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SEPTEMBER 17, 2007

The Land of a Thousand Hills



Somehow I always manage to gravitate to a good coffee shop, in Moshi we found ourselves wasting time at the Tanzanian Coffee Shop, in Nairobi we had more than one brew at the Java House (who also do a pretty mean burger), and thanks to Ian, our more than helpful taxi driver, we found ourselves sitting on the balcony of 'Bourbon Street Cafe', Kigali's finest coffee house that's so un-African it matched Kigali as a capital.

We had spent a few days wandering around the hilly capital city, the Genocide Memorial had a big impact, as did speaking to some of the more friendly locals we came across. After seeing the worst of Rwanda, we decided it was time to see the best side of the human spirit. After a few phone calls we hooked up with Sara, a Dutch girl working on a project for disabled children and, after very tasty long black agreed to meet up again in the Lakeside town of Kibuye.

Rwanda has the slogan, The Land of a Thousand Hills, and after catching a minibus from Kigali to Kibuye it is easy to see why, not only is the capital spread over several undulating hills, the whole country is literally one great big range of hills upon hills upon hills. Lake Kivu which borders the Congo appears out of the mist and shines green in the sunny afternoon. We walked from Kibuye, about 2 kms around the lake to our hotel, the Hotel Golf Roc Eden, where we proceded to kick back on the balcony enjoying the view (and a cold Primus).

While the weather was fantastic, we decided against going swimming - the greeness in the water looked remarkably similar to algea, and the high probability of dying from an overdose of volcanic gasses prompted us instead to take several lengthy walks around the lake shores. All in all we ended up hoping from one hotel to the next eating and drinking our way though Kibuye's finest restaurants (we probably walked a good 20km's over two days which was a nice warm up for the Gorilla trekking - especially after sitting on our behinds for the past few days). After sampling at each of the restaurants on offer, and a slightly uncomfortable run in with an overly friendly and slightly inebriated local (sorry Francious, as much as I enjoyed the hugs - I'm taken), we caught a Dalla Dalla back inland to the small village of Rubungera spending the night at the Motel Chede Ndaba, owned by a very friendly local, Patrick who works with Sara.

Bright and early the next morning we each climbed aboard a Bodaboda (125cc motor cycles) and scooted our way up into the hills to the small settlement of Mishobati. Bodaboda's are the main means of transport in the rural areas where minibuses cannot venture due to the extremely poor state of the roads.

At Mishobati we spent the morning at Sara's place of work - Komera. Komera is essentially a boarding a school for disabled children, looking after deaf, physically handicapped and mentally disabled children. The work these people are doing is amazing, and truly is making a difference in healing the wounds of the Genocide. We met with each of the classes and while it was probably a little disruptive to the days lessons, it proved to be highly educational for both Donna and myself. I am typically a bit cynical of the whole NGO, Peace Corp thing (it doesn't help that they all drive fancy new land cruisers) - but seeing first hand the benefits was a great experience. What appealed to me most about Kormora was that the people on the ground were all locals, the teachers, managers etc were all local people who had been trained and were now passing on their knowledge. The positive vibe was infectious, and the water fight that broke out after lunch had laughter ringing through the hills.

Komera - "Be Strong"
Komera is a project run by the Catholic Nyundo Diocese in Rwanda based on an initiative by Fr Eugène Murenzi, parish priest and dean of Mushubati. Komera works with Rwandan children suffering from mental, physical and communicative disabilities through a number of programs including home based care, awareness sessions for care givers, and both day and week for children to attend classes in the Komera facilities.

The Komera team is working to give the children assistance in Communication skills like sign language, general daily living skills like farming, cleaning and personal grooming, and how to deal with emotions and behaviours.

It was with some reluctance that we left the lunch table (eating lunch with a group of deaf children was highly amusing - aside from the fact that they each ate about four times the average adult size serving) and climbed back aboard the boda bodas for the return trip down the mountain. We were dropped at Rubungera where we grabbed our bags from the Motel and set off back into the village to meet the Bus to Kisenyi...

     
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