Return to Goma, DRC

An hour after landing at Kigali International Airport, I am flying through the night, down a wide paved road on the back of a moto.  The air is cool and smoky, as the Rwandan air always seems to be, and I smile at the feeling of freedom from behind the scratched plastic visor of the well-worn helmet.  I wonder if my 15-year old driver realizes that his passenger-issued helmet will fly off in a crash without a chin strap…  such is life in Africa.

Dark and quiet, a bit eerie as Rwanda always feels for me.  Thoughts of the genocide creep into my mind, were there bodies on this road?  What atrocities did my driver experience?  Estimates are 90% of all Rwandans are traumatized, 30% severely so, unable to work full time and function normally in society.  All signs point to a country trying desperately to forget its past, but only 15 years ago Hutus and Tutsis were slaughtering each other.  Can the people really forget?

Apparently the ex-pat community can… I arrive at my destination, the Heaven Restaurant in Kiovu.  An elegantly appointed, open air restaurant on a hill overlooking a valley and the city below.  Soft music and lighting, hard woods and colorful fabrics, clinking glasses, low laughter, a table of diplomats, another of Western NGO workers.  Were any of them present?  I look at the waiter who gives a big smile and takes my order… was he a part of the genocide?  Did he take a machete to his neighbors or was he a survivor?

The rifts of the Great Lake Region run deep and wide.

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2 Comments

  1. sj December 14, 2009 at 8:32 pm #

    wow. great writing alissa, and powerful observations. felt like i saw through your eyes for a brief minute. can’t wait to read more. safe travels!

  2. aniqa January 27, 2010 at 5:01 pm #

    hello, seems to me that you have visited my area well. Me is from the same area from khaplu, Ghance.
    Actually I am looking for someone who can help me to make my daughter able to speak.I’ve deaf daughter of age 5. As you have visited my area so you can understand well what sort of life she would have to spend being a deaf indivisual. But I don’t want to. So please help me because some doctors at Karachi has told me that she can be cochlear implanted but its quite expensive. Far away from my range. its about 150000 pakistani rupees please help me as much as you can. You can better understand my position as you have sen our standard of life. So please help a mother to let her daughter to speak.
    thanks
    aniqa
    aniqabano@yahoo.com

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