Day 1 – Monday – Orientation
It’s everyone’s first day in Kigali, Rwanda all together and our morning starts with a healthy breakfast and a morning briefing by Professor Click.
Our schedule starts with a city tour, lunch at Mille Collines (Hotel Rwanda), the Kigali Genocide Memorial, and ends with a dinner at Heaven Restaurant.
Our tour guide is the fantastic Yvan and he is full of crazy stories about tourists and also provides insight into Rwanda life
The biggest stop during our city tour was the Kandt House Museum of Natural History. They have opened an exhibit about snakes to ducate the Rwandan people. Snakes have a rich history of fear and prejudice and the – museum is trying to dispel some of this. The director of the museum introduced us to his snakes.
Not exactly helping the matter is their prize snake; a black mamba. Wonder why it’s not black? That’s because the black is hidden in the most dangerous part…its mouth. Once bitten by a black mamba a human dies within 20 minutes. It’s one of the deadliest snakes in the world!
Next stop is a memorial to 10 Belgian commandos. On April 7th, 1994 while protecting the Rwandan Prime Minister these commandos were surrounded by members of the Farces Armees Rwandaise who ordered the commandos to disarm in exchange for safe passage to a UN base. Instead, they were brought to a military camp and attacked. The Belgians survived for several hours by sheltering in a building and defending themselves with two side-arms.
“They fought till their death while hoping for help that never came.”~memorial stone
After the memorial we visited Hotel Mille Collines, the original “Hotel Rwanda” and had a lovely lunch.
We then had a sobering afternoon at the Kigali Genocide Memorial.
Under the concrete lies a mass grave of over 250,000 victims of the genocide. About 10-15 people share a coffin as sometimes only parts of the bodies were found. This reburial into coffins paid respect to the victims, many still unidentified. The memorial reminded us of the chilling sequence of events that led to the 1990’s genocide and the deadly inaction of peacekeepers.
There is much to be said about the genocide, but more importantly, there is much to be said about Rwanda now. Leaving the memorial we are reminded of how far Rwanda has come in such a short time. Dedication to cleanliness, devotion of land to parks, building infrastructure speaks of a country moving quickly forward with determination and vision.
Finally, we ended the night with a spectacular dinner at Heaven. And heaven it was, with a full buffet of food, excellent night views of Kigali, and great company!