9.30.2007

Rwanda!

Yesterday marked our one year in country mark and celebrated it in Uganda. 12 months down, 14 to go. We just got back from vacation to Rwanda. Some of you might be thinking, but Sarah, didn’t you just go on a vacation to the US? Yes, yes I did. However, when you are from American and try to live in a “developing nation” you need breaks! Also, we wanted to celebrate our anniversary of being in Uganda and of course, to see Rwanda! Rwanda is a fascinating and inspiring nation. I want to share my experiences there with you, so here is my attempt to put down in written word out experiences. First, I feel it is necessary to share with you a little bit of the history of Rwanda, primarily focusing on the genocide. While the genocide is not the most important thing about Rwanda, it is so important to know about.

“When they said ‘never again’ after the holocaust, was it meant for some and not others?”
-Apollon Kabahizi, in reference to the Genocide in Rwanda.

1994, Rwanda was torn apart when the Hutus attacked the Tutsis. What caused this to happen, no one is exactly sure, but I will share what I learned at the National Memorial in Kigali and in talking to the Rwandans. When the Belgium came to Rwanda in the early 1900’s, they brought many great things; improved science, education, roads and health. However, they also helped increase the divide between the Hutus and Tutsis. They grouped all Rwandans into Tutsi vs. Hutu by the number of cows a family owned. More than 10 and you became a Tutsi, less than 10, a Hutu. They made identity cards and made it a requirement for every Rwandan to carry them around. They then gave power to the minority Tutsis. This ignited a spark in the Hutu people. They began to resent the Tutsis and envy their power. Fueled by propaganda spread through a local radio station RTLM, the genocide exploded on April 6, 1994 after the death of the ten president, Juvenal Habyarimana. The Hutu men, women, children, and in some cases even nuns and priests, took up guns and machetes. They had one goal in mind, ethnic cleansing. They wanted to get rid of all of the Tutsis. The UN pulled out of Rwanda and the rest of the world turned their back with almost 1 million Tutsi and Tutsi sympathizers were killed. The RPF (Rwanda Patriotic Front) led by Paul Kagame finally succeed in regaining power. The UN came back dn red cross also stepped in to set up refugee camps. It was to late, as the Genocide was already over.

Today, 13 years after, you would hardly know of the terror that shook the small nation. The streets of Kigali are so clean and the people so warm and inviting. The only give away that something happened are the memorials set up in almost every village and the weariness in the faces of the people. After peace was restored, a survivor, Yolande Mukagasana said, “There will be no humanity with out forgiveness. There will be no forgiveness without justice. But justice will be impossible without humanity.” They have worked so hard to turn their country around and have greatly succeeded. They take care of their land and buildings better than any other country I have seen. They even have a holiday ever last Saturday of the month just for cleaning. Once a month, the whole country shuts down and no one can do any work except to clean their homes and town! I love that!

Rwanda is called “the land of 1000 hills, but really, it seams as if there are 10,000. The whole country is hills. I was sitting next to a Rwandan who had never been outside his country and it was so hard for him to believe me when I told him there were places that don’t have any hills at all.

We spent eight wonderful days doing all sorts of tourist stuff. We went to the National Memorial, the Butare National Museum, Nyamata church (where 10,000 were killed while hiding under the promise of safety from their priest who gave them up). We traveled through the Nyungwe forest and saw so many Colobus Monkeys. I felt just like Dian Fossy! Then we went up to lake Kivu for some little R&R time by the lake. I love the rhythm of Rwanda! The movement of the animals, the walk of the women carrying one to many things and the singing. Oh, the singing! Everywhere we went, people were singing. Men canoeing across the lake, women on the bus, mothers and fathers out in the fields, children learning to count, all singing! If you don’t believe me, check out the video clip! All of us were sad to leave beautiful, happy Rwanda, but I am excited to be back in Uganda where I can understand almost every other word (as opposed to none!) :-)

Have a great day!

Love you and miss you!

-Sarah


shot takin out the window, sorry its blurry




A beautiful Rwandan woman carrying: a baby (on her back), suitcase, water can, woven mat, sack of potatoes and a sack of beans. This woman is hard core!

Courtney, me and Jess at the entrance to Nungwe forest.







Courtney, Sarah, Daniel (our Guide) and Jess, getting ready to go monkey trecking and being Dian Fossy




Colobus monkeys in Nyungwe forest


video

9.27.2007

Milles des Collines, land of 1000 hills




Hey! Writing this from Rwanda just to check in and let everyone know that I am here and having a blast in this amazing country. Courtney, Jess (two other peace corps volunteers) and myself are taking a vacation from PCV life and visiting Rwanda. Our phones don't work while we are here, so if you have been trying to call, this is why you can't get through. Despite all their trouble in the past, this is by far one of the most breath taking places I have ever been. I don't have time for a real update, so here are a few pictures, more to come later, I promise :-)


Love you all!


9.01.2007

Dancing to the music

Hey all! Happy September! I can’t believe that it is already this late in the year. In a place where seasons never change, it is hard to keep track of or even have a sense of the time of year. I am used to summer bringing warm weather, a break from school and the camping season. Fall bringing crisp weather, falling leaves and the ever present return to school. The cold of winter bearing Christmas cheer and holiday delights. With out these changes, I find it hard to grasp the coming and going of time. At the end of this month will mark my one year in Uganda and November 29th will be the end of my first year of Peace Corps service. Gosh! Time does fly. The days are long, and nights even longer but the months have just melted away.


The children at my school are on holiday vacation so the dance and music training for the tour has started. They have selected a group of 40 children from the two orphanages (Sabina and Kiwanga) to train for this month and will eventually weed it down to a group of 20 who will tour to the USA in May and June of the upcoming year. Look for the tour schedule at http://www.childrenofuganda.org/ (you can also find information on how to sponsor a child from our program on the websight). I hope to go with them as a chaperone/tutor/stage manager/groupie/pre-concert discussion facilitator. Two months in the USA, hardly the typical Peace Corps experience, but I think 22 months in Uganda is plenty of service! Right now, I am hanging out with the kids at Kiwanga (the other orphanage in Children of Uganda’s program) during their training. The kids are working so hard, everyday I am amazed by their dedication and passion for dance. They wake up at 6am to run for one hour, return and do chores until 9, eat breakfast, rehearse from 10-1 eat lunch, rehearse from 2-7, eat dinner, then more rehearsal from 8-10 or 11! The kids rage in age from 5 to 17 and are working on perfecting their skills in traditional Ugandan dancing, singing and drumming. It’s going to be a rocking show, you don’t want to miss it.
I will travel back “home” to Rakai sometime next week and actually am looking forward to being back in my village. I miss the people there. It’s a great feeling that they are my “people” now. However, I still miss my people in the USA like CRAZY! But, such is life. I just have to keep remembering how lucky I am to have so many amazing people in my life to miss…

Love, love, love

Sarah