The land of a thousand hills.

The Rwandan landscape undulates softly, from the city center in Kigali where streets are surprisingly well-paved and accompanied by drainage systems, grass–lined pathways, and freshly painted crosswalks.  Heading out of the city to the northwest, one winds through deforested and terraced hillsides spotted with patchy plots of sorghum, corn, and eucalyptus trees, down to rivers along the road as cloudy as chocolate milk from the hillside erosion.  The mandatory tin roofs of tiny rural homes catching the glint of the noon-time sun, again winding up and around and down and around again, out to the northern province of Muzanze, out to 400 mountain gorillas tucked in the Virunga Mountains.

The day before our gorilla trek  we took a short walk around the village of Kinigi, at the base of the Virungas.  We met a troupe of four bright eyed adolescent boys, all wanting to practice their work-in-progress English with us. In 2009 the Rwandan government mandated English as the national language (along with the native Kinyarwanda), muddling a generation which grew up with French in schools (if they went to school at all).  Families speak Kinyarwanda at home, kids speak English at school, and French, slowly petering out, is spoken amongst adults and on the sideline in business meetings.

One of the children that we met was named Innocent Peace, a 14 year old who claimed to be captain of his local football (soccer) team.  He curiously asked us our names, where we were from in the US, how big our families were, and then just as casually, “How many parents do you have?”  We paused for a moment, looked at each other, and both said, “Two.”  One of the boys proudly said “I have two parents, too!”, and Innocent said, just as enthusiastically, “I have one mother!”  Two days later we met another boy around 18 years old who asked us if we knew of Jack Hanna.  I told him that I vaguely knew the name.  The boy told us that Jack Hanna had founded an orphanage in town, “because of, you know, the genocide.”

Just as the thousands hills roll softly together, blending geographies and ecosystems from one region of the country to another, to us local Rwandans appear to blend past the ethnic divisions of the genocide to form one Rwanda, as Rwandans, the politics of the genocide as indecipherable to us as the eager shouts in Kinyarwanda and a English as we ride through the Rwandan countryside.


1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    havatoy said,

    Beautifully described!

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