I am amazed at how quickly I can switch between feeling entirely capable and content here, to feeling completely overwhelmed. And this has been a weekend of the latter. So I am sorry if this is a little dark. I do not mean for this to be sensationalist. At all. I just need to write a bit, in an attempts to process.
I must preface the following, with the fact that my time in
We visited one of the larger genocide memorials on the outskirts of
I have been struggling with whether or not I wanted to go, but I have realized it is not a matter of wanting to go. But needing to go. I needed to face the things that happened here head on, to better understand them, and to pay respect to the people I have come to know as my colleagues and friends.
Yet three things specifically incited my decision this week.
First of all, Kathryn and I have decided to participate in a HROC workshop in a small village outside the city. We leave today. It is a three day seminar, which works to bring together genocide survivors with genocide perpetrators families, or the genocidaires themselves. This is to promote reconciliation and reintegration, as many people have never received any trauma councilling, and multiple prisoners have completed their sentences and are now being released back into their same communities.
Secondly, I rode behiend a dead body strapped to the top of a cattle truck last Sunday. It is the first time I have been confronted with a corpse outside of a coffin. Death has always been altered faces caked with thick layers of make up. Death is Wards Funeral Home in Weston. Death is oversized bouquets above shells of those who no longer resemble the people I love. It has become a formula of sorts. Not a body tied carelessly across three metal bars with no shred of dignity or respect. I am not sure which bothered me more; the fact that I was witnessing a corpse parading through the streets of a major city, or the fact that no one seemed to notice.
Perhaps when death is so a part of your history, you become complacent, or more accurately, numb. I am sure the pedestrians on the side of the rode that morning, have witnessed far worse within their lifetime, then the limp legs of a dead man swaying with the bumps on the road.
Thirdly, this week it really hit me the extent to which I am living in history. I discovered that my neighbourhood was home to the UN Belgium base in 1994. I pass by the building itself multiple times each day as it is adjacent to our market in kicukiro centre. A large white building with a promenade lined in palm trees. During the genocide thousands of tutsis and hutu-moderates sought refuge there under UN protection. So when
And so yesterday we went to the memorial.
To be honest, I don’t really have the emotional stamina to re-write and re-hash, so I will simply include what I scrawled in my journal upon arriving home last night:
“I sat in a room of faded photographs and cried this afternoon. Hundreds and hundreds stung along metal wires. Faces frozen in emulsion. Weddings and birthdays. Studio portraits and candid snapshots.
I walked the paths of mass graves.
258,000 people beneath concrete slabs.
I browsed cases of skulls and femurs.
Only 2000 names known.
I knew the history, the stories, the statistics coming in. but it is entirely different being here, living here. Putting visuals to words.
It is nothing short of horrifying.
The seond floor was a memorial for children. Floor to ceiling photographs, each accompanied with a small write up. Name. age. Favourite: drink, toy, song. Best friend. Demeanor. Last words. Cause of death.
Hacked with machetes.
Bludgeoned with a club.
Shot in mothers arms.
Stabbed in the eyes, then in the head.
I have just sat here for the past few moments with my pen hovering above the paper.
I am at a complete loss for words.
I don’t know what to say.
This isn’t just information I am able to file away. I cannot imagine having lived through this. And the fact of the matter is everyone I see, everyday, were and currently are affected by the events of thirteen years ago.
A dark and swiftly flowing undercurrent.”
Yesterday afternoon was difficult.
I am wrestling with God a lot these days.l.