I tried to write a blog entry about my Uganda trip and failed.
I can’t in good conscience write about my privileged adventures in a neighboring country when this is such an important time for the place that I feel proud to call my home. This week, starting on April 7th, marks 19 years since the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
You’ve perhaps heard the numbers—1 million people killed in the time span of 100 days—but if I had to choose one thing that’s changed me the most this past year and a half it has been having that number (1 million) change from just a number into people. People who were living in fear for over 3 months, people who were killed, people who survived. People I know.
So many here have lost their whole families, and seen and experienced things that no human being should ever have to see or experience. I’ve heard stories and wished they weren’t true, and I’ve been on buses where someone has a flashback, sending them back to a horrible time that they wish they could forget.
But those are ‘I’ statements.
It’s difficult to explain what it’s like here emotionally for a PCV during the month of April. On one hand we are outsiders; we can never truly know what it was like to be here during that time. But on the other hand, our job is to become a part of our community, to try to connect to people, understand them. We cannot possibly understand what it was like 19 years ago; to say that we can is disrespectful and untrue. But we each have people we love here, people who love us—and it’s painful to hear about what they went through. To realize that it must be a struggle every day for them. To wonder about the stories we don’t know, and be devastated by the stories we do. The more we integrate into our communities and lives here, the harder this time of remembering becomes.
I wanted to return from my trip in time to commemorate this time with my village because by now I’ve spent over a year creating relationships with people. I have sisters and brothers, and lots and lots of mamas. I have friends. And it seems right to want to spend this unique time with them. To see their pain, and their strength, and their perseverance. This time is not only meant to remember what was lost 19 years ago; it is a way for people to be ‘abanyarwanda’ (Rwandan) together. It is a way to recognize the power of peace, and the will to move forward. I am continually amazed by the graceful way in which the people in my village handle this difficult time. I am overwhelmed by their will to carry on, and to forgive, and to laugh. I am humbled by the way I am welcomed at each ceremony for commemoration.
I have never met a stronger group of people, and I am honored to call them my neighbors, my friends, my family. Never again, never forget.