Sunday, July 31, 2011

The myth of Hotel Rwanda.

Monday, July 18

I had breakfast at Umubano Hotel with my mom again this morning. It’s a wonderful buffet with assorted meats, pastries (including delicious chocolate croissants), made-to-order omelettes and eggs, fruit, potatoes and – my favorite part – African tea and coffee. I never came here during my program because the 10,000 franc price was a little expensive for me, but breakfast was included with my mom’s hotel room, so it was a good deal.

I had crossed a few things of my “Fun to do with Mom” list the day before (Kigali Genocide Memorial Center, samosas and the open market), so today I showed her my daily walk to the CNLG building. It’s a 35-minute walk, and the difference between leaving at 7:30 and leaving at 9:30 was quite a few degrees, it seemed. By the time we got to the building and I showed her the hospital down the street where we ate lunch, it was time for a drink. We stopped in a small supermarket, where I chose an Apple Fanta, one of the few Fanta flavors I hadn’t tried yet during the trip.

We were also very close to Ineza, which I thought my mom would be interested in both for the authentic Rwandan goods and the income it provides to HIV-positive women. I was a little nervous just walking into the house, as I had Emmanuel with me last time, but the women greeted us as cheerily as ever and took us to the back room with the merchandise. My mom purchased a blue and yellow patterned shoulder bag, and we were on our way again. I wanted to take her to Avenir to get a traditional painting, but I wasn’t quite sure where it was and we were already tired (again). As we were walking back to the hotel, the IGSC bus drove by with several students. We noticed because Tyler leaned out the window and yelled, “Muzungu!” This is the word for “white person” in Kinyarwanda, and I believe a few other African languages as well.

Sidebar: Lauren decided my new name was going to be “Megundo.” In fact, I asked her how to spell my name one day (trying to trick her into thinking it had an “h”), and she unhesitatingly responded, “M-E-G-U-N-D-O.” I thought that was pretty funny, which in turn prompted me to think of a new name for my blog: Megundo Around El Mundo! What do you think? (Atlanta interns, I hope you’re still reading this!)

Of course, I had to stop by this statue during the walk to rep ADPi. Go Alphie! 

Close to the hotel was the Kigali China Great Wall Restaurant. I have been curious about foreign interpretations of Chinese food since I saw a presentation about it at a Griffiths Leadership Society Conference I attended at Mizzou. Jennifer 8. Lee (no, the "8" is not a typo), a New York Times reporter and author of ­­­­­The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, talked about the strange ways “Chinese” food is prepared all over the world. I’m sure you’ve heard Chinese food in America is actually nothing like Chinese food in China, so we decided to see what Chinese food in Rwanda was like. We weren’t too hungry, so we stuck with chicken fried rice. The weirdest thing to me was that there weren’t eggs in the fried rice. Isn’t that just steamed rice with chicken and veggies?

It was nap time once again after lunch, then time to eat dinner! Although we had driven by the Hotel des Milles Collines several times with the program, I had not actually been inside yet. Mom and I hailed a cab to take us across town to the hotel, which was made famous by the movie Hotel Rwanda with Don Cheadle. I wanted to walk around the inside of the hotel, but we got a little lost and ended up in some administrative offices, so we gave up and went to the pool for drinks (I had the Milles Collines, a fruity cocktail with gin) and samosas. Our waiter also brought us an extra plate of complimentary samosas – score! – so we didn’t even need a real dinner.

A view of the hotel.

I have mentioned before that Hotel Rwanda is an inaccurate portrayal of the events at the Hotel des Milles Collines during the genocide. This is why: Paul Rusesabagina, the Hutu hotel manager portrayed by Don Cheadle, is not as big of a hero as the movie makes him out to be. He did hide Tutsis, which is commendable, but he charged them to stay at the hotel and forced them to leave if they couldn’t afford it. Our professor said that when the hotel's owner left Rwanda, he left instructions to allow people to stay in the hotel for safety, which Rusesabagina ignored. What irks me even more, however, is that Paul is now (allegedly) a genocide denier. He has also been accused of funding rebel groups after the genocide. I still like the movie, though - I just have to tell myself it is a fictional work - and it has brought a lot of awareness to the genocide of 1994, even if through inaccurate means.

Shokola, the outdoor restaurant we visited on Thursday, was just down the street from the hotel, so we stopped by for some extremely rich chocolate ice cream for dessert. Lauren, Kiela and Tyler were at the Kabana CafĂ© next to Umubano Hotel, so we visited them. I had been wanting to try a Tango – Primus beer mixed with grenadine - which was available at Kabana. I don’t like beer, and I usually refuse to drink it, but Kiela had turned me on to this interesting concoction and I was curious. It was drinkable, and much better than regular beer, but the foam was weirdly sweet because of the grenadine. I still couldn’t finish the whole mug, even sharing with my mom.

Emmanuel came by to have dinner with us, which was nice because I was leaving in the morning and didn’t know if I would get to see him. It had been a long day – with a lot of walking – so I walked back to the apartments with my roommates and got a headstart on packing for the next morning.

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