Showing posts from 2015

Rare and Resilient Rwanda

I was only in Rwanda a few days, and went just to see the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat, but the country has given me many memories and things to ponder.  
First - the Memorial Museum in Kigali.  After the slaughter of close to a million Tutsi in 100 days in 1994, the country has managed to move on through forgiveness.  Imagine all of a sudden hating your neighbor, your best friend, even a family member because they were a Tutsi, something quite randomly determined in 1932 by the number of cows one owned!  Today, there are only "Rwandans" living here and the country has moved forward in more ways than tribal.  Roads are excellent, land is fertile, moisture is abundant and there is little garbage lying around - plastic bags are prohibited.  
Trekking into Parc National des Volcans to see the gorillas is what you come for.  Even though it costs a lot - $1000 Canadian during high season, seeing part of Diane Fossey's 'Susa family' - the silverback (alpha …

Musanze, Rwanda, December 25, 2015

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!!!  I hope you're enjoying good food and company, and maybe decent weather too!
My Christmas has been wonderful.  First, we decorated the truck-

Poppy, who we discovered was conceived in Africa and named after a mountain gorilla we should have seen yesterday but who had just left the family with a young silverback to find happiness elsewhere, stands around the door decorations-

We put our name on our sock so Santa could find us-

We drew names a few weeks ago for "Secret Santa" and I got a variety of things: a Christmas decoration in the shape of a heart from Kazuri in Nairobi, a bag of candy and my favorite-

Giraffe salad spoons!  Rhod also made me this great card-

Too funny.  (Rhod is 25 and Welsh)  Jess and Poppy made everyone personalized cards-

Yes I drink coffee everyday, speak French, come from a cold country and correct spelling mistakes.  What can I say?
I was Mick, our driver's, Santa.  Someone else gave him green hair that just happened to …

Muzanze, Rwanda, December 24, 2015

Today was one of my best days ever.   I  went trekking in Volcanoes National Park, close to the town of Musanze, Rwanda to see the mountain gorillas.
The Sacola cultural dancers greeted us at the departure point-

They beat their drums and danced around, hooting and hollering for about half an hour.  It was a cultural experience that I didn't really appreciate.
On the way to the gorillas, there were many people carrying huge loads to market- cassava leaves and 100 pound sacks of potatoes or charcoal.  They walk for miles-

Unless they are lucky like this fellow and 'catch a ride'-

We towed him uphill for miles.  He even used his cell phone while hanging on to the back of our truck!
Once  it was determined which of the 10 gorilla families we would get to visit, Adam, Brad and I hopped in a van and we were off.  Lucky for us, we were the only 3 in our group.  Most have 8.  We had to hike about 1.5 hours, uphill, through bamboo-

And mud, and later, through stinging nettles and other v…

Kigali, Rwanda, December 23, 2015

We had a 5 am start which means breakfast at 4:15-4:45 and I was cook group!  We made it to the Uganda/Rwanda border before all the tour buses and were through both sides, with money changed, in an hour.  That's a record so far.
Rwanda is beautiful with valleys and terraced farming-

where all work, repeat ALL work is done manually, and by that I mean - no animals.  There were quite a few workers hoeing and planting-

Rwanda is very clean - no garbage, a plastic grocery bag ban, perfectly smooth highways (no speed bumps or rumble strips every 500 meters or less) and friendly people.  
We stopped in Kigali to visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial.  What a professional, non judgemental, forgiving, modern and informative place!  I learned so much about recent Rwandan history which has been tumultuous, to say the least.  
In 1932, the government determined that if a person had 10 or more cows, they were a Tutsi and if they had fewer than 10 cows, they were a Hutu.  What a crazy way to determine…

Kampala to Kabale, Uganda, December 22, 2015

We were off at 5 am this morning.  Breakfast was at the equator-

Where they do an interesting 'trick'.  Water is poured into the disc and depending which side of the equator you're on, determines the spin-

We tried pouring water in but didn't notice much.  A man came along and told us we had to pay so we lefl.  I'll check out the toilets and sinks and see if it's true!
The drive was nice - lush, hilly and tropical-

It's onion harvest time, at least in one village.  There had to be a million red onions.  We could smell them driving past!

Bagged charcoal for sale-

A golf course - no flags out on the 'greens' and no players.  Not sure I'd want to pay to play it!

Supper was homemade Rolex and as one of the chefs, I have to say they were pretty good!  We're off at 6 tomorrow morning, heading to Rwanda!

Kampala, Uganda, December 21, 2015

I awoke to pouring rain at 4 this morning and was sooooo happy to be sleeping in a dorm!
Once the rain stopped, I went on a Bwaise slum tour.  50,000 people - 60% women and children, live in this particular area.  30% of the women are sex workers and HIV and AIDS is rampant.
Our guide, Salim, grew up  in the slum and wants to make changes.  He runs a not for profit organization providing an orphanage, schooling and food for the hundreds of kids.  He is also running for local government-

The slum-

Coca Cola has put in a clean water well that takes tokens. It costs about $1.67 for 50, 20 litre jerry cans.  There is also a not treated spring where jugs can be filled.  When it rains, the spring is filled with garbage and must be cleared out before it can be used-

60 students cram into this classroom-

English is the official language but if people don't attend school, they can't learn English, therefore they are not employable.  The cycle continues.
Typical homes-

Children at Salim's o…