I was invited to Rwanda after working with the Institute of the National Museums of Rwanda (INMR) for several years. One of our projects was helping to broker the training of one of their staff who completed the museum studies course at University of St Andrews last year. MGS had also hosted a visit from Alphonse Umuliisa the museum Director General and he had been requesting a development visit from a small group of European directors for some time. The visit came together very quickly with dates booked around the launch of the Museum’s first Cultural Tourism day. So I booked a week of leave, got a flight on a last minute website, made sure I got all the relevant jabs and was all set.
And it was all going so well! Got to the airport on time despite having to get up at 3am, a quick transfer at Amsterdam and was making good time to Kigali. On boarding I heard some Scottish accents near me and met Joan and Isabel from Dundee University travelling to Rwanda to do a week of workshops training midwives. On approach to Kigali things started to go wrong as we hit violent storms. Passengers were pale faced and genuflecting. I looked at the flight tracker and suddenly we were 100 km from our destination. The pilot announced it was too dangerous to land and we would go on to Entebbe in Uganda first and try Kigali later.
We arrived in Entebbe without further drama and most passengers disembarked leaving about 50 of us to await the pilots’ decision. We were told they did not want to risk going back to Kigali, instead we were to stay in Entebbe and KLM would sort us a hotel. As we arrived at a posh looking hotel on the shores of Lake Victoria it was all looking promising plus I had acquired a bonus stamp on my passport. Unfortunately the hotel was not aware of our arrival and there were no rooms ready. I did not get a bed until 3am after a chaotic system of room allocation left me the last woman standing; at this point I think I would have slept anywhere.
A phone call woke me at 6am telling me the bus would leave at 10am – I began composing a strongly worded letter of complaint in my head. A coach arrived and one check point later, complete with large machine guns and fake Ray-Bans, we were deposited at the airport. I now felt like I had been through some of Africa’s best clichés, but KLM found us a plane and Ethiopian airlines took us on to Kigali.
Alphonse Umuliisa the DG of the INMR and Viviane Umulisa one of his staff were there to greet me and I felt I could finally start to relax. Alphonse seemed to know everybody coming and going and I was introduced to police commissioners, ministers and business men and that was just in the airport.
Not wanting to waste the day we then set off to visit our first museum; the Presidential Palace which was also the site of the late President’s plane crash shortly before the genocide. Alphonse has been cleaning this site up purchasing marquees so he can use the grounds for weddings – this is proving very popular and is booked out until December. He has lots of plans to further develop the grounds and to preserve what is left of the wreckage of the plane.
This was a much better start to my visit, and I returned to the hotel excited but also ready to catch up on my sleep.