She is the all in one caretaker-guide-ticket booth operator of the Nyamata Catholic Church, now a genocide memorial. She collected my fee and showed me the way in.
That morning, I was the only visitor. Gingerly I went into the dimly lit church, so careful with my step that as if I would shatter the haunting silence. The sight of the piles of blood stained clothes on the pews, rows after rows, was blindingly glaring. The air was stale and heavy, suffocating almost. I forced myself to take it in but it was too much to bear. I walked out.
I sat with her. I asked her about the memorial, about the people around and the horrific bloody killings in the church back then. She told me stories about that dark period of Rwanda, slowly and matter-of-factly. It was believed that about 10000 people, mostly ethic Tutsi were massacred in the church by the merciless and senseless swings of machetes. I froze for a moment, for such unimaginably hideous acts just happened 17 years ago. I asked her how the people in the area moving on. She smiled, then she looked away.
She later told me that she used to be a teacher. Now she's working at the memorial full time as the guide, talking to visitors, the few backpackers or group of local school kids. The money is not as good but she likes it a lot. She's happier here. "Well, it's another form of teaching." She said, beaming with pride.
It sun was up high. But it was breezy. I lingered around the shady church yard listening to the leaves chiming in in the wind.