Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Rwanda Blog 3


The perfect welcome to Africa – landing in Ethiopia to a pink sunrise lacing a mountain. As we touched down in Adis Ababa the sun crawled, bright orange and huge over the edge of the mountain as we rolled up to the airport.

Compared to Ethiopia, Rwanda is a mirage of green. The air in Rwanda smells of smoke and rain, wet but clear and light. The colors are brilliant. Even beyond the deep green of the plants and mountains, the colors of advertisements, signs, clothes, seem to shine they are so vibrant.

I haven't had time for photography, but here is a picture from near our hostel.

It is a beautiful, endless rolling green hills cluttered with redbrick rooftops and houses. Though in contrast to the vibrancy of the color, the city is quiet. Rwandans move and speak quietly, shadow-like, and the city seems to to reflect this calm. For a capitol city it seems soft, relatively slow traffic, quiet streets and lots of trees scattered among roads and construction sites. I know very little, yet, having just been into town for a few hours to send emails, but what I have learned leaves me even more curious.

For the next few days we are staying in a hostel close to school, recovering from days of travel, and getting to know each other and the country before we meet our host families. I am grateful for the rest time! I am so tired, though so excited to be here I can hardly sit still.

Update 1/30/2013:
My school is surprisingly lovely, in a big house with a eden-like garden and beautiful architecture. Our teachers are fantastic. I am a bit disappointed at how much time we have spent in the class room so far – almost no time to explore the city. But I am sure I will get plenty of time for that soon! I meant to post earlier but internet has been crazy hard to get. Just bought a USB modem though so I should be able to communicate more soon.   

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Five Minute Rwandan History

3 Days Out

The 5 Minute History of Rwanda

Hello dear friends! I am in a lull before leaving for Kigali, where I will arrive Monday afternoon. My bags are sort of packed, by room is sort of cleaned, and I've sort of said goodbye to my friends. For me, this is doing pretty well 48 hours before departure!

I realized Rwanda is a pretty murky place to most of us. SO, for your edification and amusement I present a five minute version of Rwandan history, which should give a slightly more nuanced view of the country than people running around after each other with machetes.

  • Pre-colonial Rwanda: Rwanda is pretty hunkie dory. There are Tutsis and Hutus is more of a class distinction than a race. If you have a lot of cows, you're a Tutsi. If growing sweet potatoes is your thing, you're probably a Hutu. People can change between Tutsi or Hutu during their lifetimes.

  • Colonial Rwanda: Belgians show up. This is bad news for any per-colonial African country. Being devious, white, and racist as a fox news pundit off camera, they decide a good way to control the country is to make the Tutsis the 'superior race' and put them in charge of all their exploitation/oppression schemes.
  • Post-Colonial Rwanda: Naturally, the Hutus are not too thrilled about all this whole exploitation and oppression thing. They eventually overthrow the Belgians and their Tutsi underlings, sending a lot of Tutsis off to Uganda to escape the violence.
  • 1992 Rwanda: The Tutsis get fed up of being stuck as refugees for decades, and sense the president won't let them come back legally, they go 'screw this' and invade the country.
  • 1994 Rwanda: The failing Hutu government uses the invasion (among other things) as an excuse to stir up old fear of Tutsi/colonial oppression, and incites mass violence. For 100 days, Tutsis and their allies are killed at a rate of 6 people a minute. Meanwhile, the US and the UN refuse to send peacekeepers, and won't even authorize the few on the ground to take any action to protect civilians. ….There's no way I can make a quip about this.
  • Rwanda Today: Miraculously, Rwanda is one of the most stable countries in the region. With the help of their plastic-bag-hating president/dictator (seriously, he made them illegal!) the country has universal education and health care, has abolished racial discrimination (legally, anyway), and is receiving massive amounts of development aid.

Too Long; Didn't Read? Colonialism is a bitch.

Rwanda got almost no press at the time because OMG CELEBS 

When they say 'never again' they meant 'never again to white people'. Just ask the Rwandans, the Cambodians, the Sudanese, the Palestinians, the Iraqis, the Syrians.... All our pretty international organizations and nice treaties are a disgraceful sham until we actually give equal value to all human life.