Editor’s note: This article was published before the coronavirus pandemic, and may not reflect the current situation on the ground.

On a trip to Volcanoes National Park on the Rwanda and DRC border, travel writer Jon Holmes was expecting to see mountain gorillas—but he didn’t think he’d be learning how to speak to them.

It’s safe to say that, for a long time, tourism wasn’t exactly on Rwanda’s mind. The 1994 genocide, easily within living memory, means that everyone I meet in this beautiful land is touched by violence; a waiter in his 20s who, as a toddler, saw his family get hacked to pieces; a young woman who watched her sister die; and a driver whose neighbors turned on his parents and killed them. Years later, they remain united by two things: Their experiences and, remarkably, their forgiveness.

Rwanda has lived through a massacre and started to move on,  not without issues, of course. But as part of the healing process, they tore down tribal barriers, built memorials to the dead, and began to encourage travelers to visit again.