Thursday, July 12, 2012

Seeing Nature

Day 17
In the morning, most of the group works on a kitchen garden for a genocide survivor, just a few doors down from the last garden. When they arrive at Yvonne’s for lunch, faces red, clothes painted with soil, they plop down in the white plastic chairs, certain that they’ll be drinking more than one Fanta.
After lunch, we go to Covaga for a final English lesson, but the group becomes distracted by the baskets. We’ve been holding in the urge to purchase baskets since we first arrived. We shuffle through the baskets on the shelves, pulling out bright colors, flower patterns, and claiming them as our own. We start thinking about better ways to display the baskets since it’s difficult to see all of them.
The days start to feel long in the Rwandan heat. We’re beat by the time we get to the Health Center to teach English, but when we converse with the students, we receive a jolt of energy. The students really want to learn. Before we leave, after an hour of class, my student says that the class time is not long enough; he needs at least two hours of English class!
At dinner time we get our favorite fruit salad, a pink mesh of banana, passion fruit, pineapple, and whatever else, that looks like the sunset as the day starts to cool into night.

Day 18
We go to Covaga to have a basket weaving lesson, but when we arrive there are only a few women in the building. We find out that one of the women, a woman that Sara has been working closely with, has lost her mom. We see a group of people walking to the funeral outside. In Rwanda everyone in the community attends the funeral.
The baskets are spread out on the floor of Covaga, colorful patterns waiting for tourists to come and buy them. We wish they were displayed like this when we went shopping!
After the English lesson at the Health Center, a few of us go to the primary school to interview the principle and learn about the English Club that has been created at the school. I get the opportunity to ride in to the primary school’s courtyard on the back of a really sweet ride, Rogers’ bicycle.
When we ride into the courtyard, dust being flung up behind us, my rear resting on a metal rack, children start to chase the bike. Rogers rides around the courtyard in circles. One child pries my hand off of him and a train of children trail off of my arm. I’m holding on with one arm, laughing, as Rogers sings a song to the kids. Eventually, the kids pry my other arm off as well, and I’m nervous that I’m going to fall off the bike when Rogers brings it to a stop.
This is the distraction we create every time we go to the school. We feel bad for the teachers, but the kids eventually return to their studies. Me, Brooke, Carmelle, and Sara sit in on a math class with the teacher, Martin. We help grade their algebra exercises and answer some of their questions.
We find out that there are two English clubs, one hosted by a passionate teacher named Abel on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays. The teachers here work from 8AM-5PM, so for Abel to take time out of his day to host an English club really means a lot.
After going to the primary school, we head back to the hotel to go on a boat ride around Lake Rumira. As the boat leaves shore, the sun is just above the hills, glowing its usual bright orange. The boat glides near the shore and we cross our fingers, hoping we’ll see a hippo or a crocodile!
I hop on the bough of the boat with Judy, a really awesome woman volunteering here from Washington. She points out the different birds, the kingfisher, the fish eagle, and some weaving birds that weave nests in colonies along the shoreline. We pass floating islands of papyrus, and Judy says they look like fireworks.
The boat glides over a spot where huge bubbles are rising to the surface of the water, and I imagine that there is a hippo below us, ears twitching, and sausage-legs trudging along the bottom of the lake. Further around the lake we see something moving in the water, maybe there were nostrils, the trail was the shape of a long tail. We like to say it was a crocodile. Still, nothing is clear in Rwanda. 

Day 19
At breakfast time, we greet Kristi, a professor who will replace Steve who is leaving shortly. Her flight was delayed leaving from JFK and she got stuck in Belgium for a night before she could make it to Kigali. We have a lot to fill her in on, but we’re glad she’s here and that a warm and fuzzy professor has joined us.
Then, me, Lauren, Nicole, Carrie, and two freelance volunteers from Canada, Sarah and Cazia, go on a “hike” with Rogers. Although there are thousands of hills in Rwanda, Gashora is relatively flat. We hike toward a swamp area, where the green is so far beyond green, like the color of a crayon.  Trees line the walkway, and the swamp area hosts several birds, including herring. Umbrella trees shade the way as people pass on their bikes, hauling huge loads of bananas.
We walk to a river that runs up to Uganda. Rogers explains that during the genocide many Tutsis were dumped into the river. This goes back to the “Hamitic Ideology” that Tutsis were from Europe and Northern Africa, and it was believed that the river would take the bodies all the way back to Ethiopia where they belonged. Many Tutsi bodies were buried in Uganda for this reason.  We walk for about two hours, returning at last to Yvonne’s for lunch. 

Day 20
Today we walk to town to work on another kitchen garden. We understand the process now and can find things to do without Rogers’ help. Ray, a journalist from Los Angeles, helps us with the garden as well. We laugh as he attempts to machete a branch. It takes him 15+ whacks and it only takes a Rwandan 5. This is pretty typical. Carrie and I both attempt to sharpen the sticks, to turn them into pointy stakes, but it’s the same result.
Brooke becomes bombarded by children, almost resorting to a position as a baby sitter during the gardening. She says “I got your nose!” and “Aren’t you just the cutest!?” An education major seems fitting for her. Carrie and Lindsey take pictures of the process, step by step, so that people who can’t read can learn how to make kitchen gardens without the help of Rogers and William.
After lunch and a stop at Covaga, the group heads to the Health Center for a party celebrating all of Steve’s hard work. I was not present for the party, so someone else in the group will add a write up about it soon!
Before dinner, Olivier gives us a historical presentation of Rwanda before colonialism and during colonialism. Tomorrow, we are going on a trip to Butare, the original capital of Rwanda, to visit the National Museum. Time permitting, we will also visit a replica of the old palace, since Rwanda used to be a monarchy.  
We’re all excited to sleep tonight, but we’re even more excited to wake up (even if it is at 5AM) and head to Butare and then to Kigali. We’re hoping for some food variety (tacos!?!?); you really come to appreciate variety when you eat the same food every day. Time to pack!

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