, These 2 days have easily felt like 2 weeks. Time slows down for you in Rwanda. We wake up early to the sounds of birds and I can tell you, you would never be happier to rise at 7:00 am. We have been slowly integrating ourselves into Rwandan culture and history. But slowly doesn't mean it has been easy. We've learned a lot about the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi. It has been a visceral experience. We visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial, Nyamata Genocide Memorial, and Ntarama genocide memorial. I saw the blood stained, bullet ripped, and machete-cut clothing of adults, to the christening dresses of baby girls. There was a heaviness that weighed on my spine and chest. The stories of the children were particularly hard for me as I saw their beautiful pictures, read about their joys, then to learn ( in detail) how they died. Honestly, it became a lot for me. Surrounded by so much death. I felt I would pass out at one moment. This is when I became extremely grateful to be traveling with my troop who have been incredibly supportive. We allow space for each other to feel the pain but remain ready with open arms and hands, empathetic tears. These memorials, in juxtaposition to the immense progress of the country and the youthful pulse and joy, fills a person with anticipation for the future of this country and for the world.
Sharing my story of how the Genocide affected me tales some of the pain away, each time I do it.
Though I felt a lot of sorrow, I've also found found an incredible amount of peace. The air here is sweet as if God was cooking something delicious in one of the great valleys of the country. I love it. The food has been nothing short of heart-warming and soul-filling. The dishes are diverse and many of the items resemble things I'm used to being of Afro-Latino heritage. Rice, beans, goat, stew, but everything is flavored so differently and it's lovely. though somethings have been new too! I had my first taste of the cassava leaves. They were cooked in a way that made a creamy sauce-like texture. It tasted sweet, nutty, but also savory with the perfect balance of salt and other herbs.
This country is so beautiful. Kigali, (where we've been staying) makes me think of New York City, but garbage-free, smoke-free, even more hectic traffic, and significantly more impressive views of the hills and valleys. I love the buzz of the city. The bus rides and airport time with the crew has been my favorite part thus far though visiting the Nyamirambo Women's Center is a close second. I loved the story of creating a space for women to be entrepreneurs and self-sufficient especially after so many were brutally abused, raped, and slaughtered during the genocide. I appreciated this reclamation of womanhood.
That's all for now!!
- Gabriella J. McKinley (a.k.a Lunchbox)