Friday, January 1, 2010

Finish The Story!!!!

I don't know why this one day is taking so long to get out. That was really almost a week ago but I hate to leave days out.
ANYWAY!! The path we walked down was beautiful. Rwanda is known as "Land of a Thousand Hills" and that it is. It really is a beautiful landscape. Rolling green hills with huge banana leaf trees everywhere. We were walking down a long hilly slope for the whole walk so I could see out over the landscape. It rains a lot here right now so there is always mist rising from the lush green hills. The foliage was beautiful but the living is tough in the countryside. These people are pretty poor so all the homes are just small shacks or mud huts. A lot of these people farm for a living so I see lots of woman walking to town with sacks of potatoes on their heads or whatever they can take into town to try to sell. Lots of people carrying buckets or large plastic containers full of water to and from their homes. I have no idea how far they have to go to get the water. Or lots of people carrying bundles of wood on their heads that they have foraged and collected for their homes. I saw one little boy busily carrying some sort of mud back and forth making bricks. It is really a tough existence amongst the poor hear. I would never be tough enough to live the way they do.
Hassan is in his early 20's and I asked him a lot about his life here. I hesitate to ask people if they were here during the genocide but he seemed pretty open so I asked him if it would be ok to ask questions about that time and he is glad that I am even curious. Hassan has always lived around the town of Musanze which somehow miraculously did not see much killing during those days. He said most of the Tutsi tribe (the ones who were being killed) lived outside of town so that is where most of the massacres in this area happened. I asked him if he was Hutu or Tutsi and he said he really did not know because his family was such a mix of both. If he had to he would not know which tribe to claim.
We finally made it back down to the main road to continue our walk to the orphanage. Although this is a main paved road I really did not see any cars. Quite a few bikes and tons of people walking and maybe a bus but that was it. Again, EVERYONE looks at me as we pass. I am glad I am with Hassan. It is obvious some of the guys aren't too happy to see a Muzungu and they look pretty mean. They say stuff I can't understand but Hassan has such an easy manner that he is able to handle them.
A car pulled up beside us and it was moving pretty slow. I did not want to look over but finally I did. To my surprise it was Michelle, the girl I had met the day before in Kigali. She had decided to go ahead and come out to Musanze and see if she could change the day of her gorilla permit. Once she got into town she found Greg, the guy who had arranged my permit. He told her I was out on this walk and found someone to bring her out to meet up with me. I was elated to see her.
Michelle is worse with the kids than I am so by this time we were just taking forever stopping and playing with the kids along the way. At one point we once again has a whole entourage of kids walking behind us and even a few adults. I commented that it was going to be hard to go back home and not be so popular. She said "Yeah, it's like were Madonna". I totally cracked up because it is was exactly like the pictures you see of Madonna strolling around Africa.
The cutest thing happened as we were walking. This little girl came out from her house to see the Muzungu walking by. She must have been only 3 or 4. She was up on a hillside in a cute little dress surrounded by all these pretty little yellow flowers. She took one look at Michelle and it was as if she had just spotted her long lost best friend. She ran down the hill towards us then spread open her arms and ran up to Michelle and wrapped her arms around Michelle's legs and just kept hugging her. I would have given anything to have gotten this on video.
Finally we get to the orphanage. There are around 20 children who live here. Greg sends all the tourists there way that he can in hopes of getting people more interested in making donations. And it is really just a good thing for tourists to see. All the kids came running down the path totally excited to see visitors. They were awesome. They love visitors and they immediately grabbed our hands to take us the rest of the way down the path.
We only had time to spend about an hour with the kids but it really was great. Same thing with the picture taking, they just go crazy for it. I was trying to capture Michelle on video taking pictures of the kids and their reactions. Then I showed the kids of them on video and they just went into hysterics. They were just shrieking and laughing. It was the cutest, funniest thing I have ever seen.
The kids are all taught to participate in the running of things at the orphanage. They have chickens and goats for milk and food. They had a big garden out back that they get a lot of their food from. As orphanages go it did seem like a pretty decent place. The kids all seemed pretty happy. We met the house mama who runs things. She was a widow who just wanted to take care of the kids. She did not speak any English but she did seem like she really cared for the kids. The goal is to eventually place all of these kids with widows which they seem to be pretty successful at. There are lots of widows and children without parents from the genocide so this is a really good program.
Finally we had to leave and it was painful. I waited until we got out of the gate and then I started crying. There is a lot of pain in this country that is just under the surface. I knew about the genocide before coming here. Being here I have learned much more about it, heard and read more of the stories. And, of course, being here makes it much more of a reality. It is no longer someplace over there. It happened right here just 15 years ago and it was some of the most horrible things humans can do to each other. And then of course to see these beautiful little beings who don't have a home. It is really just too much sometimes.
We had taken so much time to get to the orphanage and it was getting late in the day. So, as they had predicted, I was too tired to walk back into town. So we flagged down some boda-bodas for the ride back.
Michelle was now also staying at my guest house so I was not alone and that was nice.
Finally I will get to gorilla tracking on my next entry.
Happy New Year from Rwanda!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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