This has been the question I have been asked the most, especially after I have listed my destinations. Yes, there is a big jump from Southeast Asia to Central Africa. I have tended to rely on Travel Motto #3 for this one (why not) with a bit of #1 (I don't know) and the occasional healthy does of the mountain climber's because it is there and I can (which is somewhat implied in “why not” but this a bit of a different twist.)
But I will try to give a more complete answer than: “I don't know… Why not? It is there and I can.”
As I write I can think of two “motivating” factors. One is because I have never been to Africa. The other is a more academic interest. I have taught about the Rwandan genocide for the past five years. While this is not a true research trip, it has helped me with context.
Africa- the dark continent. Land of mystery for Conrad and Livingston. Cradle of Humanity. A continent destroyed by Europe's greed and self-centered desire to “help.” The white man's burden and all. And somewhere I have never been. I have been to Europe and to Asia. But never to Africa. It is a diverse and storied place. A place of legends and myths. How many different Africas could I travel to? Well… on this trip only one. (And it took me south of the equator for the first time.)
So with Africa on the itinerary, why Rwanda? A few reasons. At a basic level, it is fairly safe. Paul Kagame has been a fairly benevolent dictator (as long as you vote for him in the elections and don't disagree with him) and has used foreign interest (guilt?) to help to stabilize his nation. (Although at the cost of stability of some of the neighboring countries where many Rwandans have fled.) Nothing is simple, and now, as I finish this I late December, Rwanda seems to be sponsoring the M23 rebel groups which is currently waging a rebellion/ civil war in the western areas of The Democratic Republic of the Congo. Kagame is a major player in the region and one who could potential bring stability to an economically vital area of the world, but one who also is not afraid to use many different tactics needed to further his own goals.
But again… Why Rwanda? I think genocide is fascinating. How can ordinary people be turned into killers, neighbors killing neighbors, friends killing friends? Why to some people chose to rescue victims when others turn a blind eye to what is happening in front of their faces? How can someone who survives and loses everything survive? A place that has worked hard to move on from the worst genocide since the Holocaust seems to be a good place to try to begin to seem answers to these questions…
A bit disjointed but more than “why not…”