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,


  1. All I can say is WOW! I just can't imagine what it was like for you. You are my sensative Angel, it must have been so tramatic. I would have had a hard time myself. And to have a survivor there to comfort you, that must have created a bond between the two of you that will last the rest of your loves. I do so love you.
    MOM & Dad.........

  2. My sweet Michelle,
    It is hard to imagine the horrific emotional times these people have had to go through. I would have never been able to visit such a place & for you to do this, shows me such courage & determination from you. Hang in there girl, you are doing a wonderful job & will be rewarded, just wait & see. I love you & miss you & look forward to your next update. Until next time, MPP, take care & be safe. Grama

  3. Wow...I know this has been hard for you, but you are definitely going to come back a stronger person for having experienced all of this. They are lucky to have someone as caring as you over there learning about their tragic history.

  4. Michelle,
    It is interesting how different cultures process and except things differently. I suppose when you have been exposed to death as much as these people have you just learn to put your emotions away. It is a way to protect themselves from the everyday face of such violent deaths. As much as that women who had experienced such grief was able to comfort you, you may have actually helped her too. To be able to show kindness and comfort to someone else can often times help liberate us from our own stuffed emotions. To see you so moved must have really on some level helped the people around you, for you to show compassion is really an amazing healing tool. Whether you realize it or not Michelle you are truly a instrument of healing,(and as you always sign off) peace and love. Stay strong girl and healthy.