Friday, February 19, 2016 (by Sylwia Kokoszka)
While Professor Marinas, Peter Luswata, and a few of the TAs attended meetings with the U.S. Embassy and UNHCR, the undergraduate students spent the day learning more about Rwandan culture and history. We were all awoken by thunderstorms and heavy rain, which we thought would significantly alter our plans to explore the city. The weather soon cleared up and we all headed to the bank to exchange our U.S. dollars for Rwandan francs. We then went to the market where we practiced our bargaining skills. The markets had an overwhelming amount of goods in very tiny, poorly-lit shops. Everyone was able to purchase a few souvenirs and gifts, including handcrafted bowls, paintings, jewelry, bags, and baskets. These items will serve as a reminder of the amazing experiences we had in Rwanda during this past week. By the end we were all masters at haggling prices.
After lunch, we visited the Kigali Memorial Center, which honored all the lives lost during the genocide that occurred in Rwanda in 1994. Over a million Tutsi lives were lost during the genocide and approximately 250,000 were buried at the site we visited. Inside the museum, we were able to learn more about the history and watched interviews of the survivors. A few photographs of the victims and their belongings were also on display. The burial place was located just outside the museum. It included a memorial garden and a “Wall of Names,” of the people who have died.
In the evening, we had a working dinner with the whole team during which Professor Marinas updated us on the meetings with the U.S. Embassy and UNHCR. During the meetings, future opportunities to work in Rwanda were discussed. Professor Marinas also informed us of the potential projects that we can work on during the rest of the semester. Such include projects involving the lake, the school, and treatment plant. The whole team thanked Peter, Patience, Joanna, Jocelyn, Anastase and our drivers (Moses, Moses, Ema, and Ali) for guiding us through Rwanda during this past week and for making the CEE 449 trip to Rwanda possible. We appreciate them for taking the time to ensure our safety, to be our translators, and to make sure every day ran as smoothly as possible. The whole team is very grateful for having the opportunity to attend this trip, which has been a very eye-opening experience. Thank you to everyone who has made this trip possible!