Sunday, March 15, 2009
Welcome to the Jungle (continued)
(Pictured here: The East Side Crew!)
I apologize for my delay in posting this entry and concluding my story; I had to leave in a bit of a rush last time. (Well, I am always playing 'beat the clock' whenever I'm in an internet cafe.) Anyway, I wanted to finish 'Welcome to the Jungle' last weekend, but the power went out in Butare for almost three straight days. It is not uncommon for cities in Rwanda, even major ones like Butare, to loose power for extended periods of time. Let's see how much I can get through today.
Special Note: Before I finish 'Welcome to the Jungle', I want to touch on my site visit.
'Ego Ko!' (Wow!) It was a big week here. I spent all of this past week visiting my project site. That's right, I found out where I am going to live, work, and play for the next two years. I have been stationed in the East Province of Rwanda in the district of Rwamagana. (Pictured Above: Some of us stationed in the Eastern Province are throwing up 'East Side' and celebrating the news of our placement.)
Province? District? What does this all mean, Emmett?! Let me break it down for you. Rwanda is divided into five 'provinces': North, South, East, West, and Kigali-as the nation's capital, it is its own province. Each 'province' contains, roughly, four to six 'districts'; each 'district' is then divided into 'sectors'; each 'sector' is divided into 'cells'; and each 'cell' is divided into 'villages'. Rwamagana is the Western part of the East Province...just two hours East of Kigali and two hours West of another Rwandan National Park, which I will visit soon (that's right, I'm going back into the jungle).
All 34 Peace Corps Rwanda Volunteers are spread out among the five provinces of Rwanda. We are working in schools, hospitals, and health clinics. I have been assigned to volunteer at a sector-level health clinic...I spent all of last week there...it was great! The staff and the community members are kind, respectful, eager to learn English, and eager to teach me Kinyarwandan, French, AND Swahili.
Needless to say, the week was pretty packed. My time was divided between meeting neighbors and staff, touring of the sector, and working at the clinic. I was also able to get a better idea of my project and even see my house. Everything went really smooth; I am excited to begin next month. Today, however, I am back in Butare. I still have a few more weeks of training to go before I move to my site and begin my project.
I would LOVE to tell you more about the sector, the people, the health clinic, my project, and my house, BUT I am going to save those stories/descriptions for later blog entries. TODAY we are going back in time...back to what we started...back to the jungle...
'Here is the trail'
The begining of 'the trail' seemed open, but that was only because our new guide had some free time to cut more brush out of the way while he was waiting for us. After one minute of walking, we realized that the trail was pretty much being made as we were heading towards the family of Colobus. It was rough! The ground was covered with dead/decaying flora; it was very soft, a bit muddy, and very slick.
Rwanda is 'The Land of 1,000 Hills'. This is a very appropriate tag line for the country, especially in the West and North provinces. The hills there are more frequent and intense; this is mainly because these regions are volcanic. Anyway, the 'trail' we were on was straight down a relatively intense hill; I mean, this hill just kept going.
Because we were walking down-hill and on wet earth, naturally, a few people slipped, but no serious injuries were sustained. I sort of slipped...funny story, okay, so I am walking down the hill and the 'trail' carved out for us takes almost a 35° angle down; it was almost like a straight drop. Anyway, I get down and then I turn to help Bryna (she was the volunteer behind me). Well, as I am turning, I lose my balance for a bit. My body is trying to counter this fall, so I am flapping my arms and shifting my weight, BUT my pack is too heavy and it pulls me down on my back.
The scary part was I didn't know what I was going to fall onto; luckily for me it was a thick, low level of brush. The fall was painless, but I was stuck. The position I had ended up in and the weight on my back prevented me from getting up on my own. I tried to move side to side to get something going, but that was only digging me deeper into the brush. SOOOO, I was like a turtle stuck on its back until Bryna came down and righted me. Naturally, she was laughing pretty hard...not only at my slow-motion fall, but for my feeble attempt to right myself.
Anyway, after 30 minutes of walking or so, we finally came across the Colobus family. The guide started to tell everyone to hush as we approached the trees in which the Colobus had made their home. We were silent, except for the crunching of moist brush under our feet. He pointed up and through the mist and dark green of the jungle we saw a family of six to eight Colobus. I took alot of really cool pictures; not just of the Colobus, but of the jungle too...walking through the mist was just AMAZING. I took some cool video of the Colobus playing and jumping around. It is hard to see them through the mist, but hopefully the audio picked up their calls, which sound less like monkey calls and more like bushpig calls.
Anyway, we watched the Colobus for another 30 minutes or so and then the guide turned to the group and motioned that we should head back up the trail, take lunch, and call it a day. The walk back up the trail we had created was uneventful, BUT exhausting!
When we reached the top of the hill and came out of the trail and onto the main, paved road, we pretty much flopped down, opened our packs, and started eating ravenously. It wasn't a couple minutes into our lunch that we noticed we had a 'follower'. One of the more brave L'Hoest's monkeys followed us back up the hill, smelled the food, and tried to rob us!
It rushed at a pack that was on the ground, but the main guide was on the spot and put himself between the monkey and the group of us. Threatened and a bit scared, the monkey retreated to a tree just out of the guide's reach, but close enough that we could get some AWESOME pictures and video of it.
Another funny story...I saw the monkey, dropped my lunch, and ran for my camera. I started taking mad photos of this thing and getting some good video. As I am videotaping this monkey, I totally lose track of were I was in relation to my pack. Well, the monkey, as smart as it is, saw that I had dropped my lunch and that I was busy taping him; so this monkey, as I am taping mind you, makes a run at my food! Out of complete and total reflex, I picked up my walking stick and started making very caveman-like noises...not on purpose, mind you, it was just my first reaction to regress to my animal instincts and defend my food...I was starving too, so that monkey wasn't getting anything, let me tell you. Anyway, my cave-man grunt/babble and my stick waving sent the monkey into the forest for good...unharmed, but with an empty stomach, I am sure. Everyone thought my reaction was a big joke, BUT I totally saved everyone from the monkey trying to steal our lunches. They wouldn't have thought it was so funny if the monkey was sucessful, right? Hahahaha!
Anyway, it was obviously an awesome time and I would totally do it again...and I plan on doing so. I still have two more Rwandan jungles I want to visit and several more throughout Africa, so I am sure there will be more jungle adventures to come.
Just a couple of quick notes before I sign out:
Quick Note: I bought a 'Go Phone'. Cell phones are popular here and I thought I should get one in case of emergencies. Moreover, I may need to hear your voice once or twice each month or so...
Quick Note: I have learned from my family that some packages, letters, and such were sent to Kigali. I have yet to receive them, but it sounds like it takes a month for things to reach here. At any rate, be aware of that. Also, I will be moving to my site soon and my mailing address may change, so check my blog for updated mailing information.
Quick Note: I received a Rwandan name! Impressed with my social nature and my ability to assimilate into the culture, the language instructors in Butare have named me 'Ngirinshuti' ... 'I have many friends' or 'the friendmaker'.
Quick Note: Thank you, everyone, for your emails, facebook messages, and blog comments. You are in my thoughts and prayers.