Home of one of the worst genocides the world has ever experienced, Rwanda is one of the most overlooked tourist destinations. The land of a thousand hills, Rwanda, offers a wide array of agriculture, tea, coffee, rain forests, lakes, and volcanoes for a tourist interested in nature. Rwanda as many know it is simply what Hollywood has shown it to be: dangerous. However, I had the opportunity to spend 4 months in this beautiful country and see it for what it really has to offer. The country is called “The Land of a Thousand Hills” and truly is just that, with winding roads leading you from the south of the country to the north, east to west and even out of Rwanda into the surrounding countries. The land is ripe with agriculture and without McDonald’s. Globalization has yet to truly hit, which is actually a great thing. The national language is Kinyarwanda but many understand French and the schools are starting to make English their second language so that they may integrate into the global world. Internet is slow, water is scarce but the people live happy lives.
Last summer, August 2010, Rwanda had their Presidential elections. While the international newspapers were warning people against visiting Rwanda as it is unstable with riots taking place, life in Kigali, the capital city, remained calm. The locals put up lights and banners around the city, buildings decorated in red, white and blue for Paul Kagame. Unlike in the US where the candidates are neck-in-neck in votes, Kagame had no real competition. The locals have strong support for him and the reason being that “he is the best for the nation”. Although Americans disapprove of the way Kagame runs the country, no one can deny that he has brought Rwanda a long way since 1994.
The health care in Rwanda still lags and needs a lot of development. While there I had to go to the hospital for a few things and ended up waiting hours just to be seen. The accepted health insurance varies on hospital but the best hospital in the country didn’t take either of my health care cards, which was odd since everywhere I have ever been accepted them. The locals pay a lot for health care and that is why half of them do not go to see a doctor when they feel ill. Since the locals do not make a lot of money, the health care system should really adapt to cater to the less fortunate.
I met a woman when I was there who had a huge tumor growing on the side of her neck. She had it removed which cost about US $2000, a price she could hardly pay but managed. About 5 years later, the tumor grew back and is starting to affect her eyesight. She cannot afford another surgery so must live with the infection and all the symptoms it brings.
The babies go without pants because the parents cannot afford diapers. It is also easier on the parents to allow the child to roam around naked and do their business without ruining the clothes. This is a health issue in itself as bugs can crawl in the babies and diseases can easily spread. A good health care system is a vital need for these villagers.
Being one of the safest countries in Africa right now, with a booming economy, Rwanda should be a place on your list of places to visit and to help. The country is truly beautiful with remarkable people with life stories one could never imagine. I hope to see Rwanda become a larger partner in the global society and hope that their education level will increase and that they will finally be seen for the remarkable country that they are.