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Monday, May 6, 2013

A Week in Rwanda

Just a few short days before deciding to go to Rwanda, I found out that Canadians need to have a visa in order to enter the country.  I needed a letter of invitation from friends in Kigali and then applied on-line.  Thankfully after many discussions with immigration on the phone, it was decided that if I took my confirmation number to the border, I should be okay.  Since the confirmation letter was determined not to appear in any of my email inboxes. 
Two Saturday mornings ago, I showed up at the Jaguar bus park, hoping to buy a ticket for a ride all the way to Kigali.  But that was not the case - fully booked.  As were all the direct route bus companies.  I ended up finding a well-traveled Rwandan man who was in the same dilemma as me, so we traveled together.  Bus, squishy taxi, walked across the border (a little delay to clear my passport) and then a private hire to Kigali.  We arrived by 10pm and I was very happy to be picked up by a sweet friend.
 I knew that a trip to the Genocide Memorial was in order, since it is so very important to the recent history of Rwanda.  It was hard to walk through - the stories are fierce, the pictures are graphic, and walking around the mass graves brought back many memories of when I helped add bodies to the LRA mass grave in Obalanga in 2009.
 I am glad that I went though... a very well laid out museum.  World class.
 Another day I jumped on a moto (motorcycle taxi) and was handed a helmet.  After directing the driver with an address that I found online, I headed to the former president's palace.  The gardens were lovely and the architecture in the main home with incredible.  I was saddened at how the president had rooms to meet both the witch doctor and the priests.  This president was shot down, the plane ruins are on the property, and the whole genocide was put into action as soon as the president was dead.  Quite sobering.
 A new art for me to see.  You can't see the 3D texture in this art, but it's made out of cow dung.  I want to try making it here in Soroti.
 Liz Bird, from International Teams Australia, was able to spend a day with me and we went to explore a tea plantation about 2 hours outside of Kigali.  Thanks to Jennifer (IT Canada) and Serge Kamari for giving us this day trip suggestion.
 Dressed in scrubs, we toured a tea factory.
 A tea tasting experience - 7 different teas to be sipped, starting with the weakest flavour.
 Don't swallow.  Taste and spit it out.
 Lots of variety comes out of this one well-designed factory.
 We drove through 20 km of tea plantations
 And stopped to see some pickers in an organic field.
 Not the sunniest day, but a great day to hike through the fields.
 From the nursery to the fields
 Who knew there were so many ways to describe tea?
 Gorgeous hills... so glad I was able to see some of the country in daylight.  I arrived in Rwanda in the dark, and I left Rwanda on the overnight bus.  Otherwise I stayed in the city - fellowshipping with other International Teams friends and relaxing.
 I stayed with Maddy Manden.... a missionary that I met at training in 2011.  An incredible young lady who is working so hard building up a special needs program in the school system there.
Liz and Joel Bird live with Maddy.  They are from Australia, and they became sweet friends to me through out the week.  Hours of sharing and fellowship.  They spoiled me with amazing dinners and tours through craft and cloth markets.  I thank God for the people I met along the way.
Saturday night, at 7:30 pm I boarded the overnight bus to head back to Kampala.  Arriving at 7 am, I decided to go straight to the next bus park and catch another bus home to Soroti.  No delaying.  I pulled into town at 2:45 pm... that is a long journey on a bus... but totally worth it. 
P.S. A bus ticket from Soroti to Kampala is 20,000 UGX ($8) and from Kampala to Kigali is 45,000 UGX ($18)... totally worth the trip for me to see a new country and be able to spend time with God and his people there for a week.

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