After a 3.5 hr drive up the mountain from Kigali we arrived at the Mountain Gorilla View Lodge, located in Northern Rwanda in Kinigi. In this area we will trek in Volcanoes National Park home to the endangered Mountain Gorillas. The ski-lodge style resort is located in the foothills of Mount Karisimba, one of the five volcanoes that make up the Virunga Massif.
Our second day in Kigali we visited the Genocide Memorial Centre.
I had seen the movie Hotel Rwanda, I had read the book We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families, but I wasn’t prepared for the reality of being in Rwanda, walking past the graveyards and feeling the weight of their grief. The memorial is filled with videos of survivor accounts, unbelievable photos, inspiring quotes, beautiful grounds and silence. The most disturbing part of the experience is the photos are not in black and white, they are in color, a reminder of how recent the genocide occurred…21 years ago feels like yesterday. Survivors walk the streets, murderers walk the streets, ghosts of slaughtered parents and their children walk the streets. But shockingly the new generation of Rwandans (without a tribal name…) have the brightest smiles and the most magnetic energy I’ve experienced.
I was invited to take a trip to Rwanda to see the Mountain Gorillas with a group of expat ladies whom I barely knew (3 weeks after my arrival!), so needless to say I was a bit nervous! When we arrived at the Kigali International Airport I expected a chaotic, hot, frustrating, loud, and crowded entry (such as Lagos Airport…) but it was 1000x better than I imagined – clean, air conditioned, well lit, proper signage, and, most impressive of all, an efficient and quick immigration process. When we made our way to baggage claim we were waiting for the group to convene, a Rwandan woman approached us, it was a little difficult at first to understand what she was asking us in her heavy accent….”Are you missionaries?” We explained we were on vacation and she smiled at us with beautiful white teeth and said “You are most welcome in Rwanda! We are happy to have you.” Wow….that would never happen in Nigeria!!