It finally happened. Dorota and I are late with our weekly blog post. We have an excuse though. For the first time since we came to Rwanda 8 weeks ago, we left Kigali on a weekend road trip. Our photographer friend Paul Eggleston arrived from the UK, so we packed up our cameras and headed off to Butare in the south.
The journey took us through lush, green landscapes which reminded us why Rwanda is called the land of a thousand hills. All along the way we were cheered, smiled and waved at by village children. Our final destination was the genocide memorial site, Murambi.
Here is Wikipedia's brief description of the horror that occurred there: "When the killings started, Tutsi in the region tried to hide at a local church. However, the bishop and mayor lured them into a trap by sending them to the technical school, claiming that French troops would protect them there. On April 16, 1994, some 65,000 Tutsis ran to the school. Water and electricity were cut off. After defending themselves for a few days using stones, the Tutsi were overrun on April 21. The French soldiers disappeared and the school was attacked by Hutu Interahamwe militiamen. Some 45,000 Tutsi were murdered at the school, and almost all of those who managed to escape were killed the next day when they tried to hide in a nearby church. According to the guide at the memorial, the French brought in heavy equipment to dig several pits where many thousands of bodies were placed. They then placed a volleyball court over the mass graves in an attempt to hide what happened."
Today, inside many of the school's classrooms, skeletons and mummified bodies are exhibited on makeshift tables. Just walking towards the classrooms, I was overwhelmed by the stench of death. Willy has relatives here and he decided he could go no further. We looked at each other, turned around and walked back through the gates. We agreed that we would use this day to explore life instead of death.
Murambi couldn't be in a more beautiful location. It is on the top of a high hill overlooking forest, fields and more hills on all sides. We wandered along a path where local children ran to greet us. We had an apple, so we shared it with the children. They each took a bite of this exotic foreign fruit. Later, we came to a field, and while their mothers worked the land, two shy boys cautiously inched their way towards Willy and I. Once they realized we didn't bite, they sat with us in the grass to pass the beautiful afternoon.
Later, we met back up with Dorota and Paul to head back to town. They both seemed shaken by their experience. Paul had come here to face this kind of death with his photography, but after this experience, he decided that it was more important to focus his camera on the life that blossoms in Rwanda just beyond the obvious tragedy, corruption and injustice. In our next post we will be showing more of this LIFE, especially some of the wonderful things that the boys have been up to at Les Enfants de Dieu. You will have to forgive us, however, because we are taking another weekend trip and our post will most likely be late.