We've been in Rwanda for about 24 hours now. As a group, this is our first time to Africa. I'm not sure culture shock is the right way to describe what we've experience so far, but more so awe of systems and policy.
For those who have an understanding of Rwanda, one of the main historical talking points is the genocide. It's amazing, because that's a historical point here that has been embrassed, absorbed and used as a stepping stone for the future. It's crazy to say and even crazier to see, but this country has truly taken the hardships and the struggles they encountered in 1994 and leading up to the genocide, and used that as a platform to show the world how resilient, influencial and educational they can be.
With our first day here in Kigali, we spent a few hours at the Genocide Museum. It was hard hitting on the emotions, yet inspiring in many ways. The amount of Rwandanese that were there to reflect on what had happened, to support their friends and family, and to embrace what had happened was amazing. Literally hundreds of locals walked through the grounds. It might have been because it was a Sunday, but regardless, it was interesting to see the support network and to learn about the events.
There is an amazing policy here in Rwanda called Umuganda. Personally, I've never heard of anything like this - at least on a country wide scale. The word Umuganda itself translates to 'coming together In common purpose to achieve an outcome', and the way it works here, is the last Saturday of every month, the roads are closed, businesses are closed, everything is closed, and the community bands together to share stories, clean the streets and ultimately do community work. Could you imagine this in Calgary?
Another fascinating thing about the culture here, is the forbidden use of plastic bags. They are not allowed into the country, and material purchases you make will be placed in alternative, sustainable packaging. Another fascinating initiative put on by the Rwandan President, Paul Kagame.
We finished the day with Nyamachoma, a traditional East African meal, consisting of goat cooked over charcoal, maise, fried potatoes and in our case, Mutzig beers.
Tomorrow is an early morning, heading to see some of the community washing stations we'll be cupping coffees from later this week. We'll be up at 6 and it'll be like Christmas morning.
Murakoze for reading.
That means thank you. My Kinyarwanda is rough, but I'm working on it!