Three weeks into my stay, I have fully-settled into the routine of classes, as well as laying the groundwork for my research in terms of arranging dates for interviews, obtaining my research permit from the Rwandan government, and submitting my proposal to the human subject review board. It’s very interesting to see the ways in which different students are going about their research. There’re a few other policy-oriented people on my program, as well as students of anthropology, philosophy, education, criminal justice, history, and psychology. Everyone has a little bit of a different approach to what they want to research.
I’m also starting to make friends here. Rwandans are incredibly open and friendly, and everyone I speak to on the street, even if it’s just to ask for directions wants my phone number to keep in touch. I’ve gotten drinks with a former Ugandan pop star, had coffee with a contingent of nuns and priests, and gone to dinner at the home of a top Habyarimana advisor tuned taxi driver.
I’m also quickly turning into a farm girl among my host-family. I have a favorite cow – who I’ve taken to calling Maybelle and who’s milk tastes better than that of all the other cows, I shoo several herds of goats out of my way every morning on my way to school, and I’m awoken each morning by a rooster. It’s a pop culture myth that roosters crow at dawn. Their “cock-a-doodle-doo” sounds every twenty minutes between 4 a.m. and 8 p.m. I’ve largely given up on the bus system in Kigali, instead opting for moto-taxis, which consist of riding on the back of a motorcycle, wearing the driver’s extra helmet.
I knew going in that my coursework would be heavy, but the last two weeks, during which I visited a number of genocide memorials have been especially difficult. The Gatsato Memorial in Kigali used to be a Rwandan national park. During and immediately after the genocide, it was used to store the bodies of the quarter million people killed in and around Kigali. Today it is a mass grave site, and is also home to a museum similar to the Holocaust Museum in D.C.
Two weeks ago, we traveled to the Eastern Province to visit Nyamata and Ntarama. Nyamata was a Catholic church run by several Italian priests, who tried to protect the Tutsis that sought refuge there. The priests were slaughtered along with everyone inside. Ntarama was also a church, and during the first few weeks of the genocide, Tutsis flocked to the site because the priests assured them it was safe. When the church as well as the surrounding buildings were completely full, the priests called the Interahamawe and killed alongside them. You can still see the blood marks where infants were slammed against the walls. Throughout the Eastern Province, young men thought that they would be the targets, so they left their families in churches while they fled to the hills. Most of those killed at the two churches were women, children, and old people.
It hasn’t all been heavy though. Two other students on my program have had birthdays recently, and it’s been fun to go out as an entire group to celebrate. I also went to the University of Kigali to touch base with a professor there fro my research, and met a group of Rwandan students. They’ve been wonderful about taking me around to different parts of the city. Baby Elliott, my youngest host brother has learned my name (or Kaa), which is one of the first words he’s learned. Every evening when I get home, he shrieks my name and comes running over to me.
I hope that everything’s going well at home, and I’ll try to be in touch soon.