Blog from Moreh Stewart
I think I speak for all of us when I say we wish we could have more time in Rwanda, especially the beautiful city of Kigali. We arrived in this vibrant city on the 28th of March and each day has brought its own challenges and joys. we visited five memorials, a colorful market, and an amazing Coffee farm.
After our first night in Kigali we started off the day being led around by Bosco and Devine, organized through the Discover Rwanda youth hostel. We headed toward the big Kimiroko market. We (mostly JT) were super excited as we passed by the basket ball court and soccer stadium. As we came to the market we were surrounded by colorful patterns all the way to the ceiling as merchants displayed their fabrics. The stalls were lined with women working at sewing machines making pants, shirts, dresses, and jackets to the perfect fit. As we walked the stalls we were swarmed with people offering us the “best price” and the nicest jackets. Thankfully Devine was there to teach us how to bargain and tell us what we really should pay. Each of us found treasures either for ourselves or as gifts. Kevin was drawn by the hippos on the white pants that would eventually be his. After being persuaded Nanci walked away with some beautiful wallets. We all became aware of how amazing the elephant pants are. George, Jack, Nanci, Nina, and I all could not resist the style and the comfort of elephant pants. Riley left clad in a Rwandan soccer jersey and George in a chicken jacket. Kelsi got a super cute polka dot skirt and Nina eventually had a dress made to her perfection. JT left wearing a traditional, colorful shirt that may or may not be meant for a woman :).
After the market and visiting many of the beautiful and modern buildings of Kigali we made our way to a few memorials and the Rwandan genocide museum. We each took our time going through the museum learning about Rwandan history and what led to the second genocide in 1994. There were pictures of the destruction and death. There were testimonies of survivors. Some walked through a room that honors the children who were lost. Many were drawn to tears at this huge injustice. We walked by the mass graves and were left feeling but a fraction of the weight these people must bare.
Later we joined together and discussed, trying to process and understand all that we had seen. In general we were all left unable to fathom how any of this could happen. Throughout the days we visited more memorials but also got to adventure through the city and see the amazing recovery and hope that Rwanda has.
James and JT went to the basket ball court to join some locals in their favorite pass-time. George went off to an internet cafe to catch up on some much needed communication and studying. Jack joined Kelsi, Riley, Nina, Nanci, and I in a search for coffee, internet, and to return to the market to pick up our personal dresses – they turned out amazing!!!
Although there were many things to fill in the gaps of time ( Ethiopian food, hostel craziness, and good talks) we soon moved on to learn all about coffee! Huye mountain coffee was introduced to us by THE MR. COFFEE aka Aloys. Our high energy jokester of a guide met all our needs for exploring and coffee, even Nina had a cup. The energy and excitement (at least for me) was flowing as we walked through the coffee trees. The branches were filled with green cherries soon to be red. We got to pick a few of the red cherries and pop the beans out. The white bean was covered in sweet pulp – we all got to try some. We continued hiking through the coffee trees learning about these wondrous plants and their discovery.
When we got to the top of the mountain we got to take part in roasting some beans in the non-machine traditional way. After seeing the coffee plantation and how all the beans are processed we were given our own little bags of beans! Then we drank more coffee!
After lunch we went to our final memorial – arguably the most difficult one to walk through. The partially IT school was preserved and turned into a museum that would proclaim the message, “NEVER AGAIN!” There were three building filled with bodies that had been preserved by lack of oxygen in the center of a mass grave then later by limestone. Facial expressions were forever held on the faces of these victims. Their look of extreme terror gripped my gut and threatened to expel all that I had eaten. Still we struggle to understand how any of this could happen. Still we question humanity. And yet there is redemption. There is hope. Humanity is resilient and life is worth experiencing. So with the tragedy we learn to be strong and to be joyful. We choose what we make our life, we choose to continue with the experience and leave people touched by love and laughter in our wake.