First impressions of Kigali

Two days of traveling in the airport feels like you are horizontally passing through time. We flew overnight from JFK to London Heathrow, waited around for twelve slowly moving hours and then another overnight flight to Nairobi for a short layover to our final destination in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda.

In Kigali, the road outside the airport looks like the clean manicured streets of Switzerland, but superimposed onto the landscape of a poor urban setting. While green grass and flower gardens decorated the median, women balancing fruit baskets on their heads and children running around in hand-me-down clothes several sizes too large rummaged around the sides of the streets, which I must point out lacked the sidewalk space needed to allow pedestrians to comfortably walk a good distance from maniac drivers. You really needed three eyes on the back of your head to truly feel safe walking.

It is important to note , that traffic is the number one killer of tourists in Rwanda.

After checking our bags into the hotel and freshening up, we walked around the small downtown region and there was not one significant moment that the group felt threatened or overwhelmingly harassed. We walked by a never-ending flock of children many holding hands as they ogled at us like they were tourists at a zoo looking at us strange creatures.

There is this benign energy here that I am unable to fully comprehend. Beyond the friendly faces that I find everywhere, the limbless street sellers, probably victims of the genocide reminded me that Rwanda is not teeming in innocence. There is a kindness here that I know hides its brutal past. Whether this is a type of unhealthy repression or moving on with life, it remains a puzzle that I will have to sort through many pieces just to understand its form.

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