In the afternoon after our first day of gorilla trekking, I went on a little river trip in a fiber glass canoe with Kingfisher Journeys down the Mukungwa River with the most wonderful guide, Eloi. The photo below is of Simba, our driver and guide while in Rwanda, who was amazing, and Eloi who works for Kingfisher Journeys. If you’re trekking with the gorillas, this is such a fantastic thing to do in the afternoon. I highly recommend it and Eloi is terrific, lots of fun and very knowledgeable!
It was a magical way to spend a few hours just as the sun began to set. The abundance of bird life was staggering. I saw a grey heron, white egret, spoonbill, Ibis and Hadeda Ibis as well as dozens and dozens of other birds. I’ve never been much of a “birder” but this trip was an amazing experience; I loved every minute of it.
Okay, first things first. My computer crashed on the 3rd day of our trip. As in blank screen, nothing working, enter password, little wheel spins around, weird lights flashing in the upper left corner and then back to asking for my password screen. I don’t know if it’s just run the course of its computer life or if the brown-outs caused it to malfunction, this is obviously not my language or within my skill set to parse. Coupled with the iffy wi-fi and after trying a number of things, I finally gave up. That was what seems like weeks ago, but actually was on August 17th or was it the 18th? It’s impossible to know because each day has been so packed with adventures that it feels like years and at the same time, just seconds all at once.
So I’m on my husband’s computer writing this post, having finally contacted my friend and the person who pulled this site together and made it actually work, our tech guru, Kai of Hostingforwriters.com. She’s amazing, especially when it comes to all of this stuff, as well as being an all around lovely, kind, thoughtful human being, who also happens to be a very talented writer! Thank you Kai!!
So here we are, thanks to Kai, and I’m finally writing a blog post, way overdue. So where was I? Right. Gorillas! As in these amazing creatures.
Nothing can describe the thrill of seeing these beautiful animals in their own habitat. All money collected from the gorilla treks in Rwanda go back to protecting the gorilla population, the community, and education. For example, former poachers become porters and protectors through tourism dollars.
Once I have been able to figure out (if I can) how to log into my youtube account, all passwords were lost due to my computer crashing, I will post videos. In the meantime a little visit with the gorillas in photographs, which does not do them justice, but is better than nothing.
While trekking with the gorillas we stayed at the Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge set in the Virunga Mountains. Sabyinyo is also the name of the oldest volcano that looms above the mist and low laying clouds and means “tooth.”
It’s impossible not to contemplate the genocide that ravaged this country, when more than one million people were massacred in 100 days. Think about that. Resulting in a collective trauma that is still felt by so many to this day. It was a brutal time demonstrating the worst aspects of colonialism and the racism that came hand in hand, a government that manipulated its people into seeing each other as enemies, and a world that refused to acknowledge the warnings and reports from so many.
Rwanda. (If you’d like to watch the youtube video I made covering the first few days of our trip, you can do so below.)
A fertile land where the rains allow crops to flourish, yet reveals the bones from those who were systematically and viscously slaughtered and then dumped into shallow graves. So many over the age of 30 have horrifying stories to tell.
And yet to travel in Rwanda today is to be greeted by waving children yelling “hello!” and “welcome!” teenagers eager to practice their English, and adults who do not show, at least not outwardly, any malice towards the tourists coming from countries that turned their backs on them, and allowed the killings to continue.
In fact, the country teaches the importance of kindness, reconciliation, forgiveness and how everyone prospers as a result. There are large posters and billboards everywhere encouraging exactly this.
And while coffee and tea are the country’s largest export, it’s the chance to catch a glimpse of the gorillas, who live mainly in a mountainous region among volcanoes shrouded by wisps of clouds, that draw many of the tourists.
Gorilla conservation, transforming poachers into porters, convincing the local population that their lives can and will improve if they do not encroach upon the gorilla population, but instead protect them, has changed lives.
Compassion. Kindness. Caring for others. Being a good person.
“We are gathered here to remember those who lost their lives in the Genocide and comfort those who survived.
“As we pay tribute to the victims, both the living and those who have passed, we also salute the unbreakable Rwandan spirit, to which we owe the survival and renewal of our country.
“To our parents, children, brothers, and sisters who survived — to Rwandans who defied the call to genocide and to those who give voice to their remorse — it is you who bear the burden of our history.
“We have pursued justice and reconciliation as best we could. But it does not restore what we lost.
“Time and again these past twenty years, Rwandans have given of themselves. You have stood before the community to bear witness and listened to others do the same. You have taken responsibility and you have forgiven.
“Your sacrifices are a gift to the nation. They are the seed from which the new Rwanda grows. Thank you for allowing your humanity and patriotism to prevail over your grief and loss.”
Paul Kagame: President of Rwanda at the 20th Commemoration of Genocide Against the Tutsi
Off we go on our grand adventure to Africa tomorrow!
Here is a little recap of the last 24 hours…
Yesterday: Wake up to find we have been sent a notification from the airlines that our flight has been cancelled. Wait, what?!???
My heart skips a beat, a precursor to the flood of panic that immediately follows. Time for some deep breathing. Logic kicks in. We will get another flight out, it’s going to be fine. I quickly send off emails to the travel agency and leave voice messages for them as well, just in case they don’t get the email, even though it’s 6am and they’re on Central time and won’t be open for at least four hours, you can never be too careful or thorough.
I practiced my french – j’ai pratiqué mon français. Still feeling some trepidation and panic, but attempting to speak another language helps. Meanwhile Richard has been experiencing heart palpitations and has an appointment with the doctor to make sure he’s in tiptop shape for our trip. I remind him that it’s important that he wear his hiking boots, since they’re new, at least once before our trip, to ensure he doesn’t get blisters while we are away. He nods distractedly.
The travel agency gets back to me, we laugh about traveling and how anything that can go awry, often does, but it won’t be a problem, she’s got this and will call me back when she’s figured out our new airline and flight.
I decide this is a good time to get some stitching done to calm my frayed nerves.
Several hours pass and I get the news that we are rebooked on a different airline departing out of a different airport, but we will make our connecting flight and all is well. Knowing that we are all set to go as originally planned I go out to get my Covid test as required by the airline and Africa.
I throw on an old pair of sandals and walk briskly over to the CityMD nearest us only to be told that they’re swamped and test results will take 3-5 days. Yikes! They suggest a different place that is about a half a mile away. A true New Yorker, I walk over to this new place, which is actually a folding table set up on the sidewalk on 14th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues. It feels as though I have pebbles in my sandals, which I cannot find or get rid of. Never mind, there’s no line and so I fill out the various online forms to register and they assure me test results will be delivered within 24 hours. Perfect! “Go easy on me,” I plead to the young man, who I swear couldn’t be older than 22. He assures me that he’s known for his gentle touch and before I know it the deep nasal swab has been deftly done and is over. “That’s it?!” I exclaim. “Yup, you’re good to go,” he says.
I have a brief moment when I consider whether it would be worth purchasing another airline ticket for this young man so that we can bring him with us and have him perform the 9-10 Covid tests we will have to get throughout our trip. I voice this thought in a joking tone. He laughs and says something like, “I wish.”
He has no idea how serious I am…
The pebbles in my sandals are now really quite painful and I’m having a difficult time walking. I stop at a random pharmacy, purchase some bandaids only to realize that there are no pebbles; I’ve developed large quarter-sized blisters on the bottoms of both feet. How does that even happen?
I hobble home grateful that I can stay put and not go anywhere else.
Upon arrival back home I am confronted with more forms that need to be filled out no more than 48 hours before leaving. I can feel my anxiety rising. Oh and weren’t we supposed to start taking our malaria tablets? Oh no, that can wait until Friday.
New email comes in from the travel agency reminding me to print out our Rwanda visas. Wait, what?Rwanda visas???? I did that, didn’t I? I’m sure I did, but never received confirmation that our applications were approved. I search for and eventually find the email saying that our visa applications are “pending.” I forward all of this to the travel agency with the subject line: HELP!
I have a Zoom call with my “Ask Me Anything” Patrons, which is really more like a party, very boisterous and lots of fun. I show off my latest stitching project and we discuss stitching, techniques, different ways of doing things, piecing backgrounds, and other things, including my next two workshops coming up end of September. The Zoom party is lots of fun and distracts me momentarily from all that’s going on travel-wise.
The Zoom party ends and I see another email from the travel agency. I call them instead of emailing back. She’s taking care of the whole visa debacle and assures me it will all get sorted out. I check my credit card and see that the money has been removed for our travel visas. She tells me there’s one more form to be filled out, but she’s having her assistant do it because while I was on the Zoom call she spoke to my husband who, it turns out, is having heart palpitations due to stress and she doesn’t want him to get any more stressed out.
Richard tells me he loves his new hiking boots, wore them all day and guess what? Not a single blister. I admit that I wore sandals that I’ve never had issues with and now can barely walk.
We laugh. Because seriously, what else are you going to do? We haven’t even left yet and this trip is feeling epic!
Today: I wake to see that my Covid test has been emailed back to me and I’m negative, thankfully.
After I finish writing this post I am double checking that all our various documents are printed out multiple times. I swear we have added at least a pound to our baggage weight with all the documents. We are only allowed a small duffel bag and cannot bring more than 33 pounds including carry-on each. I will be weighing my various tech equipment & computer, finish packing and will try to remember to breath.
Breathing is important. Wish us luck!
And remember in five days we will be hiking with these guys.
As it turns out the bobbin winder on my new Bernina is broken. Silly me, thinking I could wind the bobbin upside down, I didn’t realize this until it was too late, and it did us both in. Off to the shop it will go, but in the meantime, I continue to fine tune my newly organized working space. In between stitching, reorganizing and preparing for our upcoming trip, I did manage to do a livestream for my YouTube followers.
Some love the livestreams and others dislike them. Part of what’s fun, in my opinion, about livestreaming is the interactive aspect. It’s really what sets these videos apart from a recorded video. For me it’s fun to hear from all of you as I’m working. There’s an easy going banter that is often funny, there’s lots of laughter, with the added plus that I’m able to answer questions in real time, demonstrate different things as I’m working and in general have fun. However part of the livestreaming experience is that I also greet people when they say hi, sometimes get side tracked, but usually am able to stay on target, and try things I might not otherwise try because of things suggested by others.
In preparation for our trip I found the following video.
This is where we will be going. In fact, in one week from today we will be in Rwanda! Hard to believe.
This is the piece I’m currently working on:
Welcome to my store!
Please browse and look at our patterns available. We also offer Workshops! ~Ariane