Title thing

April 8, 2011

So it’s April 7th, which is a national day of commemoration in Rwanda as it’s the anniversary of when the genocide began in 1994. It was just a generally quiet day in the city, people either stay home or thousands go to the main stadium (called Amahoro, meaning peace) for a 24 hour ceremony/gathering/memorial.

For me the day consisted of a morning walk at 7:45 (since I naturally wake up at 7 now, it’s a shame), which was nice for some chill-out time since I was already stir-crazy. Also Rwanda is pretty and misty in the mornings, at least when the dark clouds don’t literally roll directly into your neighborhood while you’re walking to school and people run for cover (this happened).

I guess also on such a morning you start to think about what was beginning to happen 17 years ago. A lot of the things we’ve learned on our program is how the Rwandan government pushes a certain storyline of the genocide, and how people can be arrested on “genocide ideology” if they speak out against the government. So the government can be accused of using the genocide to retain/gain power, and there are other political snafus that go along with that as well, such as the Hutu refugees in the camp in Uganda we visited who do not feel welcome back into Rwanda since they feel they will be blamed by the remaining Tutsi in the country.

Today though it was more of a time to think about what had happened and be in the present a little more, rather than be confused about the amorphous or sketchy truth/lies that are being thrown at us as American students. Personally I’ve been panicking/thinking about things in the future a bit lately, so being a little more present (if not able to be totally a part of) in what the country was experiencing was less panicky.

As a student group we’ve been talking about memory lately, in the context of collective/cultural memory, and debating if memory is necessary for a country to move on and develop. The Rwandan government may dictate a culturally “right” memory, which unavoidably alienates some people. I don’t think dictating a memory is the right option for any society, but if Rwanda were to make no mention of the genocide, it would be avoiding or stifling of memory which would eventually manifest itself in further violence (my opinion). I’ve been reading The Emotional Healing Strategy by Gael Lindenfield, where she basically states that “time heals all wounds” is stupid, which I agree with. Eventually pain will become duller or lessen, but if you don’t air things out and get them into the open, you won’t understand them or address them how you need to.

Even though the human memory becomes garbled a lot and usually doesn’t make sense, it’s still necessary in creating every person’s individual context. When I first got to Rwanda I felt like a blank slate, or a sponge into which things were seeping. Maybe my brain was just in wicked shock, and it was actually helpful because I wasn’t so much like “wow this is crazy” as “my brain is accepting this how it is”. But also I felt separated from actually experiencing the new place since I personally felt absent and wasn’t able to apply my new experiences to what I felt before as a person.

It wasn’t as though I didn’t remember things from before, but I was so plied with new information that there was no room for what I used to think about. I was out of context within myself, which felt weird and like I couldn’t really properly process what I was taking in. I was glad I wasn’t experiencing massive American cultural bias, but it was like I lost what I knew of myself for a bit to take in a lot of new things. So! I think memory (with an open mind) is necessary toward analyzing yourself and other things in the present, as well as supplying lessons and knowledge on which to base a future.

Also, I was in Uganda for 12 days. We got our omg-we’re-in-Africa thing out of the way with a drive through a national park with giraffes and elephants, and a boat trip on the Nile with hippos (ugly terrible things) and crocodiles. Also learned a lot about the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) conflict in northern Uganda, which is one of the more ignored festering humanitarian catastrophes of the last 20 years but has cooled off in the past several, in Uganda anyway.

Also bargained a lot at the main market in Kampala, Uganda’s capital, along with getting a fever for two days and sweating it out in the small town of Gulu that liked to play music loudly at bars 24 hours a day. We can bitch that it’s loud, but in the grand scheme of things, people who were ravaged by guerrilla warfare for years can play their music if they want.

About to start our four-week independent projects that finish off our program, mine will focus on the effectiveness of therapy methods for trauma-affected women (hence the emotional psychobabble in much of this entry). Six of us ladies on the trip will be living in a neat house we rented for the month; ready for it to become a cesspit of academic stress and various Rwandan cookie varieties. Love to you allll.

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3 Responses to “Title thing”

  1. Pat Johnson said

    I enjoyed reading through your self-examination of memory and loved your phrase, “I was out of context within myself”. What a journey you are having.

  2. Rosie said

    Thanks for the post, I check this often you have such insight and a gift for writing and making poeple think thanks for sharing. Hope the next four weeks go just as they should and your sponge absorbs as much as it can and then you can come home and squeeze all the knowledge and compasion onto us “old folks” who tend to live in our bubbles. Thanks for making a diference in the world. Love cousin Rosie

  3. adejarla said

    Thank you both Pat and Rosie 🙂

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