Saturday, February 19, 2011


Most people probably think we’re crazy for going to Rwanda. Anyone who has seen the movie “Hotel Rwanda” knows why. (The assassination of its president, the absolute breakdown of government, the exit of the UN, the mass genocide of 1 million people in 3 months.)

But that happened 17 years ago almost, a generation practically, and it’s one reason I was interested to visit.

The next is because Paul Rusesabagina gave a speech at BYU and I was very impressed by him.

We are also hoping that we will be able to do a gorilla safari, with Dian Fossey’s gorillas. (This depends if we can get the permit in time.)

Finally, it’s because my research showed it’s one of the safest countries in Africa. Safety in a country is actually of prime importance to me. Not only for obvious reasons, but also because as night owls we like to walk around when it’s late, and people in safe countries are generally much friendlier than those in crime-ridden ones.

Rwanda is the safest country in East Africa. I suppose it’s technically Central Africa here, but you hear about Kenya and South Africa as the countries most people visit—and these countries have extremely high rates of violent crime, muggings, and kidnappings. It baffles me; people wouldn’t hesitate to visit Buenos Aires, when I know of no person who has visited the city without being violently threatened, often with a weapon—yet, they wouldn’t dream of going to Rwanda because of its tragic history or Morocco because of fear of terrorism or China because it’s Communist. It’s all about what’s in vogue, I suppose—and Buenos Aires and South Africa are more comfortable/developed than Kigali, sure, but not safer.

Jacob and I base our choices on statistical likelihood of something happening. We’ve been very lucky so far, but honestly, America (outside of the suburbs) is a much more dangerous place than almost any place we travel because of its gun/drug/crime problems.

So, yes—Rwanda. It’s environmentally conscious: orderly, with clean streets, and plastic bags are illegal. It’s slightly boring, even. The downtown area consists of a few shops and one mall that’s nearly all foreign currency exchange booths (and one fantastic, huge, Walmart-style store where you will find every expat in town)

Basketball is Rwanda’s favorite sport, and Jacob has already trained their national team. Here he is getting phone numbers of some local players:

DSC01415 DSC01408

This is the extent of the tiny national gym.


That said, there are a few uncomfortable reminders of the past.

There are men with machine guns on every corner at night, and Hutus and Tutsis look so clearly different even I can differentiate between them. Hutus are shorter, squarer, darker. Tutsi women are thin and elegant, and Tutsi men are tall verging on gaunt.  And we see people constructing things with machetes, which gives a little shiver down my spine because that was the weapon of the genocide as well as the cause of Dian Fossey’s murder.


Adespain said...

I think you need to get those "share" buttons that show up at the bottom of each post. I am learning to really like those and remember to use them when I read something I think is really interesting. Like the stuff you write, which in general seems to illicit some reaction in me. I found this one intriguing. Definitely am going to talk to you before I solidify any travel plans!

Julie said...

I enjoyed this post. Especially because on Hotel Rwanda, at the first, they make the comment that the reporter couldn't tell a Hutu from a Tutsi. So that's interesting that you really can.

Anonymous said...

:)... Now THIS is the kind of answer I was looking for! Very thoughtful and enlightening post. Thank you. I had no idea... about any of all this. Very impressive. You and Jacob have so very many layers to your lives! Once again, Congrats. :)

- Rodney Malisos

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