Tuesday, May 7, 2013

May 6: Welcome to Gashora!

We've arrived in Rwanda! Our team is ten students from across Canada and we are having a blast already, just five days into this great adventure! Rwanda is a beautiful and lush country and as it is the end of their rainy season we're experiencing some great weather: humid and sunny for most of the day with showers and brief heavy rains to cool us down while we work. The people we have met so far both in Kigali (the capital) and in Gashora are so incredibly welcoming - and funny! Even through the language barrier we're sharing jokes, singing, dancing and cracking up throughout the day as we work.

We arrived Saturday night and stayed in La Palisse in Kigali, where we were paired up into adorable little cottages in a secluded and tropical area. The next morning we got our first taste of Rwandan buffet-style food and so far we're loving it! Their dishes have LOTS of carbs (potatoes, plantain, rice, beans and pasta) but they also have a wide selection of fresh fruits and veggies that are grown locally. The avocados here are the biggest I've ever seen!

Sunday we explored Kigali a little bit and did some shopping. Then we all got on the bus and travelled an hour and a half to rural Gashora, which is our home base and work site for the duration of the trip. Our La Palisse hotel here is on a stunning property overlooking a beautiful lake. There are so many birds here! They do a great job of waking us up at 6am each day! In fact, on Monday morning we saw a GIANT eagle of some kind right by our outdoor breakfast buffet - flying away with an even more giant tree branch. Sadly the photo I got is only a blur, but I hope to see another eagle like that soon - perhaps at Akagera National Park mid-month.

After breakfast on Monday we walked down the road 20 minutes to the worksite at the Covaga Innovation Centre. The women of the weaver's cooperative welcomed us with open arms and sang and danced for us, and we got to work! We are currently working on a building that will serve us a restaurant for Gashora visitors and as a kitchen to hold cooking and nutrition classes for the community. Monday was spent plastering the inside walls of the building, and today we finished most of the plastering and began building scaffolding for the roof. We are working with some hired locals and have been making great progress!

It's lots of hard work each day but it is so fun and we take awesome breaks by playing with the children when they are off from school. They all love to be photographed and to take photos while wearing our terribly muddy sunglasses - they are such a joy! They follow us in large groups as we walk down the road back to the hotel, and many of them speak fantastic English. I wish I could say the same about my Kinyarwanden!

We will be working five days a week and spending weekends exploring other parts of Rwanda. This weekend we will be going north to Lake Kivu and a cultural centre in Musanze. Can't wait!

Sarah May
DWC Student Participant
May 2013, Rwanda

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