Wednesday, March 17, 2010
I didn't really know what to expect for this part of the trip. I had not given it much thought at all, but was excited once we arrived at base camp. It was pouring rain, but after a short while that stopped. We had a small briefing and then five of us and our guide hopped in land cruiser and started driving over hundreds and hundreds of rocks. After a couple of kilometers, our car got stuck in the mud/rocks and so we had to proceed by foot. We had a 2.5 hour battle uphill as we hiked to meet the gorillas. Finally, we met up with the trackers who had been out all morning locating the specific family we were trying to see. Once we saw them, we drank some water, put down our bags, and grabbed only our cameras. We walked about 125m and then heard a heavy growl. My heart skipped a beat.
We then walked up and around to get a better view, since all we were seeing was the rustling of bushes. Then, we saw a baby gorillas eating grass. Then another....then the silverback. Wow. These gorillas were enormous. Our group took hundreds of pictures and we will try to post some soon. The lack of internet on our computers makes it more difficult, but definitely by when we come home.
My time at the cafe is pretty much over...so I will see if there is connection in Gisenyi today. The rest of our schedule is as follows:
Today: Morning visit to an art collaboration ( I think)
Afternoon drive to Gisenyi and check in at hotel. Day of relaxation.
Tomorrow: Visit to Gardens of Health (a non-profit that works with sustainable farming as a necessity as part of HIV/AIDS treatment
Visit a market (maybe) and dinner at a friend's house in Kigali
Saturday: Lunch at US Ambassador's house in afternoon and evening flight out of Kigali.
Hopefully, there will be some more time to write at Gisenyi.
Again, thanks for listening.
Monday, March 15, 2010
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
As I perused through the final exhibits at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre, I could not help but question the tragic events that took place in 1994 between April and July. After reading through almost thirty separate exhibits describing the genocide, tears had begun to stream down my cheeks. Sure, I had read stories and books depicting and illuminating the atrocities of those 100 days; yet, I had never been so close to videos, stories, and the country itself. I never had the opportunity to read about the genocide, walk outside, and look at the faces of people who live through it daily. What is more, I had never spent days in Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, a space for orphans. I had never been asked “Do you have parents?” as if it was uncommon. No one had ever questioned whether I had a brother or sister in a way that did not come merely in the form of a curiosity; rather, there was a longing in the voices of these children. I had never seen a teenage girl explain to me with a faint smile that both her parents, two brothers, and three sisters were all killed during the genocide. How is she to react? The smile in no way conveyed any sense of happiness or joy. Instead, it was a smile of questioning. A smile that asked how in the world could this happen? Are we not all human? It was not a question of human rights. No. It was a question of human nature. It was a question of love. Are humans not called to love? Can we not all simply try (and in many ways succeed) to have love for everyone in our lives…the same love that we have for our family members? That was her question as she explained that she had lost her family, as she explained that they had been killed.
But her story did not end there. She truly understood what it meant to have a loving family outside of the biological blood that connects many of us. She found her family in her fellow youth at Agahozo. She found her family in me, and she called me her brother. I was honored.
I cannot count the number of times I have simply looked at a teenager here, smiled, and received the biggest smile I’ve ever seen in my life. At family time (a time where each household comprised of about 15 students comes together to discuss household and communal issues), I glanced at one child. Every time our gazes met, smiles protruded from our faces. Love was clear.
As I listened to the conversation between the household members, I was incredibly inspired by their understanding of the importance of respect and love in ones lives. To see young high schoolers, who have seen the purest of hate in their lives, not only understand love’s importance, but also seek it was yet another inspiration. It was truly beautiful.
I am going to go to sleep now…because I want to make breakfast tomorrow morning and also have energy throughout the day. I will try to expand on some of these ideas soon enough.
We had a discussion (that we will continue) as a group tonight about our experience at the memorial. We touched on everything from facts and humanitarian intervention to the efficacy of NGOs and our role in the world. I will definitely write more about this when I can.
Again, thanks for listening.
P.S. I will continue to try to upload some pictures, but the connection is faulty when it comes to uploading. Check out the group blog at http://reachoutrwanda.wordpress.com for a few.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Saturday, 7:00 PM (Kigali Time Zone)
I am currently sitting on the plane as we approach the airport in Kigali! It has been a long twenty-four hours (give or take a few) of travel, but this most recent flight went by quite fast. Since the flight was fairly empty, I was able to take up three seats in the middle section and stretch out. I spent some time sleeping, listening to some music, talking my friends onboard, and learning Kinyarwanda. While I am not nearly at the level that I desired to be, I am happy that I do know some of the language, and even if my interactions with some people are simply greetings or questions, I still consider that relationship and joy.
We didn’t really have any problems at all travelling. None of our flights were delayed and hopefully all of our baggage will be at the airport when we get there. I also hope that we get through customs and security quickly, so we can start our drive to Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village (www.agahozo-shalom.org). Most of us are already jet-lagged and this will last for a few days. I am still excited, regardless of how tired I may feel, because this trip promises to be something simply different. We will be doing construction and working with the students in their various clubs and after school activities. Our mornings will start early (around 6:30 AM or 7:00 AM). I will be sure to post a daily schedule once I can.
One of the most important aspects of this trip, to me, is this idea of community service, whereby the community does not necessarily just mean that we, as Yale Reach Out participants, are serving others in our community; rather, we are in community as we serve, an element of service that I believe to be incredibly strong and powerful. Energy exists when people unite to serve one another.
Hopefully I’ll write more about this energy as I experience it in the next seven days, during this service part of our trip. Meanwhile, the flight attendants are coming around and informing us that we need to put the tray tables back to their original position and our seats back upright… J We are almost there. Safely.
I took about 200 pictures today (most of them were of all of us in the airport and on the planes) and will upload some of them as soon as I can…definitely by tomorrow.
One last thing: The group as a whole also has a blog that can be accessed at http://reachoutrwanda.wordpress.com . Please let me know if that link doesn’t work for some reason.
I hope and pray that this trip brings blessings, growth, service, and love to everyone directly and indirectly affected by the interactions that will occur.
Thanks for listening and reading.