Friday, 29 April 2011

Well, what another amazing week in Rwanda!

 I have just come to the end of my holiday period, culminating in the form of big black and white stripey animals, tall, long necked creatures and floating logs!!!

You guessed it – zebras, giraffes and crocodiles. We had an amazing visit to Akagera National Park in the north east of Rwanda where it borders with Tanzania. It’s like driving through the Lake District National Park, off road (totally different scenery) and instead of seeing sheep grazing you see Topi, Impala, Water Buffalo and Zebra. The zebra in particular are very beautiful up close – the markings are so distinct, I hadn’t realised what wonderfully interesting faces they have. They seem happy that you have come to see them in their natural home, perfectly content and not afraid. From a distance they look grey. 

I really wanted to see giraffe in their home environment and I was not disappointed. We searched around for a while and then our guide said ‘I see giraffe’ and we went off the track onto the grassy plain. YES there they were! Two giraffe quite a long distance away but with my binoculars I could see them clearly. The male was soooo tall and his bulk enormous, beautiful markings, so very exciting! 

 However, at this point we realised the vehicle was well and truly ‘stuck in the mud’, no amount of rocking backwards and forwards was going to get us out of that deep watery hole! During bouts of helping to push, I was thrilled because we were able stand on the grassy plain and for a few precious minutes we were part of the sounds and smells and sights of the Savannah. It took about 45minutes to free the wheels and off we went... 

We thought that was going to be our only sighting of the giraffe but the guys don’t give up easily and not far around the corner we came across them again – this time a family of three – male, female and baby. It was a wonderful sight, to see them feeding from the tops of trees.

We continued our drive down to the lake and pulled up about 50metres away. Our guide pointed out the ‘floating logs’ – three of them soo close to us! And then we spotted the enormous crocodile sunbathing on the rock with its great mouth open, displaying his set of teeth! He did not move a muscle, he was so still. We stood in awe. A baby appeared from the water and joined his family on the rock. We ate our picnic at this spot and one of the crocs must’ve decided he was hungry too because suddenly there was a great tail thrashing in the water and a duck disappeared!!

Thinking what an amazing day we’d had we began the long drive to the South gate, but the excitement wasn’t over yet. As we rounded a corner of the track the most enormous elephant stood in our way! I didn’t know a big vehicle like a Landcruiser could reverse so quickly! Because that is what you do! If you come across an elephant suddenly, do not stand and admire it, do not beep your horn and expect him to move, you are in his territory and he may not want you there, so get out of the way!!! We admired him from a safe distance, then took a circuitous route through the bush to continue on our way.

The guide said we had been very lucky to see so many beautiful animals, and I know that we were because those animals just roam around freely wherever they want and no-one can predict accurately where they will be from one day to the next. A wonderful end to wonderful holiday.

Keep safe everyone and enjoy the extra holidays. xxx

Friday, 22 April 2011

Surrounded by gifts on my birthday!!
 Hi everyone! 
Just an ordinary Friday night!!

Since the last time I wrote I appear to have entered a new decade!! I had a very special birthday this week and received sooo many best wishes, cards and parcels, I was almost overwhelmed. One of the best presents was the visit of my friend, Ann, who always planned to be here on my birthday- she actually made it and brought sooo many gifts with her that she only had a half a suitcase left for her own items!! So thank you to everyone who sent gifts, cards, hugs and kisses. I had a great time and was able to provide a lovely afternoon tea for new friends here in Rwanda. Ann brought a selection of cheeses from Sainsbury's and it was very much appreciated even though some of it was very ripe by the time it was eaten!

I also need to tell you that I spent the morning of my birthday in the hospital suffering with an intestinal infection - great treatment and with the help of anti-biotics I am on the mend - it is an inevitable part of living in Africa,and  I am so lucky to have access to excellent medical care.

This week I have spent most of the time in Kigali and only returned home today (Good Friday)But as you will see from the photo we spent Friday night in the way we have often spent Friday night at home - it involved a bottle of red wine (thank you Judith) and a large packet of Kettle Crisps - crushed black peppercorn - my favourite. But we had the added bonus of a box of chocolates from Ireland - thanks again Judith !!! As a result I am writing this blog in a slightly squiffy atmosphere so I hope to write again soon.

Happy Easter , everyone and don't eat too much choccy!!
Love Tricia

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Returning Home – no, not that home

Lake Bunyonyi

I have just spent a week in Uganda and I must admit after a few days I was homesick for Rwanda!!! I enjoyed my trip and had many exciting experiences but it was quite comforting to realise that I felt I was missing my home n Gitarama.

I lived by the lake in the treetops for three days, in the African bush at risk of lions strolling by (none did) and with the wonderful community of people in the beautiful Rwenzori Mountains.

Living in the treetops

Inside the tent in the treetops

Lake Bunyonyi was a peaceful and pleasant retreat after a fairly demanding three months. You will see the tent in the treetops in which I slept most comfortably, waking to the sound of the birds, which allowed me to share their home for a few days. Along the lakeside the weaver birds were busy courting and building their nests. A highlight was kayaking in a dugout canoe across to the island for lunch.  

The inevitable puncture

From the lake we moved onto a safari drive, travelling over extremely bumpy roads and difficult terrain. Needless to say we got a puncture in the tyre – no trip on African roads is complete without one! 

Queen Elizabeth National Park

We stayed that night in Queen Elizabeth Park and were reminded that lions could stroll by at any time. Believe me this is not a comforting thought when you need to go to the toilet in the middle of the night!!

Surprised by hippos!

Those jaws are enormous!!
 The most exciting moment for me was walking along a river bank and hearing  very loud unidentifiable sounds from a very large animal.

 It was scary! 

We continued stealthily under cover of bushes with the snorting noises getting louder and louder.

As we came to the edge of the bushes, we saw them – a big family of hippos soaking up the water in the heat of the day. 

We watched in awe until eventually our guide said he thought we should leave because they were getting agitated. Not wanting to upset them further we made a silent retreat back into the bushes!

 I kept thinking it couldn’t get any better but it did! 

The Rwenzori Mountains

My favourite part of the trip was our visit to Rwenzori Mountains. 

This is a most beautiful part of Uganda and Mt Stanley is the third highest peak in Africa, after Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt Kenya. I would highly recommend this area for anyone who loves trekking - anything from a day's hike to a nine day trek is available.

Watching the sun set

We stayed in Kilembe at Rwenzori Backpackers – the write up in the Lonely Planet Guide doesn’t do it justice. In a later blog I will try to rectify that!! 

We had a guided hike up into the mountains, camped overnight and returned the next day.

Watching the sun rise

The money that we paid for this went towards funding community projects in the area. Kilembe has a copper mine which was closed down, removing the employment in the area. You can imagine the effects of this situation. Our guide was very entertaining and a great local character. 

Early morning breakfast

I‘m back home now and tomorrow I go to the airport to meet my friend from the UK who is coming to stay for two weeks. Can’t wait!  

Hope you enjoy the photos. 

Love to everyone Txxx

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Sunday 3rd April Mothering Sunday in UK

Mothering not smothering! Motherhood is an amazing privilege and an awesome responsibility, but also a source of great joy and fulfilment. The girls and boys here are mothers from a very early age – they look after their siblings whilst mum is busy cultivating the land for food to eat and to sell. If younger children aren’t available to help with childcare the work goes on anyway. The babies are fastened to mum’s back with strong cloth that will not break. Babies are very peaceful because they are so physically close to their mothers, they are safe and secure. The children also carry the babies in this way. I  haven’t seen fathers doing this but I have seen very proud and loving fathers cuddling their young babies and children.

As one of my daughters will tell you the early years of a child’s life are very important . It is the time when attitudes,  values  and social habits are being formed, a time when the brain is actually developing in its own unique way, when it is learning to learn if you like. The education system here is only just beginning to realise the importance of the Nursery years and there are some teachers doing great things with few resources. However, most of the time the young children sit quietly not being stimulated, with a consequent effect on learning development. My job is to focus on Primary Education but there is a great need to focus on Pre Primary schooling. 

I started my garden today – we have  a garden at the back of the house divided into 4 vegetable plots and I have asked for one of them. I am planting beans, broccoli and a variety of herbs . I have no idea what will grow but I’ll spread the seed and see what happens. I realised that the garden faces the same way as my garden at home – it gets shade in the morning and blazing sun in the afternoon – wonderful sunsets from the verandah too! – so a slightly different direction I think because my sunsets at home are more to the left!! I know... west!

On Saturday I was in the shopping precinct in Kigali and I could’ve been in any ‘bar’ in UK. Not because there were loads of white people – there weren’t – not because the beer was flowing – it wasn’t – then why? There was good natured socialising, there were soft drinks on the tables, there were lots of men all with one aim – enjoying the football match between West Ham and Manchester United. And boy! Did they enjoy it!!!! Every time there was a goal – and there were plenty – uproar – cheering, jumping up, thumping the air, clapping, big, big smiles. Fantastic! Meanwhile what were most of the women doing? Answer – shopping – see, just like home!
I am not a keen football fan but I wish I was. I can teach football skills but I have never supervised a match in my entire teaching career – well, not strictly true – I have supervised many matches but relied on the players to give me guidance on off side rules etc! I know!  What an admission – it gets worse – I used to run a chess club and we had some excellent players in our school. We won many matches and had champions who represented the North West. And all the while I pretended I could play very well – I can’t – I know the basics and I can teach the skills but my brain doesn’t work in the way that chess requires!! But this strategy has taught me that a good teacher needs to be able to facilitate and encourage, she doesn’t need to be expertly skilled at everything but she does need to be able to take pleasure in the skills of others.

Here in Rwanda the people have many many skills and I am looking forward to learning about them in the next two years.

April 7th in Rwanda marks the beginning of the time of mourning which lasts 100 days. This week is Memorial Week in which Rwandans gather together for 7 days of national mourning. I will be going to Uganda for a short holiday with some other volunteers. I decided to do this is as a sign of respect; it seems to me to be a time when Rwandans can have their country to themselves and grieve in their own way. I grieve with them in spirit but cannot ever know their pain. I am not afraid of being here, on the contrary I respect and admire the people for their courage.  Purple is the colour of mourning.

With much love to you all, don’t forget to comment! T xxxx