Stranded in the Savannah
The last few days have been a whirlwind of adventures and information for our team. We departed from Butare via public bus at 7:00 am, and arrived in Kigali slightly nauseous from the winding roads, but otherwise excited for our day at Gardens for Health.
Gardens for Health is an NGO (non-governmental organization) that also has a GlobeMed chapter from Middlebury College. They have similar income generation projects and maternal health education goals, and we were eager to discuss and exchange ideas with the chapter. Our team arrived, and we were invited to an outdoor pavilion where GFH gave us more details on the different aspects of their program, such as education, agriculture, and research and development. After the meeting, we toured the farm, ate a delicious meal cooked with the produce from GFH, and then went on to tour the city for the rest of the day.
On Wednesday, we went to the National Genocide Memorial. I think we can all agree that this is one of the most powerful memorials we have ever seen, and we all learned many things that we will never forget. I was upset that this nation has gone through so much pain and suffering, yet many people in the United States know nothing about it. I was angered at my own ignorance, because before I became a part of GlobeMed, I knew nothing about this Genocide. Even more, I learned of more genocides at the Memorial that I had never heard of. Why has the American education system chosen to ignore these devastating events? Should we not learn from these events so that they never happen again?
After the Genocide Memorial, we went to Hyacinthe’s sister’s house for an amazing lunch, then headed to the market to buy fabric. There was every color and design imaginable, and we were in awe in all of them. We spent a very long time looking at fabric, and thankfully we did not end up spending our life savings, but left happy and excited about the things we were going to make with our fabric. We then headed to the Muzungu-heavy Bourbon Coffee, where we caught up on the news and checked emails. To end the day, we had a night of good food, dancing, and fun at Alphonse’s house.
Fabric on fabric on fabric
On Thursday, we had a casual day of walking around the city. We went to Khanna Kasana, where Hannah, Abhi, and I finally got our Indian food fix, which was a welcome change to the beans and potatoes we usually have. We successfully made it via public transportation (without any help, I might add) to Kimironko, which is an open-air market in central Kigali. For dinner we went to Meze Fresh, where Abhi finally got her Mexican food, then headed back to the hostel, excited for the safari the following day.
Friday was the day that we went on a safari, and what an adventure it was. We started our day at 5:45 am, and took mototaxis to meet the Middlebury GROW team for the safari. From there, it was a 2-hour ride of windy, bumpy mountain roads to reach the reserve. Once there, we had a brief overview of the park, then off we went. Our goal was a river 3 hours into the park, where there were supposedly many animals to see. We figured that we could go on the safari, and make it back just in time for the last bus to Butare, but that did not end up happening. About 15 minutes into our safari, the driver pulled over and poured water into the hood of the car. Me, not knowing anything about cars, assumed this was normal and didn’t think anything of it. 15 minutes later, it happened again, and I realized that this was not normal, and that the car was overheating. We kept on this stop-and-go pattern for a few hours, and the stopping kept getting longer and more frequent. Finally, our guide told us that the car would not be able to make it, and that we had to call a rescue vehicle to come get us. By now we were a 3-hour drive from any civilization, in the middle of a Savannah full of wild animals. Even though the car was overheating, the guide insisted that we move inch by inch to make it to the river, and we eventually got there. We saw zebras, antelope, water buffalo, warthogs, giraffes, hippos, impala, and baboons. Thankfully, we did not see anything that would want to eat us, especially since we were wandering around the Savannah with not much in the way of defense.
Hannah didn’t like being stranded
Shenanigans in the Savannah
Eventually, the park rangers came and we were taken into the safe, horsefly-free zone of the rescue jeep. We parked our failed vehicle at a ranger station, and faced the 3 hour hell ride of a speedy off-road drive on a winding road. By the time we got back to the entrance, it was about 8pm at night, and the stars were beautiful. I don’t think I have ever seen so many stars in my life.
We had to move to the ranger canteen because the park was closed, and waited there to be picked up by the driving company. Our 30- minute wait turned into a 2-hour wait, where we finally ate real food, watched Step-Up 3, and made friends with an unwelcome bat that decided to circle us.
Hiding from our unwelcome friend
The rescue vehicle finally came, and by that time we all passed out on the ride back to Kigali. We crashed on the floor of Gardens For Health, since we were about 6 hours late for our bus to Butare. Although the day didn’t turn out as planned, it is definitely one of the most amazing adventures that I have ever had.
The next day, we woke up at 5:45 am (again) and caught the earliest bus back to Butare. Of course, it’s a national holiday, and the police set up roadblocks not allowing people to go through. After some persuasion by Molly and Hannah, we convinced the police to let our bus go so we could get back in time for our meeting. We made it back, and after our meetings, proceeded to pass out on any horizontal surface available. The weekend was long and had a few unexpected turns, but it was a weekend that I’m sure none of us will ever forget.