Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Rwanda: End of Days

Our last training day in Rwanda was PR/crisis communications training. At the end of it, it was time to say goodbye to all my friends whom I so often speak to and so seldom see. Kristin, Mark (who came to do video), and I were going to Lake Kivu for the night, as our plane left late on Saturday.

After goodbyes, we headed out in a very overcrowded taxi. I don't know why we never seem to remember that Americans are big and our luggage is bigger. A taxi fit for three Africans or three Asians is simply not fit for three Americans. So with two oversized suitcases crammed in the backseat, I sat crammed in Mark's armpit for one hour. It was bonding. Don't worry. I'd warned Mike that I was going to have to spend considerable time in a strange man's armpit.

Driving through the Rwandan countryside, you see terraced green hills, meandering streams, gushing waterfalls, children chasing bike tires, women sweeping their homes, men walking home from a day's work. I'm struck that all our idealized visions of the simple life are materialized here. Sometimes we think it would be nice to be poor again, to not have the worries of our city lives, but when we visit many poor places, we see how bad they can be. That wasn't my experience in Rwanda. At least from the vantage point of my overcrowded taxi, they seem to have retained the simple life without the other undesirable accoutrements of poverty, such as alcoholism, delinquency, and lots of garbage. It's a lovely place. There are still problems, such as health care and access to schooling. But if I have to move somewhere to be poor, it would be here.

We stayed at Serena Hotel at Lake Kivu. Lake Kivu is one of the great lakes of Africa and it borders the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It was wild to stare across a lake at a country which seems so faraway and scary. As we arrived at the hotel, they greeted us with hot towels to refresh our faces and tree tomato juice. Tree tomatoes are like a cross between passion fruit and tomatoes. Sweet, but confusing. Our keys were cute gorillas. Here's my tree tomato juice and gorilla. For dinner that night, we ate on the open air balcony and got to watch more Rwandan dancing. We also got attacked by more Great African Termites. One kamikazied into our mayonnaise dish. He was nice and juicy.

The next day, we wandered about and took photos. Lake Kivu is lower elevation than Musanze, so the foliage was very similar to Hawaii. Lots of plumeria, hibiscus, and palm trees. I was in heaven. Here is a video of the hotel:

And one of the beautiful plumeria flowers. Here is a view of the beach, where we hung out and drank Coca-Colas.
Here is Rwandan for swing set.
More wandering about taking photos.
I found a little hammock where I wanted to stay forever. That is one of the most genuine smiles you'll ever see on me in a picture.
After our lazy morning, we had to drive back to Kigali. A three hour drive, crammed in the same overcrowded taxi, in the same strange man's armpit. Beautiful drive, but three hours down curvy roads made us rather ill. Then it was to the airport and off on our 36 hour jaunt back to the US.

On my first day back, Mike and I drove to Breckenridge through a blizzard on Hoosier Pass, awakening me from my warm slumber in Rwanda.


Elizabeth M. said...

Amber, I finally got to sit down and read your blog. I am almost never too busy to keep up, but this week was crazy coming back to Omaha and Micah's birthday and sicky-pooness. Anyway, your pictures are fantastic. I loved the one of you dancing and jumping. Glad you had a good time and that you are home. I am sad you didn't get to see more gorillas!

minkster1984 said...

amber, i really enjoyed your adventures and i love your pictures! :) thank you for sharing.