The following journal entries are apart of a series which will offer day-to-day accounts of the RMCC Expedition Club’s recent 2011/12 Kilimanjaro Expedition to East Africa. Click here to read the full expedition article.

Day Nine 08 January 2012

25752 OCdt (III) Christopher Lane

After two days of much-needed relaxation following the Expedition’s summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the group was excited for their next adventure as they ate their last breakfast in Tanzania.  With the crew’s gear packed, we hopped on our Marangu Hotel shuttle that took us on our last scenic trip of Tanzania on the way to Kilimanjaro International Airport.

Upon arrival, the crew was forced to deal with an unforeseen complication in the flight arrangements to Kigali, but as had been the case for the entire trip, the issue was dealt with effectively.  An hour later, we were watching a series of fascinating dust tornadoes across the airport’s runway, just before boarding our RwandAir flight.

The flight first travelled east (the opposite direction from Kigali) for a connection in Dar es Salaam, the largest city in Tanzania.  Unfortunately, we were unable to explore the port town on the shore of the Indian Ocean; one hour later we were back in the air flying west for Kigali.

On our final approach to Kigali International Airport, it was immediately evident that we were in for a week of spectacular scenery.  Looking out over the wing, all that could be seen for miles were rolling hills.  As we landed in Rwanda’s largest city and capital, it was hard not to think about the significance of where we were.  This was the very airport where former President Habyarimana’s plane had been shot down on approach in April 1994, sparking one of the most horrific atrocities of our time.

And yet, as we met our hosts from the Kwetu Film Institute outside the airport, these horrific images seemed to fade away.  Driving away from the airport, we were all taken aback to see how developed a city Kigali actually was.  With a surprisingly Canadian feel about the city, and the welcoming smiles that met us almost everywhere we went that night, it became increasingly difficult to imagine how a country torn apart by genocide could rise from the ashes to be such a genuinely pleasant and seemingly peaceful place.

Upon arriving at Kwetu Residence, our home for the next week, we unpacked our gear and marvelled at the unique architecture of this brand new hotel.  The Kwetu Film Institute, founded by popular film producer Eric Kabera, is the first of its kind in East Africa.  The two key overarching goals of KFI are firstly to focus on developing the media literacy skills of individual participants, and secondly to contribute to the cultural and economic cohesiveness of the East African Community (Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Uganda and Rwanda).  Eric and the rest of the staff at Kwetu were very gracious hosts to us for our week in Rwandan; our stay in the Land of a Thousand Hills would not have been nearly as memorable without their generosity.

After dinner in town with Oscar, a young student working at the Institute, the Expedition Group headed to bed, excited for what would turn out to be one of the most memorable weeks of our lives.

Day Ten 09 January 2012

25194 OCdt (IV) Alexander Kisielius

I wake up at 0700 in The Kwetu Film institute. I look out the hotel window and gaze upon the beautiful panoramic of Rwanda’s capital city; Kigali. Rwanda is a country of rolling hills, mountains and grassy lowlands. In French, it has been named ‘Pays des Mille Collines’ meaning ‘Country of a Thousand Hills’, and this morning, I can see why.

Taylor and I gather our necessities for the day and head downstairs for a light breakfast. Today the expedition group is traveling to The Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre; the largest permanent exhibition of the Genocide in 1994. The Kigali Memorial Centre was inaugurated on April 2004, on the 10th Anniversary of The Genocide. The Centre provides the Rwandans a place in which they can bury their families and friends. Over 250,000 victims of the genocide are now buried at the site.

The group knew what we were planning on doing that day but I don’t think any of us were ready for the experience we were about to have. We arrived at the centre and were greeted by local guides. They instructed us about the centre, and we started our tour. We began by laying roses on the mass gravesites and then we toured the memorial gardens. The next ten minutes were probably the hardest for me. We were ushered by the remembrance wall and saw all the names of victims written on plaques. They explained how entire families were slaughtered during the genocide, and consequently, only a fraction of the victims could be identified. It was horrifying for me to believe that 18 years after the genocide, only one tenth of this memorial wall was covered. They don’t even know who died.

After the outdoor tour, we were shown into the building where we read about the events leading up to the genocide and then heard testaments from survivors. I have done a lot of research on the Genocide and this consolidation was very important for me. I was able to grasp a thorough understanding of the horrific events in a way that I couldn’t from any multimedia sources available in Canada.

The visit to the memorial definitely set the tone for the rest of the groups’ time in Rwanda. It was hard to explore the city with no emotion knowing what happened in 1994. Our host in Rwanda, Eric Kabera, instructed us that when we returned to the film institute that night, he would show us films that he has produced about the Genocide. He has dedicated his life to raise the awareness of the 1994 genocide through producing films and I recommend anyone who reads this to watch his movies. My return to Canada has been hard with the experiences I have had during the expedition. If I have learned one thing from the disturbing memorials in Rwanda, it is the statement of ‘Never again’.

Day Eleven 10 January 2012

26268 OCdt (I) Stéphanie Paquette

Nous avons commencé la journée, pas la visite d’un marché d’artisans rwandais. Les membres du groupe en ont profité pour acheter des souvenirs et des créations locales pour les êtres chers à qui ils pensent durant ce voyage. Une multitude d’objets se retrouvent dans les différents kiosques dont les vendeurs vous accueil avec « Bienvenu! Welcome! » On peut y trouver des sacs à mains, des robes d’été, des chandails, des peluches ou encore des centre de table, tous dans une variété de couleur qui attire l’œil sans aucun doute. Des produits en bois ou en pierre tels que des échiquiers, des ouvre-bouteilles, des bibelots, des statues et des masques africains.

 Alors que nous étions au marché, des Rwandais jouaient à un jeu appelé Mweso. Il s’agit d’un jeu qui se joue à deux personnes avec 64 graines qui se déplacent d’une des 32 cases à l’autre. L’objectif est d’obtenir toutes les graines de son côté en les volant au joueur opposé. Nous avons donc appris comment jouer à ce jeu. Certains ont eu la chance de jouer contre ces Rwandais qui nous ont enseigné comment jouer. Il faut dire qu’ils étaient très expérimentés, bien qu’à une reprise l’Élof Lane réussit à l’emporter en une joute très serré. Quelques personnes se sont ensuite procuré le jeu, afin de ramener une parcelle de cette tradition africaine au Canada et la partager avec leurs camarades.

Durant l’après-midi, nous sommes allés jouer une partie de soccer amicale contre des Rwandais qui habitent dans le quartier résidentiel où se trouve notre hôtel. Nous n’avons marché que deux coins de rue pour se retrouver devant ce terrain de soccer rustique : du gazon parsemé de roches et des sacs à dos et des arbres comme filet. Rien de plus simple. L’équipe contre qui nous avons joué était nettement plus agile que la notre, bien que nous n’avons pas accordé de buts faciles. Il faut dire que nos pieds ne sont définitivement pas habitués à jouer au soccer sans chaussure sur un terrain où les roches sont en général assez pointues… Nous nous sommes bien amusés, et nous avons déjà planifié une autre partie de soccer ce vendredi.

Nous avons terminé la soirée avec un souper à l’Hôtel Mille Collines. Il y avait de la musique live et l’ambiance était chaleureuse. Cet hôtel est spécial, car il a été utilisé comme lieu de refuge pour près de mille personnes durant le génocide de 1994. L’histoire de cet hôtel est racontée dans le film Hotel Rwanda où on peut voir l’hôtel lui-même où nous avons passé la soirée.


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