Rwanda: 2 weeks in


A fortnight down, four weeks to go in the beautiful East African country of Rwanda. It is my first trip to the African continent (if we count the Arabian peninsula as Asia) and it has so far been an experience that is unlike any foreign odyssey I have embarked upon before. (Even Oman had a Holiday Inn with required amenities and comfortable surroundings). The scenery is stunning wherever I go; even a 3 minute walk to the local market (which is always an event in itself) contains a small aperture between the buildings and shops where you can see 3 stunning hills in the distance. The journey from the capital (Kigali) to my base in Butare was an ocean of rolling hills with banana plantations, rice fields and villages in the foreground. The project is progressing slowly but surely. Orla has taken charge with her excellent organisational skills and is more than adept at delegating duties and getting everyone and everything sorted. I have been quite passive during most of the meetings, but I am always that way when I am outnumbered by women. I’m less assertive here for some reason and don’t challenge the girls’ decisions even when, in my mind, I diverge from the consensus.The goals of our six weeks still appear well within our sights and I know we will persevere and navigate through the twists and turns. We have begun the malaria prevention portion of the project, visiting our first primary school (Nyanza). We only have two RVCP (the Rwandan charity we are working in tandem with) counterparts so only two of us can conduct questionnaires. Just like during our first HIV Youth Club visit, I was facing the prospect of a role as a third nipple, so I decided to engage with the silent, waiting children and began an impromptu teaching/interaction session. The aim was mainly to distract the children – as we noticed they were listening in to the answers that their peer was giving during his interview – and reduce their boredom. It was a resounding success, and by the end of our time at the school I had about 60 pieces of paper with their drawings, letters/stories on them. The class were a clever bunch and very sweet with their words. I didn’t expect the level of English that some possessed. We had our final visit to Mpungwe village as part of our hygiene data collection. Half of the households’ responses have been recorded which is a great success is sampling for the target group. It was uplifting to record that nearly all persons interviewed had seen palpable improvements in the villages hygiene and sanitation and in the lives of themselves/their neighbours seen five years previously. Hopefully our modest efforts in these four remaining weeks can be the first building block for subsequent improvements in the future. I love being in the field, interacting with the lives we are trying to better, but when it comes to the admin and paperwork, I sometimes feel a bit useless. Orla is very switched on in this department and the girls pounce on any admin job going, while I umm, observe. Not having a laptop is the biggest obstacle, and the girls are unconsciously territorial over their Macbooks when it comes to the paperwork. Well, inputting data is a monotonous job but someone has to do it. Monday was a day off, so three of us visited Nyungwe Forest (see image) and their primate residents. The 9km trail we completed was a slog at times and I was a puddle at the end but it was worth it for the sights, the sounds and of course the monkeys. Just listening to the chimpanzees as we walked and knowing they were close by and were in the vicinity was enough to get excited about, as was the chimp poop. Next week’s days off involve a weekend at Lake Kivu, one of the world’s three ‘exploding’ lakes, so keep your fingers crossed that I am not asphyxiated by tonnes of erupting CO2 and Methane. It may be a solo trip, as the girls are planning a trip back to Kigali, which I was far from enamoured of. I made the obligatory purchase of an African tribal mask the other day and have been planning my journey around the rest of East Africa following the conclusion of our project. I have had to revise the miles I wish to cover during my post-project travelling given that I found out, soon after arriving at Butare, that I am staying on the continent 10 days longer than I was supposed to. I have budgeted and rebudgeted and it was looking like I would have to settle for 3 weeks in Uganda and 3 days in Kenya if I want to survive the 24 days. But my financial situation is not as dire as first thought. Therefore I will be able to make my time in Uganda a bit shorter but more spectacular: White water rafting and bungee jumping in Jinja, Sipi Falls, Zwiva rhino sanctuary, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Kibale Forest and exploring the notorious chaos that is Kampala awaits. But now in addition to all the above I will travel through the wilderness to Dar-Es Salaam and northern Tanzania to see the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro and then speed through Malawi and Lake Nyasa before taking in Lusaka and Victoria Falls during a brief stay in Zambia.


About johnny3wishbone

University of Bristol alum Follow me on Twitter @DanielAdshead25 A few of my favourite things: International development, human rights, justice, wildlife conservation, primates, politics, literature, music, catharsis, theatre, my fiance, history, environment, current events, writing, reading, running, fundraising, campaigning, activism, travel, Prague, Bristol, Mexican food
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