I’m writing from an internet cafe outside Kigali, where the midi music is blasting, and I only have time for a quick update. Next week I will be headed to Gisenyi in northwest Rwanda and then across the border to Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

I took the bus up from Bujumbura on Tuesday, about a 6 hour trip, and rolled into Kigali listening to country music such as “She got the rhythm and I got the blues.” That should tell you something about Rwanda – since the genocide in 1994 they have received considerable support from the US and other countries, to the extent that English is far more common than in Burundi. And since they have been rebuilding since 1994, it is definitely more developed than Burundi, from the fancy hotels and bustling tourism of Kigali to the presence of new schools and flower gardens out in the countryside. Which isn’t to say that everything is perfect here, but I have been surprised how, for example, the thinner, drier air here feels more like the air in Denver and makes me feel at home.

Yesterday I traveled with Emily Higgs, a fellow Haverford alum, to the genocide memorials at Nyamata and Ntarama. You can read her description of the memorial, or one of the many other accounts that have been written. Contemplating such horrors is obviously incredibly difficult.

Outside of visiting memorials, as we foreigners go around trying to see the effects of genocide, many find that there is a great disconnect between what occured in 1994 and the current feeling in the air. Perhaps this is also important for people to know, lest they think of Rwanda only as a country of former genocide, rather than as a country with a future.

In Jean Hatzfeld’s book Life Laid Bare, a Rwandan describes why this might be:

Sharing the genocide in words with someone who lived it is quite different from sharing it with someone who only learned about it elsewhere. In the aftermath of genocide, their remains, buried in the survivor’s mind, a wound that can never show itself in broad daylight, before the eyes of others. We survivors don’t know the precise nature of the hidden wound, but at least we know it exists. Those who haven’t experienced the genocide – they see nothing. If they make a real effort, they will one day accept the fact of this secret wound inside us. But that will take quite a while, even if these people are Rwandan or Burundian Tutsi, even if they lost families and close relatives in the killings. (p. 216-217)

So as I visitor here I have found that I must be constantly aware of the limitations of my perspective on what Rwanda has experienced, or is experiencing. No one, it seems, understood the genocide, not even those most involved in it, though they did see it. For outsiders, it is impossible even to be able to see what the genocide was — all we have are images and narratives of surreal events, which when pieced together add up to no coherent or comprehensible view of what the genocide was, or what it means for Rwandans today.