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Archive for August, 2008

I’ve been home in Montreal for a week now and have finally settled back into the rhythm of things. Simple things like supermarkets and the metro are very odd to me. However, I’ve been so well treated at DFGFI that I feel this culture shock would be much bigger otherwise.

My last day in Rwanda was just as memorable as my past two months doing this internship. I was informed last minute that the Rwandan Office of Tourism and National Parks had found an open spot on one of the gorilla treks for the morning of my departure. Some would say that deciding to climb a volcano a few hours before boarding a plane is just a bit too rushed, flaky even. Others, however, would point out that passing up an opportunity to see the rare Mountain Gorillas that can only be found in the area I’ve been working in for the past two months would be just plain foolish. I agree.

I woke up at before dawn in order to make sure that everything I had was packed and ready to go for when I got back from my trek so I could make a mad dash to Kigali to catch my plane. I had been told that if I was going to slam down the serious cash to see the gorillas ($500!), that I should try to go see the Susa group that is the longest trek but the largest group. Alas, I didn’t have enough time to spend trekking all the way up the Karisimbi volcano and so I settled on a steeper but shorter hike up to the Amahoro group.

After a long drive along the usual rock strewn roads that my driver jokingly dubed “an African massage,” we arrived at the bottom of the Bisoke volcano. The trek was long, the group had moved further up the volcano to the dismay of the other tourists. The altitude is just a bit too tough for some people and when you are not young and spry, the climb can be a killer. I’ve been living in Ruhengeri for two months now and have no longer fallen victim to loud panting after climbing up a small hill.

The guide and I were a bit ahead of the group when we finally arrived at a massive crater half-way up the Bisoke volcano. Our guide began to make vocalizations to announce our arrival and that we meant to harm. “rrraaa-hummm, rrraaa-hummm.” All of a sudden, there was a huge amount of rustling in the trees next to us. The guide and I were suddenly face to face with a 600 pound gorilla. The silverback had come to say hi. Directly behind us was a sudden drop into the crater; squeezing my hand, the guide and I made ourselves as small as possible as the big guy brushed by us. After what seemed like an eternity, he went off in another direction to see what our next move would be.

With my heart racing, I was excited to see the rest of the group. Not far off, we could hear more rustling in the trees. Above us, another male gorilla climbed into one of the trees and started to peel the bark and chow down. Soon, a few young ones came round to see what all the commotion was about. Once they realized it was just some bald albinos come to stand and stare at them again, they went back to wrestling each other. I can’t imagine what they think of us. What strange behaviour for an animal to do nothing but stare at them with seemingly no purpose whatsoever? I know one thing for sure, these gorillas blew me away and I could have spent ages up there on that volcano with them Every thing they did mesmerized me. When I caught a glimpse of the recently newborn baby, I was absolutely elated. When they broke out in screams bickering over food, my adrenaline began pumping. Every second was amazing. If I had left Rwanda without having been able to experience this moment I would have been kicking myself forever.

Rwanda, I will miss you. I have come to love you and all the people within. I’ll be back to see these gorillas again.

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Doctor Anny

Some people choose their careers because it pays the best or because their parents pushed them into it. Some people just stay in school because they cannot think of anything better to do. Doctor Kahindo Muyisa Anny became a doctor because she was fed up with the amount of people left to suffer in silence because the hospital system just could not care for them. One of these people was Anny’s mother.

Growing up, Anny remembers how her mother was always sick. She had three cesareans and her first two births were still born. She continued to suffer from fistorectomy which essential means she had acquired an extremely painful hole down there. In addition, she had hypertension to top it off. Anny’s own experience with the hospital was of frustration. At age twelve, Anny developed myopia. She arrived early in the morning and waited until the sun had set. She had been skipped on the list and never treated. She swore to herself that if she became a doctor she would fix the system.

When Anny started university, her parents were lucky enough to help her with her school fees. However, their funds quickly ran out and she was left to find money in other ways. With what money she had, she bought some baby pigs which ranged at ten dollars a piece. Before, after and between classes, Anny took care of her pigs. Soon she was making enough by selling baby pigs of her own that she could pay for her classes.

After graduating, she began working at the Kyondo hospital. Soon after, she met and fell in love with Pierre Kakule Vwirasihikya the coordinator of the Tayna Nature Reserve. When they got married, she moved to Goma and found a job at the Goma Provincial Hospital. In addition to working, she takes care of seven kids, five of which are Pierre’s from his late wife.

In 2003, she began working for the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International in charge of the ecosystem health program. In this position, she is responsible for a large amount of projects such as an orphanage that feeds and bathes children of war who go to school within the center. There is also a program for widows where the women are being trained to raise pigs just like Anny. She is also in charge of coordinating a program that ensures that communities around the reserves are getting enough protein. For each family, they are given either a sheep or a goat. In addition she is also in charge of theTayna Muyisa Primary School.

Despite the enormous amount of responsibility she has for the programs and her family, Doctor Anny is very satisfied with her job. “It is a pleasure for me to be a part of DFGFI. I can be a doctor and take care of many parts of the community,” she says, “Everyone has a place in the picture of conservation.”

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