Friday, June 6, 2014

Day 8: University of Rwanda: Cultural Exchange, Monkeys, and Trees

Last night I got 8.5 hours of sleep for the first time since arriving in Rwanda and it felt AMAZING! I can enjoy my time here even more now that I’m going to be able to sleep better. So I got up and grabbed some breakfast including some local coffee that was delicious as always. We left at 9:30-ish and drove down the road to the University of Rwanda. Here we got a brief tour and then went into a zoology lab where we were joined by many biology students. We each introduced ourselves and what we were studying in school, and why we came on the trip. Then we opened the floor for questions from the students. We received many interesting questions about animals, culture, and education in America. It was great to be able to talk about America and inform others about our lives, like they have been able to do for us.  After answering questions back and forth we exchanged contact information with several of the students and some of them joined us for a long walk to where we ate lunch. It was great getting to share a table with fellow students and we had a good time talking to each other. They taught me some more Kinyarwanda and I was able to say “Enjoy it” when everyone sat down at the table to eat. The other Rwandans really seemed to like it when we would speak to them in Kinyarwanda. I haven’t learned a lot, but hello, thank you, etc. can go a long way. The student I made friends with came to me after our introductions and questions and told me that he wanted to talk to me about my degree. He told me that he survived the genocide when he was only 6 years old. He briefly mentioned that he lost 10 immediate family members, and that only him and one other family member survived. We spent the rest of the day together, and we exchanged emails. He wants to email me his story, and said he would like to talk to other survivors and translate / email me their stories as well. This was very shocking, and I am very humbled that he felt comfortable with me to share such private and important information.

Following lunch, we walked back to campus where we were fortunate that the Vervet Monkeys had come out of the forest and onto the university campus. We spent a good amount of time watching them and taking a million pictures. I was surprised there were so many babies and at how amazingly cute the babies were. They were spunky little guys and girls though, as they would, at a very young age, bob up and down and try to act like they were going to scare us away, while their mothers sat behind them, scooping them up when they were ready to leave. It was an amazing experience. Even though studying primates is not my field of study, the chance to see monkeys in their natural habitat, just a few feet away, is something I will never forget.

Following looking at the monkeys we took a walk through the arboretum next to the university. It contains over 400 different plant species, and we got to see a few of them. One of them drops these large pods filled with odd triangular seeds. Our guide, a student, found us some pods and broke them open. We were then able to pull out the fist sized seeds and clean them off. They are really cool, and a lot of people use them as decorations. The student told us that some people open those pods up and find the two tiny seeds in them, and the rumor is that eating those two tiny seeds is like a natural Viagra. He also said that if you eat the insides of the pod they are antibacterial and they help with bad breath. We walked back, said goodbye, and then went to get some dinner. Now to the hotel to pack up so when we go to the university tomorrow we can go from there and then on the 3 hour drive to our next location.

Original university building built by the Belgians
Ildephonse and I after lunch
A curious monkey that comes out of the tree to see what we are

Family time. Mother with baby and another female grooming her
Strike a pose!

The little baby monkey wandering away from mom. He then acted tough and tried to do the motions that are supposed to intimidate. He was then quickly scooped up by his mother and carried away. 

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