Day 13: Hotel Rwanda and the Genocide
Updated: Aug 16, 2019
Sunday was our day off this week and we were extremely eager to spend our morning visiting the genocide museum in Kigali.
We slowly began our day, enjoying Rwandan coffee and tea and a simple but delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast, bananas, and fresh avocado. I decided to take the opportunity to read my book (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire...my favourite in the series!). All of a sudden I hear "Glynis! Monkey!". Sure enough, there was a monkey hanging out on the roof of the hostel. We had a fun photo shoot for the next while, which put most of us in a pretty upbeat mood.
Then we went to the genocide museum.
I wasn't sure what to expect...I certainly didn't expect to become so emotional during the introduction video. Throughout the museum we read about events leading up to the genocide, the atrocities that began in 1994, and the aftermath. We saw dirty clothing found in mass graves (one was an Ottawa, Canada shirt), bones and skulls of victims (many skulls had holes or machete marks in them), and videos of survivours telling their stories. Outside, we could walk the grounds where 250 000 bodies were buried in mass graves. Our group, which began the tour still on a high from our monkey visit in the morning, became more and more subdued as we progressed through. A visit that we anticipated taking only an hour, stretched into a multi hour experience. We gathered at the cafe at the museum afterwards and were the quietest I think we've been all trip.
The events of the genocide occurred 25 years ago in April. I was 8 years old. This event isn't history. The repercussions are still felt here today. After learning about the genocide, many of us wondered about the stories of the people we had already met. Had we met anyone that killed someone? Ratted on their neighbour? Hid someone in their ceiling? What did this pristine city look like before the massive rebuild? What about all of the bodies that littered the city? Have I walked where the dead once lay? I now understand why there are so many military and police with semiautomatic weapons on nearly every street. I now understand why most people I have spoken to talk about a unified Rwanda and all Rwandans being the same. I now understand why students at every school we have visited here in Kigali have short hair and wear uniforms and why individuality is seen as a threat to their society. My understanding of this culture and country has deepened immensely.
After the museum we made a pilgrimage to "Hotel Rwanda", which is actually named Hotel de Mille Collines. I think many of us were emotionally exhausted at this point and we each needed to deal with it in our own way. Some went back to the hostel via taxi, a few of us took a walk, visiting some markets along the way back to our hostel. Even a few days later, we are still making observations of our surroundings and connections to the genocide. I think this day had a profound effect on us all.