Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It is what she said.

Sorry I am so far behind with my writing. But my goal is to catch up before August 1 because:

1) I head back to school on August 5 and then I know I’ll never catch up.
2) My journal (aka this blog) is due to my professor on August 1, so I don’t really have a choice.
3) I just spent an amazing three days in Kenya, and I want to tell you all about that, too!

So, to finish out my last week in Rwanda:

Tuesday, July 12

Today continued more discussions on religion and what specific groups did (or didn’t do) during the genocide. After a pretty statistic-heavy presentation about the Gacaca Court (Rwanda’s local way of dealing with perpetrators after the genocide, excluding organizers and perpetrators of sexual abuse, who are tried in the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda), we had a Muslim leader speak to us in the afternoon.

The speaker began by describing the historical relationship of Muslims and Rwandan leaders. Traditionally, relations between the colonial administration and Muslims were tense. Muslims could not be educated in Rwanda unless they adopted Christian names, so many Muslim parents were hesitant to enroll their kids because of fear of conversion. Muslim Rwandans, while not classified as either Hutu or Tutsi, traditionally sided with the Tutsi group because they both felt persecuted after the Hutu government took power in 1959. During the genocide, many Muslims hid Tutsis in their mosques. Whereas those who hid in the churches were usually massacred, Tutsis who hid in mosques were not attacked. Muslim leaders also preached against the genocide, reminding Rwandans not to murder their brothers and sisters.

However, this is not to say that Muslims were blameless in the genocide. While it is true that there were Muslims who hid Tutsis in their homes and saved them, there were also Muslims who participated as genocidaires. (Just as there were also Christians who helped Tutsis hide from their killers.) In fact, one person in the classroom testified that her family was murdered by a Muslim in 1994. The thing that surprised me the most was that the author of the "Hutu Ten Commandments" - a propaganda document from 1990 encouraging the Hutu to recognize their superiority over their Tutsi neighbors and destroy the Tutsi influence in Rwanda - was a Muslim. To be clear, I don't blame Islam as a religion or Muslims as a group for this document; it is the responsibility of the specific people who wrote and published it. However, I am a little disappointed that the general public is always so willing to criticize the Catholic Church and other Christian groups for their condemnable behavior during the genocide, but after months of studying this is the first time someone mentioned the author of the Hutu Ten Commandments - arguably the worst thing released in the media to instigate the genocide - was a Muslim. It makes me wonder why people are so quick to blame the Pope but ignore people of other religions who failed to step in or directly encouraged hatred and murder.

On a lighter note (of course), I wanted to include a picture of my roommates on the trip. For dinner on Tuesday, we went to a new restaurant (adorable, nice outdoor eating area, really yummy tortillas) and took some pictures outside.

The roomies: Lauren, me, Colbey, Kiela.

A lesson in American humor.

And finally, you might be wondering about the title of this post because nothing so far has been relevant. Well, we've been trying to teach our Rwandan friend Emmanuel some American humor, namely "That's what she said" and sarcasm. Unfortunately, we introduced him to both at the same time, which caused some confusion. Now, every time I say something that provokes a laugh, Emmanuel responds with, "It is what she said," even if the joke was not suggestive.

Likewise, any time someone tries to use sarcasm on Emmanuel, he doesn't sense it and gets offended. For example, one day he asked Kiela if he could sit by her at lunch, and she said no.
  • Emmanuel: "Oh, I'm sorry, is someone already sitting here?"
  • Kiela: "No, I just don't want you to sit here."
  • Emmanuel: "Really?"
  • Kiela: "I would rather have you sit somewhere else."
At this point, Emmanuel was looking rather distraught, so I jumped in from across the table to tell him: "Emmanuel! Sarcasm." He looked questioningly at Kiela and asked, "Really?" We all began laughing, and she told him that of course he could sit down. He was very relieved, saying, "Good. I was going to say, 'You really offended me.'"

He has gotten better at recognizing sarcasm, but he still confuses it with "That's what she said." Whenever he correctly identifies sarcasm, he follows up with, "It is what she said," which by now is almost as funny as the original intention of the joke anyway.

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