Friday, 23 December 2011

Gorillas in the Mist

After a gruelingly bumpy 8 hour bus ride, our first thought upon arriving in Kigali was "this is definitely not Africa". Pristine streets with not a pothole in sight nor a blade of grass out of place. The air smelt distinctly of flowers rather than car exhaust, and the chaos that I've become so accustomed to in Kampala, was nowhere to be seen in Rwanda. 
First on our 'tourist to-do list' was the Genocide Memorial Museum, which amazingly managed to strike a delicate balance between beautiful and harrowing. The museum itself was extremely well set-up; the first half was primarily informative, then the rest of the exhibits were far more emotional, containing personal belongings/pictures/skulls(!) of some of the 800,000 who lost their lives in this mass slaughter. My stomach was left in knots. 
*Hanging on one of the walls was a tattered Superman bed sheet, slashed and blood-stained, which was unmistakably that of a child who found himself on the wrong end of the machete.
The museum is surrounded by beautiful fountains and gardens that you pass though to get to the mass graves which are filled with close to 250,000 bodies. To this day, corpses from the genocide are still being recovered. 
"Genocide Never Again"
 From the museum we headed into town to check out Hotel des Mille Collines, now better known as Hotel Rwanda. Though we felt quite swanky sipping Rwandan beers in the immaculate five-star hotel grounds, you couldn't help but feel a little unsettled knowing that just a decade ago, thousands of people took refuge within its walls. I was hoping to see Don Cheadle sipping scotch at the such luck. 
Rwandan brewskis to take the edge off a fairly depressing day.
With the heavy stuff out of the way, we headed out of Kigali to Lake Kivu, the largest freshwater lake in Rwanda, and one of the most beautiful I've ever seen. We camped right on the shores, with the foggy mountains of the Dem. Rep of Congo just visible across the water.
Close to our hotel was Bikini Tam Tam, a fantastic little beach bar where we partied (arguably longer than we should have) patriotically with Ugandan waragi. 
the Waragi was Martin's (horrible horrible) idea
We fed ourselves very well in Rwanda. This is a plate of typical local food (doesn't differ too much from the grub here in Uganda).  A deliciously hearty plate of avocado, beans, carrots, bell peppers, rice, and sweet potato 50cents a plate, it was a real steal. 
If you're not drooling yet, try adjusting your glasses.
To compensate for the fact that our trip was a little low on the wildlife factor, we found the next closest thing to a photo-op with the highly sought-after Rwandan silverback gorilla. I'd like to say that this was taken after the beers or Waragi...but that would be a lie.

Take note that I gave the best gorilla impression. Dian Fossey would be so proud.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Deckin' the halls

It’s hard to believe that Christmas is only a week away; Uganda has offered a rather disappointing preview to the big day. No continuous loops of ‘Santa Baby’ on the radio. No tacky strings of lights to adorn the palm trees. And the Ugandan Saint Nick is alarmingly thin. Feeling a little low on the festive scale, I therefore jumped at the opportunity when my friend Els invited me along to host a Christmas party for Angie’s Baby Home, an orphanage about an hour outside of Kampala. Els and her colleague Jean-Mark had spent the past couple of weeks collecting donations from family and friends, and had managed to raise 493.50 euros (!!!), allowing them to purchase the following items for Angie and her babes:
 - 50 kgs of sugar
- 50 kgs of rice
- 10 kgs of beans
- 18 tins of baby's milk powder
- a 3L jerrycan of cooking oil
- 2 dozens of bathing soap
- 1,5 dozens of baby's vasaline
- 20 rolls of toilet tissue
- 1 box of biscuits
- 3 bags of babies clothes
- X-mas decorations
- X-mas cake
- 1 box of washing soap
- 16 towels

* This is enough food to feed the home for about a month
A pretty fantastic playground!

Whatever you do, DO NOT steal a cookie from William
The orphanage is nestled in a beautiful village at the top of a hill,and like the rest of Kampala, the view was lush and breathtaking. I was so impressed and touched to see how much care and dedication goes into the running and organization of this home; each room was immaculately clean and there was almost a 1-1 ratio of nurses/sisters to children. The babies were absolutely beautiful, and the party was a raving success. I needless to say, came away with a whole lot more ‘merry’ to add to my Christmas.

Have a peek at Els' blog to check out pictures from the day.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Pork Chops

I am elated to announce that yesterday, on a rainy December morning, my close friend and colleague gave birth to the six most beautiful piglets I have ever laid my eyes upon. 


Congrats Notorious P.I.G, and may your squealers live long, abundant lives, never ending up on a dinner plate nor garnished with pineapple.