Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Thousand Hills, A Thousand Smiles, and A Thousand Pictures

Ok... so maybe I didn't take a million pictures, 4,690 to be exact, but it sure feels like a million. So I've uploaded them into a flickr account so everyone can see all of my pictures. If you're on my facebook I'll also be uploading them there, but this was an easy way to upload them so everyone can see them. If there is one that you're wondering what it is, feel free to comment on it and I'll reply ASAP. Please know that if you want to use any of my pictures you need to contact me for permission, and you will need to give credit to me as the photographer. Enjoy!

Day 1: Kigali

Day 2: Kigali

Day 3: Kigali

Day 4: Kigali

Day 5: Travel & Butare

Day 6: Butare

Day 7: Butare

Day 8: Butare

Day 9: Butare

Day 10: Nyungwe

Day 11: Nyungwe

Day 12: Nyungwe

Day 13: Travel & Bisesero Memorial

Day 14: Boat Ride & Gisenyi

Day 15: Travel & Ruhengeri

Day 16: Ruhengeri

Day 17: Today I was sick and missed out on the activities

Day 18: Kigali

Day 19: Returned Home, no pictures during 20 hour flight.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Day 18 & 19: Coming Full Circle and the Long Road Home

Hey all! Sorry for the delay in my final 2 days of postings. Between running around and seeing the sites we missed our first time in Kigali, shopping for more stuff to bring home, and trying to pack all that stuff, it just wasn't possible to blog. Now I'm well rested and have fast internet, so I can post about my last day and a half in Rwanda.

So we all got up and had some breakfast at the guest house in Musanze and left the guest house by 10am. From there it was a short, paved, 2 hour drive down to Kigali. Once we were there we went to the hotel, grabbed some lunch and then split up. Previously we had missed a planned memorial visit so Dr. Gaydosh and I took one driver to that memorial while everyone else went shopping. Unfortunately it was a Sunday, so most stuff was closed. They couldn't get us into the main building, but after some "persuasion" the well armed police officer took us for a walk through the outside part of the memorial. There are some pictures below to give you an idea of the memorial. On the way back into town we stopped the an infamous ETO school, which is still used as a school today, but was the site of a UN base that house refugees, until the UN pulled out, leaving the refugees to be massacred. Below there is a picture that has the signage, which should provide a good idea of what happened. It was a little weird taking pictures there because it is an active university. Students came up and translated to the guard what I wanted to do, and they guard let me in, but the students looked unhappy that I wanted to take pictures, which is the first time during the whole trip that I felt unwelcome at a genocide site. 

From there we went back to the Kigali Memorial Museum to find out if we could buy 20 year anniversary banners from anyone. The guy there put us in contact with a man who said he could make them. I wanted one for myself and to use when I go and lecture, and Dr. Gaydosh wanted one for the HGS room. It will be interesting to see if in 20 years where the country is, and if the banner still resides in that room. 

The following day we went ran around and packed and then waited at the airport for the banner guy to come drop them off. Luckily he showed up in the middle of a rain storm and gave us the banners minutes before we needed to board our flight. From there it was over 20 hours of travel to get back to the U.S. Coach wasn't bad, and Bethany and I kept each other entertained on the trip, laughing many times at things that were probably only funny to us. Once we got back I forced myself to stay awake and then finally passed out around 10. I plan in a few days to write a reflective post on my impressions, etc. now that I'm back in the states, but wanted to finish off the actual day to day part of the blog first. Below are pictures of the memorial and the school.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Day 17: Sickness in Musanze

Today was a super light day for me. I stayed at the guest house because I was still quite ill this morning. I decided to take my cipro and that seems to be working. Must have been a bacterial infection. So I rested, watched movies, and napped. I'm finally feeling mostly better. We leave for the US soon, I'm sure I'll post again before I leave and plan on writing a reflective post when I return. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Day 16: Hiking Volcanoes to See the Monkeys

Today has been a lighter day for me. I ate something that didn’t agree with me, so I only got to participate in the first event of the day, which was tracking the Golden Monkeys at Volcanoes national park. I’ve spent the rest of the day napping and hoping to feel better soon. So we got up this morning pretty early and had some breakfast made by the cook at our guest house. It was good and there was imitation nutella, which made us all happy. Then we drove out, picked up our guide, and drove to the trail head. We walked quite a ways just to get through fields that were filled with dark mud, until finally we were at the entrance to the bamboo forest zone. From there it was about another 20 minutes of hiking mainly uphill in thick, dark mud until we reached the spot where we left our bags to then walk about 10 meters to where the monkeys were. The monkeys are completely habituated, and we were able to stand as little as 1-5 feet from the little guys while they ate, played, and bickered. We got to spend about an hour with the little guys as they bounced from one chunk of bamboo to the next, stopping to eat the freshly grown chutes. It was really cool to be so close to them, and to see them interacting with each other. After an hour we made our way back to the cars, which was much easier as it was all down hill. On our way back to the hotel we stopped along the side of the road because the local people were participating in their day of remembrance for the genocide. Every year each area has a specific day where they walk to their local memorial and spend about 2 hours remembering those that were lost. We witnessed hundreds of children walking by to pay their respects. It was an incredibly somber moment, where I noticed the oddness of being a tourist and a the same time the local people are attempting to remember the atrocities of the past. These polar opposites of the spectrum can be a bit intense sometimes, but I’m glad I got to witness it. The rest of the group went on to see some more basket weaving, banana beer making, and for another boat ride, but I stayed back hoping I’ll feel better for tomorrow’s activities. Here is hoping! I only put 3 pictures up here because I’m using my cellphone for internet and it can get a bit expensive to upload a bunch of pictures.

One of the volcanoes looming in the distance, shrouded in fog and clouds

Bee keeper's nests. Made from wood there were tons of them during our walk.

A curious monkey tips his head out to see what we are up to

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Day 15: Boats, Cars, and Volcanoes

Today we got up early and had the most amazing breakfast. Sitting on the lake shore the workers brought out our food by the truckload. We ate it fast because we had another boat ride to catch. We rode out onto lake Kivu and stopped on a micro island for a group picture. From there we went to a natural hot spring where we were greeted by children that folks is by the hand to the spring. Once we got there the children each took a hand, rinsed it. Following the rinse they took leaves from nearby plants and used them to scrub our hands and then rinsed them again. After that we got back on the boat and went back to the hotel. We loaded up and hit the road. The workers at the hotel were awesome and sent us on our way with a surprise doughnut wrapped in a banana leaf. 

Along our way to our next town we stopped at a former orphanage, made famous from Gorillas In the Mist (where Sigourney Weaver goes to write her letter of resignation) and we got a tour. We also got to see more dancing, something the original owner enjoyed every Sunday. I got to go up and join the drummers, which as a former drum line member was awesome. From there we heard out to the next town near volcanoes national park. We stopped at a twa village after lunch and they sang and danced. We got to meet these people and have discussions with them about their life and culture. From there we did some more shopping and then dinner. Soon we will go back to our rustic hotel and hopefully get a good night of sleep. I'll add a couple pictures now, using my phone app, and I'll try to add more later. There isn't wifi at the hotel, so I'm probably going to use my phone for the last days here. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Day 14: A boat ride, Travel, and Gisenyi

Today we got up early and took a boat ride on Lake Kivu. We went out to an island where we went for a brief hike and saw a bunch of fruit bats. They guide hit the trees and the bats went flying everywhere. Sadly poor Bethany got pooped on, which I’m sure was disgusting. Luckily we had plenty of wet wipes and hand sanitizer. We boated back to the shore and loaded up the cars. We then headed out for another 4-ish our car ride where we rocked around for a long time. We stopped at Gishwati, the field station started by Dr. Chancellor a few years ago. We stopped and met everyone, and got back on the road to get to Gisenyi. We checked into our hotel and then went right out to get food since we hadn’t eaten since breakfast. Then we went shopping and experienced the town. The local market where everyone from the town buys everyday items was a unique experience and many of us were shocked. It was a good experience, but it was a different one for sure. We bought a few things, and then returned to the hotel where some of us bought more stuff at a local shop outside the hotel. I’m glad I brought an extra bag just for the stuff I’m buying! Off to bed now, tomorrow is another early boat ride and then back in the car!

View from my hotel room this morning. You can see the sun rise and the fishermen sing as they come to shore from a night of fishing in lake Kivu.

View from the boat

The bats take to the skies!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Day 13: Travel and the Bisesero Genocide Memorial

Today was a long day. We got up early and left the hotel by 8am. After about an hour of driving on the highway the paved road ended and we spend several hours bouncing around the car on some wicked dirt roads. The views were amazing though. About 3.5 hours into the drive we stopped at the Bisesero Genocide Memorial which is currently under construction to see what was there. We were able to see the areas they had built, but not filled with anything, along with a  memorial to those that fought back against their murderers. The people, about 50,000 of them all hid there where men with spears stood guard to help protect. However, they were not able to hold off all of the murderers that had guns, grenades, and many hand weapons. Some survived the first wave of attacks, but the French arrived, and told them that they would arrange transport into a safe zone for them. The French then left to arrange transport, and when they left, the murderers returned and killed all of the remaining people, who thought they were under French protection. We were taken down to tin shed and inside was the skulls and bones of 1,040 victims. Below were coffins filled with as many as 50 people’s skeletons each. The plan is to move all of the remains into a permanent location where visitors can see the remains of all 50,000 victims. From there we drove a few more hours, getting lost part way, to our hotel which is right on lake Kivu. It is beautiful, and I’m sad that we are only here tonight, and leave in the morning. Below are pictures from the memorial.  I look forward to posting tomorrow!

The pictures of the bones in the genocide are not mine, but ones I found online. When we got there they said the government has to give permission for us to take pictures, and we didn’t know this in advance. But I wanted everyone to see what we saw today.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Day 12: Monkeys, Hiking, and Defying Gravity

Today we got up, pretty sore, and hobbled our way to breakfast. We left from there and drove about 1.5 hours to the site where we would track the Colobus monkeys. The group we were looking for is thought to be the largest remaining group in the world with a total number of 400-500. We got to where the trackers said they saw them and made our way down off the trail through thick ferns and other small plants down and down we went. Finally, we got down to a spot where we could see tons of them running around, eating, staring at us, and grooming. It was really cool to spend a good chunk of the morning watching them interact and live. After that trek we had to climb back up the hill which was very steep. We finally made it to the top and we had some lunch. Following some lunch we hiked about 30 minutes down a path to the canopy walk. The canopy walk is a large suspension bridge that is up at the tops of the trees of the rainforest. Not being a fan of heights I was a little nervous. It was a little nerve wracking to go across the largest part, but the views were great and I’m glad I got to experience it. Then we hiked back out 30 more minutes and we were done for the day. While hanging out at the visitor’s center we saw a large group of mountain monkeys running around and we were able to snap some pictures of them as they passed through. It was really cool to get to see another type of monkey that we hadn’t gotten to see before and that we hadn’t planned on seeing. Some people have cats running through their yards, in Rwanda they have monkeys. Crazy! 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Day 11: Hiking to the waterfall

Today we got up and grabbed some late breakfast, luckily our generous guides were willing to stretch the departure time to allow use to order some eggs, and they were delicious. We were all slow today after all of the hiking yesterday. We were a little sore, and a little tired, but we got around and hit the road by 8:20am. We met up with our guide and drove to the trail head. It was a long walk, but it was well worth the steep trails and me falling on my butt. The waterfall was amazing, and we got to hang out there for about 30 minutes taking pictures. Then we had to hike back up through the switchbacks from hell, but it seemed not as bad as yesterday in terms of intensity and heat. We were able to stop on the way up to see some mangabeys. It was awesome getting to see some monkeys that we had never planned on seeing. They were not habituated, and were completely wild. They were pretty interested in us. We made our way up and out and went for some lunch and back to the guest house. All in all it was good to do, but most of us are pretty sore and glad that tomorrow shouldn’t be too much hiking. I’m sorry these posts are shorter, but I’m tired from the hiking and there is not as much to write about when you hike for 6 hours and see a lot of the same stuff. I’ll try to flesh this out a bit more when I get some more sleep.
Enjoy some pictures of the monkeys we saw!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Day 10: Chimpanzee Tracking

Today we got up early and had to leave the guest house no later than 5am. We met our guide and rode into the forest. Once we were at the start of the trail a series of guides and trackers guided us in two groups to where the chimps were. Myself and Dr. Gaydosh were in the slower group and we were able to take our time a bit more than the others that had to move very fast. I was not willing to re-injure my knee, but wanted to participate either way. We descended into the forest and came to a split. My guide told me that a chimp was 20 minutes to the left. So we went 30 minutes to the left, slipping and sliding down the muddy and rocky path, only to find out that my guide was wrong and had misheard. We had to walk uphill the entire way we had just come. So a total of an hour later I reached the split and reunited with Dr. Gaydosh. We then decided to take the path to the right, and climb about 20 minutes to where a singular male chimp was hanging out in a tree. We were lucky and he didn’t feel like moving too much. We only had to move a little, and got to see him for about 20-30 minutes total. I’d have more to write about this amazing experience, but I’m still so worn out I’ll have to wait until I’m rested again to see if I have more to add to it. Below are a couple of pictures of the chimp we got to see.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Day 9: Butare, Lessons in the Ethnogram

Today was a very short day in terms of things we saw. I also have to be very brief because I need to go to bed very soon. We have to leave the hotel at 5am sharp so we can get to the forest and start tracking the Chimpanzees. So we got up in the morning and ate breakfast. Then we loaded up the car so we were ready to leave as soon as we were done with our activity for the day. We went back to the campus and practiced our observation skills with the vervet monkeys. It was really cool. I have never had a chance to do something like this, and it was great to learn how it is done. I wasn’t sure what would happen, or what to expect, but everyone was really nice and took the time to explain to me how it worked and what to look for. So we followed the vervets around and noted their behaviors, social interactions, etc. We did that for about 30-45 minutes after a brief explanation and Q&A with Dr. Rundus. On our way out we stopped on campus at their genocide memorial for the students and faculty of the university that were killed in the 1994 genocide. They have what appears to be a grave as well as large boards with pictures of the students and faculty they lost in the genocide. Following that brief visit, we stopped at a co-op for some more shopping. Lots of fun things to take home were purchased. Then on to one more amazing lunch in Butare before we hit the road. It was a 3 hour ride through the country and one of the national forests. The roads were very curvy and many were one lane and many times we all made noises of surprise when we would come around a corner and a mac truck would be barreling down the middle of the road towards us. We made it safe and sound to possibly the largest, and nicest hotel ever. Compared it America it could use some upgrades, but it is massive! It has a livingroom and there are two twin bedrooms that each have their own bathroom. We were told our suite is where the president stays when he is in the area. Ok, well I have to head off to bed, I’m sure I’ll get a chance tomorrow after the chimps to blog some more. Goodnight!

P.S. I got an email from the student I met yesterday and he informed me that his final project for his undergraduate degree has been approved, and that he dedicated it to me, including pictures of me and him at the very end of it. It was very nice to hear that he was successful, and I was touched that he felt compelled to dedicate his undergraduate “memoir” or thesis, to me. So many amazing people here!

Mother with baby walking about 5-10 feet from me.

A pull off in the national forest. Words cannot describe how amazing it was.