Children of Muhanga celebrating at a YWCA function

Friday, July 20, 2012


This past week has been so busy and full of work, I have not even thought about blogging. This past week has been the first "long" week of our time here. Maybe that shows us we are getting ready to head home to our families. I have to say, even thinking about leaving makes me want to cry.

So other than detailing our work, I will start where I left off. If you are reading Caroline's blog, there will be some repeat. The last weekend my mom was here we visited Gyseni, which is a tourist area on the border of the Congo and absolutely beautiful. We stayed at a great hotel, Musanto House Lodge, and had a spectacular view. The first night, we walked to a restaurant on the pier of Lake Kivu. The food was great and I had tilapia, a special of that area. Some of the best fish I have ever had. That night, we decided to walk home. Now, for those of you who know anything about African politics, you may know that Congo is the most dangerous and corrupt country on the continent. Every part of me said that 3 white women walking home alone at like 10 at night along the Congolese border was a bad, if not absolutely terribly, idea. Thankfully, we got back without issue. Little did we know how bad of an idea that actually was. The Monday we returned, we found out that about 10 Km from Gyseni on Thursday (the evening we walked back) there was rebel fighting, complete with rockets and the killing of UN soldiers. So that makes me feel really pretty cool and really pretty lucky. As Archimede said the next morning, we weren't alone, we just couldn't see people in the bushes. It was beautiful though- this picture does not capture it.

Anyways, on Friday we went to visit several OVC who are yet to be apart of the program. This was completely heartbreaking and lifechanging. We had seen some pretty remarkable stuff up to this point, but on Friday we saw some of the most desperate situations. That night, we went down to the hotel restaurant to have some dinner and guess who we found? Notre Dame Students! So crazy!! 2 girls, with whom we had mutual friends, were on a summer study abroad program studying peace and conflict. As Pudentienne said, "the world is truly a village". I mean, imagine the chances. We also got to see the hot springs of Lake Kivu, where people come and bathe and even cook things too!

On Saturday, we headed back to Kigali and had dinner with Pudentienne. Afterwards, we headed to Ernestine's for our overnight and got ready to wake up at 4 am for our SAFARI! Yes, they are as cool as you imagine. Caroline, my mom, Steve, Bruce, and one of Ernestine's nieces piled into a car and drove to Akagera park, where we picked up our guide and started our 6 hour journey through the African wilderness. We were told that we would see hippos, zebras, giraffes, baboons, antelope, wild hogs, but probably not an elephant or a lion. Our first siting was a family of about 50 baboons.

After that, we had a lag in animal sitings. As we were just beginning to get bored, we turned a corner and literally almost ran into this beaut.

After quickly reversing, we tried to approach it the right way, it started walking towards us and our car stalls. Talk about an adrenaline rush. We got to spend about 3 minutes with our friend, until he went off running. As we continued our path, we saw the destruction left in the elephant's wake. It literally looked like a tornado- trees were down, brush was separated like the Red Sea. After that, we headed to Hippo Beach, full of hippos, birds, monkeys, and crocodiles. I wanted to see a croc, but I didn't. It was very much like an oasis in the middle of the desert brush.

Then we headed to a valley, where we saw zebras, antelope, and giraffes all grazing together. I actually felt like I was in the opening scenes of Lion King. The giraffes were stunning and adorable. They look so majestic, and you can see them from almost a mile away. I think they were my favorite.

Anyways, my mom left the next day. We were almost alone in the office from Tuesday to Thursday, and we got a lot done. Especially because we were blasting NSYNC. Last Friday, we had a lazy evening and I made this cream of mushroom hotdish thing that I have been dying to make. I highly recommend it. Take white onions and sauté large diced pieces in butter. Add fresh mushrooms sliced, but still chunky. The mushrooms here are SOO good! Then, add cream- we used milk cause it was more trusty and healthy. Let it simmer for awhile so it thickens a bit. Then I put italian bread in olive oil and garlic to toast it and poached an egg. Assemble: Bread, mushroom sauce, egg. Honestly I thought it was so good. I got the mushroom sauce recipe from Ernestine who puts it over sticky rice- which is also awesome. Glass of red wine. Perfect!

Saturday was equally relaxing. It was beautiful our so we went on our rooftop and laid out and read for hours with coffee. Then I went on a run. I haven't really talked about exercising here. First of all, people don't run outside, except in Kigali. Most people do something physical for their jobs anyways. Apparently there are gyms around but I haven't seen any. Secondly, it can get really hot. It is Africa, and you can't wear shorts and a tanktop. Add the altitude and the staring and laughing, its a struggle. Anyways, I still like running here, clears my head, regardless of people running along side me making fun of me. You should have seen the looks I got when I decided to run hills. Sprint up, walk down, repeat. People actually thought I was crazy. We headed into Kigali later in the afternoon. We met up with Ernestine's nephews, who go to school in the US and are our age. Steve, Blaize, and Davy took us out, which was a blast. We stayed out later than I have, honestly, in years- other than for schoolwork. The next morning, we were exhausted. We slept our day away at Pudentienne's and then headed back to Muhanga in the evening.

This week has been full of hectic work that we are trying to finish before we leave. We created a website, finalized 3 brochures, created a school profile, (complete with a budget analysis and business plan), made a catalogue for the handicrafts (and a pricing system), finalized a partnership with Intel (yay!), and made a fundraising booklet for Giving Hope. Still to come- videos for Giving Hope and Ibakwe School.

Also, I decided to financially adopt Frieda Grace, who I spoke about in my last blog. Sara (her amazing mother), Monique, and I have been trying to get her medical treatment. We needed to buy health insurance and then go to the health center to get a referral to the hospital. When Sara tried to get health insurance, we kept being sent to the back of the line because she was Batwa and was trying to get insurance for just one person, who had no official document, as opposed to a family, until Monique went and got the job done. That woman is literally a superhero who knows everyone- a perfect social worker. Yesterday, we spent the morning at the hospital as she had an initial examination and blood tests. She has some type of disease, but nothing showed up as out of the ordinary with her blood work. She got to sit on my lap the whole day and during all the tests. I love her. Early next week, we will head to a specialist in Kigali and determine a prognosis.

Sorry it has been awhile, but I just want to say thank you for all of the support I have been continually getting from my whole community at home.  I am so appreciative of the support and hope that my experience here is having effects on people at home that I can't see. I feel really really lucky to be connected with people who don't just let me do this, but are interested and want to help. That's not normal, and I am so grateful and inspired by everyone that has been apart of this with me. 


1 comment:

  1. I’ve tasted tilapia somewhere east. It was amazing! What I love about travelling is not just the fact that we are in a different place but also the knowledge we get from the people around that helps us know ourselves better. I’m glad that your trip was a success. Your safari photos are priceless! I can’t wait for my family safari adventure this year. Good luck on your plans, and stay safe!

    Jordan Hood