It’s about 7:30 a.m. Kigali time (1:30 a.m. in Ottawa, 10:30 p.m. in Vancouver, if my math is correct).
While all the people I love most in the world are preparing for bed, I’m living in a different (but beautiful) reality, perched on a bar stool on the front porch of our Kigali home and watching morning commuters cutting through fields by way of dirt road. Just beyond the walkers, cars and motos are zipping down a highway, honking furiously at each other as they too begin their days. Apparently before these fields there was a slum here, but it’s since been bulldozed in the name of development.
The air is cool but humid.
We landed at dusk last night, after a blur of airport food and layovers. The last bit of light clung to the horizon just long enough to reveal a patchwork of green hills, cut through with red dirt roads, lakes somewhere beyond the city and scattered homes. By the time we touched down in Kigali the sun had set, and we drove into the city in darkness.
“It’s unfortunate you landed at night,” said our driver, JP.
“Yes,” I agreed. “But I’ll see it tomorrow.”
Most of our classmates were already at the house by the time my travel group arrived, and we spent the evening fighting jet lag, settling into our bunk beds, and eating a delicious meal of chicken stew, rice, french fries and banana bread. We were all exhausted but giddy with excitement.
Today the plan is to explore the city a little and run some errands. Wifi has been on and off and so I’m hoping to hunt for a cheap cell phone and some international minutes so that I can reassure my parents that I’m here and safe. Mostly, I’m looking forward to seeing more of the city and trying to understand a little more of today’s Rwanda.
Buzzing down the streets last night, I found, already, that this is a place that is difficult to separate from its past. In 1994, almost a million people were murdered here in the span of three months. I can’t help but wonder about what these hills have seen and heard, and how the commuters’ find a way to begin their day every morning after witnessing a genocide.
It’s so difficult to wrap my head around how this beautiful morning can exist alongside the history of this place.