Sunday, March 20, 2011
Friday, March 18, 2011
Thursday, March 17, 2011
As we returned to Kigali, we took a sobering visit to the Nyamata Church. The church is now a memorial for the 1994 Rwanda Genocide. A museum representative explained in vivid detail the horrific events that took place in the church where nearly 10,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutus were brutally murdered after cramming into the small space in hopes of finding refuge. Monday evening, we sat together to reflect upon our visit to the memorial. It made the development that we have seen and the experiences that we shared in the villages even more amazing. We had a lot to discuss, and thought about what we could learn from Business on the Frontlines, and the implications the class had on our roles as future business leaders. One of the ideas that came through was that perhaps ‘good’ was less of a designation, but more of an aspiration – we can hope to be good, it’s something to strive for, but not something to expect.
On Tuesday, we split into two teams to meet with the Rwanda Cooperative Agency (RCA) and Rwanda Agricultural Development Agency (RADA). Both teams had the opportunity to speak with the Director General of each agency. Mariana, Justin L., Israel and I learned about the RCA’s role to promote, register and regulate cooperatives. We also had the opportunity to hear about RCA’s savings and credit cooperative organizations, which were developed to help ease vulnerable people from low level savings to more organized financial institutions. Justin W., Rob, Ahmad and Adam learned about the challenges that RADA is addressing throughout the agricultural industry, such as population growth and land mass.
Tuesday afternoon we visited the Genocide Museum in Kigali. It was another heart-wrenching yet thought-provoking experience. The museum was even more of an education in the history of genocide around the world, and inspired a lot more thought on the topic. Seeing the photos of children killed during the terrifying days, and looking at the last mementos of lost family members really hit home. The thought that these were some of the only memories people had of their family put the team into a somber mood. Feelings brightened later as we went out to the best Indian restaurant in Kigali, Khana Khazana. We gorged ourselves on delicious naan and curries, while Justin W. struggled to avoid any spiciness approaching his tongue, and Mariana and Justin L. celebrated the extreme spiciness of some of the dishes.
After concluding our field visits with government agencies yesterday, we spent this morning exploring the various artisan shops in Kigali. It only took the guys about five minutes, while Mariana and I marveled for quite a bit longer. But, in the afternoon we got down to business. We look forward to presenting to our partners at CRS/Rwanda tomorrow and reuniting with our family and friends in a few days!
Saturday March 12th. 11:30 am. Team Rwanda starts their journey to visit the high Mountain Gorillas driven by Robert –or Roberto Anderetti as we usually call him. After 2 hours traveling along winding roads on the edge of a 2-miles down precarious views, we arrive at the Asoferwa Kinigi Guest House –our lodge for the night.
After a short walk, the team heads to the guest house’s restaurant where they play spades and eat local delicacies as they watch the skies go from blue to black in a matter of minutes. The volcanoes, that earlier loomed high above, disappear into the dark clouds. The team enjoys card games and local Primus beer in front of the communal fireplace, while pouring rain bangs loudly on the roof. At 10 we all go to bed since we have an early appointment with the next part of our adventure.
Sunday, March 13. 6:00 am. The six adventurers prepare for their journey by downing a simple breakfast of eggs and toast. After a short ride, we arrive at the Visitors office were we have a short security brief: 7 meters away from the Gorillas is the instruction. We are placed with a guide and he tells the group we will see the Bwenge Family consisting of ~20 members. As we ride on a very bumpy road to the base of the volcano, we silently thank our hosts for sending us with Robert on a sturdy 4x4. 30 minutes later we arrive to the base (which is at 2,500 meters above sea level) and our guide informs us that 2 hours of trekking up the volcano awaits us before finding the Gorillas. Welcomed by farmers and children we traversed for 75 minutes through Irish Potato plots. Upon reaching a large rock fence that marked the start of the National Park, we saw a radical change of vegetation: from farm fields along the mountains to dense and muddy jungle. We met one of the Gorilla trackers who lead the way chopping away the jungle vegetation with a sharp machete. Forty minutes –and several stinging nettles injuries- later we are told to stop and leave all of our bags, as we had reached the Bwenges. Nervously we prepare. “No Flash, no sneezing, no coughing, no loud sounds”, we are told, “leave your walking sticks and follow our lead”. We walk for a few feet and suddenly we hear a strong sound of shaking trees. Our eyes open widely as before us appear a baby Gorilla and its mother eating branches. We ogled for what seemed like eternity and then followed the guides to see more members of the family. The leader of the pack–a 24 year old silver back- ate plants followed by a dessert of berries. He then found a comfortable clearing where he attempted to remain awake for his guests, but eventually surrendered to his food coma and laid down for a nap. During this time we were able to see more baby Gorillas and females. Before long our hour with the Bwenges was over. As a parting gift, one of the babies jokingly beat his chest to remind us of who was in charge. Careful not to fall along the slippery, dark, muddy trail we rushed out of the Jungle taking a final glance at the thick vegetation and the towering trees. We walked down in silence in disbelief of the amazing experience we had been blessed to live.