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As usual, I listened to this radio program of travelling last night and the guest on that program talked about Rwanda.

Rwanda is a small country in Africa. Look for it in a world map, you’ll have a hard time of finding it. Look for it in a map of just Africa, it’s still quite hard to spot this small piece of land. It’s right below Uganda, on the right of the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), and on the left of Tanzania. And in this small country, a calamity of great horror took place in a short duration of 100 days.

The 100 Days of Slaughter – first by the extremist Hutu to Tutsi and moderate Hutu, then towards the ends of that 100 days, by both Hutu and Tutsi to each other – In just a short 100 days, it’s estimated that about 800,000 Rwandans were killed. 

800,000 lives in 100 days.

That is 8,000 everyday; 333 every hour; 5 every minute…

One every 12 seconds.

Just look at your watch and see that hand ticks for 12 times. A life is gone.

The ironic thing is Hutu and Tutsi share a common culture and language. They are divided into two groups when an elite group took shape and formed ‘Tutsi", which in the language refers to people with many cattle, and the masses became to be known as Hutu. Colonial administrations, first German, then Belgian, took this convenient classification and believed that Tutsi were more capable in taking government jobs. Tutsi themselves also believe that they’re more superior and had the right to rule. Hutu was suppressed. 

And suppression lead to hatred. 

On 6 April 1994, the moderate Hutu president was killed as his plane was shot down. Hutu extremists were believed to have done this. On the very same night, the slaughter began. 

The assassination of the president was planned, so was the killing of 10 Belgian soldiers on the next day. With the death of 10 soldiers, Belgium decided to withdraw their peacekeeping forces and all other Western countries involved in peacekeeping followed suit. 

Rwanda was left by herself flooded with blood.

The interim government led by the Hutu extremists made use of the radio and kept broadcasting to the people messages like Tutsi are cockroaches and must be eliminated. The long bedded hatred among the suppressed Hutu against the wealthier Tutsi was aroused. With incentives like food, materials, and even cash, plus threats, killing spread like a plague. People were burnt to death. Children were smashed against the wall. Men were put to death by bullets or machetes. Women were raped then put to death. A large number of the Tutsi rape survivors were later tested HIV positive. Even the church was not a safe place. Two nuns and one priest were found guilty in international tribunal for their involvement in the genocide. In 1994, 60 percent of Rwandans were Catholic but  many of them converted to Islam as they felt the Church failed them.

But who cared about the Rwandans back in that April in 1994? And who cares about them now?

The film, Sometimes in April, says it best through a Rwandan militia, “we have no oil, no dams, there is nothing in Rwanda for you." 

Then take a look at what’s going on in Iraq. In 1994, U.S. didn’t send a man to Rwanda where there is no oil. How many American soldiers have been sent to Iraq? And now Bush is planning to send another 20,000 soldiers to the oil field. 

Four years after the genocide, Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general then, apologized to the parliament of Rwanda, “we will not deny that, in their greatest hour of need, the world failed the people Rwanda." 

The world did not respond to the devastation in Rwanda and thus failed them. Rwandans themselves let hatred and desire of power and wealth override humanities and they failed themselves as humans, too.

Look back in history, how many times have we failed ourselves as humans? Will history be repeated again?

May God have mercy on us.

It is now 4:13pm and I have had lunch with a friend in Central, back home, and finished reading online newspaper already. 

You may think: what’s so special about it? 

Well, I usually get up after 1pm. By 4:15pm, I probably have done nothing but having lunch. It is exceptionally productive today. I met my friend, S, in IFC at around 12:30pm and had burger together at Triple O. S has a meeting at 1:30pm so we bid farewell after lunch. And considering that I’ve spent an hour to travel to Central and spent $20 on transport then $60 on lunch, it would be such a waste if I didn’t spend more time walking around Central so I spent about 30-45minutes on window shopping in IFC. As I walked around the shopping mall, looked at those price tags, I felt so poor. I know, I know, many of you are saying ‘what? Poor? You?’ Yes, I’m poor in these couple months – exam period in schools and so some students are taking the month off, and a trip to Dhaka…so and so, all means less income but more expenditure. I am poor…for now…only…hopefully.

Then I took a ferry to cross the harbour. As it’s quite early and I wanna save some money, I chose to take the bus home. The bus stop is right outside the New World Centre and so I took a walk on the promenade. Good weather today, a bit warm and with gentle breeze, I took my time and leisurely walked along that short promenade between the pier and the Centre and enjoyed my solitude among the pupils who were doing a survey on the tourists and the tourists who were busy at taking pictures. 

It was really a leisure walk, so leisure that a group of three students from CityU thought that I am a tourist. They approached me introducing themselves with Putonghua (honestly, their Putonghua is understandable but still got rooms for improvement). I was kinda puzzled and told them that I’m a local Chinese. Then we switched to Cantonese and they still wanna chat with me. I had time so I chatted with them for a while. I thought they’re doing some kind of project but one of the girls said that they’re actually a group of Christians. ‘Oh! Campus Crusade?’ ‘How do you know that?’ ‘Well, I’m a Christian too.’ Very nice young Christians – and I appreciate that they’re earnest in spreading the gospel. ‘May God bless you’, I said and we parted. They went on looking for tourists (they tried with locals but the locals gave them cold shoulders) to share the Good News. 

On my way back home, as the bus went pass Taiwai area along the river, I saw a white gull standing in the middle of the water, just by itself. The water was clear (kinda surprisingly), so was the reflection of  the gull. The gull didn’t move. It just stood there, enjoying its solitude. 

This is a beautiful day.

Like many other capitals in the world, Dhaka is a very busy city. You can tell that by its traffic. There’s traffic jam all the time on the main road and there seems to be just one main road there. So, no matter where you’re heading to, you’re heading into a traffic jam in the beginning/end.

The main means of public transportation there are: rishaw, baby taxi, taxi, local bus and formal bus. Rishaw is a tricycle with passenger seats. If the passengers are skilful, it may take 3 passengers at a time – depends on whether the passengers know how to arrange their seats. I tried to drive a rishaw and my Bangladeshi friends said that I have a great future as a rishaw driver. You must believe him coz he’s my passenger and I got paid for driving him – got 12 taka altogether, which is a lot for a rishaw ride. Another unforgettable experience on the rishaw was that I fell from the rishaw when the driver took a hard break. Luckily, my legs are long enough to enable me to stand on one leg while the other leg was still on the footstep. My friend’s host sister was not as lucky. She fell from a rishaw on her knees and the rishaw from behind rolled on the back of her knees. Her knees were swollen for days.

Baby taxi is something like a tuk-tuk in Thailand – a motor-tricycle with a compartment. I myself tried it with my host father and my friend so it can take at least 3. I’ve also seen it taking no passenger but a full car of vegetable – the back seat is stuffed with vegetable.

Taxi…As far as I understand, there’re two kinds of taxi – one that goes with the meter and the other that goes with bargain. I’ve tried both and from my experience, the kind that goes with the meter is more comfortable but I’m not sure if that’s how they’re distinguished.

Local bus is something I didn’t try. I’ve seen many of them on the road. They’re usually single deckers but occasionally you may find a red double-decker among the cramped cars. There are two adjectives that I find best describe this kind of bus: crumpled and cracked. Obviously, there’s no a/c  in these bus and they have no stop. People just hop on and hop off. The formal bus are much more decent with a/c and from the prints on the bus and the stickers inside the bus compartment, it’s easy to tell that they’re imported from Japan. So, Bangladesh is the where these bus live their retired life.

But most of the time I take my host family’s private car. It’s an old Toyota but perfect for Dhaka’s traffic. The main roads there are so busy and crowded. I thought there’s no lane on the road but later found out that there actually are. I remember once we got caught in a jam and I saw the lane line. There should be 4 lanes in that section but I saw rishaws, baby taxis, bus, cars…altogether 7 vehicles jammed together across the 4 lanes. The vehicles are so close that my friend took a picture of a rishaw’s front wheel being underneath the back of the car right in front of it. Who dares to drive a  nice car? And there’s obviously no rule for load. As long as you can get into a car, it’s fine. People on bus are packed like sardines and not just inside the bus but also on the top of the bus and on the ladder at the back outside the bus. As for our car, we’ve tried stuffing seven people in – four in the back seats and three in the front seats. But still, it’s better than taking the rishaw all the time. Taking a ride on the rishaw is, in fact, quite tiring, as you have to keep a good balance on that narrow seat and to do that, lower back muscles are strained all the time. In a private car, though it’s very crowded and sometimes I could feel that my leg went numb but at least it’s a bit safer.

One last thing about the different vehicles there is: when two vehicles meet head to head, rishaw always back off when ‘challenged’ by a baby taxi, and baby taxi always back off when ‘challenged’ by a car. They wouldn’t even argue. Everyone knows the rule.

Dhaka – transport

Arrived at HK Airport yesterday morning at around 7:30. Had breakfast with some tripmates at 恆香棧 then took A41 back home…arrived at home at around 10:15. 

Went to church, then had lunch with a friend and went shopping for the things I really needed urgently and back home at around 6pm. Had dinner, went online, loaded pictures from camera to computer (but no time for uploading yet)…so on and on… 

By the time I finally went to bed, it’s around 2am – that’s around 40 hours since I got up on Dec 30 in Bangladesh. 

Now, after sleeping for 18 hours, I’m still very sleepy. I think I needa sleep for another 18 hours before I can really write something here. 

Anyways, Dhaka is an extremely dusty city. Bangladeshi are friendly and nice. Traffic in/around Dhaka is extremely busy – traffic jammed all the time. Food is good – only in my host family’s house, not in restaurant. KFC there is for the rich – though it’s still around HKD 20 for a set meal… 

Many more to write but I really need some sleep. 

Abba dekka hobe – see you again

一月 2007