Monday, March 30, 2009


I am really feeling completely overwhelmed and stressed. Rwanda has been pushing me to my limits, and I am at a point where I dont know how to handle anything. We went to three more memorials in the past week, and I cant get these horrific thoughts out of my head. All I can see is death, all around me.
I have started to become so angry and frusterated and helpless. Every day I feel like I understand less and less. I just have no comprehension of how a human being can commit these acts to a fellow human being. Day after day, I am more and more worn out physically and mentally.
Not only dealing with and learning about death, but I am extremely culturally fruserated. I am tired of being touched and groped and verbally harrassed because I look foreign. I am not a cultutral relativist, and this is not something I can continue to handle.
I have no escape from my own head. I dont have music to listen to, I dont have non academic books to read, I cant seem to find a way to get out of my head, even for just 15 minutes.
I feel bad, I have no energy to devote to my host family, and they really are wonderful and welcoming. But I dont want to talk about my day and all Ive been wanting to do is go sleep, because that is my only distraction. I feel like everyone in the group is feeling like this, and for my own sanity, I really need to get out of Rwanda. I have reached my threshold.
Besides going to the peace caravan yesterday, where there was music and dancing, I really havnt experienced any true Rwandan culture, except for the learning about the genocide. That is all we learn about, which is detramental in my opinion, because I know there is more to Rwanda than the genocide.

I just feel really lost.

Peace and Love,

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


We left Sunday morning to Kigali, and it was possibly the worst car ride of my life! Of course, I forgot to take my motion sickness pills and by the end of the 3 hour drive I was puking my guts out for the rest of the day...

We were picked up by our homestay families that same day...and it has been an interesting experience resulting in a homestay switch. My first family was a older man who I thought was younger but turned out to be 40, and his girlfriend who is either 19 or 21. He owns a bar and his girlfriend works there so the first night they didn't come home until 1:30am...very drunk and barges into my room to try to talk to me. The next day I went to the bar to visit and there were many creepy drunk men so I ended up going home at 8ish and again they didn't return until after I was asleep. Besides them being never being home, there was something weird going on between their relationship...another host mother made a comment to a girl in the group that I should have never been put with that family. So...I talked about this with the director and last night they switched me to another family. A young couple again, just the mother and father, but they were very sweet. I ended up being put with them because one of the boys in our group got very ill and had to fly back to the US, and that was the family he was suppossed to be with. The mother works for a women's empowerment group so I think we will have a lot to talk about. Other than that, I havn't really experienced much of Kigali since we have been in classes and I have been trying to get settled. We will be here until April 10th and then back to Gulu!

Peace and Love,

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Memorials and Peace Rallies

This time of the year is always difficult-and I anticipated as much, especially being away from home where my emotions are understood. It has been difficult coming and dealing with my own personal issues of death-while being in a place were death has occured so abundantly all around. Coming from a culture where death is not very common-it is difficult to process my own grieving when everyone I talk to, everyone I meet, everyone I see has witnessed and experienced death so intensely.

Saturday we went to Murambi Genocide Memorial. We had been briefed on what we would see when we went, but it was still hard to imagine. On the drive there all I could think about was death and my own personal issues. As we approached, I saw all of these people living and going about their day and I was just trying to imagine how it is for them to live "normally" after what had happened. It all just came over me and I broke down in the van as we pulled up. It's hard for me to let myself be comforted when I am feeling so vulnerable-but it was a moment where I couldn't hold it in, and it needed to come out. I was able to get it together long enough to hear the explanation given by our guide and start walking with the rest of the group. The first area we went was a long row of classrooms-full of bodies that had been covered in limestone for preservation. It was almost unreal because they had lost the look of real bodies, and were almost just skeletons. But, what really brought me back to reality was seeing bits of hair and tattered clothes still remaining. It was also really difficult to see the shapes and positions of the bodies-all mangled and missing limbs. Seeing the small child bodies was also really heartbreaking.

One thing I found interesting was how people had left flowers in the rooms. For some reason, this caught me off guard. I couldn't imagine having to go to such a memorial as this to visit my loved ones who had been killed.

As we continued, I couldn't go into any more rooms. There was just door after door or rooms full of bodies and bones and skulls. Instead I just kind of walked my myself trying to process it all and just feel what was happening. At the end I did go into one last room where they had collected clothes and displayed them.

Halfway through the tour, one of the woman survivors who was walking with us started to put her arms around me trying to comfort. All I could think about was how she could handle comforting me when she was the one who lost her entire family and managed to live through what happened-she was one out of the five survivors out of 50,000 who were told to come to this school for safety and were then all killed.

This experience really took a toll on my body. I felt my emotions with my every being-I was shaking and crying, and my whole body just shut down-I ended up puking in the bathroom at the end of the tour and couldn't really function the rest of the day.

It really put my own grieving into perpective and I think in some ways helped me deal and get through the day on Monday....

On a more peaceful note-yesterday a few of us went to this peace caravan. It ended up being mostyl rained out-so they just played music. But it was beautiful with all of the people around dancing and singing and just enjoying themselves. The peace caravan is a group of people from all different countries in East Africa who travel around and bring people together through football and peace. We are going to get to see the whole show when we are in Kigali, so I am really excited for that. And Chelsea-you would have loved it!! It was all reggae and the band played a lot of Marley. :)

Peace and Love,

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Butare, Rwanda

I really feel the need to start off by expressing how unbelievably beautiful Rwanda is. I am pretty sure that this is the most breathtaking place I have ever been.

We arrived in Butare Tuesday evening, and I already had an idea of the place we were going to be staying, but we were never fully informed of it's history. We have asked, but everyone seems reluctant to go into the history or even discuss it. So of course, the first night here I slept maybe an hour because I freaked myself out thinking of all of the things that could have happened and let my mind get carried away with my imagination. I tried looking up some information online, but havn't had any luck. I think because I learned so much about the genocide before I came, it is having more of an immediate impact on me and all I can't stop picturing the genocide. I keep wondering how such aweful violence can happen in such a beautiful place...

We walked to the university yesterday and hopefully we will get our student ID's soon so that we can use the internet and check out books. We also had our first lectures today, which were really interesting.

Overall Rwanda has been extremely different from Uganda. Aside from the beauty, the infrastructure is really nice, and there are a lot more inniciatives to keep the country clean and are moving towards more development. The town we are staying in for the next week and a half is really small and sort of eerily quiet. No one is on the streets past 10pm and people sort of have been keeping to themselves-not as eager to talk as people were in Gulu. I have really enjoyed being able to practice my french-although it is still really difficult to communicate and understand with the different accents.

Monday, March 9, 2009

extended plans

On our way to Rwanda, we decided to stop in Mbarara (a town in west Ugdanda) to break up the 15 hour drive to Butare, Rwanda. We arrived last night and today we went to a Hutu refugee camp. Our visits to these sites are always insiteful and interesting, but I am still having a problem internally dealing with stopping to talk with people for only an hour and then leaving and never seeing them again. As with every visit, we were ask how we are going to give back aftertaking all of this information and how they always have groups of foreigners come to talk and research, and the community never receives any thing back...

Off of this topic, since it has been something I have been really having an issue with, I have decided that I am going to stay in northern Uganda after the program with another girl and we are
now planning to try to start a soccer team focusing on young women affected by the conflict in northern Uganda. The whole idea is to empower women using sports therapy as a way to help give these young woman confidence and a way to express themselves physically and emotionally in a positive way. This plan will only go as far as the funding will allow, so we are trying to get organizations to help fund so we can turn this into a long term sustainable program.

Well, that is about it...we leave for the last 10 hour lag of our trip to Butare tomorrow.

Peace and Love,

Thursday, March 5, 2009


So I have been in Kampala for about a week now and it has really been a love/hate relationship.

Our visits to cultural sites have been really interesting-we visited the Kusubi tombs where the kings used to lived and were buried, and we also went to the parliament building, but because government buildings in Uganda are very secretive, they didn't show us around much.

The city in general is really overwhelming and had a rough couple of first days. We went out last Saturday to a night club, just to get out and enjoy the city. On the way back, three of us were walking, and it was about 2:30 in the morning, and we were close to the hotel so we thought it would be okay. About halfway, a man started following us, and the three of us kept looking at each other thinking maybe we were just being paranoid, but sure enough, we started speed walking and so did he. We reached the front of the hotel, and all kind of breathed a sigh of relied, until we realized that the gate was locked and the security guard must have been somewhere else. We started banging really loud, and turned around when the man following us started to attack us and trying to rob us. Luckily the guard came and scared the guy away.
I mean, this really could have happened anywhere, but just being somewhere unfamiliar makes it especially difficult to process. The few days after, while walking around-the incident really shook me up, and I was really jumpy whenever someone touched my arm or yelled. The people here so far have been a lot more aggressive towards "muzungus." In Gulu, we did get a lot of attention and people calling us and touching us, but overall I felt it was more out of curiosity and friendlyness.
Being in the busy city has made me really miss Gulu, and I wonder how my experience here might have been different if we spent the three weeks here with our homestay families. I think its just natural to compare everything to somewhere that you have grown to love.
Monday we started our lectures at Makerere University. The campus is soo big and beautiful. The lectures in general have been interesting, but I feel my self getting anxious and just tired of the classroom setting. I am really looking forward to my 4 week independent study at the end of the program. As of now, I am going back to Gulu and am going to focus on organziations impleting Income Generating Projects. I will focus on looking at the cost of living needed to survive, and then seeing how much people are making through these imcome activities to see how beneficial they are. I will be picking organizations like beadforlife, that focus on women and those affected by the conflict in the North.

On the brightside-the food in Kampala is sooo good, and I usually have some sort of Indian food everyday, because it is so common and delicious!

I leave for Rwanda on Sunday and will hopefully update once I get settled there.

Peace and Love,