Tuesday, June 15, 2010

On the Lake

I went with friends to visit Lake Muhazi, which is 2 hours east of the capitol. It's known as a getaway for the Kigali elite to go relax by their lake-side homes (the President has a home on the other side). We went on a Sunday afternoon and visited the Seeds of Peace Center, which is a restaurant/meeting space run by the Episcopal Church. We sat under a thatched umbrella and saw beautiful birds, such as the Kingfisher, hawk, and this crested crane.


There is also a traditional Mwami hut on the resort grounds, a model replica of a King’s house from the former Rwandan monarchy. Unfortunately, though not unexpectedly, the food took over 1.5 hours to come out...but while we waited a small group of people came down and held prayer service under the nearby tree.



The long wait was well worth it. For less than $20, the three of us could not finish the huge grilled fish that came with fries and bananas.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

French is Exhausting

Besides Kinyarwanda, French used to be the official language of Rwanda, but since 2009 it has been replaced by English. Though school children are now being taught English, the older generations have taken longer to adjust and therefore, there is a melange of languages everywhere you go. Around the office, I hear all three languages intermingled and sometimes with Swahili thrown in, just for the fun of it.

Trying to participate in meetings and conferences has been pretty difficult, especially when I'm trying to keep up with the French. I wish I could stay here longer, perhaps then my French would actually improve? Along with trying to translate what I'm hearing, I also have to contend with the scientific and technical language. Anyone can attest that in every sector of work, there's a whole different language. Even in public health, there are dialects between the various program areas.

On top of that, acronyms are thrown about as if they have full meaning and can stand on their own as words. For example: The TWG, will revise PMTCT norms and tools according to the new WHO recommendations. With TA from CDC and PSF, the TWG will emphasis on the quality of intervention targeting VCT, DCT, MSM, CSW and EID.



Saturday, June 12, 2010

Kwita Izina

Last weekend, I was able to attend the naming ceremony of baby gorillas. This event stems from an old Rwanda tradition of naming newborns - Kwita Izina. It has now attracted hundreds of people and attention towards the conservation of the mountain gorillas. You can see the ancient volcanoes in the background:



There were several performers: dancers, drummers, and singers. Though I was under the VIP tent, I unfortunately couldn't get better pictures of the ceremony.


(photo: http://gorilladoctors.wildlifedirect.org/2010/06/09/kwita-izina/)


And since President Kagame was also there (we were only several rows behind him), his official band stood at attention for hours before he arrived...late.



The local people also attended en masse. There was a surge of people running out as the ceremonies ended and the children ran dangerously along our car, tapping the windows to wave and smile.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Safari Weekend

I went on my first safari over Memorial weekend to Rwanda's Akagera National Park. It took us about 2.5 hours from Kigali and a third of the way was over potholed dirt roads...but the landscape was beautiful.

We checked in at the Akagera Game Lodge, which is a tired-looking hotel that desperately needs renovation in the rooms, but the views redeemed it. The restaurant patio and pool overlooks Lake Ihema and beyond to the Tanzania hills. It was also interesting to have baboons roaming the grounds. They sometimes terrorize guests, so the hotel has guards walking around with sticks to scare them away. Unfortunately, my friend had a run in with one of the largest baboons who ran up and grabbed her bag of coffee grounds, thinking it was food. We were all kinda shocked that it happened so fast.

Here we are at the beginning of the trip, my shirt would turn red-brown by the end from all the dust coming into our Jeep. The park extends over 420 sq. miles of rolling hills, grassy valleys, papyrus marshes and shimmering lakes.

I am in awe of all the animals that we saw during our two day safari. From the Big Five list, only the Cape Buffalo was present in Akagera, but we got to see lots of zebras, antelopes (impalas, bushbucks, topis, oribis), hippos, crocodiles, vervet monkeys, warthogs, and a variety of birds. The crowning moment was when we came across Masai giraffes with a newborn baby giraffe! The full album can be viewed on Picasa.