Observations from Rwanda

I will be in Rwanda this summer advocating for women's rights. In 1994, over 800,000 people were killed. Women were purposely infected with HIV through rape. Twelve years later, these women are still struggling to survive. My hope is to find ways to fill gaps in the current system, whether those gaps be legal, social, or economic.

Location: United States

I am currently a law student hoping to work in the field of international human rights upon graduation.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

My First Update... More to Come!

Hey all! Here is a little bit of what I wrote a few days ago. When I get a chance to write more, I will. And believe me, I have much more to write about, including our visit to a reconciliation meeting in Ruhengeri and yesterday's visits to three genocide sites, including Ntarama and Nyamata. Much love to all of you!

3 June 2006 23:50

I am currently in a pretty good state of mind. Jerrae and Carolyn came to my room after dinner to watch a couple shows Jerrae had on her laptop – Conviction and LOST. We all get along pretty well, which is great. Those two girls have kept me going and have been taking good care of me. Lauren seems to be spending most of her spare time with her mom in their room. I would hate for us to go this whole month without us really getting to know one another. I do know this – Lauren and I both have a love for musicals – we connected over RENT today. Good times. Definite good times.

I have been quite frustrated these past couple of days. We landed in Kigali on Thursday morning. I have spent a majority of each day since then in bed, dealing with some kind of stomach illness that I think I picked up while in Germany. I’m not sure, as I managed to get incredibly ill on the plane from Frankfurt to Addis Ababa. I have been unable to get online to contact my parents. I am sure they are worried about me, and have yet to even receive a phone call. And being so ill makes me just want to be in my own bed with my family around me. Yeah, this sucks. I’m starting to get a little better, although my diet has been strictly bread, crackers, and now a little bit of rice. And water. Soda does not work for me yet. I hope my body heals soon…

What I have seen of Kigali has been beautiful, yet incredibly sad as well. This city appears to be undergoing a whole ton of construction. The Judge says that this has been happening since the genocide – the whole country has been rebuilding itself in every possible way. The country is made up of green hills and the city is crammed with homes. Every home and compound is gated. The people are everywhere and have been very good to us. I wish I knew French… I feel quite uneducated, not knowing French or Kinyarwanda. I am here wanting to help people, but I am making this more difficult by not meeting the people on at least this one level. *Sigh*

Friday we went to the Kigali Memorial Center, which is a genocide memorial site. The memorial center includes an outside and inside portion. The outside is home to several mass graves and a rose garden to remember those murdered during the genocide who are not buried there. Inside there are several different rooms, each with a different purpose. In the lower level, the history of Rwanda and the genocide is described in detail. There are three smaller rooms, one that has pictures of victims brought in by survivors that also has a film constantly playing, another that has bones and skulls of victims, and the final that has clothes and other types of linen that were found in the shallow mass graves created by the genocidaires. The upstairs level contains two rooms, one that explains the history of several other genocides that have occurred throughout history (Armenia, Cambodia, the Holocaust, and several others), and a second that is dedicated to the child victims of the genocide. This last room was definitely the most difficult for me to witness. There were pictures of a handful of children, each with a plaque providing personal details, favorites, last words, age at death, and method of death. I am still reeling from that experience.

Today we were to maybe visit a few genocide sites in the area. That has been postponed until Monday, when Pastor Paul is to have time to bring us around himself. Pastor Paul is a kind and amazing man. He came in to pray over me Thursday night… He has invited the group to his church service tomorrow. We are to be picked up at 9 am. From what I hear, these services last for most of the morning and early afternoon. We shall see what it is like. I am excited to see Pastor Paul in his element.

Today, instead of visiting the sites, we spent most of the morning trying to change money. Let me tell you, this is not as easy as it was made out to be to me. Cash machines that accept American credit cards are impossible to find. Hopefully we will find someone soon who will help us out. For now, we have to go to the main branch of the Bank of Kigali and spend 30 minutes filling out paperwork and such to draw money out of our accounts. It was ridiculous. And to avoid crazy fees, we have to change our money to Euros and then go to another money exchange to have the Euros changed to Rwandan Francs. Oye! Anyway, we got some money, then picked up our laptops and went in search of free wireless internet. We found the restaurant where the girls got their service yesterday (I was back at the guest house in bed). Unfortunately, I could not get the connection on my computer, and when Lauren allowed me to use her computer, the connection was lost. Then we all came back for an afternoon nap.

The past two nights Jerrae, Carolyn, and I have been playing some crazy mad games of UNO. I am grateful I brought that game with me! It has provided many hours of entertainment for us thus far, and I am sure will prove to continue to do so as the time passes. I also brought a regular deck of cards – the other Minnesota Judge that is here has requested that we play some poker sometime. I think we’ll be using toothpicks for chips.

I’m sure there are 20 million more things to talk about right now, such as my time in Germany with Monika, Roland, Jess, Diana, and Leo, but I’m exhausted and must get some sleep. I hope to post this sometime Monday. We’ll see if I get that chance. I hope all is well with everyone. I miss you and love you much.

I’ll try to post some pictures soon…


Blogger Leah Cooper said...

Cari, wooooow, so exciting. I hope you're feeling better. Keep your eyes and ears open and take it all in. This will be a life-changer!

5:18 AM  
Blogger Scrappy said...

Dude, so great. Keep writing, and you can do a show next year. Maybe a double bill with Eli Weintraub's "Bye Bye Beirut".

6:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is so cool! Can't wait for more. Love you and miss you,


12:43 PM  

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