Rwanda: Coming to the halfway point

I am almost three weeks into my Rwanda development internship (but less than a third of the way into my time in East Africa) and I am relaxing on a rare day off in Kibuye on Lake Kivu, one of only three known ‘exploding’ lakes – the kind that suffocate a thousand people during an eruption of CO2 and methane which also cause violent tsunamis. It is a very strange and disconcerting feeling knowing that at any moment I could be asphyxiated by tonnes off greenhouse gas. But it isn’t something I am dwelling too much on. I still think a lot about the chimpanzee tracking in my future in Uganda 🙂 The stage is set (Budongo Wildlife Reserve) and the date is booked (end of August). I am as giddy as a schoolboy – or as giddy as I always am when it comes to primates. The girls are excited about the prospect too. Also occupying my deepest and most profound thoughts , especially as I am in such a beautiful, tranquil idyll, is that I am not able to share and enjoy it with my equally resplendent girlfriend. I’d like to spend all of my most exciting and captivating experiences with her by my side, but sadly it’s not always possible. I got talking to a fellow Brit yesterday who had recently completed a trip that me and the girls are planning in the coming weeks. He trekked a trail at the Volcano Park in the northwest of the country; a bog standard trail that was $75 and incorporated some wildlife, volcanoes and their crater lake. However, his anecdote had the enviable ending of an encounter with two silverback gorillas, casually lounging in the middle of the trail path. The privilege of viewing these majestic creatures is usually reserved for those you can afford the exorbitant $750 price tag (well worth it I’m sure when you come face to face with these magnificent beasts). So, I will be sure to trek the same trail my compatriot did and hope that lightning may strike twice. For our last day in Kibuye we chartered a canoe, captained by a sweet Congolese gentleman who regailed us with a Congolese sea (or lake in our case) shanty. It felt so human and earthly to be using our own organic power as transport across this great body of water. It wasn’t quite ‘the old man and the sea’, Hemingway may have scoffed at our modest adventure, but I felt more a part of nature, more primitive and …alive, I guess, as corny as that sounds. I look forward to another lake voyage in Uganda. The sights and sounds in the evening heightened my experience here; a constant reminder, if I could ever forget, that we are deep in the centre of this arcane and extraordinary continent. The sound of bats squealing, insects chirping, even shrieking, at night the giant lightning storms can be seen in the distance on the lake, with the white flashes behind the sheets of clouds, though the bolts of lightning themselves strike the surface of the water in a glorious vermilion. I will miss it here, and it has been great to finally spend time away from Butare with all four girls since Orla unfortunately missed Nyungwe forest. Work during the past week has been the same routine, although we had some time with adorable rabbits (some albinos) following our first income generation data collection. Work resumes tomorrow as we visit the widows and their beekeeping collective. We only have two weeks of field visits left before the interminable task of bringing together all the admin and paperwork. But we are settling into a good system of teamwork, and we all have the focus and desire to get in done by the deadline, and done right. However, there was an unanticipated night of mayhem last weekend; a story that will have people rolling on the floor laughing at my naivete and 27 year old innocence. The American girls organised an American-themed parody complete with ring of fire, flip cup and a lot of drinking that required me to go to a bar and replenish a full crate of beer. But when it was time to return to my temporary sojourn at the motel, inebriated and vulnerable, I got chatting to three local Rwandan girls who were going my way. They invited me to a club, where I met a bunch of heroes, led by a purple flower shifted gentleman, and much dancing and joviality was had, before I finally went to bed (sleeping like a baby for a change, since the volume if alcohol blocked out the 5am Muslim call to prayer and our resident Butare 6am DJs). I related the story to the rest of the group the following day, who assumed I had retired for the evening once I had left the house. It was then that the funny/embarrassing portion of the story presents itself in all it’s shame (or glory, depending on your gender I suppose. I know a few friends back home who would give me a slap on the back). Once I mentioned the three women, I was immediately informed that ‘respectable’ Rwandan women, never go to clubs alone, unescorted. To my chagrin I had in fact befriended and partied with three conservatively dressed prostitutes. After the shock (although I did wonder wear two of them disappeared off to) I took it on the chin and settled on the fact it will always be an entertaining story to tell. Living with eight girls, soon to be just my three lovely ladies when the American girls return to their native land after concluding an nine week job well done, can be a trial sometimes. It would be a great boon to me if I could have a fellow lad, fond of the occasional male banter mixed with some serious intellectual discourse, from time to time. It was good having Mike around for a couple of days to converse with. Hopefully I will rendez-vous with him in Kampala later next month. Well my lunch has arrived so until next time. Mwirigwe

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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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