternoon was lighter, spent looking at 3 different art galleries. We've now learnt no walking, so we motor taxi'd to the first and walk to the others (google map helped with that). Jack was in heaven! Unlike me, she grew up going to art galleries and art shows, learning about all these great artists and techniques. She's in her world when she's surrounded by art, and she loved every bit of our afternoon.
Another moto-taxi and we're at Hotel Des Milles Collines, or as some of you know it, Hotel Rwanda (the movie?). This is where the Belgian owner decided to stay with his family instead of fleeing, taking in Tutsi and moderate Hutu people. We read this was the place to have a drink, but it was empty. We used their maps and reception staff for directions before heading out. Beautiful hotel, we'll kept, metal detector to get in and everything, fancy!
Interesting that the book mentions this hotel as a memorable place post genocide. This entire city is a walking memorial. The church in which we're staying, St Famille Church, housed and protected over 2000 people! Not mentioned in the book. The way we see it, Hotel des Milles Collines was recognized as a memorial because it was a white man who stayed to help, when he could have fled. Though this is honorable and note worthy, there are an incredible amount of places and people that deserve all the same recognition. Interestingly, as most would assume churches are always safe havens, there were many churches who's clergy actually betrayed the people they were told to protect. There are 2 more notable churches south of the city who, through information given by the clergy, became mass graves and mass killing sites, including grenades being thrown and people burning alive! Some of these are mentioned at the memorial centre, with pictures of nuns and priests being prosecuted for war crimes.
We had originally thought that we would leave Kigali the next morning. But both Jack and I felt we hadn't done Kigali justice. I can't say I like this city yet, it's not walkable, I can't find anything, and no one seems to be able to help me with directions... All the buildings are well kept. Lawns are well manicured. There's traffic lights. Helmets for the moto-taxis. It is a very different city then what we've seen so far, and yet I can't say I'm attached or have any opinion formed yet... So we decided an extra day might give us a better opinion; be it a "turns out I love it" or "nope, I don't get it".
Turns out, good decision! We managed to walk first to the Kamp Kigali Memorial, this time having researched the Google map ahead of time and following with my gps. It was here that 10 Belgian UN workers assigned to protect the prime minister were brought and killed, encouraging foreign troops to exit Rwanda. This was what started it all. Bullet wholes in the building, 32 years old was the oldest killed of the 10, again an emotional experience. There was these two posters, side by side, showing a very VERY simple way of looking at conditions that make for a genocide to be possible, and how to avoid genocide. I attached a photo as it resonated with me.
We then made our way to another district called Nyamirambo, which was lively, and colourful, and full of little stores and restaurants and tons of bars. It's considered the Muslim area, but we rarely saw a veiled woman. I guess even in their area of town they're a minority. We got stared at all day, long prolonged mouth wide open stairs, but all out of what seemed like curiosity. I didn't feel judged, they were all really curious. Not too many yelled comments at all, very few "mzungu"s.
We did a version of a day time pub crawl, walked for a bit, sat and shared a beer, and repeat. We wanted to be in this part of town of the night life so we knew we had all day here. 8 hours we spent in about 5km of town. Thanks to my gps on my phone, we didn't get lost. Didn't need a moto-taxi. It was a great and satisfying day, capped off with a shisha bar before bed... At 830pm. Yes, we set out to spend a night on the town in one of the liveliest places in Rwanda, and we were laying in bed by 830pm. In our defence, we went back an hour when we walked across the border from Uganda, so for us it felt like 930pm! Kigali, you've been alright.
As for the people, we are pretty much left to our own devices. I can't figure out if it's just that they've seen plenty of white people considering they have a lot of NGOs and expects, or maybe they just don't care... It is rare that we get "hello" from anyone, even kids. No one asking for anything. The prices quoted to us are usually always fair. Even the motor taxis haven't tried to screw us over too much... Some speak a little French, some a little English, but still quite limited so we haven't had the chance to really have a conversation with anyone yet. They pretty much just keep to themselves, which leaves us to wonder uninterrupted.Read more