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Let Us Go Meet Our Cousins: MyDogKyle’s Adventures in Uganda & Rwanda

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Jul 5th, 2009, 07:00 PM
  #121
 
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All I can say is "Wow!". With only several months to go until November, I cannot help but wonder if our adventures with the gorillas in Uganda will even come close to those that you had. It just brings tears to my eyes.
If we can just escape from our own thoughts and our tendency to separate ourselves apart from the whole, it's so easy to connect with each piece and communicate and understand each other....you just relay all of this so beautifully. Thank you sooo much for your beautiful story with such great feeling!
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Jul 8th, 2009, 07:30 AM
  #122
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Thank you so much, fourwheelinit. I'm so excited for you -- I'm sure you'll have an amazing experience with the gorillas! It means a lot to me to be able to share our experiences with anybody reading here. Before we went I read every gorilla trekking report about 3 or 4 times!

I'm almost to the end of this very long report -- just two more days. Thanks for sticking with me! Next up will be our visit to the Virunga Artisans and the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, and then Kigali.
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Jul 9th, 2009, 05:15 AM
  #123
 
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Can you give me a direction to look for any reports on the gorillas in Uganda? I would love to read up on them before we go!
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Jul 9th, 2009, 10:30 AM
  #124
 
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fourwheelinit,
Have you seen the East Africa trip report index? http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...port-index.cfm
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Jul 9th, 2009, 11:52 AM
  #125
 
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MDK, I'm still here reading your wonderful report. I plan to catch up on the last couple of installments this weekend.
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Jul 9th, 2009, 04:54 PM
  #126
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Patty's suggestion to look at the East Africa trip report index is a good one -- that's where I go first. Lynda has done a great job organizing them so it's easy to scroll through and look for reports about the specific places or types of trips you're interested in. You can also limit your search to Uganda and enter gorilla as a keyword, but that will pull up a variety of threads, not just trip reports (and I've found that the search function is a bit hit-or-miss). I think many of the gorilla reports on this board are about Rwanda, but I know I read some about Uganda in there, too.

I'm stuck home with the flu this week, so I should be able to finish off the report in the next few days! Thanks again for letting me know you're reading... it's a good motivator.
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Jul 10th, 2009, 04:30 PM
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PART 18 (Musanze to Kigali) – “Gorilla Doctors, Basket Weavers, and 24-Hour Shopping Mall Culture Shock”

Today we had the opportunity to visit two very interesting and inspiring Rwandan projects before heading to Kigali, the last stop on our amazing journey. Learning about these projects and the challenges they face really gave us a window into the realities of life in Rwanda 15 years after the genocide, and made our visit to the national Genocide Memorial even more meaningful.

There is too much to be said about the 1994 Rwandan genocide for me to try to sum it up here. But we had an interesting and uneasy confluence of political events both past and present during our few days in beautiful Rwanda—a reminder of the ongoing turmoil in this region, and what people in this part of Africa are forced to live with, as well as the hard work that they have done to move beyond their tragic past. Scattered throughout the country are mass graves from the genocide, as well as signs painted on building after building in remembrance of that tragedy. It was so strange to be in a place where every time we saw a person over a certain age, we had to wonder, “What is your story? Where were you when it happened? What did you do—or what was done to you?” At the same time we were seeing these reminders of recent history, the streets around us were flooded with people carrying bags and suitcases, refugees fleeing Goma, where fighting had escalated just over the border in the DRC. We found out today that the reason they moved us to the Kinigi Guest House was that our original hotel (the EEC Guest House) was filled with refugees. That’s also why the border between Uganda and Rwanda was closing at nightfall, because so many people were trying to escape the DRC and come into these neighboring countries. Such a different world than the fragile little heaven up on the mountainside that we’d visited the last two days. But I think it’s important to see this side of African life, too.

The first project we visited today was the Virunga Artisans, a co-op of women who produce beautiful woven baskets (not to be confused with the carvers’ shop near the gorilla trekking office, which also calls itself Virunga Artisans). You can check out their work and find out more about them at their website: www.virungaart.com

We were welcomed into the enclosed gardens and lovely, spartan home of Elaine Gardner, a British woman who has helped run charities in Africa for decades and handles the Rwandan side of the organization (the American import operation is based in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is how our Zoo group made this connection). With her friendly dogs in tow, Elaine showed us around the former military buildings which are now used for the co-op, and introduced us to Jean d’Dieu, a young Rwandan guy who is learning to do the bookkeeping for the project. In the back storage area, Elaine showed us rooms full of rainbow-hued piles of baskets. Each bears a design with a special meaning—the pattern of the Virunga mountains, or a swirl of three colors that represents the three tribal groups of Rwanda living in harmony, just to name a few examples. And each basket bore a tag with the maker’s name on it. It was interesting to see how different these basket designs were from the ones we’d seen in Uganda.

After everyone had shopped and played with the dogs to their heart’s content, and Jean had meticulously hand-written all the receipts, we gathered in the garden to learn more about the Virunga Artisans’ mission and the challenges they face. The goals are admirable—to empower local women and give them a profession, while also preserving traditional art forms such as basket weaving, carving, and cloth-making. While most of the money goes back to the artists, some of the profits are also put toward gorilla conservation. But the challenges are daunting—not just lack of funds, but also a general lack of business experience and know-how in the local community. Most of the women involved in the co-op are functionally illiterate and have never been involved in a business interest before. Elaine is hoping to change that through vocational training and business skills classes, so that the project can eventually be run entirely by Rwandans on the African side of things. They are still a long way from that goal, but in the meantime the money they’ve raised so far has helped local families put roofs on houses, purchase livestock and land, and send children to school. This project, like others we’ve seen during our trip, shows how even a small organization can have a positive impact on people’s lives. If you are looking for beautiful, meaningful African gifts, I encourage you to take a look at their website.

Next we visited the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, one of the most fascinating and inspiring things we’ve encountered on this trip, especially after having spent time with the gorillas themselves. Unfortunately, the MGVP is not open to the public, but you can read more about them and follow their blogs at: www.gorilladoctors.com We were extremely lucky to be able to visit here, thanks to the Oakland Zoo. Dr. Lucy Spelman, the project manager, met with us and was very generous with her time despite their urgent concerns and attempts to monitor what was going on with their staff and the gorillas in the DRC.

We all gathered in an open courtyard and Dr. Spelman showed us the chalkboard schedule with details on all the gorilla groups—which animals were scheduled to be checked by which vets, which groups had the day off from tourists’ visiting (today was Group 13’s day off!), who was being treated for what illness or injury, and who was under observation for health problems. There are 8 gorilla vets currently working for the MGVP. Most of the vets are American at this point, but they work very closely with Rwandan, Ugandan and Congolese trackers, who know the gorillas better than anyone and are equally concerned with their health issues. The MGVP was established in 1986 with Dian Fossey and has been sponsored by the Morris Animal Foundation ever since, as well as some other organizations including the Maryland Zoo and the UC Davis Vet School. Their goal is to protect the gorillas by promoting a “One Health” philosophy—the idea that people, wildlife, domestic animals and the environment are all part of one system, and that the health and well-being of each depends on the others.

The MGVP headquarters we visited includes staff housing, a lab, and a library with internet access. There are also field vets stationed in the DRC and Uganda. The field vets visit the habituated gorilla groups once a day, and if necessary they will treat gorillas on site in the forest. Dr. Spelman emphasized that they only treat the animals for snare removal or life-threatening illnesses, however, as they try not to interfere too much with the gorillas’ natural behavior. Since gorillas are so close with and protective of their families, it is not easy to perform medical procedures on them! (There is an excellent account of a dramatic gorilla vet encounter in Dr. Spelman’s book about zoo vets, “The Rhino With Glue-on Shoes.”)

Like the chimps in Budongo, one of the major threats the gorillas face are snares—rope and wire loops set out to catch duikers can easily get caught on a gorilla’s hands or feet. The silverbacks can bite off the rope snares, but not the wire ones. Dr. Spelman told us that this past year they’ve seen increasing numbers of snares in the Virungas, possibly because of the unrest in the Congo, a lack of sufficient anti-poaching patrols in such a huge region, and what she described as “leaky border problems at the top of Sabyinyo.”

Since the gorillas themselves aren’t concerned with international borders, the vets’ goal is to cover the junction of all three countries where the mountain gorillas live. As part of the One Health goal, they also treat golden monkeys and other wildlife as needed when time and resources allow, trying to be on the alert for possible disease outbreaks. In addition to caring for the wildlife, they’re concerned for the people working here, too—they try to send all the Rwandan park staff to a doctor at least once a year.

Another important part of the MGVP is their work with orphan gorillas, both mountain and Grauer’s gorillas (an isolated subspecies in the Congo). At the time we visited they had 11 orphans in their care, 4 of whom were mountain gorillas, and all of them from the DRC. One of these babies, a 4-year-old, had to have his hand amputated because of a snare injury. The vets have learned a great deal from these baby gorillas, but they’re not sure they can ever be returned to the wild because of disease exposure from living with humans. To those who are skeptical about whether veterinarians should be working with wild gorillas at all, Dr. Spelman is quick to point out that 75% of the world’s mountain gorillas have been habituated to people—and 100% of the things that threaten their survival are caused by people. She said she is optimistic about the gorilla doctors’ goals, but pessimistic about how the regional governments are dealing with the current problems in the DRC.

After talking with us at length about the MGVP, Dr. Spelman showed us around the small lab, where they do fecal screening and analysis for parasites to create a baseline for a given population of apes. (Dr. Julius’ project the day we were visiting involved working with samples from Nyungwe chimps.) All clinical pathology is sent to UC Davis in California. They also have created a “bio bank” of samples for anyone who wants to study the mountain gorillas.

In addition to their scientific work, the MGVP is involved in local education projects (their facility was decorated with some local children’s drawings of golden monkeys—so cute!). I was so impressed by Dr. Spelman and by everything we learned about the MGVP. I left here both inspired and impressed by the magnitude of the challenges they face, but the passion and ambition of these veterinarians and their staff is infectious (no pun intended). I urge anyone who cares about the gorillas to please check out their website, and help support this amazing project if you can.

By now it was time for us to head onward to Kigali. But first we stopped at a downtown market for some snacks, since our morning visits had run long and we wouldn’t have time for a lunch stop. The streets were filled with people walking and buses and trucks packed with refugees. Everyone seemed to be carrying a bag of some sort, slung over their shoulder or balanced on their head. Before long our van was surrounded by several kids in wheelchairs, a man with no legs who was dragging himself along the ground with his arms, and an elderly man whose feet were huge and deformed by elephantiasis. Everyone was asking for help. It was quite intense, reminding me of some experiences we had in urban India. It also occurred to me that this is the kind of thing—desperation driven by poverty and disease and the displacement of war—that tourists are usually sheltered from on the safari circuit. Nobody quite knew how to respond. We got some crackers and tangy star-shaped fruit from the shop, and several people asked our guides if we should offer people some food, but they said it would best for us to just get back in the vans and move on before things got worse. The circumstances were so surreal and disturbing that nobody had much of an appetite after that.

The drive to Kigali was lovely, past terraced hill after terraced hill—beautiful, but frightening when I realized that nearly every square inch of land has been cultivated and there is no open, wild space outside of the protected national park areas. What will happen when this land can no longer sustain the needs of the growing population? We saw children in bright blue school uniforms working in the fields on the side of a steep hill, and whizzed past long lines of people walking, walking, walking with their suitcases. Mostly men, very few women and children. I felt so small and insignificant here, just a tiny speck in this huge, tumultuous world. How strange that we should be here to witness this, and yet not be a part of it… that tomorrow we’d be on a plane and flying back to our safe, comfortable homes, and who knows where all these people would be? Still walking? Holed up in a hotel trying to contact their families across the border? Or cut off from their loved ones altogether? I couldn’t think of this and feel good about the situation I was in at that moment, driving safely past in a little white van and seeing all this through a window. What accident of luck or chance had put me in this position, and these people in theirs?

The views of Kigali as we arrived in the outskirts were striking—hill upon hill, all covered over with small buildings and rooftops, rolling away one after the other as far as the eye could see. The closer we got to the city center, the more bustling and modern it was, with tall hotels and cyber cafes and shiny shopping centers. Jhonie pointed out that Rwanda received “a lot of foreign money” to help rebuild after the genocide, and that’s why the city seemed so much newer and more developed in some ways than Kampala. It boggles the mind to look around this place and think of what happened here, not so very long ago. But Rwandans don’t shy away from their history, or try to hide it. In Kigali, too, we saw statements about the genocide painted on the colorful faces of buildings, as ubiquitous as the cell phone ads that are painted onto small buildings across Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

This afternoon we visited the Kigali genocide memorial, perhaps the single most significant cultural site in the city. It doesn’t help you make sense of what happened here, but it does give visitors some idea of what it was like, and how things spiraled out of control. Most importantly, it pays tribute to the people who lost their lives, as individuals and not just as horrifying statistics. We found several parts of the memorial particularly moving—the filmed interviews with survivors talking about their experiences and their lost loved ones, and the dark rooms with lighted displays of clothing found on victims, rosaries and shoes, skulls and bones, with a voice in the darkness reciting a never-ending stream of names of those who died (this last room made me break down and cry). The room that most got to me, though, was the one with family photos of the victims. There were a number of small alcoves with pictures hung from floor to ceiling—overwhelming as you walk in and take in the whole, and then intimately moving as you come closer and focus on the individual snapshots: people smiling, being silly, laughing with friends, holding their children. I chose one of these alcoves and sat on the little chair in the middle and looked at every single picture there, thinking and wondering about each of these lost people, and the loved ones who had donated these photos in memory of them.

Outside, we walked through the memorial gardens past the mass graves, talking with Jhonie. He was just 10 years old when this all happened, and he remembers his mother trying to explain it to him, hearing about it on the news. In the rose garden we came across a group of giggling school girls in their blue and white checkered uniforms. Jhonie told us that all school kids in Kigali are required to visit the memorial. What do they think of this, their country’s history—so recent that their parents would have experienced its horrors? The official word now is that people don’t identify themselves as Tutsi or Hutu anymore—just Rwandan. “Never again,” they say. And it is so admirable that this is not kept hidden. But how, really, do people forgive such things and heal from such wounds? How does one keep living side by side with others who did such despicable things? What do parents tell their children about it, in the privacy of their homes? Rwanda is an incredible, difficult place—as complicated and complex as any country, but with a unique set of challenges. Visiting here stirs up more questions than answers, that’s for certain. But it’s impossible not to admire what’s been accomplished in this short amount of time, and impossible not to root for this place and these people in their efforts to overcome such a horrific history.

After the memorial, the guys drove us to a little local beer garden-style restaurant. We’d been too busy for lunch so everyone was starving by this point, and this was a perfect change of scene after a somber afternoon. They had a good buffet of African comfort food—bananas and rice, spinach and bean dishes, ugali, pasta and Belgian fries. We gathered at a long table under a tent where a little TV was playing the old Bill Cosby movie “Ghost Dad” (dubbed in French). Jhonie kept cracking up watching it, and trying to explain the plot to me. All the commercials, inexplicably, showed white people speaking French. Today was Wazir’s birthday, so we surprised him with a “cake” made of pineapples, sang to him and blew soap bubbles and made him give a speech. It was the kind of goofy fun time you can only have with good friends.

After we checked in to the Gorillas Hotel (a very nice business hotel—I can recommend this one if you’re looking for a place to stay in Kigali), Wazir took some of us over to the 24-Hour Nakumatt shopping mall to catch up with our e-mail. On the way there, we drove past some infamous sites associated with the genocide: the Hotel des Mille Collines (closed for renovation during our visit) and the Ste. Famille Church, where 20,000 people were killed when they tried to take shelter from the massacre. But of course Rwanda is much more than just its history, and alongside these grim reminders was a colorful swirl of urban activity, highrises and restaurants and stores and traffic and pedestrians, with pied crows wheeling in a huge flock overhead. The mall was complete culture shock for us after spending the past few weeks in Uganda—a glossy multi-floor extravaganza of bright lights, shops, fast food, giant ads for things on sale, and people on cell phones. We tried, unsuccessfully, to “get the cyber experience” (as their sign described it) at a hip internet café, but it was packed with well-dressed business people and trendy kids, every computer occupied and everybody sipping espresso drinks. Instead we found a quieter little internet shop where we could all get onto computers and send messages home to assure our families that we were fine (I wondered if any news about the DRC was even being reported back home). It was strange to be in this environment after all that time spent in “the bush,” but of course this is Africa, too. To me it felt like the first step on the long road back home.

Tonight we all gathered in the pretty patio restaurant at the Hotel Gorillas for one last Primus beer, desserts and Amarula. We celebrated our amazing adventures and our wonderful guides, who have become such dear friends and took such good care of us along the way. After most everyone else had gone off to bed, a few of us lingered at the bar with the guides, and one friend put this question to them: “What do you find funny or strange about Americans, after spending all this time with us?” Kule told us he was surprised that we didn’t talk like Americans do in the movies (as he put it, “You know, everything is always ‘f-ing this’ and ‘f-ing that’ and ‘damn it to hell’”), and Jhonie and Ali agreed—they’d expected us all to talk like sailors the whole time! “I am relieved you do not talk that way,” Jhonie admitted. “In the movies, Americans seem to be always angry.” Wazir demurred with his answer, saying that he didn’t think anything was strange or funny about us (diplomatic as always!). Then Kule said, and the other three quickly agreed, that he was surprised and touched by how our group immediately took the Ugandan guys into our “family”—“You treated us as friends right from the start, made jokes with us, and we all laughed together so much,” he said. “Most visitors never do that. With many visitors, it is more like we are employees than friends.” Then the guys turned the tables on us and asked what is funny about Ugandans to Americans. I told them that what I found most charming is how sweet Ugandan men are—or at least, these individual Ugandan men we got to know best. They didn’t try to act tough or macho, they were polite and gracious with beautiful manners, yet willing to be silly with each other and with us, prone to joking and teasing but also serious and thoughtful, soft-spoken and open-hearted. I told them I wished more people back home could be like the Ugandans I know.

Tomorrow is going to be hard. Leaving this place will be sad, but leaving these people much sadder still.
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Jul 11th, 2009, 12:03 PM
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MDK,
Hope you're feeling better! Your report is so wonderfully description. Again I feel like I'm right there every step of the way.
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Jul 11th, 2009, 12:06 PM
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Ack, descriptive!
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Jul 12th, 2009, 02:56 PM
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Much better Patty, thanks! I've got about a month to completely recover before our Bay Area GTG, and our trip to Soth Africa.

Okay, guys, here it is... the LAST INSTALLMENT!
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Jul 12th, 2009, 02:57 PM
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PART 19 (Kigali to California) – “Saying Goodbye”

I was up so late last night with friends that I needed a chance to sleep in, so unfortunately I missed out on a morning walk around Kigali with my husband. But he awoke to bright sunshine and couldn’t sleep, and decided to go out exploring on his own. He walked up Avenue Roi Baudoin, a street lined with flowering trees and huge pink bougainvillea, empty except for morning joggers (something else we haven’t seen much of in Africa!). He walked past the Hotel des Milles Collines for a closer look. There were guards stationed there and the gardens still looked tended to, but the “renovations” seemed a bit suspect—rusty scaffolding that looked like it hadn’t been used in a long time, and rubble piled up where the swimming pool might have been. We’re not sure what the plans are for this place, but it didn’t look like it would be open any time soon.

He also visited the Ste. Famille Church, which is still in use. He said everything appeared perfectly normal, and it was a little odd to be there and see the way it is today, after just seeing pictures of this building filled with dead bodies at the genocide memorial yesterday. Inside, a quiet prayer service was taking place, and outside altar boys were goofing around with other kids dressed in their church outfits. It’s really not so odd, though, when you think about it. Today you go to the D-Day beaches and see families having picnics on the sand and children running around where so many people died decades ago. With the passage of time, these things are a sort of healing—much more so than razing such places to the ground and building over them. It’s only the nearness of Rwanda’s genocide in the great scheme of things that makes it feel a bit strange, I guess.

Back at the hotel, we all eventually straggled down to breakfast in the courtyard (I was thrilled to have some cheese, for the first time in 3 weeks!). We took Jhonie aside and asked if he would like one of our pairs of binoculars. We’d noticed that he kept needing to borrow them on game drives, and we figured he could make much better use of them than we could. He seemed thrilled by the gift, got all teary-eyed and gave us big hugs. Of course we were grateful to all four of the guides and gave them all big tips, but Jhonie was a particularly special friend—I think we spent the most time talking with him out of all the guides, and he’s the one with whom we’ve stayed in closest touch since. (Between all the members of our group, I think each of the guys ended up with lots of new goodies, not just Jhonie!) Wazir also put out boxes so that people could donate extra clothing, guidebooks, and any other gear to charity. The boxes filled up really quickly. After breakfast we did one last big group circle and gave all the guides their thank you gifts and tips from the group as a whole, with more speeches, and many more hugs, and not a few tears shed in the process. All the wonderful things we’d experienced in this journey (and the unpleasant things we’d avoided!) were because of our guides’ efforts.

On our way out of the hotel, my husband popped into the gift shop and came back with a little red, white and blue shoulder bag decorated with Barack Obama’s face (made in Rwanda). Good luck for the upcoming election, we hoped! We also stopped at a craft market on the way to the airport for everyone to spend the rest of their Rwandan money and pick up last-minute gifts. We bought a Rwandan guitar and some little woven baskets for our baby nieces (to put their carved gorillas in). The guides all went shopping with their tip money, too, picking up treats for their wives, kids and moms. Ali looked pretty cute walking around with a purse and a doll for his 3-year-old daughter.

At last it was time to head to the airport for the long slog home, the worst part of any trip. Before we said goodbye one last time, Wazir got out a big map and showed us the entire route we’d driven through both countries—pretty impressive! Then more hugging, more tears. It was so hard to walk through the gate into the airport and leave Jhonie, Ali, Kule and Wazir behind us, waving through the glass until we could not longer see them. They were such a part of our travel family, our group did not feel complete without them once we’d been sucked away into the airport. But I’m sure it was good for them to start their own long journey home to their families, too.

We had a short wait in the Rwanda airport after a chaotic check-in line, and then a quick flight to Nairobi where we had a grueling layover (something like 8 or 9 hours). If you know the Nairobi airport, then you know there isn’t really a good place to hang out for that long a period of time! But we made do with staking out a corner with a bunch of chairs, and setting up camp with some of us in seats, some on the floor, reading and talking and napping, while others wandered off to check out the shops or get food. How different our group was now, compared with the time we’d spent in SFO at the start of the trip, hardly knowing each other.

From Nairobi it was back to London and finally back home, and our little travel family went our separate ways. But since then we’ve had a reunion, and dinners, and the chance to meet Jane Goodall at a Chimpanzoo conference, and fun times working together at the Zoo. For Earth Day we set up an “African Marketplace” and sold baskets and tea and carvings from the Virunga Artisans, spreading the message about Rwanda, Uganda and gorilla conservation to families at the Zoo. It was so successful that we’re hoping to do it more than once a year, and next time I plan to set up my computer to play our gorilla trekking videos, too. So, in some small ways our connection to these special places is still a part of our everyday lives.

But in a much more significant way, our lives have been enriched and expanded by this journey through Uganda and Rwanda, and all the people we met there. It will forever be a part of our memories, our emotional lives, our imaginations. When I said goodbye to Jhonie at the airport, I told him that we would see him again someday, God willing. And I know in my heart that’s true, even if we return to Uganda and Rwanda only in our dreams.



Thanks again to everyone who has taken the time to relive this adventure with me – I know it’s been a long one, and took me a long time to finish! I’m also so grateful to those who posted about their own experiences in Uganda and Rwanda on this board. It was exciting and fun (and very helpful!) to read those threads before our trip. I’m happy to have had the chance to post a little bit more about these wonderful countries (especially Uganda!) on this board, where there is much more written about Kenya, Tanzania and southern Africa. I hope I’ve been able to contribute something that will help somebody else plan their own adventure there someday. Happy travels! MDK
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Jul 13th, 2009, 04:16 PM
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This is a gorgeous trip report.
What a vibrant account of something truly special. Whether or not I ever visit Africa (although, of course, now I hope I will) it has really helped me shape in my own mind some answers to the way I wish to travel. As I am only beginning my traveling days, my reactions to your experiences were really helpful and unexpected.

You have a vivid way with words, and I thank you deeply for sharing!!
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Jul 13th, 2009, 04:55 PM
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Your part 16 is mesmerizing and you certainly had to work for it. Thirteen was very lucky for you. I'll be checking out photos and the other parts later.
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Jul 13th, 2009, 05:21 PM
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I also know exactly where the title of the report came from now.
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Jul 13th, 2009, 07:44 PM
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What a great report. When I watch a movie with my toddler niece and something sad or slightly scary occurs on-screeen, she'll grab my hand and say anxiously, "What's gonna happen, Auntie? What's gonna happen?"

Thanks for writing this, MDK--a truly sad story about truly beautiful places, people and wildlife. What's gonna happen? I don't know. Maybe something good? But how?
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Jul 15th, 2009, 02:49 PM
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Thanks so much, you guys. I really appreciate your comments. When I went back and read one of the later entries and saw all my typos, the editor in me just cringed! Thanks for overlooking that.

Hannah, I'm glad my experiences were was inspiring to you and I really hope you get to meet some gorillas of your own someday! There are a lot of different ways to explore Africa (and the rest of the world, for that matter). I'm still learning about what kind of traveler I want to be (or not be!). One of the best things about travel is that, if you pay attention, you can learn so much about where you are and who you are and maybe even a little bit of why... and in the end it really changes you.

Lynn and Leely, thank you too. I love hearing from you both. Leely, you hit the nail on the head with your description of my trip -- "a sad story about beautiful places, people and wildlife." What else can we do but love them, do what we can to contribute to their welfare (including educating others about the situation as best we can) and hope for the best?
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Sep 9th, 2010, 07:47 PM
  #137
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
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MDK, two years later, I just had to top this thread to tell you that this trip report was awesome! I have been reading it everyday on the skytrain coming home, so it has taken me quite a while (about a month - which is why you haven't seen anything new on the index lately!), but I actually cried when I finished it yesterday!

You are an incredible writer, and I do hope that some day you will seriously consider writing a book on all of your African adventures.

You take the reader through the gamut of emotions, I laughed aloud at some of your stories (and received plenty of stares from my fellow riders), and some of the lines - who could not laugh at the end when your guide said he expected all Americans to talk like sailors? A sob caught in my throat ('are you alright?' a fellow paasenger said...) when I was reading the part about the murder in the forest as well as the paragraph you wrote on the Rwanada genocide, it was very touching. As well, your description of the snares & what they can do was heart-wrenching.

And talk of suspense! I was on the edge of my seat when your husbad was lost on the mountain as well as when you kept getting stuck in the mud - would you make it to the gorilla trek in time?

And last, but not least - knowledge. Wow. I learned alot from you, from all of the information that you wrote on the conservation issues, the collaring of the lions & hyenas, lots of things like that.

And in there someplace, even though I can't think of what they were at the moment, were some darn good ideas - I still use one of your great ideas from your first report everytime we travel - bring along posty notes, write where you are on it, stick it on a wall, photograph it & hey, when you start working on those pictures you will know when you have changed locale! It worked great in the glaciers on our Alaskan cruise, I was probably the only person on the cruise who could identify each glacier a year later with accuracy.

A job well down, MDK - hopefully you have written one of your South African trip too, even though it's not East Africa, I look forward to reading it!
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Sep 10th, 2010, 08:32 AM
  #138
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 153
Can't thank you enough, LyndaS, for flagging this one for those of us who missed it during its first iteration. Started reading it last night and was struck, so struck by the sincerity and heartfelt nature of the writing. Looking forward to many more evenings with your report, MDK. I second LyndaS's suggestion of somehow incorporating all your writings into a book. I haven't read any of your reports yet so have lovely hours of reading ahead.
Thanks MDK - and thank you LyndaS.
sangeeta is offline  
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Sep 16th, 2010, 04:30 PM
  #139
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Posts: 788
Oh, wow, you guys. I haven't been on the board in a few weeks and just checked in and saw your comments on my 2008 report. I can't tell you how much it means to me that you feel that way about my writing and our adventures in Uganda and Rwanda. I really hope this inspires somebody (um... Lynda??) to go there someday. This trip was truly one of the most amazing and moving experiences of my life. What I love about this board is having the chance to share that with other people who love Africa as much as I do.

FYI: The Oakland Zoo is going to be doing a similar trip to visit these same projects in 2011. If you are interested, keep an eye on their website.

Yes, I did write a trip report about our volunteer project with brown hyenas in South Africa in 2009. This past July we had a wonderful trip to Mongolia and I am still working on finishing my journal. Not sure if I will post as long a trip report for that one (only because I don't know if anyone on the Asia board will read it! and it does take a ton of time to do this...) Next May we're heading back to South Africa, as well as Botswana and Victoria Falls -- this time with my mom and dad! So I anticipate another long Africa trip report in my future. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my reports, and for giving such generous feedback. You guys really made my day!
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Jan 8th, 2011, 05:03 AM
  #140
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 3,184
loved your report.
i laughed, i cried, i was struck with horror and i marveled at your experiences.

i just started researching for a solo trip to rwanda and kenya for my 50th birthday at the end of june.
the oakland zoo's trip although entirely missing my birthday sounds fantastic.
thanks for the heads up for 2011.
i will definitely attend the orientation on jan 19th.
thanks again for a delightful read. i felt i was there with you.
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