Transit through Rwanda

In the past I have always travelled through Uganda to get to Beni, DRC, but this time I was instructed to go fly into Kigali Rwanda, drive to Goma, and then fly from Goma to Beni. Although I was sad not to be able to visit friends in Uganda, I was excited at the opportunity to see another country I had not yet visited. I had heard so many things about Rwanda and was looking forward to seeing it for myself. I arrived in Kigali on Saturday afternoon and hired a taxi to take me to Yambi Guesthouse that came on good recommendation from a colleague at Congo Initiative. The first thing that I remarked on during the drive was how almost unnaturally clean everything was, and how the main roads seemed almost European. It was strange to see because it looked so much more organized than the other African cities I have visited. All of the roads had generous sidewalks and some secondary streets were made with cobblestones. Yambi Guesthouse is a comfortable place with a nice atmosphere. It was about dinner time when I arrived, but I didn’t want to spend money or eat more restaurant food after being several days at a hotel. The hostel has a kitchen and so I walked down the street and bought the ingredients for an omelette from a little shop. Instead of spending $10 on a meal, I spent under $2. While eating I met the owner whose name is Patrick. He offered to take me to see some parts of Kigali the next day. That evening I chatted with Othy because it was his birthday and unfortunately we couldn’t be together in person.

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View from Yambi Guesthouse

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I took the next morning to get some work done, and in the afternoon Patrick took me to the oldest neighbourhood in Kigali called Nyamirambo. We walked the main streets and then in behind where there are precarious settlements. He said that these houses are illegal because the areas always experience erosion with heavy rain, but people build there anyways. Next he took me to a memorial for the Belgian peacekeepers who were murdered at the start of the Rwandan Genocide in 1993. Part of the memorial is the very buildings where the troops were killed. It is a powerful testimony because the building remains untouched with bullet holes in the walls. A chalk board inside the room is covered with messages from family members expressing anger towards the perpetrators and also a UN general who saw that something was happening but chose not to intervene. Near the memorial there was a conference centre with an area where local arts and crafts are sold. The path approaching the crafts building is a tensile construction that I thought was nicely done. The craft pavilions are constructed out of oriented strand board that I thought gave warmth to the space and highlighted the arts and crafts that were on display. My favourite display was a wall of woven baskets because I love woven furniture and accessories! I think it would be cool to make an artwork in my house out of a selection of baskets. Soon after getting back to the guesthouse a driver came and picked me up. We went first to the airport to pick up Jon and then started our journey on to Goma. The drive took about four hours and we enjoyed watching the sun set over the green hills. As we approached the border crossing, I got a short glimpse of the glowing crater of Mount Nyiragongo, the active volcano 20km north of Goma in Virunga National Park.

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