The views expressed in this blog are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of VSO.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Home with handicrafts

I arrived back in the UK in mid-July laden with handicrafts, all of which I’m pleased to say I have managed to sell, both to friends and following talks at VSO and Women’s Institute meetings.  Many thanks to all who have supported Rwandan artisans by buying their beautiful ‘ubikorikori’, as handicrafts are called in Kinyarwanda.
Since early October I have been back in Rwanda.  Yes, I have another placement, this time working with an organisation called Azizi Life.  Here is their website:  My role will be to develop Village Visits to meet the handicraft makers and their families.  Maybe you would like to come and visit them and try your hand at hoeing and weaving?

I’ll next be in the UK at Easter, when I will again be delighted to sell you handicrafts and talk about life in Rwanda.  Let me know of any organisations that would like me to come and speak.

This will be my last blog entry.  I don’t have so much that’s new to talk about any more.  I’m looking forward to my first run through of the Village Visit experience next week though, and to my first Rwandan wedding next month.  I’ll try to start using Facebook and email to keep you all up to date on goings on out here from now on.

So, murakoze (thank you) for reading my blog and murabeho (goodbye).  Oh, and finally a picture of me here in Rwanda;  'Nice hat', a student friend of mine admired yesterday.  Hard to tell if he was serious.


Friday, 14 October 2011

Saying goodbye

People were very kind over my leaving in July.  Work held a leaving lunch for me.  Several people stood up and said some very nice things about me.  Sifa in the picture below presented me with some handicrafts made by YWCA members.


I had been primed that I would need to say something and managed a short thank you speech meticulously prepared in Kinyarwanda!  Here I am after the lunch with my best friend at work, the woman I have worked so closely with for the past six months, Venantie:

The most touching thank you though was from Assoumpta, the leader of one of the women’s groups whose handicrafts we are marketing.  When I arrived for work she was waiting for me with a present of jewellery she had made from recycled paper.  I barely managed not to cry as she put the necklace round my neck.  I know; it felt like when you are presented with a medal.  Bless her.  Here is the gift she made me:


Only an hour and a half bus ride from Gitarama is Kibuye, a village by the beautiful Lake Kivu; the perfect place for a peaceful weekend.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Waking up in Rwanda

Dawn from my bedroom window:

Bits and pieces

I’ve got a few odd photos which might interest you.

Below are two men sawing hardwood planks by hand using a two-person saw.  You do occasionally come across a chain saw being used to fell really big trees, but the vast majority of work felling and cutting wood is done by hand.  I’ve seen a man chopping down a tree I couldn’t have reached my arms around, just with an axe. 

And here’s a man doing something else with a tree – climbing it.  His friends pointed him out to me and he said he didn’t mind me photographing him.

This picture gives you a good idea of the terracing that covers most Rwandan hills:

No, I'm wrong - there's often terracing but this photo shows instead how fields are often at a steep angle, which can cause erosion.  The government is insisting that areas like these are converted to terracing.
My bedroom wall, complete with gecko: 

Baby Nice

If you’ve taken an interest in Nice, you will be pleased to hear that by the time I left Rwanda, she weighed 2.4kg and was approaching the date on which she should have been born.  Her umbilicus has finally healed.  She still has an umbilical hernia, which they repair here in the same way as they do in the UK.  It looks as though, against the odds, she’s going to make it.

Nyungwe Forest

Everyone’s heard of Rwanda’s mountain gorillas, but Nyungwe Forest is a well-kept secret.  It is the largest remaining medium altitude forest in Africa and has massive bio-diversity including 12 species of monkey and 400 chimpanzees.

I had never set foot in rain forest before this holiday and, after the gorillas, our walk in Nyungwe was the high point of my week with Gillie and Kevin.
As we drove to the start point for guided walks (you are not allowed to walk in Nyungwe unaccompanied), we passed the Nile-Congo divide.  A rain drop on one side ends up in the Mediterranean and a rain drop on the other...etc etc.  We stopped to watch a family of baboons:

Gillie took the best shot of a mountain monkey:

Our guided walk took us past towering mahogany trees:

Here’s our guide showing us a mahogany seed:
Here’s a tree with buttress roots.  Our guide said chimpanzees drum on the buttresses to communicate across distances:

Now for some of my attempted arty shots.  First a view up into the canopy:
And here are...some trees:

You can see the rain threatening in that last picture.  Two minutes after we finished our walk, the heavens opened.  The guides said it rains every day here except for July and August when it only rains some days.