Saturday, May 31, 2014

Day 3 of Trip

Before I forget, "Thanks, Michael, for helping me to set up the blog."

Umuganda!!! Today was Umuganda in the morning. On the last Saturday of every month, Rwandans gather in communities to do some work and meet. This morning, one woman told me that they are all so busy that this one time each month is so nice for members of communities to get together.

We walked from our hotel about 10-15 minutes into the nearby community. They were cutting down weeds. On out way there, someone handed two people in our group of 7 a machete and another cutting tool (shaped like a golf club). I think the man handed Christine the machete and she handed it to Michael (our one Holocaust and Genocide - HaG - students on the trip). What a thing to see - a HaG holding a machete in Rwanda. Just off the road we cleaned up weeds and then the people began to move up a hill - to cut weeds at the top of the hill against a lovely wall. Becasue I broke my ankle hiking in Switzerland in 2000 (sliding on loose stones), I chose not to go up the hill. I sat below and talked with some young people. Many of the community members tried to convince me to walk up the hill, noting that there would be a community meeting after the work. BUT, I know my limitations. When I saw the community meeting only halfway up the hill, I decided to try it and quickly said to myself, "This was not a good idea." I was slipping on the gravelly (is that a word?) path going up and coming down would be worse. So, I simply sat down on the side of the the sun. The meeting was in the shade and about 1/2 hour into the meeting, one of the men brought down a woman's unbrella for me. I was appreciative; it was a hot sun and the meeting lasted about anotehr hour. My fellow travelers were able to learn about what the community members were discussing - from a translater. Interesting! There was an agenda with items about health care in the community, noise, innappropriate behavior by members, paying funds due... I heard Aaron and our students talking about an Umuganda on WCU campus. Perhaps we could do some work within West Chester Borough and talk with borough citizens and part of our community. Thoughts?

This afternoon, we visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial. I was impressed. It has both inside and outside experiences. Outside are areas of mass graves, a wall of names (in progress), and themed gardens. Inside, the memorial museum moves in a circular fashion, looking on the inside only. Exhibit materials are in three langauges - native Rwanda, French, English). It is chronological and offers film clips of survivors. I was suprised in one explanation panal the use of "we." That is personal...not like the USHMM in DC. I was walking behind a local school group of about 10 Middle School age pupils. Their teacher was offering explanations and the youngsters were talking many notes. When the exhibit came to the actualt genocide and became graphic, the pupils were entranced. I noticed that their teacher told them to move along when one video fottage showed surviving children with deep machete wounds in their heads...and one boy with his fingers cut off and gangrene setting in...

The exhibit included a section of encased skulls and bones laid out nicely as well as a photograph exhibit with room to grow as other victims become identitified.

The most moving part of the Memorial Museum is the Children's Exhibit on the second floor...perhaps 16 individual children with their large photos...names and ages...favorite food, best friend, etc...and how they died.

(HaGs: This Memorial Museum has an archive...)

Time will tell if the forgiveness within Rwanda holds. President Kagame wants everyone to move forward as "Rwandans," not Hutus or Tutsis or Twas. Of course, it was colonialism that brought the divisions. He has maintained a great peace in the country, but what will happen when his term is up in 2017? One of our drivers, Alex (the other is Omar), told me that it is in the Rwandan constitution that a president can serve only 2 terms (of 7 years each). Are the people really ready to be Rwandans? "Identity" is such an interesting concept as I tell my students.

Off to bed...

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