Reading this week:
- Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami
- The Looting Machine by Tom Burgis
After milking my COS for literally months of blog posts, my trip is complete!
Leaving Kibuye I got a little adventurous. After waking up early to watch the clouds change color as the sun rose, I wanted to explore some of the peninsulas that jut out into the lake. I was driving around and eventually I went down a road that was just someone’s driveway, and which ended at a gate with no way to turn around. I had to back some ways down a bumpy dirt road where if I went too far I’d fall of a cliff. I’m still alive, but decided to call it after that. The road to Kigali was perhaps the scariest so far for being a little pot-holed and right up against the tallest cliffs I’d seen in Rwanda. The weirdest sight (out of context) was a dude by the side of the road just holding up a catfish he was trying to sell. It looked like the only one he had and there he was standing near a bend holding up a catfish, staring at people driving by.
On the way to Kigali.
I made it to Kigali in good time and decided to go to the National Art Museum. I had been using maps.me to get around, and it had been pretty good in Rwanda but failed hard in Kigali. The problem is that it contains a lot of “roads” that are more or less impassible dirt tracks, and also it wants to take you on the absolute shortest route. So first it lead me to the wrong side of the airport, trying to get me to cross over behind the airport via a dirt path. I didn’t go down because there was a motorcyle that wouldn’t move, and almost couldn’t make it back because the path was too steep. When I went on the other side of the airport it had me go down this side road and then up this dirt path that was also impassible, and I spent some time turning around again. Then I found another road, and it lead me to another dirt road, which I felt couldn’t be right because the art museum is in a the former Presidential Palace, but it lead me there. There is a tarmac road that leads straight there but I guess it isn’t the absolute shortest path so maps.me didn’t take me that way.
Back yard of the art museum, because they don’t allow pictures inside.
The art museum was nice. I had the place to myself and was lead around by a rather nice lady. No pictures though which was disappointing, and being lead by a guide made it a little weird to see the museum. You can’t really stand there and contemplate art when she is explaining stuff and leading you around. There was one piece I liked, but maybe it was just the well-carved boobs. The president had some nice digs, but it was built in 1976 and looks like it. We also went to the Presidential Plane Crash Site, which is just out back. This was where the President’s plane crashed, sparking the Rwandan Genocide. There are parts of the plane strewn about, but more interestingly is the 17 or so crested cranes walking around. Apparently they use the place as a crested crane rehabilitation center, and the cranes are beautiful.
I drove to my B&B with relative ease, but driving through Kigali is a bit of a trip. Cars and motorcycles drive on the same roads and the same time, but they’re not really part of the same system. They both tend to both drive without regards to the other and it was my experience that the system worked best when you in fact drove your car more or less without regard to the motorcycles (I mean, don’t hit them). I had the whole next day in Kigali, so I wasn’t so pressed to fill up all my time, but I spent the evening on a walk around the neighborhood.
The next day, the first place I went was the Genocide Memorial. They search your car and give you a patdown before you go in; I wonder what threats they have had. The genocide memorial has a whole museum that is pretty well done. I have a lot of disparate thoughts here. First off the memorial also has a cafe which, I dunno. “We will never forget the horrible things that happened! Never again! Enjoy our cafe and free wifi!” One bit I found weird was a line in the memorial talking about the some of the benefits white people brought to Rwanda, including Christianity. The very next line notes the role in the Catholic church fostering racial/ethnic divides between the Tutsis and the Hutus, both helping to elevate the Tutsis more and then also telling the Hutus they were being oppressed. Again, there ya go. I exited via the Genocide Gift Shop. I bought a lapel pin.
Leftover from the Natural History Museum.
From there I went to the Kandt House Museum. The weirdest part of the museum was right before I arrived, because just up the road is a garage or something. As I was driving a bunch of guys jumped out and kinda surrounded the car and I was worried I was going the wrong way or something. Turns out they just had a car wash deal. The museum used to the be the natural history museum so around back they have a single, small crocodile and several snakes. Neat. The house itself is pretty nice and contains displays on the history of Rwanda. Some things I learned: Making a single traditional hoe from the ore requires 300kg of charcoal. This means that around 1907, when a bunch of pictures on display were taken, and presumably before that, the country was largely deforested. This was also beneficial to provide pasture for raising cows. The Kings all had like, one of five names, depending on what they needed to do doing their reign. These names were things like “Warrior,” or “Yari,” which means “Peace.” The museum had two wheels that had been used to transport a steam launch (I thought it was named the “Dampfbarkasse” but turns out that just means “Steam Launch” in German). They had a display on traditional courts, and the two punishments mentioned were making beer to provide to everyone, or death. Quite the delta there. The guide also related a story of how apparently the Rwandan people though the whole world was between the three hills of Kigali. Then the Chief climbed Kigali Hill, and saw, like, the rest of Rwanda, and that’s how they found out there was a whole world out there.
From there, off to the Campaign Against Genocide Museum. This is in the parliament building. Again, you gotta get patted down and have your car searched. The displays are interesting (in a “kinda weird”) sense. The museum focuses on the RPF’s actual military campaign against government forces. The museum is where it is because the 3rd Battalion (I assume that is what “3BN” means) of the RPF forces were stationed in the parliament building as part of the Arusha Peace Accords. So when the genocide began there was an RPF force in Kigali already. What clicked at the museum is that like, Kigali itself was a battlefield. They have a war painting of the RPF attacking the sports stadium. That put a new perspective on things. The interesting/weird part though was it was a bit technical. They had a display that they repeated a few times that looks like a powerpoint slide from some military strategy presentation, talking about phases of operation and arrows for things like “media efforts.”
The most stunning thing to see was the RPF’s uniforms, which included gumboots as combat boots. That amazed me. I’m not making fun of them for being poor, I am just impressed. I was stunned when all the rangers climbed Virunga in gumboots, and here are these people fighting a war in them. There are apparently some statues and stuff outside, but it was raining so I didn’t bother to look, and I wasn’t feeling great, so I just went back to the B&B. And except for the trip to the airport, that wrapped up my Rwandan vacation and COS trip.
After 24 hours or so of travel and a layover in Qatar, I landed at Dulles airport. Then I stood in the line for customs for 2.5 hours. Frankly if I had known the line for America was that long I might not have come. Me and the customs guy: How are you? I was good two hours ago. Where you coming from? Rwanda. Did you meet anyone there? Nope. Have any business or any friends or relatives? Nope. So you met no one at all? Nope. Why did you choose to go to Rwanda then? Because it is beautiful. What is your profession? Nothing at the moment. What did it used to be? Peace Corps Volunteer. Do you have any food or anything to declare at all? Nope. He let me pass but I don’t think he liked me. And so after 27 months I was back in the US of A. Dad drove me home and I napped.