Sunday, 29 April 2012

Lake Mugesera

Yesterday I finally got the chance to do something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time, but never quite made it. I got to walk all the way down to lake Mugesera, the lake you can see on the walk to and from my TTC. Now the lake looks so near yet is so very far away. I set off with Julius, the new vol and Andrew, one of my Ugandan colleagues to get to the lake. It was a wonderful walk. We passed through small remote villages of mud houses and fields of banana trees and walked passed groups of children playing. One boy had made his own stilts out of a couple of sticks. They really were impressive and he could walk so fast on them! I did manage to get a picture but it was not the best as he was so fast he kept getting out of shot. 

We walked for what seemed like a very long time, over Rwanda’s mountainous terrain, every now and then stopping to ask for directions. As we got further from Nzige we came across some very remote communities that are well and truly tucked away. This is real rural Rwanda, a half day walk away from any big village or town. The people there were really charming and friendly, but were definitely not used to a sweaty muzungu striding through their village! I caused quite a stir, some poor kid nearly tripped over because he was staring at me so much.  

We finally arrived at the lake after walking for three and a half hours and it was every bit as beautiful as I was hoping. The water was very calm and clear. You could see the reflection of the clouds in the water and there were young boys fishing on the shore. They were trying to catch the small fish you often see cooked here in people’s homes and in restaurants. As I sat down by the lake to rest my feet I couldn’t help but think there is nowhere else I’d rather be right now. I am so lucky and privileged to have been given this experience and I will miss beautiful Rwanda so much when I return to my cold and miserable country of origin. 

Eventually we had to leave as it was beginning to get dark. We were getting really tired when we reached the main dirt track again and we still had a couple of hours of walking to go. Fortunately for us a car came past, which is a very rare occurrence on that road. They had lots of space and allowed us to hitch a ride back to Nzige, where we re-hydrated by drinking lots of fanta in the bar. A perfect end to a perfect day.

A boy and his stilts

Flowers at the side of the dirt track

Banana trees

The Rwandan sky

Lake Mugesera from a distance

A typical house near the lake

Boys fishing on the lake

A young boy with his fishing rod and bucket of fish

Lake Mugesera

Me and Juluis, the new volunteer, by the lake

A new volunteer arrives in middle earth...

I have been living alone for more than 15 months now in my small rural village, but this week all of that changed. Because I am going to finish my placement in June, vso have recruited another volunteer to work at my TTC. So I had a huge challenge to try to clear away enough of my junk for another person to live in my house. It took me ages and ages and my bedroom still looks like a volcano has hit it, and that is probably the way it will stay until I leave. 

It is so great having another person to have a conversation with, and show around all the sights of Nzige. He has seen the college, the market and the bar, the three things that you really need to know about in Nzige. The community are confused and probably think I have had a secret marriage on one of my many trips to Kigali as it is not culturally normal for a woman to live with a man unless they are married, so I am definitely the gossip of Nzige ville. Perhaps now is the time to wear the fake wedding ring...

My stuff

Julius is in the house!

Genocide Memorial

April is the saddest month for Rwandan people because it is when the genocide began, some 18 years ago now. It is during this month that you hear stories about what happened here during that time and you are reminded by just how much people lost here. Most people are not open about it, but then someone will surprise you and tell you their story on the bus. One such moment happened about a week ago. 

 I met a young man who I guessed was in his early 20’s on the bus who was keen to practise his English. He told me that he had a brother that was studying in the UK and that he wanted to go there one day because he was the only other person left in his family. He lost his parents and all of his other siblings in the genocide. I was struck by his openness and also his spirit. He had dreams for the future, he wanted to become a computer scientist and have his own business. He said that he liked Rwanda now and it was a good place to be. It reminds you of the strength of many people in Rwanda that despite all the sadness they continue to live with that they won’t give up on the future and that they do still love their country.  

I went to walk around the grounds of the Gisozi genocide memorial in Kigali. I didn’t go into the museum again, but I took my time just to walk around. The ‘wall of names’ of the genocide victims had more significance for me now as I recognise family names of people I know. The mass graves had flowers on them and a purple banner above, purple being the colour of genocide commemoration. The torch outside the memorial was lit, as it is lit for the duration of the 100 days of genocide. As I stood looking at the torch with the gleaming new skyscrapers of Kigali city in the background, I was struck by all the change that has happened since that time. It is a challenge for Rwanda to reconcile their dark past with the shiny new future, but they are trying.  

Living it up in Butare

It’s good to be back posting on my blog after a month of absence. It’s not that I’ve not been doing anything, quite the opposite actually, April has been a busy month for me and so I’m going to try and catch you all up with the latest happenings for me in Rwanda. So at the beginning of April I went to Butare for a few days to hang out with my best friends in Rwanda, Lindsey and Kathy. We spent our time eating, walking around Butare, discussing girly things and generally having a good time. 

Butare is an interesting place. It is the main university town of Rwanda and it definitely has more of a campus vibe than anywhere else in Rwanda. There are a couple of studenty clubs and some western style supermarkets. There is even an ice-cream parlour! Going there was a very exciting experience, I had no idea that there was somewhere in Rwanda where you could get My whippy style ice-cream with lots of sprinkles on top, just goes to prove that you can still make discoveries about Rwanda even after living here for 15 months.

We went to the main university campus of the National University of Rwanda because they have quite an interesting forest there to walk around. It was a lovely walk, it reminded me of a forest walk in the UK except that the weather is better and the birds and insects are much more colourful. I have a vested interest in exploring Butare because I will be moving there for a few weeks before the end of my placement to work on some projects with other volunteers.   

In the evening we went to the hip and happening ‘Club Falcon’ where we met someone who look like the Rwandese Super Mario. Dressed to impress, he did attempt to break dance for us but kept falling over. I know sometimes you shouldn’t laugh and it’s not like I could do any better but it was just too funny. I never thought I’d meet a break dancing super Mario in is full of surprises!

Lindsey and Kathy

Its about time I got a haircut

Lindsey with Rwandan Super Mario

An insect in the University forest

The main Catholic church in Butare

Am I in jail??? No, just La Procure, a guesthouse in Butare