This weekend I visited a beautiful town called Kibuye nestled on the shore of Lake Kivu, one of the Great Lakes of Africa. My Peace and Conflict Studies professor, Pastor Anastas, took our class there. Since we were leaving Kigali on the last Saturday of the month, we had to leave at 4 a.m. and arrive at a hostel in Kibuye at 7 a.m. (The last Saturday of every month is Umuganda, a national day of service, and all roads in Kigali are closed after sunrise). After a short nap, my friends and I went swimming in Lake Kivu. Then we went on a boat to Napoleon Island, where we hiked up a hill. There island is home to several cows (the cows here can swim quite well) and hundreds of bats. The lake is so big that you can’t see from one side to the other, but in the distance we could spot the mountains of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
On Sunday, Pastor Anastas took us to visit his church in Kibuye. It was a Methodist church, but it was much more similar to the Charismatic Church in Kigali than a Methodist church in America. In Western churches, we worship primarily by singing. Although singing is highly valued in African churches (this church had three choirs), dancing is much more common here than in American churches. They do not dance as a performance; they dance as a means of worship. In Africa, with the exception of Catholic and Anglican congregations, a Sunday morning is not complete without dancing.
I spent the remainder of Sunday enjoying some relaxation and reading by the lake. On Monday, our class visited Kiziba Refugee Camp. Most of the refugees there were forced out of their homes in the Congo 20 years ago. The camp was large, but we stayed in the library and observed a beginner-level English class. We got to participate by helping students practice their greetings. In addition to “Hello” and “How are you?” they knew how to ask and answer “What is your name?”, “Where do you live?”, and “What languages do you speak?” I was impressed that some of them spoke up to three languages (Kiswahili, Kinyarwanda, and French) in addition to picking up English. The refugees were normal, and educated, people: parents, pastors, and even professors, who were in an unfortunate situation. After the lesson, we ate a lunch of mendazi (doughnuts) and Fanta. We walked three hours to return to the hostel. It was a long walk, but it is the same walk the refugees make multiple times per week in order to purchase food, find jobs, and do many things that take a five-minute bus ride for me in Kigali.
My weekend in Kibuye was enjoyable and educational. Tomorrow (Thursday), I travel to the countryside of Muhanga in the western province of Rwanda. On Friday I begin my internship at a JAM International technical school teaching English as a second language to teenagers.