Rwanda Diary: Butare!

by Hannah Frantz

We returned from Butare yesterday. Butare, located in the South of Rwanada, is anything but Kigali. I’ve never been much of a city girl, so it was a welcomed change for me.

On our way to Butare we made a stop at Murambi, another genocide memorial, that exists at a place where over 50,000 people were killed. The interesting thing about Murambi is that while unearthing the mass graves, they discovered that the bodies at the very bottom had been well preserved. They then removed these bodies and preserved them further so that visitors could come and see exactly what death in the genocide looked like. It was a really surreal experience for me because the Murambi memorial sits in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s impossible for me to describe the range of emotions associated with walking through rooms filled with the contorted bodies of dead children and then stepping out and looking onto the lush, hilly landscape. I can’t do the Murambi memorial justice with words because you can’t understand the emotional severity without experiencing it.

We moved on from Murambi into Butare, a small college town nestled into the forests of Rwanda. The students we met with in Butare welcomed us onto their campus with open arms. I met with a few journalism students, which was very exciting for me as an English major because I hadn’t yet found anyone that wasn’t majoring in either business or management. I also met with the Vice Dean of Faculty at the National University of Rwanda and talked with him about how I intend to research the teaching of English in Rwandan schools. He was enthralled with my idea and said he believes that I should open up a university in Rwanda with a focus on languages and literature because he believes that that is the missing gap in education here. I’m not quite so confident that I can actually open up another university while I’m here, so maybe I’ll start with a university book club and go from there. I suppose there’s no harm in dreaming big.

We also met with a few rescuers from the genocide who shared their stories with us. I believe that all of the rescuers we met with were Hutus who chose embrace their humanity and save their neighbors during the genocide. It was incredible to hear their stories and finally get an uplifting account related to the genocide. Sometimes I have trouble finding hope here while surrounded by so much sorrow. One of the rescuers, Amina, has a restaurant in Butare, and we ate there with her on two occasions. There was a 20 year-old girl working for her who is fairly certain I’m marrying her 35 year-old brother. We’ll see how that goes. I’m starting to learn that by wearing a ring on my wedding finger I tend to avoid awkward situations.

I fell in love with Butare while I was there, mostly because of its beauty, but also because of the town’s charm. I intend to live there for my independent study month in November, hopefully in an apartment with a few of my classmates. Kigali has a lot to offer, and I definitely like it here, but to me, Butare felt like home.

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