For our first week in Rwanda we met with government officials, co-operative management and rural youth. Overall we have gained a new appreciation for some of the more intangible challenges that accompany international development work. We have found that many of our basic assumptions are irrelevant given cultural context, logistical challenges or the regulatory environment, and we are working hard to anticipate what other unexpected challenges might await us this week. So when the weekend we were eager for some rest and recreation
We set out to appreciate the country from one side to the other! On Friday Emily, Erin, Kurt and Anne left for Volcano National Park, which borders Uganda, for a trek to see the silver backed gorillas. The gorillas can only be seen in the DRC, Uganda and Rwanda and only about 60 visitor permits are issued per day in Rwanda. There are nine families of gorillas in Rwanda and after a trek into the mountainous rainforest, visitors are allowed to spend one hour with a designated family in their natural habitat. Our family did not disappoint! We found them during playtime, and we frequently had to jump out of the way as they came swinging or scampering towards us. Kurt didn’t move fast enough, so much to his surprise, he got a gentle nudge from the gorilla barreling through our group! Overall, it was an excellent experience and not to be missed for anyone visiting Rwanda.
On Saturday the whole team drove to the other side of the country to visit Akagera National Park. Akagera borders Tanzania and the landscape is a stark contrast to the rest of Rwanda. Where Rwanda is lush rolling hills, Akagera is savannah grass and plains.
We stayed in a tented lodge and had a great time chatting around the fire at night before rising early for a game drive. Our finds included hippos, zebras, and baboons, but the highlights were the giraffes!
Richard, the (wonderful!) owner/operator of the tour company we used for the weekend shared with us his experience in Rwanda, including the genocide and how it had impacted him. He is now educated as a lawyer, owns a successful tour company with his wife, and is raising his two young sons in Rwanda!
We are looking forward to another week of hard work in the field. Highlights will include Ben spending a day with a farmer and the team speaking with Rwandan youth developing agriculture applications at an entrepreneurial incubator in Kigali. More updates coming soon! Thank you everyone for the encouragement!