Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Thursday, 12/26/12

I've been working away on all sorts of things. No one is at school so I have no need to go over there. I had a very quiet Christmas by myself. I slept late, wrote letters, took care of some business and just generally enjoyed the peace. My Christmas dinner was pasta with chard from my garden.

The Trip to Uganda

From December 18-21 I went with three other folks and our driver/guide Chirenga to Queen Elizabeth National Park in Southwest Uganda. Every place we went was new to me, hence interesting. Chirenga picked me up right at school in Byumba as the road to Uganda goes right out of Byumba. We headed for the border, about 60 miles away. The border crossing was very chaotic to my eyes. And it was raining. We kept having to get out of the car (Range Rover) to do yet another thing. One has to pay $50.00 for a visa in Uganda. There were several forms to complete for both Rwanda and Uganda. Chirenga had to do many things to get the car across. We finally made it away from the border and headed for the Park. Uganda seemed similar to Rwanda re: the people, esp. the poor people, the types of houses, the markets, etc. We finally got to the park and stayed in a very nice hotel just outside the gate. Oh, almost forgot, we stopped for famous photos at the Equator.

These were one of just a few types of antelopes we saw. Please enlarge everything to see better.

 We also saw warthogs on the game drive and a tiny little elephant who was too far away to get photos.
After the game drive we had lunch and waited for the boat ride. We really didn't know what to expect, but certainly were not disappointed. The next photo is taken from the boat. Notice the few little lumps in the water and follow the next photos.

I think we easily saw 70-80 hippos within a very short time. They were in clumps of 5-12 and just barely moving. Sometimes all you could see were the eyes and ears sticking up out of the water. They were really enjoying their baths!

Water buffalo

And guess what? Finally, the elephants. You can see two backsides and a baby elephant over by the water.

These two were not greeting one another nicely!
This one banished the other..
                                                     Then went into full trumpet!!

                 The rest of this group marched off as well. Apparently the trumpeter had quite a bit of clout!

Elephant turning around when he is a safe distance away
More water buffalo

A lovely rainbow while we were on the boat
Many birds

 More elephant backsides

As we drove back from the boat landing to our hotel, these baboons suddenly appeared. The baboon in the foreground has a baby clinging to her back.
If you look closely, the baby is now hanging on to her belly!

That's the whole show, folks. On Wed., Sirenga drove us to a new place to spend the night. It was on a lake and was quite lively. People could get a room or they could pitch their own tents on the grounds. Most folks seemed to be going on or coming from game drives. Another reason Sirenga chose this spot was that it wasn't far from the Rwanda border. This allowed us to be a little lazy on Thursday morning and still get back home at an early hour. 

Since our return I have been lying low! I was tired and still nursing my cold-for the third week. I'd had enough! I finally put myself on antibiotics and they have helped a lot. I'm glad I had some.

I plan not to strain myself until after New Year's Day. I'm quite happy staying at home and trying to catch up with answering e-mail. Miriam has been visiting her family in Wramagana. If she doesn't get back soon the laundry is going to overwhelm her!

Hope you enjoy these photos. On January 19 my daughter, Kate, and brother, Don will be visiting. On that date we will go on safari on the Serengeti plain in Tanzania. We have high hopes of seeing a lot of game there. Until later......

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Well, 2012 is quickly drawing to a close for this Rwandan. I still haven't seen a single Christmas decoration in Byumba. Even when I went to Kigali a couple of days ago, I saw only a few.

For the past two weeks I have been nursing a cold. I slept a lot of the first week; this past week I worked while I hacked away and still have a runny nose. I don't remember having a cold that lasted this long. I still tire easily.

Thursday afternoon Rani (my midwife friend from next door) and I were told that we would be attending a staff retreat on Friday and Saturday. This is often the way things happen here. You get very little notice! It seemed mostly to be to work on issues of the faculty. There was a large dose of religion involved, as well: a couple of sermons, singing of some kind of religious nature (all in Kinyarwanda), etc. The retreat was held at a lovely center belonging to the Anglican church (Anglicans have a lot going on in Rwanda). We each had our own room (this was about 30 people) and the food service was very nice. It was near a very large lake on a side road from our usual road to Kigali. It was very peaceful and the stars were beautiful Friday night. I still cannot see the constellations in the southern sky. Maybe I should make that a task for the last half of my year here. I certainly had sympathy for some of the concerns of the faculty. Having recently taught courses here, I have experienced some of the issues they discussed. I will be very interested to see how things get resolved.

I have no photos tonight, Friends. Text only!

Tomorrow and Tuesday we are holding a Workshop for our senior Midwifery students. It is a course called Helping Baby Breathe. The students are carefully trained in how to promote breathing in a newborn baby. That may sound pretty elementary, but in resource-poor countries where they do not have infant resuscitation equipment at hand, it is very important that health workers know the basic skills necessary to promote breathing without any fancy equipment.

I will just be a "helper" in the above operation. Then on Tuesday I will leave to join some other USA. Rwanda workers on a little jaunt. We will go to Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda. This will be my first trip outside Rwanda since my arrival here. The park is on the far west side of Uganda. We will see lots of animals (I hope to have photos next time on the blog) and I don't know what else is on tap. I think I will enjoy the break and seeing a different country. We will be much closer to the equator there, so I suppose we will be much warmer.

And here is my story of the week. Anthere is the Assistant to the Principal and sits right in the office outside mine. He has been very patient with me as he explained many of the workings of the school, Rwandan culture, etc. One day recently I decided to try Skyping one of my students at UIC. I had a good internet connecting and I was talking to her at 5:30AM her time and about 1:30PM in Rwanda. Anthere came back from lunch and heard me talking to someone so he was curious. He walked right into my office and saw I was talking to someone electronically. He began speaking to Lois in French, getting more and more excited every minute. Finally he waved at Lois and she waved back. I think it was the waving that did it. He began speaking very excitedly about how he had been talking to my friend in the U.S. and they both waved at each other!! Immediately, Anthere asked if I could set him up with Skype. I loaded it onto his computer, but he does not have a camera so can only speak with someone. We still need some help to make sure it works consistently, and I would love to get a camera for his computer. Things like that are prohibitively expensive here. But just think about what an awakening that was for Anthere, to wave at someone in the U.S. with the person waving back.

I am pretty tired, so will sign off and go to bed. I keep thinking that if I get plenty of sleep my cold will go away, but so far, no such luck!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Dec. 2, 2012

It appears now that the videos are working for me. See if they work for you!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Well, there is very little of 2012 remaining. And as of today, I have been here four months. It is going by very quickly.

As planned, on Nov. 22 we left on our trip to Nyangwe National Park. There were nine of us plus the two drivers. They used a Range Rover and a big 4-wheel Toyota to ferry us about. It took several hours to get there and we almost didn't go. The night before our departure, based on the reports from the U.S. Embassy in Kigali, there was fighting with the M23 rebels in the South Kivu area (Goma is in North Kivu). Seemed safer not to go. When we got up the next AM, one of our group called the Embassy again and the officer in charge said it would be fine for us to go. I guess M23 had cleared out of there.
So we dressed and headed out. Here is the sign at the entrance to the park.
Just outside the gate we arrived at our guest houses, a long line of cottages named for monkeys. Mine was the Great Horned Owl monkey. We put our bags away and went for a walk. Suddenly, I became ill, feeling like car sickness, but someone said it might be altitude sickness. Whatever it was I could just barely get to my bed to lie down. I didn't even go to dinner. The next AM I seemed OK, so set out on a birdwalk. We were inside the rainforest, a very interesting place. Huge ferns, delicate flowers, these photos do not do justice at all. I felt like I was in Jurassic Park!

We had just gotten well into our birding when I got very sick again. Dizzy, throwing up. We had brought along an extra porter for that hike so once I could get my bearings, he led me out. He held tight to my hand the whole way out. We had to wait by the side of the road for quite a while as the others wanted to finish their walk. Here is a photo of my sweet little porter. He could speak a little English. He told me proudly that he had 16 American movies, Chuck Norris, Rambo, etc. He made a little cushion for me out of leaves with a big fern leaf on the top. Actually, quite comfy.

Once we got back to our camp, I decided I'd better cash it in as far as hiking was concerned. Others went on different hikes in the afternoon while I rested. I never felt entirely well for the remainder of the time. On Saturday, I graded papers out on the lawn of the restaurant at the cottages. Just as I finished, I looked up to see baboons walking all around me! Apparently they come there every afternoon. Big Daddy baboons down to tiny babies hanging on to their mothers' fur. I did not have my camera with me so got no photos. I just sat still and watched the show. No one fed them (you are warned not to). They just moved around slowly, eating grass.

We were then taken to a reconstructed Rwandan village. We saw the King's house, the milk house, the beer house, etc. We were also entertained by a few dances. The Rwandan dancing is very graceful, by both women and men. We learned that until the 1950s, many Rwandans were still living in this type of village with a King. Not very long ago at all.

When we left on Sunday to return to Kigali we stopped at a national ethnographic museum in Butare. Very beautiful things. I was oh, so, glad to return to Byumba that afternoon.

This past week was filled with my last four days of teaching. I cannot begin to tell you all that went on in that class. I certainly learned a lot. The last day I had a snack brought in at the end of class: African tea (mostly milk and sugar with a little tea thrown in) and Sambusas, a little triangular wrap with ground beef and spices inside. They bring the tea in large thermoses you'll see on the table. The remainder of this blog is photos and videos of my students at their party.

I have added two videos toward the end above, but I can't seem to get them to play. Both are of the students singing for me. I love that.

One final word about the men fighting in the Congo. I am not anywhere near where that is going on. The U.S. Embassy in Kigali sends us periodic information about what is happening and where we should not be going. I am relying on them to tell me if things get dangerous. I have everything I need to be evacuated if there is an emergency. We have excellent evacuation insurance and a company who can airlift us out from anywhere in the country. Please do not be alarmed by news reports you get there. You seem to get more than we do, but some of it is inflated.

So glad not to be teaching tomorrow. I have to figure out my students' grades this week and move on to some other projects. Jerome has an idea a minute about what we should be doing! Sometimes I have to slow him down a little as his ideas usually involve me doing the work!!

I'll be going on another trip (no hiking in the rainforest!) this month, for four days starting Dec. 18. We'll go by Range Rover to Queen Elizabeth Park in Uganda. It is supposed to be very beautiful and we will go on a couple of game drives while there. This again is with colleagues from the project.
A game drive is where you stand up in a truck with an open roof and look for animals!

Enough!! Good night.