12. MEETING MUSEUM MENTOR
After breakfast (including homegrown Rwandan coffee) on the sunny rooftop dining room of our Butare hotel, our driver picked us up for day two of the road trip.
Our first destination was a visit to the National Museum of Rwanda which is located off the main highway just a few miles out of town.
It's a very impressive building, spread low to the ground and wide, situated on beautiful parklike grounds.
Inside there are many rooms with wall-to-wall glass display cases full of fascinating artifacts chronicling the story of Rwanda - from past to present day. However, the story boards beside each item were in two languages only - Kinyarwanda and French. I commented that I wished they were also in English (even though Oliver was doing an excellent job translating) when two men entered the room.
They turned out to be the curator and a man he introduced as "Rick, the best friend the Museum could ever have". In the conversation that ensued (after the curator left to attend to other concerns) we learned that Rick was an American (from Pennsylvania) who had come to Rwanda in 1995 (with a Non Governmental Organization) and had never left. He was no longer with a NGO but was here in the capacity of teacher in anthropology related studies (or was it archeology?) at the University of Butare.
As a side-line - and with help from his wife who is an English teacher - he was translating the Museum story boards into English, and was even carrying one under his arm, which he offered us to read. That's a photo of Rick and the story board above, in front of the Museum.
No sooner would Rick obligingly answer one of our questions about a particular display then we'd ask another one and before we realized it he had become our own personal Museum guide. He was literally a walking-book of knowledge and in his mid-west/southern twang (his wife's from down south Georgia) he talked us through the history of Rwanda.
He said the Rwanda Museum is one of the best in Africa and that there is still much to be added from the archives. He also said that virtual tours are possible by visiting the official Museum website.
After our REAL (not virtual) tour was over - having viewed every display - Rick escorted us outside to point the way to more recent additions to the Museum - the replicas of traditional huts and re-enactments of craft making. We shook hands and said goodbye after thanking him wholeheartedly for his great American/Rwandan hospitality.
Below are replicas of traditional huts protected behind their shared wall. Rick had explained to us that the amount of elephant-grass required to build such houses would be impossible with present day populations.
In the huts behind the main one at the front, women were weaving traditional baskets, and in a workshop further along the trail, there were young potters creating with clay.
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