Worst Blogger Ever.

I’ve truly been the worst blogger ever. I haven’t posted anything since arriving in Namibia…three weeks ago! This trip has been such a whirlwind that I can’t believe it’s almost over. It’s been one of the best experiences of my life and I promise I’ll share more details on it later.

In my defense, there’s been sparse and slow Internet, class, work, busy schedules, and too many cool things to do! I’ve seen giraffes, seals, lions, cheetahs, rhinos, elephants, (and a few too many reptiles and insects for my liking). We’ve traveled hundreds of miles and stayed in nine different locations.

For those of you wanting to know what’s happened during the last three weeks, jump to the TAMU Study Abroad blog, www.alecabroad.com, for the class blog. I’ll update mine over the next week or so…

Final thoughts and days: Rwanda

The last two weeks of my time in Rwanda went by extremely fast. I suddenly felt the pressure to do EVERYTHING before I left. It was a busy time, but so much fun. Some of the highlights…

I’ve met several groups of volunteers from different organizations, so I’ve been able to meet with them, hang out, and just have a lot of fun getting to know them.

 

One group was here to work at the orphanage outside of Gisenyi. It was so much fun to play with the little kids and hold the babies, but also heartbreaking to see how many children were there. The conditions were decent and there’s a steady stream of volunteers and Rwandan “mamas” there everyday. The mamas are local women who volunteer there everyday, many are older women with no children at home anymore. We also visited one in the hospital. He’s tiny for being eight months old because he has HIV and was not being treated properly. The poor fella is tiny, but adorable when he smiled

 

 

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We visited several of the genocide memorials too. There are three lare ones: Kigali Memorial, Nymate Church and . I didn’t get to visit the third, but being at two of them was incredibly moving. The genocide is unbelievable and heartbreaking. The memorials had clothing, pictures, names, and remains of victims. Seeing those visuals just really made the events hit home. I’m really having trouble putting the emotions of it into words.

I did get to do more fun things to end my trip though! There’s shopping, good restaurants, coffee shops, and I met with several different groups of people that I’ve met while being here. Kigali is crawling with muzungus, some just tourists, many volunteers, a decent expat community too. There’s one bar/restaurant/dance club that all the muzungus flock to (and many Rwandans too) called Papyrus. Had a great time there and ended up staying out until morning! It was a great way to end the trip though!

I feel like I did so much during my six weeks, but at the same time I feel like I’ve just touched the surface. This trip to Rwanda has been truly life changing. I was not expecting to fall in love with Rwanda and by dying to return, but I am.

The people and the culture of Rwanda is spectacular. The landscape is gorgeous. Pictures do not do this country justice. And the history of the country and the progress they have made in the past 20 years is inspiring for development efforts.

This trip changed me. It opened my eyes to a whole different world. I have a better appreciation for the amenities of living in the US, but I have a greater appreciation for the simple things and what is truly important in life and what is frivolous.

I have worked firsthand with NGOs, agribusinesses, institutions, and farmers. I have learned about new opportunities for development work, the impact, and the benefit. It has solidified my choice in career paths and what I want to do with my life.

I met incredible people – locals, volunteers and expats. It was great to see these passionate and intelligent people trying to make a difference in the world.

This trip was something special.

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Is this real life?

One year ago today, Aimee and I were on our flight to Europe. We backpacked our way through seven or eight countries for more than five weeks. A year later, I’m at the halfway point of my African summer. Is this really my life?!

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This has been one heck of a year. I graduated college, backpacked through Europe, moved to Texas, started graduate school, and am now in Africa…and that’s just touching the surface of what has happened this year! It’s been stressful, crazy, and amazing. And I wouldn’t change a thing about it. This year has helped me to realize the important things in life and the important people that I am blessed to have supporting me.

During last weekend’s moto adventure to the Catholic church, I had to pinch myself to make sure this was really my life. This country is so beautiful and so wonderful and has such a tragic history. I am so blessed to have the opportunity to be here, learning, studying, and exploring.

I have less than two weeks left in Rwanda and I know that I’ve only scraped the surface of things to do and try and learn about in this country. I honestly wish I wasn’t leaving so soon! It really didn’t even seen like a possibility that this is how I would feel five weeks into my stay. I definitely thought I’d be starting a countdown back to the USA, but not even close!

My parents gave us opportunities to travel throughout our childhood and now I’ve definitely got the travel bug. I enjoy learning, seeing new things, and making new mistakes. I fell into this career path by accident, but I’m certainly glad it happened.

Just my thoughts for the day…now I’m celebrating the Fourth of July in Rwanda. Enjoy it back in the USA 🙂

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Motos and Muzungu

I feel like I haven’t blogged in a while! I don’t really have a set routine here, so I can’t exactly keep track of the days…ooops. Honestly, I do spend a good amount of time on my laptop. It’s not because I’m being boring – I have work to do! I’m currently still employed as a Graduate Research/Teaching Assistant at TAMU, so I have assignments/papers to write for that, my thesis that needs to be written, and the SC Johnson case study that helped finance my trip here. I’m keeping busy, but at least I have a nice patio and table to call my office 🙂

Motos are everywhere. Every street corner, popular area etc have at least three waiting. All I have to do is wave a hand or go “ssssssss” and they will all come zooming! Gisenyi is not a huge town, but it’s rocky and hilly, so taking a moto around town is very handy. They cost 300 RWF to get anywhere in town and around 700-1000 to get to the outskirts of town (1USD=645 RWF)…pretty good deal!

The moto drivers are crazy – they weave around cars, drive within inches of pedestrians, and go speeding up and down the rocky hills! But it’s an adventure! Yesterday, we took a moto ride to the outskirts of town to grab a drink (but the real reason was the because it’s a beautiful ride to that bar!). I took a video of part of the drive…notice we had to swerve to avoid hitting the goats in the road :0 (having trouble uploading the video, maybe that will be on facebook)

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Another thing here is the word “muzungu”, which means white person. I hear it everywhere. People stare, call out muzungu, little kids try to speak English, shake hands etc. It’s not meant to be insulting or a slur, just merely an observation. I had a group of kids shout “muzungu goodbye!” at me for an hour straight one day. The guy I was with explained that I was probably the only white person they’d see for a year, so yea, they were excited. They also love having their picture taken…super adorable.

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New experiences every day, it’s definitely keeping me entertained. I can’t believe I’ve been here for more than three weeks!

Beautiful Rwanda

I have been absolutely astounded at how beautiful this country is. I did not have many expectations or did extensive research on what Rwanda is actually like before I came here. So it has been a pleasant surprise! In some ways, it reminds me of Vietnam (for those of you who have traveled there, it may paint a little better picture)…only better and cleaner.

Crops

Rwanda is named the land of 1,000 hills and it is so true. We had a three-hour drive from Kigali to Gisenyi and it was up and down, winding around mountains and hills. Amazingly, we were on a nice paved road for the whole drive! Everywhere we looked there were hills and even volcanoes.

Rwanda has the highest population density of any country in Africa. This means that there are people everywhere and the agriculture is everywhere. The hills and high population pose a unique challenge for agriculture and not a foot of ground goes unused. There are goats and sheep ties on the sides of every road eating grass and crops growing everywhere. This makes for some pretty interesting drives!

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For our coffee mill visit, we had an hour drive through some fairly remote areas. No paved roads, which were very narrow, and lots of small houses dotted the area. But it was breathtaking. We were going up and down the mountainside with Lake Kivu right next to us. The lake is very clear and well kept too. Rwanda has two heavy rainy seasons every year, so there are many springs and small waterfalls along the way.

Gisenyi

Can’t wait to explore more of the country! (Bonus points to whomever knows what crop is growing in the first picture…)

Lake Kivu