This wasn’t a photographic trip, I wanted to put the photographer in me aside and just be there, talking to people and enjoying the moment; so, you won’t see many pictures in this post.
I must say I have been surprised to see how different Rwanda is compared to Uganda, mainly the development and the overall management of Kigali (the capital).
Very well-organised and clean, Kigali stands out as a very welcoming city. Busses seem to be on time, most of the transports require you to go to a proper ticket office (!!!) and buy it at a standard price; so, no bargaining and trying to get closest to the ‘fair’ price. Whenever you say no to a boda boda driver at a stage, the others will usually not harass you anymore (this, of course, depends on the situation). These things might not sound familiar if you haven’t lived in a town like Kampala for several weeks/months.
My first trip, after enjoying and visiting Kigali, the Expo and the very powerful Kigali Genocide Memorial Center (extremely touching account of the infamous set of events happened in early 90’s), was to Gisenyi. The town is the Rwandan side of the more famous Congolese town of Goma. It is also one of the towns which is located near beautiful Lake Kivu.
Knowing that getting to DRC would be both dangerous and very difficult (these are hard times in some areas of the DRC), I settled down for just getting as close as possible to the border (see picture above).
It was quite an experience as basically everyone who was passing by was staring at me; I must have been the only mzungu around.
On the way back to the town and heading towards the lake, I met a very kind Rwandan/Congolese guy with whom I talked for the rest of the time there in Gisenyi; he brought me to the lake and told me about the life in DRC and how difficult it is for a Tutsi, born and raised in Congo, to live there in these days; the main issue being that Congoleses don’t recognize them as Congolese and Rwandans as Rwandan.
After spending the whole afternoon with him, on the last bus I headed back to Kigali for the night.
The day after, last day before the departure, I went to visit Nyanza; where there is the traditional and modern palace of the last king of Rwanda as well as the National Art Museum.
The traditional palace, rebuilt entirely in a slightly different area, was composed of huts, the largest one being the one for the king and the queen.
Very interesting to see how genders where treated differently and each of them had their private areas.
The modern palace, built by the Belgians for the king they chose (I’m not sure if they really directly chose it, but it is a fact that the previous king was moved to another country because he did not want to convert to Christianity, as the Belgian colonists wanted). It has a very European look, with offices, bathrooms and even armchairs. Most of the furniture are a replica as, during the genocide, the palace has been almost entirely sacked.
On the way back, I saw again an old lady I met earlier; although we did not manage to communicate with each other (she did not speak any English, French nor Luganda), she was so happy to see me that she dropped the broom she was carrying to run towards me to say hi.
I felt humbled by this simple gesture, as her eyes told more than her words (in Kinyarwanda) could possible do. At this time, a guy approached us and, fortunately, could speak some English and some French, so we could properly introduce to each other; he told me that the lady was very happy to see me and wanted to accompany me for a while along the road. At the end of the street, I understood she had to go back to work and I hugged her before leaving; now her eyes started being visibly wet with tears and widely smiling, in her language, she said something, I assume, meant “Bye, see you again!”.
I never felt such a connection with someone with whom I could not even exchange a single word.
The rest of the trip was just transportation from A to B; first to Kigali and then, the following morning, to Kampala.
It has been a great trip, where I managed to discover a new country and new fantastic people, willing to help far more than I would have expected, learn about their culture and history and learn to appreciate much more this amazing East African culture.