Saturday, July 26, 2008

Rwanda – Day 5


Today we had to wake up at about 4 AM because we were leaving to see the Akagera National Park. It was about a 2-hour drive and apparently there are more animals to see in the morning hours. We got to the park, and paid for the guide who got on our bus with us and we were on our way.

First we saw many species of antelopes.

Later we saw a family of giraffes and we were able to get really close to them. I was surprised that the animals didn’t seem to be disturbed by us. Most animals just went on with what they were doing. We sat in the bus and could not walk out under any circumstances because that could scare away the animals or a situation could evolve that would be dangerous to us. We also had to keep quiet so as to not scare any of the animals away.

On our way to the next location we saw a baboon family, more antelopes and a few birds.
Later we drove to the lakefront of the park. We saw a fishing village where people still live and earn their living by fishing.
At that point the guide received a message on her walkie-talkie that another guide had noticed an elephant somewhere near by. “Near by” wasn’t near at all. It took us about hour and a half on a bumpy road to get to the place were the elephant was sighted. We were located right near the lakefront. We even saw some hippos in the lake and on the far shore. Then around the corner we could spot an elephant munching on some leaves for lunch. We did not get any closer, so we did not see it really close up.
Our guide told us that they also have lions but it is really rare that any tourists get to see them because they move around during the night when it’s dark.
Then we had to rush back because the elephant hunting took much more time than expected. We grabbed our lunch at a café and ate it on the bus.

First Lady

Our appointment with the president’s wife was scheduled for 3 PM. But because of the delay in the park we were about 30 minutes late. This was definitely not the event to be late for! But we had the pleasure of meeting the First Lady's Association delegates. They explained more about the work that the First Lady is doing, like her Imbutu Foundation. The Imbutu Foundation's programs focus on socio-economic development for the most vulnerable communities, with special focus on education, health access, economic- and self-empowerment. Dr. Mardge explained more about WE-ACTx to them. After this meeting both parties expressed interest in collaborating in the future.
During this visit we also learned that Rwanda's Constitution requires that at least 30 percent of the parliament consists of women. Today, 49 percent of Rwanda's parliament is women. That is definitely something that we could learn from!

Free Time

After the meeting, we went to Mardge’s house to have some unscheduled fun time. The Rwandan girls tried to teach the Americans a traditional Rwandan dance. Later the Americans taught the Rwandans the Cha-Cha Slide. It was a very fun night!

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