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Brenda’s Travel Diary

Friday, 21 May 2010

Location: Kigali, Rwanda

MapItís hard to believe that a year has passed since our last visit to Rwanda/Tanzania. Weíve accomplished a lot but, as always, feel like thereís so much more to do. Itís an exciting time for TOPP since we have some key members of the group going along this time.
The group of seven include Angela, talented hair stylist and volunteer coordinator of the One Person Project; her man, Rylan, owner of many of the local franchises of the very popular, very informative Coffee News. Heíll be working on his dream of a establishing a library in Kahama. Heike, who is a retired teacher and our French translator here in Rwanda. Sheís also working on the library project. Terry Heidt who volunteered in Ghana last year has just finished his Masters in Chemistry. Heís entering his pre-med program in the fall. Allisha, who will be finishing her masters degree in Sustainable Development this fall, has been to Africa twice and has a mother who grew up in Tanzania and also Catey, who spent 6 months last year in Tanzania, three months of it teaching English in Zanzibar. Itís a great group of diverse people who Iím looking forward to sharing adventures, challenges and fun with over the next few weeks. Weíll all go home with memories which will last us a lifetime.

One of the things that weíll be doing while in Rwanda is working with our friends in a village called Muhanga to distribute the contents of a 40 foot shipping container that we sent over a few months ago. TOPP and other volunteers worked long and hard to collect items that will assist our friends in Rwanda and Kahama, Tanzania. Some of the items that we shipped are 15,000 books, including 7,000 textbooks, 7 hospital beds, an operating table, an operating chair, microscopes, hospital bedding and towels, 9 wheel chairs, walkers, canes and crutches, nebulizer kits and resuscitator masks, suction equipment, blood pressure machines and cuffs, operating room masks, gowns, gloves and shoe covers, draping material, suture material, patient ID wrist bands, instrument tables, cleanser, stethoscopes, sterile water, test tubes, dressings, glucometer kits and cases, an otoscope (instrument for examining ears, eyes and throat) infant formula, diapers, two large boxes of safe birth kits donated by Summerland Middle School student, Madeleine Hamilton, and numerous boxes of miscellaneous items, 20 boxes of blankets, sheets, toys, diapers and misc. items, including forty baby blankets knitted by Pat Huff of the Summerland Lions Club, games, TV/VCR, remote, 19 childrenís tapes, TV & DVD Player and DVDís, 150 backpacks donated by Wal-Mart, Penticton, 2197 soccer jerseys, 160 soccer balls, various boxes of sports equipment and cleats, etc, netballs, skipping ropes, Frisbees and misc. items. For the Faharja Orphanage, 9 extra-large boxes of books, toys, clothing and misc. items donated by the children of the Summerland Montessori. Also 230 backpacks donated by Wal-Mart, Penticton, 7 Sewing Machines, sewing supplies and 4 large boxes of fabric, 36 boxes of shoes and clothing, large water containers, cloth bags, tools and garden tools etc.
Thank you to all the individuals, families, organizations and businesses who helped make this possible!

Having said all of that Iíll get into the trip itself which already is full of its many challenges. Personally for me, it didnít start out too well. Due to the volcanic ash problem in Europe, my flight out of Vancouver was delayed which meant I missed my connecting flight from Amsterdam to London. At the time, I was told that I would either be stuck overnight in Amsterdam or maybe could get on a flight to Paris, then to London, stay the night and then onto Nairobi. I felt like I was in an Amazing Race episode as I negotiated with the indifferent airline personal at the next few airports, and in the end, I landed at my scheduled time in Kigali. My bags still arenít here but I made it!!!!

After four of us filled out the paperwork for our SIX missing bags we headed to our new digs at the St Famille Hostel. This well-known church is located in the heart of Kigali a stones throw away from Hotel des Mille Collines. During the genocide in 1994, people sought refuge here but were systematically executed outside the church during the next three months. In total approx. 100,000 people died here. I have to say, itís an eerie feeling walking down the long corridor at night to the bathrooms when everyone else is asleep.

There are great things about staying at St Famille, the price, only $14 night, the location, its even got a money exchange place within the gates and a place to buy cold beer right outside, and itís considered one of the safest places in town. On the downside, we share bathrooms, they really smell but this makes it easier to find them at night. We share showers, but when the showers are cold, no one stays in long. The single cots arenít the most comfortable but they do have mosquito netting. There is no internet but that forces us to get more exercise in our daily quest to find one. The walls are paper thin but we can talk to each other with out leaving our rooms and listen to other peopleís conversations when weíre bored.

On a more serious note, it turns out thereís a little unrest in the city right now. The latest two of a serious of grenade attacks just happened on the weekend before we arrived. So far 2 have been killed and 32 have been injured. The media thinks that itís all tied in to the upcoming elections and maybe the fact that the president of Uganda has fled here. To stay safe we just have to avoid the heart of the city, (thatís where weíre staying) large groups of people, (weíre surrounded by large groups,) bus stations, (our mode of transportation,) and some public places. Oh yea, and weíre not supposed to go out between the hours of 4pm and 8pm. If youíre reading this Lyn and Nick, Angela is perfectly safe.

Angela has been kind enough to offer to blog the events of Thursday so I will post those after this. It might have to be a little later because Iím sitting at an internet café waiting for her and she hasnít shown upÖ(almost time to goÖÖ)