Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Umwaka Mwiza!! (Happy New Year)

Happy New Year from Rwanda! We are here, all safe and sound and very excited! Our travel from Boston to Kigali (the capital of Rwanda) was long, and our 13 hours overnight sleeping in the chairs of Kenya airport were less than 5 star accommodations, but we survived. The flight from Nairobi to Kigali was great (only an hour) and we flew over The Great Rift Valley, Lake Victoria and the rolling hills of Uganda and Rwanda. I slept through most of our 2 hour car ride to Musanze (the city in northern Rwanda where we are staying), but Bernie was bright-eyed the whole time taking in the new scenery.

We are staying with Veronica, an Italian woman who researches the mountain gorillas, at her house right across the road from Karisoke Research Center (read or watch Gorillas in the Mist if you don't know what I am talking about). Right now there is no one else staying there, but Winnie, a German primatologist is there sometimes.

Yesterday was great! We visited Bisate Village (our study site) and saw all of the new changes from last year. It was great to see some of the people that I worked with last year and to see all of their new projects. The children were friendly and both Bernie and I practiced our Kinyarwandan greetings! Most of the people assume we speak French, and are very surprised when we say "mwarwmutseho" (good morning) to them.

In the afternoon we set up our lab equipment on the desk in our room and later took a stroll down the main road to visit a friend from last year. We are getting used to being called "Muzungus" again, but got more smiles as we tossed around our Kinyarwandan words.

Last night we had dinner with friends and then went to a local orphanage with a friend of Veronica who helps run it. There were about 40 boys that we met between ages 6 and 20. For the New Year, Alberto (the Italian friend of Veronica), made this huge (maybe 10 feet tall) effigy out of hay and food sacks on top of a huge pile of wood. It is a tradition in Northern Italy to burn something to bring good luck for the New Year.

Words cannot express how much fun we had with the boys. We laughed and danced around the fire, cooked ibigori (corn) among the coals and shared banana juice with them. They were all smiles as we took their pictures and danced to their drumming. The stars were brilliant with Orion's Belt directly overhead.

Bernie made a friend, who happened to also be named Bernard. He was one of the only boys that could speak a little bit of English and he was very nice about translating what he could for us.

All in all, the evening was fantastic and we proceed to sleep for 10 hours! Hopefully tomorrow we will go back to Bisate, get some water samples and setup our sample equipment.

Happy New Year!
Kelly and Bernie

1 comment:

Ron said...

Hi... my name is Ron rivera I work for potters for peace.
I liked your work in Rwanda. We are planning an exploratory trip there to see if a local pottery group would be interested in producing the ceramic water filter. Did you happen to run into any potters ? and where?
ron rivera