Thursday, October 21, 2010

Gashora, Rwanda: The journey getting there

It’s 2:30 am Rwandan time, on Monday morning, September 6th. We are 9 hrs ahead of BC time and we are spending our first night in Kigali before we head to Gashora later today. It’s the first time I’ve slept with a mosquito net over the bed, but so far the mosquitos haven’t been too bad from what we can tell. That will likely change when we go to Gashora which is by a lake that has hippos and crocs in it. No swimming here!

We arrived into Kigali at about 3:00 pm Sunday, September 5th. It was a very long 2 days worth of travel from Kamloops, which started on Friday, September 3rd at noon. The flight into Kigali reminded me very much of flying into Kamloops – it looked very similar. We were greeted in Kigali with every single bag in much better shape than expected. It was with great joy that we saw every bag make the journey safely and all 15 of us team members had all of our clothes and donations without anything missing! I understand this is quite remarkable – especially considering the Air Canada reps in Kamloops found flight discrepancies between our tickets and the airline schedule!

Lana, myself and Shannon left Kamloops to Vancouver and met up there with Marlene, Jen, Ruth, Ardel, Merv, Kelsey, and Lauren. We then flew 9+ hours to London throughout the night. Sleep came difficult. I felt like I was Air Canada’s personal pill pusher as I distributed little blue sleeping pills amongst the team members. We got to London on time, but all quite weary from a long, sleepless night. We met up with Sarah, Mirae and Amy (all from Vancouver). We didn’t want to miss any opportunity though to explore London while on a 10 hour layover, so we checked our carry on into lockers and took the tube, or the “underground” and rode to Picadilly Circus.

We promptly went for some traditional English fish n’ chips and beer and although it was lunch time in England, it was only 3:30 or 4:00 am back home. Yum – fish n’ chips for breakfast!!! After some fuel, we went and did a whirl wind sightseeing tour to Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Big Ben and just enjoyed the architecture and people of London until it was time to take the tube back to the airport for the next leg of the trip – another overnight flight to Ethiopia (7 hrs +). This flight wasn’t quite as comfortable and I’ve gotten quite spoiled to the newer planes with individual tv monitors. This plane was quite old and the attendants were kind enough to brighten the lights and feed us dinner at about 1:30 am. Once in Ethiopia, we went for a wonderful breakfast of scrambled eggs, orange juice, toast and jam, and coffee – from a wonderful espresso machine with steamed milk! The best sight I’d seen all day. Plates upon plates of toasted baguette came to the table. There must have been 6 or 7 loaves sliced up. A lot of bread!!! It sure tasted amazing and the coffee was fantastic. However, after the one pot of steamed milk and one coffee each, it seemed like they ran out when we asked for more. We laughed about them having to go milk a goat. Which may have actually happened, because when we asked another waiter about 30 minutes later, he was kind enough to bring us some steamed milk and more coffee.

I used my first squat toilet in the Ethiopian airport. It was very clean, and it was right beside the female prayer room. There was this cool tub in the bathroom which I assumed was to wash your feet before praying. I found out later the other washrooms in the airport were western style toilets, but they always had line ups, and the very clean squat toilet didn’t, so it was all good.

One more flight – last flight of the day to Kigali. Just a short skip and a hop of 2.5 hrs. However, there was an unknown stop in Uganda for about an hour. Oh well, by this time although we were all antsy to get to our final destination, there is not much that can be done, so we just chilled. We flew into Kigali during a major rain burst ( it is the rainy season and it certainly has rained the past couple of days), but it was beautiful. As I mentioned, despite the cynicism, all bags arrived in tact so it was cause for celebration. Lama and Claudine met us with a little truck and it took two trips to load all of our luggage and us to the hotel. It’s a good thing half the luggage was donations or it would have been awfully embarrassing! In Rwanda, we met up with our final team members – Warren from England and Karol from France.

The first impression of Rwanda was amazing – very clean. I didn’t see any garbage or litter and Lama told us that the use of plastic bags was illegal in the country (hence why they took them away from us when they saw us in the airport). Pretty proactive for a country such as Rwanda I’d say.

We checked into La Palisse – fancy on Rwanda terms and in our terms probably a 2 star hotel. However, it was clean, the thought of sleeping horizontally on a bed was very appealing by this time, and the best part……hot showers!!! We were so delighted to have hot showers after that long journey and we were all incredibly happy and content by this time. We cleaned up, went to exchange some money and then to a fantastic Moroccan restaurant. PS. Forgot to tell you that before we went to the restaurant, we were out and a few of us girls had to go to the washroom – we went and used the public washroom and when we came out discovered we had to pay 100 francs…that’s about .25 cents and obviously well worth it.

Anyway, back to the Moroccan restaurant – it was down the road from “Hotel Rwanda” and it was fantastic. We sat outdoors in the most beautiful outdoor setting with a ton of lights and candles hanging from trees, on tables, etc. Most expensive meal was 5600 francs which is about $12. It was absolutely fantastic. Shannon is spoiling us – she keeps needing to remind us that this will change soon as we get to Gashora. After eating, we were intending to go get supplies and water from the market, but after a full stomach, we were all exhausted. It was a long 2 days, we are very content and tomorrow will bring a full day doing our orientation, going to the genocide museum which will be an emotional experience prior to leaving for Gashora. It is also the presidential inauguration in Kigali with 15 heads of African states in attendance, so I’m sure tomorrow will be a very exciting, full day filled with excitement and new memories.

Now, it’s time to go back to sleep prior to an early start……good night!

Lisa Fuller

DWC Participant
Rwanda 2010

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