- When getting to know a person here a common question is “do you have parents?” I think I’m correct to infer that this is directly related to the huge two-fold impact that the genocide and HIV/AIDS has had on Rwanda.
- When you are served drinks anywhere, the waiter/waitress will always open the bottle while you are present. This is to prevent poisonings which are surprisingly common here. The rule is that you must be able to see the bottle being opened in front of you. If it isn’t, it is perfectly acceptable to send the bottle back and ask for another one. But its never happened to me.
- Honestly, Rwandans love guilt trips. It’s not meant to be taken personally though. If you don’t visit someone promptly you will never hear the end of it. In fact one of the most common phrases that I’ve heard is, “warabuze!” (literally, you’ve been missing). Now this person has no intention of making you feel bad and probably had no intention of visiting you but regardless it will kinda make you a little defensive. So what I do is try to beat them to it and tell them “warabuze!” before they can. (mwah-ha-ha)
- When people call you, they (the callers) have to greet you first!! Not the normal American interaction where the receiver of the call says “hello?” before the caller says anything. So what ends up happening to me every single time I call someone is there is an awkward silence for the first moment while I’m waiting for the person to say something like “hello?”. And when others call me, I still answer “hello?” impulsively, which I say at the same time they say “hello”. This is an awkward way to start every phone conversation.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
The genocide memorial week begins April 7th each year. This date marks the night that the presidents plane was shot down over Kigali. Along for the ride was also the Burundian president. Within minutes road blocks were erected all around Kigali with militias and the government troops manning them. By the end of the first day, 8,000 people were dead. Tutsi leaders, such as journalists or political leaders, were targeted first.The killings happened at ten-times the rate as the German holocaust and in only one hundred days around 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu were dead.
This holiday is one of the most important in Rwanda. On this day, events are held around the entire country at local government offices to remember that fateful day. People give their testimonies, guest speakers talk about the importance of unity, the President of the Republic makes a public speech and people gather to remember their lost loved ones.
On this first day of memorial week everything is closed all day. Then on April 8th-12th, work continues as usual in the mornings but in the afternoons places shut down again and memorial activities are held. During the entire week no amusement or entertainment activities should be done. The 13th is the official end of memorial week but people never forget. In the following months there are memorial activities around the country and many people take journeys back to the places where their friends and families were killed. All in all, these months are bleak. And during these months we as visitors in the country need to be particularly understanding.
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
When there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are
Born to eternal life.”
St. Francis of Assisi