July 10, 2008 Kigali


I've been here about 24 hours now and getting acclimated. There was a 14 hour layover in Addis Abbaba, Ethiopia on the way. Not much sleep but good hospitality and efficiency on the part of the Ethiopian tourist industry. When I got off the plane they had a voucher for hotel with my name on it, transport was arranged and meals ready. I had gotten off the plane at 8pm and was sitting at a table having supper by 9:30pm. Most of their connecting flights now have a layover like that and it may be a way of stimulating the hotel industry. The price is most probably added to the ticket. We'll never know.

Some of the Free University of Kigali, who I will be teaching on Saturday and Sunday, were there to greet me. I taught them a basic mediation course last year and some have been quite active.

I'm struggling to learn the keyboard on this continent. The letter Y is located where Z is supposed to be and Z is where U is normally located. Capitalization key is small on the left side and I miss it often. So much for the minor details.

I arrived yesterday the 9th on a trip without incident. Spent a night in Addis Abbaba and have nothing but good words for Ethiopia for their efficiency in finding me a room on the house, taking me to the Ararat hotel, a modest but welcoming place with great food. Lots of Italian influence there. I'll be staying a few nights in Addis on the way home in August visiting an old Zimbabwean friend, Alistair Smith, who is now working there, but his wife Priscilla is staying in Zimbabwe despite the current economic and political crisis.

Several students who I will be teaching on Saturday and Sunday were at the airport to meet me. My bags were the last ones off the plane and a manager apologized profusely explaining that they had a new conveyor just in operation and couldn't get it going as fast as they had hoped. He literally asked my forgivness.

There are two young Americans staying at the house with me. Emily, a recent Haverford College graduate, and Andrew, a less recent Haverford grad, though still in his twenties. Haverford for those of you who don't recognize the name is a prestigious Quaker college in Philadelphia. After five weeks volunteering here , Emily will be on her way to her first job with the Quaker mission to the UN. Andrew will be here for a year as a volunteer doing grant writing and hopefully writing himself into a paying job. He will spend most of his time in Burundi, a day south of here. Time to send this. I'll continue on a third letter.

Emily is organizing a trip to Gitarama tomorrow. This is a site of a major event during the genocide in1994 and is now a very important memorial site. If I have time I will go, but I may be in preparation for the course on Saturday.

Among other things, Emily has been going to Internally displace persons (IDP ) camps and interviewing leaders to find out what is going on. They are by definition Rwandan citizens, but many have been living in Tanzania for 40 years having fled the genocide of the early 1960's. Some of the residents are Hutus who fled and returned after the 1994 genocide, and there are some local Tutsi's as well. The government has settled them there, given them some seed for planting and built concrete or brick houses. They took some of that land from a corner of the only game park other than that of the mountain gorilla's. As a result, impala, and baboons have eaten everything they've grown and there is nothing left.They have no means of moving out of the area. Also when they first came in, they didn't speak Kinyarwanda language anymore,so they were trained in that . But in general they are in pretty dire straits. It's a story that few have heard.

This morning I woke to Blue Grass gospel being played on a radio at a neighbor's house, followed by Dolly Parton. Announcer spoke Kinyarwanda the most frequently spokenlanguage in this country.

After breakfast of passion fruit, granadillas, bananas, hard boiled eggs, bread and coffee, I walkedup the hill to the Quaker Peace House to meet some of the people I taught last year. Eugene who taught an Alternatives to Violence course that I helped with was not there , but I learned that his wife who was ill with cancer  passed away two months ago. Jonas who takes care of the school for Street Children was there. He didn't recognize me immediately, but then recalled when reminded. At least he was very polite about it.

A sign on the road going up to the Peace House declared the presence of the Diane Fossy Guest House (you may remember the book or movie, Gorillas in the Mist) Anyway some enterprizing person used her name. The sign also announced the presence of a 'full oxygen garden', something lost in translation?

Bought cell phone for use over here and now at an internet cafe near the house. Best to all of you. George


August 21, 2008
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