Wednesday, July 20, 2005

and finally... Rwanda

The view from my window in the Hotel Novatel, Kigali, Rwanda

2 days of travel, 4 airports, 7 time zones and I am in need of a change of clothes, bleary – eyed, tired beyond belief and I am also, finally *home*. At least my home for this little stretch of my life.

My baggage and I are all intact – which is really such a surprise to me – having had rather awful experiences with customs in Vietnam (complete with confiscated passport, dingy back room with a splintered chair, bare light bulb and a screaming guard - ask me for the whole story sometime) and Romania (just a few siphoned off items to the guards) I was expecting the worse but really had such smooth travels – for which I am exceedingly grateful.

Kigali on the outside has none of the dingy, overcrowded feeling present in a lot of “underdeveloped” areas I have been to. The small part I have seen – the roads are in excellent repair (better than Boston I have to admit) and traffic flows freely, although the aggressiveness of the drivers is reminiscent of other foreign capitals (and also exceeds Boston in that capacity as well). The ministry of justice however still has imprints of the war 10 years ago, what must have been mortar rounds that dug holes out of the brick building have intentionally not been repaired (per Barry the ARC country director who picked me up at the airport) – a sort of monument to the horrors that had happened. People go about their business here – there’s a hurried guardedness that is also similar to most big cities I have been in. There is a reconciliation process ongoing that started within the past year – with those who perpetrated the genocide being brought before local tribunals… it’s something that I don’t know how any people can recover and move forward from… so many dead and the killers were friends and neighbors.

I am staying in another quite nice hotel for the night – and on to the Gihembe camp which is outside the city of Byumba about a 40 minute drive north of Kigali. There are 15,000 refugees in that camp – mostly Congolese Tutsi’s ( I’m still sorting out the whole political situation so will clarify as I get a little more understanding). There is a newer camp to the east near the city of Ngarame – the camp name is Nyabaheke and it is literally built into the stone hills inch by inch of manual labor by hired villagers. That is where I will likely spend most of my time as the medical care is just starting and there is no physician there. The camp initially was planned for 1,000 but has close to 5000 now and is still expanding. Fortunately there is a water source – drilled straight down into the rock 80 meters. Funding is very limited and while we do have essential medications – medical supplies and office supplies (I will be trying to create a medical record system that will make sense and is sustainable ) will be scarce. There are a large number of children in the camp somewhere around 30% and concurrent malnutrition given the harshness of their time in the transit camps on the Congo border.

I am so thankful to be here and so excited to start working – there is much to be done… So many have expressed a desire to help and I will let you know when I get more details but given the cutbacks in funding from the UN for Africa projects – any help would be useful – and I have the added ability to be on the ground and can make sure it gets directly to those who have the most need… more on this also later. Now to get some rest. I do have a cell phone – not going to post the number here for obvious reasons – but it accepts international calls and I would love to hear friendly voices on the other end. Email me if you would like the number and I’ll forward it to you.




At 7:07 AM, Anonymous Byron said...

Hey Ann.. I emailed you separately to your other account, hope you get it.. I am still trying to get through Shake Hands with the Devil, but it's tough to stomach the reading at times, so much respect for facing up to a history that should not have been, or continue to be, repeated, as perhaps it is in Sudan. Anyway, yes, you do have friendly voices here whenever you need them. Take care.


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