Friday, July 16, 2010

Rwanda, 6/30/07

I hope that you don't this is a cop out (my reposting from my old blog). I think there may be some new friends who haven't read about that important event in my life. I will post some new things from time to time, but I'd like to put some of this out there again. For one thing, it reminds me. I had studied Rwanda, watched the film - "Hotel Rwanda" - read several fantastic books, read all over the internet about the people, the genocide, heard from new friends about Immaculee and her story, heard her voice on line, read her book Left to Tell (twice). None of that even remotely prepared me for the power of that group of people at that time and place. So, this is for me as much as it is for my new friends. Check out the links. I think most of them are still active.

If you don't know about Rwanda... you should. This is sad. It is sad because it is so real. It is still happening in the Democratic of Congo, in Sudan. But you've got to believe that goodness is stronger than hate.

If you follow the links you may cry. After all this time - I do. This is a set of posts for grown-ups, not little ones.

Des Milles Collines - Hotel Rwanda (movie trailer)

Sunday 6/30/07 7:50 AM

Last night before we went to sleep we went to the hotel formerly known as Hotel Rwanda (tribute to Paul Rusesabagina) for drinks. We were all bone weary. The airport was tiny and the customs procedures were very slow. We’d all been awake for two days. Eighty degrees, sticky, humid, diesel fumes, body odor, heavy bags to lug from the conveyor to customs to a disorganized but extremely kind and well meaning group to “collect” us and take us to the hotel.

The moon was full, burnt orange as we touched down. Immaculee’s brother Aimable (uh mob blay) met us with some of his friends, relatives and possibly coworkers. He’s a vet. At least two cousins came. One, Gonza, is a catholic priest (Jesuit). Much love all around at our arrival. We must look like typical American tourists with our huge, over stuffed bags.

Cindy, her step-son Brandon and I went in a Toyota SUV with a driver named Wycliff Kalega (They call me Wycliff). He is our interpreter and driver while we are here (at least in Kigali). Soft spoken, expressive smile, rarely speaks, two young children (one is two yeeahs the uttah is seven munts). It’s a funny feeling to have a drivuh. His work as long (as we are here) is to drive us wherever we want to go. His English is basic and I think he understands more than he can express. He has a light spirit.

At the hotel last evening we were all a little dimmed by lack of sleep. Beer, wine, coffee, African tea. We sat around a lovely swimming pool. The moonlight was pale and huge. We laughed. This is an amazing group in as much as we are from the other side of the world and the Rwandans gathered there accepted and trusted us. Of course we came with Immaculee. She is loved. We talked about… just stuff. It was sort of a getting-to-know-you session. It was lite. The laughter was easy. We were all a little drunk from exhaustion.

Hotel Rwanda

The power of being in Hotel Rwanda (music video) - now Des Mille Collines - was huge. No one really spoke about it – but it was there for me. Just imagining the Interahamwe outside with machetes raised, searching for others to kill. The Tutsis and their sympathizers hiding inside waiting, probably expecting to be murdered at the hands of their countrymen.Imagine the bravery of those who did the right thing in the face of all the madness and the relief as the madness seemed to pass, and the grief to find what was left of Rwanda. All of this happened just thirteen years ago. Thirteen years.

Today Ganza will say mass for our group. It will be casual. I haven’t been to mass in a very long time. One thing that has already been happening on this trip is an openness, an awareness of God and manifestations of God. It is a wide view/interpretation/compass now.

The Veranda

Sunrise from the veranda

I was on the patio earlier this morning by myself. The sun was blazing – not really hot but clear. Different songbirds flocking around the tall palms. Large butterflies a lot like our black swallowtails. A tall waiter brought me the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had. Super strong, very black and hot. Last evening when we got to the hotel where we are staying (The Serena) we were served tall slender glasses of passion juice (I think). Cool, syrupy, tangy. Delicious. Maybe it’s because it’s because I’m here in this special place. But the sunshine, the beautiful birds and butterflies, the fruit, the coffee all seem so rich, so extra, so… God.


Chris Hass said...

Like your other repostings,I'm glad you did decide to share these again for the reason that I, for one, missed it the first time around.

I don't have many experiences with international travel (just Guatemala and Ethiopia) but I can say that the times I've been in poor countries I've felt a little bit awkward and a whole lot guilty. It's wrong to feel either, I know, but I do.

I'm jealous of your experience. I can't even imagine what it would feel like to be in the Hotel Rwanda. Surreal, I'm sure.

You're right that Rwanda is such a sad, sad story. Yet, look at Sudan just a few years later. It seems like we never learn. We, as a global community, should be outraged at situations like these. I love that you made a point to share the "Save Paris Hilton" sign. I believe you've done this before, but it'd be fun to create some type of data set concerning the types of stories that are found on the front page of various newspapers.

Tom T said...


I enjoyed reading about your visit to Hotel Rwanda.

Sadly, the roots of many of the tribal wars and genocides in Africa were planted by the European colonial's tactic of divide and conquer. Exacerbation and agitation of such differences by imperialistic powers seeking the valuable natural resources of countries in Africa, the Middle East is still in play, like the Shia and Sunnis in Iraq.

Tom T said...

The link above gives a brief history of events that led up to the recent Rwandan genocide.

Germany and then Belgium exploited differences between the Tutsis and Hutus as a divide and control tactic. The media somehow never gives the historical background in such situations leaving folks to think that those black Africans are inherently sadistic savages.

All this bad ol' history aside, I enjoyed reading your reposted piece.