To most, the concept of this trip appeared rather uncanny because what came to mind was often the phrase “of all places”. Parents and fellow students wondered what exactly we would meet in the country. All sixteen of us were similarly curious to find out.
It would be fair to say that we did not experience the best start to the trip, in that after enduring five hours in the somewhat cramped aircraft (which had been swapped in the last minute before departure), we were told that our bags had been left in Lagos. This was particularly irritating for those of us who were only a few kilograms from being allowed those bags as hand luggage.
We were received by our guides from New Dawn Associates (NDA) and taken to Kigali View Hotel, all the while being chased by a stalker with a camera, who we later came to know was a hired photographer (only when he ended up in our bus).
The NDA tour guides gave us a brief introduction to post-genocide Rwanda. Sweaty and slightly disoriented, we settled into our rooms. Soon after, we were told—without a reasonable or any explanation—that our bags were actually in Ghana.
That night, we slept in our OTC polo shirts, judgements of Rwanda densely clouded.
The following day, we were taken to the airport where the RwandAir airline manager spoke to us. He said something about the pilot making a reasonable decision, flying us passengers, rather than our bags, in light of bad weather. Students seemed more interested however, in the eighty dollar compensation fee that was given to each of us.
We were taken to the memorial ground of the ten Belgian soldiers who lost their lives protecting the Rwandan prime minister. The building is still as it was, bullet holes and all, which made the experience simply that much more.
Still drenched in our OTC attire and will to follow through with our itinerary, we visited the Nigerian High Commissioner. He was keen to answer all our questions, as well as highly successful in creating an ambition for diplomacy in several of us. Later that evening, we went shopping for a few items that we could use until our luggage finally arrived, which luckily was just a couple of hours later.
We freshened up, went through another introduction to Rwandan culture, and awaited the much talked about genocide memorial.
At the Kigali Genocide Memorial, we witnessed the remnants of the tragedy that occurred in 1994. We saw pictures, names, and bodily remains of the victims, as well as the touching videos of some of the survivors, who visit the memorial regularly to be with their family as much as they can . One of the most grievous sights was the photographs of the children—some of whom were as young as only a few months—which included their likes, dislikes, and the inhumane ways by which they were killed. We were all so very silent.
Another enriching element of this trip was the visit to the University of Rwanda. We had an interactive session with the students, who were able to teach us a thing or two about entrepreneurship, and were very interested in hearing about what Nigeria is like behind the corruption. It was nice to hear that they appreciate the diversity of the Nigerian market. We also had the opportunity to give our suggestions on their upcoming ‘incubation room ‘where students will be able to nurture their business ideas.
The following morning, we headed to Musanze, where we saw the Twin Lakes (Burera and Ruhondo) and some apparently extinct volcanoes. We stayed at the Palm Garden Resort in Gisenyi for the next two days.
The undeniably long bus ride was made up for on the next day at the Lake Kivu Serena beach, where some of us went on a boat cruise near the Rwanda-Congo border. The weather was good, and allowed for some other beach activities. The remaining hours of our stay were spent shopping and people-watching.
It was a good end to a memorable trip, and as for the so-called setbacks, we have all already begun looking back at them with laughter.
It was indeed an interesting experience.