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Rwanda without Prejudice
Wednesday, 31 October 2012 Written by Duje Stanišić

Rwanda without PrejudiceMy idea of travelling to a faraway place didn’t include visiting the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the exotic Taj Mahal, or getting a chance to admire the lights of New York. Rather, I was thinking of a journey which would take me away from quarrels with my family, love problems, a vague financial future and my conflicting principles and beliefs that were the cause of those very problems. Of course, those were not the only reasons. Although it is sometimes a great thing to be able to run away from oneself, at least for a short while, when it comes to travelling it is quite essential that one also gets the opportunity to meet other people, other cultures and to discover new horizons.

Following the suggestion of my friends, Krešimir and Nikolina Perović, who had already been to Kivumu and “Padri Vjeko” Center, I decided to travel to Rwanda. When I contacted fra Ivica Perić, the Guardian of the friary and Headmaster of the vocational school in Kivumu, asking him if I could come to visit the center, I got a pretty straightforward reply - “You are welcome!“

That’s when I started to seek information about Rwanda. Most of the information came from the internet, and slowly I began to form my own picture of Rwanda and its inhabitants. If you try to find out something about this land of a thousand hills and a thousand smiles, you cannot miss the genocide which happened in the April of 1994, wreaking havoc on Rwanda, setting the two tribes against each other and leaving more than a million people dead in its wake. You will also not miss that, according to certain statistical data, Rwanda is a country with the fastest growing economy in Africa. It all provided a firm framing for my image of Rwanda.

After just a few days spent in the country itself, I realized that the image I had was just one big prejudice. Rwanda is by no means just a thousand beautiful hills and smiles, nor is it a country with a rapidly growing economy as one would get the impression. It’s also not an insecure country in which gangs of butchers wait around every corner, ready to cut you into pieces with their machetes. Rwanda is first and foremost a country in transition with countless problems, and many more years will pass before all those problems are solved, especially if they do it at the present pace. Existential problems, such as the lack of food, the lack of even a basic primary education for all children, problems with healthcare and many other issues, are a heavy burden on Rwandan shoulders. Regardless, Rwanda leaves a completely different and positive impression - nothing like the negative impression you get when you’re outside.

Despite the fear I felt, when, in the middle of the night, I had to walk in the darkness for several hundreds of meters, Rwanda is a very safe country, and everyone is friendly. White people are always greeted with smiles and the people are very open. If I had to highlight the most beautiful thing I experienced - not forgetting the stunning countryside, the night sky adorned with billions of stars and the heavy rain - I would have to choose one other thing. The children’s smiles are so honest and impressive that hardly anyone could be left untouched by them. Furthermore, everything moves so slowly here. But that also gives a special charm to Rwanda.

There is no stress, no hurry, no excessive planning. Everything runs at a special pace that appears to exist just for these people. They explained it to me like this: “You in the West have expensive watches, and we have time.” Already by reading this text one begins to form opinions about Rwanda, so I don’t want to continue talking about my experiences. Every person has unique and very personal experiences of everything in life, so let your visit to Rwanda be your own personal experience. Relax and wait for the country, its people, and the journey itself to enchant and cheer you up with everything they are.

Translated by Branimir Mlakić
Edited by: Valerie Kae Ken

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