Kigali Surprise

Trip Start Sep 08, 2007
Trip End Apr 30, 2008

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Flag of Rwanda  ,
Friday, February 22, 2008

Fully relaxed and refreshed, Allison and I got ourselves together and began the journey to Rwanda.  We had originally been hoping to catch a coach all the way to Kigali, but instead got a private hire taxi to the border (after some rather heated negotiations with too many taxi drivers!) and from there caught a bus into the capital city.  The landscapes that greeted us along the drive were quite similar to what we'd seen in Uganda, except that perhaps there were MORE hills (I guess Rwanda isn't the country of a 1000 hills for nothing!).  The bus got us there eventually, after much careening around tight corners, but we made it :P  We checked ourselves into our hotel (a smart business number, although we already found ourselves missing our lakeside cottage) and set into the city to do some exploring. 

Kigali blew us away!  In a city in a country that has the recent reputation of Rwanda (i.e. a genocide not yet 15 years past), we were amazed at what greeted us.  Fuelled by a great deal of money from foreign (and likely very guilty-feeling) powers, Kigali has developed at almost break-neck speed - there were sidewalks, streetlights (which people actually OBEYED), public gardens, shopping centres, and a large number of luxury cars (something I haven't seen in such numbers since I left Switzerland!).  The newness of everything was also amazing - new homes, new businesses, new cars, etc.  It was incredible - and also fantastic to have fast internet (hence the sudden burst of blogging!).  The food here is also great - fairly western, but well prepared and very well priced! (sorry, sounding like a travel ad)

Our main activity here has been the city tour we went on this morning.  Although it must have looked funny just the two of us sitting in this huge tour bus, it was great to have the tour guide to ourselves as he showed us just how much in fact the city was developing.  He also took us by some very fascinating sites, including where the soldiers that had been protecting the Prime Minister during the genocide had been taken and made what could be called a last-stand, if one is to judge by the bullet holes in the wall anyway.  The place has been turned into a memorial to remember the genocide in general, but in particular these soldiers who were killed.  We also were taken to the Genocide Memorial Centre, which recalls in sometimes very graphic detail the genocide from start to finish.  You always see the images and hear the stories on television, but you don't realize how real it actually is.  Even seeing all of the exhibits in front of you, and watching the videos of survivors talking, or seeing pictures of victims, or indeed, even the collections of bones and skulls, it's still hard to realize that this all went on here, as I said, less than 15 years ago!  It was a little difficult for us to reconcile going on a fairly light-hearted city tour, seeing an obvious influx of wealth, interspersed with visits to sites and monuments of the utmost gravity and seriousness - yet I think that is almost what it is to live in Kigali: a city that is enjoying unprecedented development, but still in the shadow of an event so terrible, and one that affected the vast majority of those living here.  Of course again, all VERY superficial observations made during a VERY brief stay so far, but that is what I've felt so far anyway.  It's a curious place, to be sure, and I don't think it's sunk in enough yet.

Anyway, I realize this is a bit heavier than usual, but somewhat difficult to avoid!  Tomorrow Allison and I are off to Gisenyi for yet more lakeside relaxation (Lake Kivu this time).  Talk soon!
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