Rwanda Wrap up

After spending 30 hours on planes and in airports, I arrived in Philadelphia Sunday evening.  With so much time spent in economy class in full planes, I could have kissed the ground.  Today, I slept off 3 hours of jet lag. Overall, I’m extremely happy that I went.  Actually going to Rwanda gave me a lot more insight into how what I’m doing might be used.  I understand the limits of what I’m working with better. Airports are funny places.  In the airport in Brussels, I ran into a woman who works with the blood transfusion center and had been attending a retreat with some fellow Capacity Project workers. She had just learned about the software that I was helping to customize and install. One thing we talked about was American’s perceptions of African countries.  Say “Rwanda” to almost any American and they’ll think “Genocide” and “Hotel Rwanda”.  The country, though, has accomplished much in the way of economic and political stability compared with its neighbors. On of the reasons for this is, as one business consultant evidently told the government, because the country is blessed.  It is blessed with a lack of diamonds, oil, and other natural resources (though the land itself seems verdant and fertile). As a result, it doesn’t have the continuous conflict that plagues many other African nations. Fifteen years ago, Rwanda was in the middle of a civil war that ended up in genocide.  Now, Rwanda is prosecuting Genocideers and chasing foreign investment while growing its domestic industries, including ICT. In the meantime, after being a model country for years, Kenya is beginning to backslide.  This means its neighbors (including Rwanda) see an increase in oil prices. Which brings us back to the point of the perceptions we have about African countries.  Often times, they’re 10 years out of date, at least.  One friend, when I mentioned I was going to Rwanda, said “I’d go to Kenya [where he had been before], but not Rwanda”.  He said this during the height of the Kenyan riots.  He wasn’t watching the news coming from Kenya.  (Neither was I.) The riots have affected where the Brussels ➔ Kigali ➔ Nairobi flight refuels.  It used to refuel in Nairobi, but with the riots, it now refuels in Kigali and still tries to minimize the amount of time it sits on the ground in Nairobi.  (The health care professional I met in the Brussels airport told me that during the hight of the riots, the plane would land just long enough to unload and load passengers.  We were there longer. than that.)

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