Day 1: Settling in & KGM
On our first real (non-travel) day in Rwanda, I woke up early with a few students in our group and we worked out together in the yard of our hostel. It was especially challenging because of the altitude, but it was great to bond over some fitness as a village. I was sick after our workout and I had to stay back for the beginning of the day. My body was begging me to adjust and find relaxation. I'm grateful I had the opportunity to sleep for an additional 5 hours, that's all my body needed. I missed our first excursion to the Nyamirambo Women's Center, but I was able to make it to the Kigali Genocide Memorial (KGM). Our bus driver Noel picked me up from the hostel to personally transport me to the KGM where the rest of the group was. We arrived just in time to join everyone else on the tour. It was nice having a ride with Noel, I was able to get to know him more. He has been driving buses for about 20 years. He is 41 now, with four children. I feel so grateful to be in the hands of such a skilled driver, who takes so much time away from his family to literally be the driving force for groups and tours much like us, all year round. It's really a trip being on the bus when he pulls into the narrowest of driveways and navigates the bumps in the road.
The Kigali Genocide Memorial acts as a memorial place for survivors to visit their loved ones in a peaceful environment. There are mass graves that hold the remains of 250,000+ Rwandans who lost their lives during the genocide in 1994. There is a beautiful garden, cafe, and gift shop here, too. The KGM also acts as a museum that highlights some major genocides from the last hundred years: Germany VS Namibia, Germany VS Jews, Cambodia, The Balkans, and of course the Rwandan Genocide Against the Tutsi. The information provided by the museum is extremely informative and well thought out. Visitors have the option of utilizing a device that narrates the experience as you move from one room to the next. You start out with a video that features survivors of the genocide sharing some of their stories. Then you move to the museum to learn about the genocides mentioned above. Once you get to the history of Rwanda, you begin to understand the formula that equated to genocide. One major issue that led to the genocide was the lack of education many young people were receiving. It makes you appreciate your education and understand the power you can wield over others if you so wish to. In addition to watching videos, seeing photos, reading quotes, looking at art, clothing, photos, and remains of some people, there is a peace room for people to sit and meditate, contemplate, etc. There is also a Children’s room that I find to be particularly difficult to experience. Rwanda believes that their children have the power to make the future bright and I agree too.
Here are some photos from the Memorial.
Before we left for this trip, I was lying in bed thinking to myself: "I just finished student teaching, I'm graduating from college, AND I'm heading Rwanda for the second time...Who do I think I am!?". I feel so incredibly blessed to be who I am, despite that not always ringing true. For all of the darkness life sprinkles in, this trip is proof that there is abundant opportunity to experience the light, too. I think this theme permeates the human experience, but it is especially true in Rwanda.
I feel so beyond blessed that we all made it here safely with all luggage and all smiles. Our first meal as a village in Rwanda was magical! Using the last trip in 2016 as a checkpoint for my personal growth has allowed me to see how much has changed. I am extremely grateful for the changes I can observe and feel within myself and how I interact with the world and others. This growth would not be without my experiences in this remarkable country.
Seeing our brother and guide, Eric, when we stepped out of the airport was something truly magical. It felt like a homecoming for all of us, with the golden hour shimmering all over the hills behind the waiting drivers who were holding signs with various names on them. Eric, if you see this - thank you for taking such good care of us always. We will always find ways to take care of you, too. :)
Being at a new location for our hostel is interesting. It feels the same although it is on the other side of Kigali. It's time to head to bed now so I can rest my airplane-scrunched bones. Much love to everyone at home!
Lilly Inglut is a pre-service middle and high school English teacher with a focus on the arts and community-based learning at SUNY Buffalo State. She will continue on to receive her Master's in English Education after studying the outcomes of restorative circle training in local schools. Lilly has lived in Buffalo (Lackawanna) her entire life and is committed to her WNY community whether it is via her teaching, studying, or serving delicious meals at a local brewery downtown. Lilly is extremely grateful to have the opportunity to be returning to Rwanda for the second time since 2016.