Friday, October 22, 2010

From Machete madness to spotless streets - a complex land...

I look up from my typing every so often to enjoy the most amazing views. The little Toyota Coaster bus swerves from side to side as it hurtles round hairpin bends, with enough g-force to rotate the screen and keyboard on my iPad. A good reminder if I needed one to stop typing and enjoy the view over this land of a thousand hills. I'm looking out on a green valley surrounded by mountain peaks of massive scale, all impossibly lush. It's hard to believe that only 16 years ago the friendly folk farming the terraces of these steep hillsides were busy chopping each other up with panga's and axes. Reconciliation seems genuine here and they are all getting on with life but the scars must run deep. The war crimes tribunal is still running across the border in Tanzania and many of the perpetrators have fled to other surrounding nations yet I can't help but reflect that many of the people I meet, buy my meals from, or just pass in the street are probably guilty of murder or worse. I struggle to understand how people can behave like that, especially en masse. Frankly I don't want to know, but somehow we need to know and understand such things if we are to be able to act before propaganda, fear and power-mongering repeat such acts in the future.

The Rwandan folk are incredibly friendly, which is not so unique in Africa but what is remarkable is how well the whole country seems to run. Unusually for this part of the world, the place is really well organized. The gorilla trekking, guides and management of Volcanoes National Park were truly world class and that seems to be a reflection of the whole country. In Rwanda, streets are clean. Corruption is low to non-existent. Busses run on time. Infrastructure is in good shape. It's an amazing contrast after 6 months in Tanzania. One of the really cool things that I love about the place is probably summed up in why the streets are so noticeably spotless. The leadership decided early on that even if they had no money for infrastructure, one of the things they could achieve at zero cost was to keep the place clean. So, one Sunday of every month, the people from the President on down, including mayors, farmers, business people and kids all get out and pick up rubbish. What a great thing to do!  So simple yet it makes a huge difference to not only the appearance of the place but I'm sure also the culture.

It's been great to have a chance to visit Rwanda, not to mention to enjoy the fresh food and great cafes of Kigali but more adventures await. We're back on a plane again tomorrow back to Tanzania for a bit of a hike to the 'roof of Africa'. Kilimanjaro here we come...

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