When I told people I was going to Rwanda, I was usually met with a strange look. Sadly, Rwandas past ruins the countries appeal to many but I really wanted to go. I'm not sure why but I did and it is probably the place I will rememeber most in terms of understanding local life.
On our first full day I went to visit a pygmy tribe and an orphanage. The pygmy tribe are known for being small but I was expecting tiny people. They were about the same height as me. Alot had disabilities because they are quite interbred but I took alot away from this place.
The pygmies are shunned from community. They are not welcome in local village life and live quite solemly. Housing is poor. If you can compare, it was even worse than the atrocious slums I saw in Uganda. They make a living working for local Rwandans by harvesting food. They get none of the food and can only live on the land they have if they grow good crop. This is weather dependent and sadly the weather depends on whether they will starve or not. I always have good compsure around depserately sad experiences but this time was different. I'm not sure what it was but something about this really hurt. They greeted us with music and singing but in the corner I could see a child shivering. I gave her my jacket but of course it's not enough. These people, behind the singing and the dancing were so sad. The Government is trying to incorporate them into the community but it's hard when people reject them.
We then went to an orphanage set up to house children who previously lived on the streets, lost there parents to genocide or were trafficked. They spoke not a word of English but I felt so welcome. I was given the biggest and most meaningful hug I think I will ever have off the main carer of the house and I spent the afternoon singing, playing and dancing. It was a lovely afternoon but I can't stop thinking about the lives of some people. Here I am, touring the country and they have nothing. Some of the children at this orphanage don't have a bed and at the end of the day go back out onto the streets. Rwanda is dangerous at night and known for trafficking children but no beds means the children have no alternative.
In the evening, our tour leader took us to his friends home. This was a well educated man who lost both of his parents during the genocide. We sat on the floor and listened to his stories of genocide for hours. I was taken aback and it was horrific and fascinating to hear what happened, not in a museum or book but from an actual survivors mouth. Seeing the raw emotion of the situation really makes you think about how it must have been.
The next day we went to the Genocide Museum where I learnt more about the Genocide. We also met a young boy there who was 'rescued' so to speak. He had no arms. His parents had cut them off so he couled beg. Apparently that is common practice as disability creates sympathy and sympathy creates money. I felt anger towards his parents but I also thought how hard it must be to have to resort to such a tactic to survive.