Tuesday, December 29, 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 male) and his 6 females with their numerous babies brought me to tears - 3 times during our designated hour visit.  Poaching almost wiped them out but now park rangers track the groups every day and report their position to the guides who chop bamboo, stinging nettle and other plants out of the way along the uphill, muddy, mountain track.  There are 10 gorilla families and 8 people may visit a family for one hour/day so that's $80,000/day.  Thanks to their cut, the poachers realize the gorillas are worth more alive than dead!

Mzungo, Mzungo, Mzungo - if I heard it once, I heard it a million times.  We are still a novelty which adds to the overall experience.  Kids wave, holler, giggle and run beside the vehicle as we pass by.  Adults glance our way but seem indifferent.

Farming is ALL manual from hoeing, to planting, to cutting and gathering, to threshing.  Crops are wheat, corn, bananas, plantains, sweet potatoes, huge pineapple, paw paw, passion fruit and goat.  We didn't see a lot of work happening in the fields - not ready I guess.  It is a very laid back culture-lots of sitting around and visiting.

Rwanda is a special place, teaching the world about forgiveness and thanks to their wildlife, providing outsiders with an unforgettable experience.

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