January 28, 2018
Sunday is a day of rest in Rwanda, with most people attending church or mosque and many of the businesses closed. I opted for the same. I’ve been going to bed around midnight each night and waking up between 5:00am and 6:00am each day, so sleeping in was a high priority. Last night I finished typing my safari recap and made a point not to set my alarm. I still woke up at 7:30am.
I threw on some clothes and headed to brunch before showering for the day. I couldn’t resist that morning latte much longer. Our table was much smaller this morning as both Basil and Frank attended local church services with their respective denominations. From the window in my room all morning, I’d been hearing an auditory collage of church bells, choir singers and the Islamic call to prayer, all layered atop the typical sounds of the city. In an attempt not to over-plan my day, I had committed to nothing, and now found myself with nothing to do all afternoon besides review my lectures.
Eric, a student in our course, offered to give me a driving tour of the city. The rest of my team explored the city by taxi earlier in the week, but I had opted to take a nap and missed out. This seemed like a good opportunity. Not to mention I still needed to buy a little something to take back to my husband who has been holding down the fort at home with a sick baby.
Eric is the same age as me, 39. He grew up in a village not far from Kigali, the youngest of 10 brothers and sisters. When “1994 happened” (how he refers to the genocide), he was in art school studying drawing. Eric doesn’t say much about 1994. He’ll tell you he prefers to think of Rwanda’s bright future rather than dwell on the past.
What’s fascinating and admirable about Rwanda is its ability to heal. Years later, with prisons overcapacity and no way to sustain them, thousands of prisoners, convicted of both violent and non-violent crimes, were released back into their communities. For some this meant living next to the person who had killed their family member.
Prior to coming here, I read a great book based on the film “As we forgive,” which profiles a few of the family members faced with this uncharted challenge. Yet somehow, Rwanda healed. Eric explained that while things were difficult, the government made positive changes that gave people hope. The people started to be able to envision a new future, which helped them heal from the past.
There’s a palpable energy in Rwanda, as if everyone here knows something big is about to happen. The country is achieving unimaginable successes economically, and is on the radar of multiple multinational corporations as a hidden secret gem of opportunity, about to explode with growth. If I am lucky enough to return in a few years, I’d bet I may not recognize the place, but will still recognize its lovely people.
Explore more days in Rwanda: