Hello from Rwanda! It’s the end of Day 2 and it’s been quite a day if I do say so myself. I’m not 100% through the jet lag so I found myself waking up at 5am this morning (but I wasn’t alone in this as many of the team found it hard to sleep, however we are suspect of the malaria medication we’re taking, Malarone, and the crazy dreams we’ve been having as a result of taking it!) It was good to get an early start on the day, however. We began with breakfast which included the most amazing ginger juice and tea I’ve had in my life. I’m on a mission to find the tea to bring home! After completing another ride for the books we lunched and I had the privilege of meeting JR Richards of the band Dishwalla (his song, Counting Blue Cars was a #1 hit). For a bad ass rock star JR is one of the most down to earth individuals I’ve ever met. JR’s 10 (almost 11!) year old son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes 3 years ago. We spent a ton of time talking about diabetes camps, growing up diabetes and really, it sounds like his son is doing great (he told me that his son is convinced that he’s “way better” at giving shots than JR is). JR will be playing concerts for the Rwandan people during the tour. I hope to have more video (internet pending…) in the next few days!
After lunch we departed for the Rwandan Diabetes Association to catch the final portion of Dr. Steve Edelman’s presentation on diabetes. Approximately 25 doctors came to the clinic to learn about everything diabetes from diagnosis to treatment of the disease. The current standard of care for Rwandans living with Type 1 diabetes is to use NPH and Regular insulin. They still “test” their blood sugar levels with urine testing (and I put test in quotation marks as urine testing really only indicates if you’ve been high in the past 5-6 hours, it’s in no means an accurate way of measuring blood glucose). The 200 meters that Team Type 1 has provided the association with will go to diagnostic testing. The people who have their A1c tested, including the doctors, is few and far between because it’s far too expensive here. I will post a video of an excerpt of a conversation Dr. Edelman had with one of the Rwandan doctors attending today’s session; however, in the past 45 minutes I’ve been on the internet the video is now 16% downloaded on youtube so if I can get the video loaded here I will do it, but if not you will have to wait until we’re stateside.
From the Rwandan Diabetes Association we next stopped for a visit at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre. I strongly encourage you to visit the Museum’s webpage for a detailed description of the genocide however I will do my best to summarize it here [disclaimer, I
am not a Rwandan historian and am only basing my information on my experience today as well as pre-trip research consisting mainly of books and articles written by Philip Gourevitch – two great articles here and here]. Rwanda has lived in peace for the majority of its existence. It wasn’t until the Belgian colonization of the early 1900s that ethnic separation took place. The Rwandan people were divided into 3 socio-economic groups: the Hutus, or the farmers, the Tutsis, or the cattle herders, and the Twa or the native pigmy tribe of Rwanda. Citizens were given identity cards and anyone owning 10 cattle or more was given the distinction of Tutsi, anyone owning less than that was classified as a Hutu. This distinction created a huge divide among the Rwandan people that only worsened over time. Encouraged by the Belgian colonists over 700,000 Tustis were exiled from Rwanda as part of an “ethnic cleansing” effort that occurred in the 60’s and 70’s. After many peaceful efforts to reunite the country the exiled Tustis formed the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front) and invaded Rwanda in 1990. Long story short (aka go to the website to read more) this effort triggered a mass propaganda against the Tustis and resulted in a mass genocide in 1994. In only 3 months 1 million Rwandans were murdered and it’s estimated that 2 million were affected as a result (either lost loved ones, orphaned children, exiled citizens, and many left with wounds so gruesome it was hard to watch today).
The exhibit brought me to tears and humbled me beyond belief. And to be in this country today, seeing how friendly the people are and how clean the country is (I heard today that on every 4th weekend all Rwandans stop what they’re doing and spend the day cleaning the country.) In my short 2 days here I have not seen one bit of litter/trash on the ground. It’s amazing to see how far this country has come; despite the shortcomings I have nothing but admiration for this country and its people.
After our trip to the museum a few of us wanted to check out the artisan market in Kigali. Or preferred method of travel was the moto-taxi and an example is pictured below (I did not bring my camera to the market for fear of losing it- this was a taxi at day…we went at night, so double the fun!) According to Alex Bowden, you have not experienced the “real Rwanda” until you’ve ridden one of those!
Take it easy everyone – it’s late so I’m out! Until next time!