Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Picture post

I'm back sooner than I thought! Spent my lunch hour trying to upload some pictures for you, it's not a lot, but it is some of what we have done, and it's all I had time for because it took a while..
 
 

 
The first picture is from Prison 4, which was interesting, but also terrible to see how the prisoners were kept in this awful place. It was overcrowded to an extent that was not humane and they lived in terrible conditions.
 

 
This picture is from inside the Constitutional Court, I don't remember exactly what the guide said, but it is a kind of logo to represent the new South Africa.
 


This is also from inside the Constitutional Court and it is a quote by Mandela.
 

 
The Voortrekker Monument.
 
 
Climbing the Voortrekker Monument.
 
 
Statue of Mandela outside the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
 
 
I didn't mention this in my last post, but we went to Giraffe House which is a wildlife awareness center, and this is my new friend.
 
 
The Giraffe House obviously has giraffes.
 
 
Just before we moved in with our host families, we did a hike up Lions Head, and this is the view from about half way up.
 
 
As we climbed higher the view got worse and worse, and eventually we couldn't see anything.
 
 
We made it to the top!
 
 
The view of Table Mountain when we walk from the classroom to where the gym and all the shops are.
 
 
My house in Langa.
 
 
My street in Langa.
 
 
Outside of my little side street in Langa.
 
 
Another thing that I didn't really talk about yesterday is the amazing food my mama cooks. Everyday we have an amazing dinner and I eat way too much. Apparently my mama also cooks a lot more vegetables than many of my classmates mamas do, which is really nice. But yesterday I probably had the most interesting food experience, on the menu for the day was Chicken Heart Stew. I was kind of hesitant when she told me what it was, but I have to say, I was positively surprised, it was not too different from any other part of a chicken. And with the sauce from the stew and the steamed bread, it was actually really good!
 
That's it for today!
Sanna 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Molweni!


New blogger! Since this is my first post on this blog, let me take a few sentences to introduce myself. My name is Sanna Strand, and I’m an International Studies major at HPU. I’m a junior or senior, depending on how you see it. I’m technically two credits away from being a senior, but since I will graduate next semester, let’s just say I’m a senior. I am also an international student, originally from Sweden. But this semester, however, I am neither in Hawaii nor in Sweden, I’m in South Africa. Right now I am in my classroom in Rondebosch in Cape Town.

So, a little more about my study abroad experience. I am abroad with an organization called SIT Study Abroad. The program I’m at is called Multiculturalism and Human Rights, and it is based here in Cape Town, but we have, and will, visit other places too. The reason I chose to go abroad with SIT is that all their programs are field based, which means that I didn’t just come to Cape Town to attend classes at a university just like I do in Hawaii, I wanted an experience that was more different. This includes living in four different homestays, learning to speak one of South Africa’s official languages, isiXhosa, and going on excursions in the country. 

I got to South Africa a little over two weeks ago. I won’t go into detail of what we have done since then because this post would be way too long if I did that. Anyway, I flew into Johannesburg where we were supposed to spend the first few days. I managed to meet up two people from my group and after a while we got picked up by some guy. We were taken to the hostel where we were going to live while we were in Johannesburg. The rest of the day our group was just getting to know each other, which was a fun experience because there are not a lot of shy people in this group. After about two days together it felt like we had known each other for months rather than days. There are 23 people in this group, 6 guys, which is apparently a record for this program. We were in Johannesburg for four days, and each day was packed with activities. We went to the Apartheid Museum, Pretoria, Constitution Hill, the Voortrekker Monument, Soweto, Mandela’s house, and a bunch of other places, and we also did a lot of “bonding”-activities.

After the first four days in Johannesburg we flew to Cape Town where we will spend most of the semester. The first four days we lived in a hostel. Our days were still filled with activities and classes, but on the evenings we had some free-time to have dinner on our own, and we also went out for a few beers and drinks most nights.

On Saturday last week, eight days after we got to South Africa, the adventure really started. We moved in with our first homestay family in Langa, which is a township here in Cape Town. Our group is divided into two groups, each group in one mini-bus that takes us to and from school. On the way to the homestays we were all starting to freak out. We were supposed to just move in with a family that we had never met, and live there, like a family-member, for three weeks. As I got off the bus I got really nervous, but luckily Tabisa, our program assistant, was with me and walked me over to the door. But when my Mama open the door, Tabisa left immediately, she had other students to introduce to their new moms. So there I was, alone in a house with my mom for the next few weeks. I knew that I would live with my mom, her daughter, and her granddaughter, but at the moment she was the only one there. We sat down in front of the TV and talked a little. She is not the most talkative and I didn’t really know what to ask her or talk about after a while so it was kind of nice that the TV was there.

So for the last nine days I’ve been living with this family and gotten to know them better. The granddaughter, Liyema, my sister, was really shy in the beginning but after a while she warmed up to me, and now she won’t really leave me alone for more than a few minutes. But I don’t mind, she is really cute and nice. My other sister is a few years older than me, and she doesn’t really spend that much time at home, so I don’t really know her that well yet. I do, however, spend more time with the neighbor kids, which are Liyema’s closest friends. There’s Lindokuhle who is 10, Afika who is 8, and then there’s Acwenga who is 3, and he is the cutest kid I’ve ever seen. He doesn’t speak any English yet, only Xhosa, but he is so happy and just smiles all the time.

Usually my days looks kind of like this: wake up at 6.30AM, breakfast, bus to school at about 7.10, arrive at about 8, free time until 9.30, we usually go to the gym, or work on stuff we have to do, then we have school until 5PM. Usually we get back to Langa at around 6PM, and then I just hang out with mama, have dinner at 7PM, then we watch TV until we go to bed at about 8.30-9.30PM. It’s been a long time since I slept this much, but it is almost making me more tired. The weekends look a bit different. We spend a lot more time with our families, and it’s during the weekends I play a lot with my sister and our neighbors. I also take walks with my mama, or walk over to some of my classmate’s houses, or they come over to my place, we’re pretty much free to do what we want, and so far we’ve been lucky and not had any big homework that needs to be done.
Don’t expect too much from me this semester when it comes to updating this blog. I only have internet when I’m in the classroom, and it is very limited, but I will do my best. Most posts will probably look like this, a lot of information but not too many details. Pictures will probably also be limited, but I’ll try to post some pictures later this week. Feel free to comment if there is anything you would like me to write more about.
So long,
Sanna

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

My first day in Madrid!

I can not believe I'm in Spain!
Left Hawaii at 8pm on Sunday night to Newark, New Jersey, Which was nine hours (!!!!) and HAD to stay in the airport for a whole 8 hours, just to catch a 7 hour flight all the way to gruesome Madrid, getting me here at 9:30 am on Tuesday. Needless to say I Only had six total hours of sleep in 24 hours (Which May be plenty for some of you but this girl loves her sleep!) I met a girl in the airport in Newark who was studying abroad Also, though in Granada, and we hit it along! (? Is that how you say that) When we got to Madrid, I met up with her and we tried to find our way around; Which cab or bus we needed to take, finding an ATM, etc. Once we got all that we Exchanged contact information, said our goodbyes and parted ways. Having someone that's going through the same process as you by your side makes the stress level decrease a ton. Speaking about stress! I had a freakout moment on the flight Because I had just realized That I am not going To have data, or wifi When I arrive at the airport and I did not even save my host mother's address in my phone! It was in my email, so all I Could think about was "how am I going to get there!" Luckily I had my visa papers Which Contained That information! So travlers future, plan ahead so You have to undergo Currently That stress.
Besides That, I caught a cab to my host home because i did not want to be traveling on trains and buses With All the baggage I had, and risk getting lost. The cab driver was very accommodating, pointing out That Were remarkable places in the That city and historical sites I should visit. We finally got to the street of where I'm staying but We had passed the apartment, so we HAD to do a couple more circles Because He kept taking the wrong turn (do not worry it did not cost me extra) and it was actually worth it Because by the time we finally arrived at the place, my host mother was just getting home! So she and her daughter in law Greeted me very joyfully and helped me carry my two heavy bags up four flights of stairs! The only thing on my mind then was "wow I am going to lose weight while I'm here." Immediately after she Showed me my room She Told me to sit on the dining table and served me breakfast, imagining That I was hungry (more like starving) and we chatted while I ate. She has this really funny That parrot will repeat anything it hears, and honestly it scared me Because it makes incredible: sometimes human voices. Anyway, right after I ate I went straight to my bed and collapsed. Could not I go to sleep right away because i have a balcony and I was just staring out and hearing the chatter outside. I wanted to meet my mates house but They Were in orientation, the way I was supposed to be, and I guessed they '' '' Because They Were not exploring went back after two hours after orientation ended. After falling asleep finally, I woke up a couple times thinking I slept till the next day and panicking thinking I missed the second day of orientation, but when I '' 'Realized I was good I fell right back asleep. I ended up sleeping for 6 hours, waking up, showering (my house mates Were still not here) and hanging out in my room. I was planning to take in my street to walk around 8PM, but by the time I was ready, my host mother HAD Announced That She was making dinner. Shortly after, my house mates arrived! They are super cool girls and all about me Told Their Day, and to little bit about themselves. One is Colombian and one is American, but they '' '' Both eating from Connecticut. 
Soon after they '' '' arrived, the food was on the table in September, looking amazing! Our host mother cooked us HAD pumpkin soup, grilled chicken (grilled chicken), croquettes (!!!), tomatoes and bread. The food was so amazing, but I was having trouble finishing Because first off, there was so much food! And second, I have been a pescatarian for a year now and I gave in to eating a piece of chicken and ham croquettes Which the HAD in them. When we were done, we Talked a bunch! I brought them a little gift from Hawaii, some necklaces and they '' 'loved it! They felt bad they did not get me anything.
After dinner, we made some plans for tomorrow since we have a campus tour. Now I am just in my room at 1:46 a.m., about to go to sleep after a long fun day! Can not wait to see the city tomorrow!


My apologies if there are many grammatical errors, it is difficult writing straight on the blog since I’m using google.es and it keeps translating between English and Spanish constantly and deleting some of my words without me noticing. From now on I will write my entry elsewhere and then copy and paste!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Study Abroad Experience

I flew back into JFK about 5 weeks ago, ending roughly a year and half abroad. It was an amazing experience that went by way too quickly. At the time, I tried to live entirely in the moment and try to appreciate every minute of my experience. However, over the last month of being back in my home town of Meriden, Connecticut, I have had plenty of time to think over what I've been lucky enough to do. Some of the high lights include:

Exploring the temples from the movie Tomb Raider in Cambodia. 
Taking a short-cut to work by biking through an island with a castle on it in Schwerin, Germany.
Being part of 35,000 strangers who act like brothers in support of their local football team in London, England.
Parting with the locals in Oviedo, Spain.
Spending my birthday weekend in the "Miami" of South America, the city of Ponte Del Este, Uruguay.

Renting a car with a couple of Europeans I met in a hostel and exploring northern Patagonia.

Memories I will have forever.

A Quick Synopsis of The Last 18 Months

It all started in Fall 2012 when I agreed to go to Cambodia as part of Dr. Primm's international relations class. We left for Penom Pehn on New Years Eve, and spent 3 weeks moving around the country. I arrived back in Honolulu the day before the spring semester started, and finished up my last semester on campus at HPU. From there, I flew to my summer job in northern Germany. I spent spent two months teaching English and bouncing around between, Schwerin, Berlin and Hamburg. After leaving Germany, I ended up going to another part of Europe to study for a semester at Richmond The American University in London. I had a blast becoming immersed  in the football (soccer) culture of central London. I was also lucky enough to take a weekend to visit one of my best friends and explore his home town of Oviedo, Spain. After finishing up my finals in London, I returned to the USA for Christmas before flying into Buenos Aires, Argentina, to finish my Spanish minor. I spent the semester completely enveloped in the culture of Argentina, as I made tons of new friends and watched my Spanish competency reach new levels. I made a few trips in Argentina to explore Patagonia, as well as a few of the major cities throughout Argentina and Uruguay. I finished school on June 18th and flew back to the USA on the 20th. I am now a college graduate and already missing it. 

The Benefits of Study Abroad

Obviously, study abroad lets you go to awesome new places and see incredible new things. But you gain so much more than that:


The Value of Time
Studying abroad makes you value time differently. For the last 18 months, I always knew exactly how much time I had in each place. Before I arrived everywhere, I already had my flight to the next place booked. When you look at the calendar and see that you have only 20 days left somewhere, you make sure to make the most out of all 20 of those days. After my first couple of experiences abroad flew by, I started to think about the whole semester in the same light. "I only have 120 days in this country, I better make the most of every minute." After living this way for the last year and a half, this ideal has turned into the way I live my life on a daily basis. I learned to go out, and try to make the most out of every day that I have.

New language
This is something that I'm sure everyone thinks about before studying abroad, but one they won't fully appreciate until after they have been in a new country for a week or so. It is true that I loved my time studying in London. I also have plenty friends that live in Ireland, Australia, Canada, and South Africa who make these destinations seem like incredible places to visit. However, if you ask me, studying abroad in an English speaking country is kind of like the junior varsity version of study abroad. Yeah, you are in a different country, but the experience is not the same as if there is a different language to learn. The study abroad experience I got the most out of was definitely Argentina. This is because I wanted to learn Spanish, and in most parts of Argentina, there was no one around that could speak any English. You are left with no other option but to practice and get better at your second language. The first week can be scary or frustrating, as you'll almost certainly get the wrong food at a restaurant once or twice, but after a few months, when you're having full conversations with locals in your second language, you'll realize it was all worth it.

Jobs
All of my experiences abroad were through AIFS, which partners with HPU except for my summer job in Germany. The reason I was able to get this job is because my boss was looking for people who had experience abroad (which I had through Cambodia) or were eager to get more experience abroad (which I could show her through my plans to live in London and Buenos Aires). Studying abroad helps you get jobs abroad. Also, even if you want to live in the USA, it shows employers that you are capable to interacting with different people and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. 

No More Comfort Zone
New countries mean new experiences. A lot of times, these new experiences can stress you out, or push you to the limit, but they also show you what you are capable of and help you see what you are interested in. The first big event I remember that took me way out of my comfort zone was when I landed in Berlin, Germany for the first time. I got out of the airport with just vague instructions on how to get to my housing which was another 100 miles or so away. I had to take bus to the train station, take a train to the main train station, then take that train 45 stops or so to the city of Schwerin. When I got there, I realized that Schwerin is a huge city with 4 different train stops, and had no idea which one. I spent the whole day traveling, getting lost, trying to figure out how to use pay phones, and exchanging money, while having absolutely no idea what any of the signs meant in German. Obviously it was frustrating at the time, but making it through experiences like those help you gain confidence. Because I made it through that trip, I know I can get to pretty much anywhere in the world without too much of a problem. At the same time, I can't look back at that experience without smiling and it was definitely something I will always remember. 

New Food
You get to try completely new food abroad. Studying abroad opened my eyes to tons of amazing kinds of food I have no idea how I ever lived without. It'll be tough to find comfort foods like peanut butter and jelly abroad, and although there undoubtedly will be a McDonalds, the menu will be a lot different. So you have to live and die with the local cuisine, and you will learn to love it. After a year and a half abroad, I no longer want to watch a soccer game without fish and chips, make a sandwich without chimichurri or have a night out that does not end in a Schwarma. Some of the best food in the world is out there waiting for you.

Dating
The last thing I have to mention is dating abroad. It's a lot different. If you thought a first date in the USA could be awkward, try it while relying totally on your second language. Definitely an experience worth having. 


I know this post is a little long but these are some of the most important things I learned will studying abroad. I could go on for hours and if you have any questions feel free to shoot me an email. I want to thank Melissa and Kri for helping me every step of the way with this crazy last year and a half.

The last thing I want to say is this: If you graduate without study abroad, you did something wrong. It's a must have experience. 

I'll leave you with a few pictures of my favorite places from the last year.

Good luck and travel safe-
Sam Cooke


The group in Cambodia.
Statue in Seoul, South Korea
Los Dedos, en Punta Del Este, Uruguay
The Berlin Gate, Berlin, Germany
View from the London Eye, London, England
When I was teaching English in Germany, my friend Alejandro was teaching Spanish. He invited me to hang out in Spain with him while I was studying in London, so I flew over. This is the group of us that went out on a Friday night in Spain.

A section of the Berlin Wall, Berlin, Germany.

El Obelisco, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Looking over the city of Oviedo, Espana.

Perfect seats for penalty kicks at the Tottenham Hotspur game in London, England.

The widest waterfall in the world, Iguazu Falls, Puerto Iguazu, Argentina.

A castle on its own island, Schwerin, Germany.

Big Ben, London, England

Jumping into the water in Patagonia. San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina



Thursday, July 24, 2014

HPU Summer Study Abroad 2014

Part II – Uganda

The second half of the study is finished, and the students have all gone home. Our second destination contrasted the conflict in northern Uganda between the LRA and the UPDF (formerly the NRA) and the conflict we experienced in Rwanda. But before we could do that, we had one stop to make on our long bus ride between Kigali and Gulu.

We stopped in Mbarara, the quickly becoming the second largest city in Uganda and also the home of President Museveni. Just outside the city, perhaps a few hours, is the refugee settlement of Nakivale, and every year, hundreds and sometimes thousands of Rwandan refugees flee from the country to take up refuge here, in this rudimentary and extremely dusty camp. The existence of the camp was not surprising, but the recent refugee status of many of its residents shocked us. We knew that supporters of the former Hutu Extremist government had taken refuge in Congo, Uganda, and elsewhere, and while the government has tried to bring them back to face justice, this process is met with mixed success. Where the post 1994 refugees came from, I had no idea. Until they told their side of the story.

Nakivale

These refugees told a story of a different Rwanda than the one we had been shown in Kigali. They told us of a Rwanda where 'tribe'-based killing continued well belong 1994 perpetrated not by the government but by Paul Kagame's RPF. They were frustrated and understandably nervous. By speaking up, they put themselves in danger. No real activism had ever come from 'Westerners' hearing their stories leading to an almost complete lack of awareness outside East Africa. But the Rwandan government knows of their existence, and the refugees told us of a time when the RPF, partnered with the Ugandan Police Force, raided the camp and forcefully repatriated much of the Rwandan population. Those who refused, we were told, were shot and their bodies taken away.


It was shocking to hear their accusations of Genocide and the harrowing account of a widower whose wife and children were shot and their bodies buried and covered with a playground. Others told of how they first fled to Tanzania, and when they were brought back at the point of a gun, they fled again when the government raided their village. One woman told of how, when her husband spoke out against the government, he was imprisoned on false charges, escaped, and fled to the Congo. Rwandan officials came to her house to question her on his whereabouts, physically assaulted her, and left her beaten and forced to flee with her children.


Some of those we talked to were undoubtedly supporters of the Genocidal regime in Uganda. One implied he had assisted with the work without saying it outright. Others, however, were very definitely not. This made me question the accuracy of their stories, but I realized, even if their stories were half true, I couldn't trust the stories I was told by the Rwandan government either. It was a puzzling situation.


After the settlement, we continued our studies in the north, in Gulu across the Nile. We focused not only on conflict but on development. Gulu during the war was the most heavily populated region in the world for NGOs, and while that population has since moved on, the effects of their presence still influences daily life in Gulu. We met the King of the Acholi people, the largest ethnic group in the north, and talked on how ethnic identity helped to shape conflict.


Gulu

We also heard from professors at the local college. They told us the history of Uganda from multiple perspectives, many which were highly critical of the government. You would not hear that in Rwanda. Uganda, since independence in 1962, has never had a peaceful transfer of power. Each has been at the point of a gun, and Museveni is proving no different. First he changed the term limit so he was able to serve beyond his 2 term limit. Now he is lobbying to change the age limit so he does not have to leave at 70, only a few years away.


We talked to those who were in Gulu as it was turned into an official displacement camp when the government rounded up all Acholi people and placed them in camps for safety against the violent LRA. These camps, however, served as a recruiting ground for the LRA and hundreds of children were abducted from these camps by the LRA to serve in their militia. Both sides used children in the conflict.


In Uganda, unlike Rwanda, no clear story emerged. We learned the war started in 1987 when Acholi began to be persecuted for their support of the former president, President Obote, himself deposed twice by violent coup. Uganda is divided along ethnic lines, and when a new President comes into power his home region prospers as the expense of others. Museveni is from south of the Nile, and as we traveled from the south to the north, the differences were stark.


The war was fought in the bush, initially with vast popular support. But as the war dragged on and the casualties mounted, support fell away. The first leader of the resistance failed at high cost, and her successor, Joseph Kony, vowed to do better. He let nothing stand in his way, and perpetrated horribly violent acts to stop informants, spies, and opposition. Soon the people of the north were being oppressed by both sides, and called for an end to the conflict. Neither had the power to end it, however, at it took the start of the War on Terror and US involvement on Museveni's side to end the conflict. The LRA was pushed out in 2007 and people began moving back home in 2008. As the records were tallied, it soon became clear that almost as many people had died in the camps as had died in the war, and civilian casualties perpetrated by both sides were astronomical. The King himself was abducted as a child, and it was only luck that saved him.


The LRA still operates to this day in the Congo, South Sudan, and the CAR. The government operates as well on a regional level, and while they have diverted some small relief aid to the region, aid is largely left to the management of local NGOs who have almost become the government in a sense. They are responsible for the welfare of the people, and without their help many would die or suffer extreme circumstances. The problem comes when these NGOs, as they are wont to do, pull out. This is the situation Gulu is facing today, and it is difficult seeing the situations which people are reduced to. Many would fall on their knees in the streets, begging for anything we could give. They have nowhere left to turn.


This is but one of many facets of post-war Acholiland. Another is the resurgence of traditional peace-keeping methods which try to bring ex-militia back to their families. This process has mixed success, and serves to strengthen the ethnic ties which bind people together, but also pull people apart.


We finished out study in Busiya, on the border with Kenya. We reflected on what we had learned over the past five weeks, and took a much needed break. Peace and Conflict, it seems, are never as cut and dry as they might at first appear. Everything plays a role in war, including development aid. Economic scarcity and ethnic division may lead to conflict, but ethnic ties and severe economic stress can solve it too. I will be processing what I've learned for some time to come, and while I expect no clear answers, at the very least I will know I must become aware before becoming involved. I would argue that there are no truly neutral positions in conflict, and blind support of one side or another can have disastrous consequences.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

South Korea, Summer 2014

안녕하세요!!!! (Annyeonghaseyo) I arrived in Korea last week Sunday, July 13. I am posting a bit late because we don't have wifi in our dorms. I am currently studying abroad at Konkuk University and I must say it has been a blast! There are so many things I want to see and do! I have been in Korea for about a week now and I can proudly say that I have adapted pretty quickly. Overall the ISP program here at Konkuk is very rewarding and safe. The student volunteers are awesome mentors and great life-time friends. The foods here in Seoul are also amazing. Korea is very safe! I was surprised at how easy it was to get around by subway. My only advice for future study abroad students are too be careful when crossing or walking on the streets, the drivers are pretty crazy! Other than that, I highly recommend coming to South Korea and experiencing life here. I am learning a lot and making new friends from not only Korea, but also from around the world. Until next time!

-Tray

Friday, June 20, 2014

HPU Summer Study Abroad 2014

Introduction

 My name is Jason Bunderson. I am a graduating senior in International Relations at HPU and am finishing my program during a 6-week study abroad program in the Lake Victoria basin. As part of the study, I will be involved in a peace and conflict seminar focused on the 1994 Genocide and the ongoing Northern Uganda NRA-LRA conflict. I will be based in two major cities: Kigali and Gulu. My program began on June 11 2014, and for the past week I have been settling in to the city. I am also furthering my own personal study while in the country, and will reference my work occasionally. However, the majority of these posts will be focused around the program itself: how it functions, what we learn, and how peace and conflict can be defined in the context of the East African community.

Part I - Kigali

Kigali is like no city I have ever had the chance to visit. Large, modern skyscrapers surrounded by typical wall-to-wall shopping centers dominate downtown, but 10 minutes away you are surrounded by cornfields and adobe huts. There you are jostled by all sorts of people carrying large woven baskets of vegetables on their heads, but well-dressed university students wearing headphones and texting on their iPhones walk on the same streets. The city itself is built on a series of red hills, with marshy wetlands in the valleys between. The roads switchback up one side and down the other, and while many are paved with wide sidewalks, there remain neighborhoods connected by nothing but dirt tracks.

The people themselves are friendly, open, and a usually speak a little English or French. Everybody speaks Kinyarwanda. There are police stationed at every corner, and they are very helpful and good with directions. The military is also very good at patrolling the streets and keeping things safe, and Kigali hasn’t had any public attacks for over a year. The government has an ambitious plan set up for the city – they want to be wired for high-speed internet by 2020, and 4G wireless is already in place for some networks – and as a result, Kigali is one of the fastest growing cities in East Africa. The RPF rebuilt the country from ruins less than 20 years ago, and it has already created an efficient, well-maintained system of governance. Not everyone is happy with it, traditional landowners are being forced out of the city to make way for modern infrastructure (corn fields don’t work well in an urban environment) and the authoritarian government has some people on edge, but the vigor in the city is impossible to ignore.

Since I arrived in the city on Wednesday night, I have started my school program and have begun to acclimate myself a bit to local culture and mannerisms. The program is rigorous—school every day from 9 to 5—and I have little time to do my own work. This weekend, I hope to have time to put together my pre-conflict work and set up a study for this country. So far, I have focused mostly on the anthropological side of the country, and on getting to know the people and the local economy. Things are relatively inexpensive here. The bus charges 200 RWF (about .30 cents), a new phone and phone plan is about 7300 RWF (about $10), and you can get a buffet for about 2000 RWF (about $3). They eat the same thing for every meal, at least it feels that way. Everywhere I go, dinner is beans, rice, boiled potatoes, and either beef, chicken, or goat. Breakfast is untoasted bread, eggs (scrambled or fried), and/or cibati (a kind of deep fried pancake).

The next few weeks will be key to helping me understand the local climate and culture. My program is structured to give us until the beginning of July in Rwanda, and I will be living with a host family most of that time (starting last Sunday). The family is nice and the family environment is similar to most of the world. Both parents run a small phone shop downtown and are gone for most of the day while hired nannies take care of their four children: helping the girls get to school, cooking meals, and occupying the young twin boys. They have running water and electricity (most of the time), and their house is well kept.

As for the program, after orientation, the director of the program introduced us to the subject by taking us on a tour of the Genocide memorials in the country. The museum, built at the mass burial site for Kigali which still sees regular use, is unique. Apart from history, they have rooms dedicated to photos of the victims. Parents who lost children have created a room to honor them. Each child's photo is set on the wall, with a plaque underneath detailing their habits, favorite food, and cause of death. The number of children killed or forcefully aborted during the genocide is staggering, and the number of orphans, numbering in the tens of thousands, is impossible to comprehend. About 85,000 households were headed by a child under the age of 18 after 1994.


Following the museum, I was able to visit the churches in Ntarama and Nyamata. During the Genocide, the Tutsi population of these villages fled to the church for sanctuary. In the past, during the genocides of 1959, 1963, 1973, and the 1980s, these sanctuaries saved thousands of lives. In 1994, they offered no protection. It is estimated that at Ntarama alone over 5000 were killed. The churches were left undisturbed for several years as a memorial, and about 10 years ago the bodies were cataloged and their skeletons were set in endless rows as a gruesome reminder of those 100 days. In both sites, the cracked and bloodstained bricks where small children and infants were repeatedly thrown against the wall are still horribly visible. I took no pictures of these sites; the photos are freely available for anyone interested.


After this introduction, the class was visited by a local history professor who briefed everyone on the history of the country and the Arusha Peace Accords. I won't go into it here, but it is a fascinating study on internalizing a constructed external identity and speaks volumes on the nature of conflict and self-realization. This next week, the class will focus on Rwanda's response to the Genocide, their recent development, and their amazing recovery that ranks them among the most stable sub-saharan states in Africa.


To summarize, this first week has been hectic and harrowing. Rwanda is an endlessly fascinating country, and the people, culture, and history have me more engaged than any classroom could. I have learned more outside of class talking with locals than I have in the lectures, and the director is smart enough to bring that into play. As a study abroad, there is no place I can recommend more for understanding the nature of peace and conflict, and I can't wait for Uganda.