The Dry Season

Well, the dry season is upon us.  I think it is better know as the dust season!  Since we live on a dirt road, the red-brown dust is stirred up by the traffic and floats onto everything.  Below is a picture of the hedges in front of the place.  Unfortunately, the main road that most of the traffic takes (busses, trucks, etc.) was washed out in the rainy season, and the traffic was rerouted along our road. The dust was coming in and covering everything in the house.  Fortunately, the road is now repaired and all that extra traffic is not kicking up the dust on this road anymore – just the regular traffic.


Also, we found out that the Tsetse flies are more active in the dry season in Akagera Park!  Last weekend we went with Ross, Chelsea, Alanna, and Steve, and they were a bit ferocious.  Below is a picture of what a bite looks like on me!  Luckily, my allergic reaction was milder this time around (I am still on the Zyrtec the doctor prescribed).  The bites and hives only itched like crazy for a few days and I didn’t get as many hives.  And this time I wore only neutral colors, long sleeves, etc. etc. and they still bit me through my clothes.  Drew wore two pairs of socks and they bit through those as well.  Very tough and determined nasty critters.  We saw loads of hippos, antelopes, including oribi and bush buck, but no elephants or lions.




We went on a walking tour of Nyamirambo section of town, kind of a behind the scenes of Rwandan life.  It is one of the income-generating activities of the Nyamirambo Women’s Center.  We learned about the Women’s Center, visited a hair salon, tailor, people selling cassava flour, veggies, etc., saw men pressing suits with charcoal irons.  We learned that the stations in town that everyone goes to get water charge 50RWF for 20 liters.  Since this is the original Muslim section of town, we saw several mosques and learned that during the genocide, the people of Muslim faith hid their neighbors and others  in the mosques.  The perpertrators were scared to go into the mosques and unsure of Muslims so all those who hid there were saved.  We visited a women who was pounding cassava leaves with herbs to sell as fresh isombe.  I have to admit it smell delicious, with the garlic, etc., but the cassava leaves I have had were bitter and plain.  It was very interesting and enjoyable to learn about everyday life of the typical Rwandan.

They have a great website:  Women’s Center and Library and it is also the place where I have been volunteering at the NWC Library.

Finally, the baby crane is growing by leaps and bounds.  The parents are as protective as ever.  Three RDB (Rwandan Development Board) officials/veterinarians were here to check it out and I am suspecting maybe gave it some vaccinations, etc.  Not sure, but they were decked out in official garb (see pics in websites below).

We just found out that the whole family is moving to Akagera Park tomorrow!  They will become part of the crowned crane release program there!

Click on these links:

crowned cranes given a second chance in Akagera

from captivity to the wild in Rwanda

conserving grey crowned cranes in Rwanda





Happenings by Janet


Well, the weather is still beautiful (even if a bit too hot for my liking).   There are men along our road digging a ditch with shovels and pickaxes.  I asked what it was for and I was told it is for internet fiber optic wires.  Labor is inexpensive and abundant, so you see manual labor being performed everywhere.  The “official” unemployment rate is 3%, but I have also heard it is closer to 80- 90% in reality!  I still can’t get over the men carrying rocks, buckets of cement, and bags of gravel on their heads. Or for that matter the huge baskets of fruit, potatoes, etc. that the women carry.  Ouch!

Also, the amount of things that are carried on bicycles is ridiculously crazy as well!  It is impolite to take photos of people, but boy I wish I could!  Trying to get Drew to seek a few photos!  Can see the advantage of the iPhones with their picture taking app.  I think once we are back home it is time for an upgrade for me.

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The baby crane is growing and now looks a little out of proportion!  The parents are very attentive and take good care of it.  I read up a little and learned that while the eggs are incubating, the father sits on the nest during the day and the female incubates the eggs at night.  The young start to get plumage at 2-4 months, they stay with the parents 8-10 months, have adult plumage at 18 months, are fully mature at 2-3 years, and their lifespan is 20-40 years!

Last week there were heavy rains in the north, with landslides that destroyed houses and killed people (60+/-).  Very sad.  Soil erosion is a big problem here due to the farming up all the hillsides.  In addition, the rivers swelled and washed out roads and flooded bridges, so that for a few days travel was limited, since there is only one major paved road to each area of the country.  The 2.5 hour drive to Musanze was 4.5 since the way around the paved road was all dirt roads.

Ross is an unofficial College Graduate and has moved back to our place now that his program is over, much to Luke’s delight!  As soon as UNH receives his grades from his Rwanda program, they will release his diploma.  In the meantime he is volunteering at Football for Hope.  He teaches English, coaches football, is helping to produce a promotional video, among other things!

Luke has finished his service project, building a playhouse for Kinamba Project (or Meg Foundation ) The boys (Luke, Leo, and Travis) will be delivering it in early June.  His school has a 20 hour service requirement per year.

And regarding service, Rwanda is a country in rebuilding mode.  It has been 22 years since the genocide, at which time most of the country consisted of villages and the infrastructure of the one city, Kigali was almost completely destroyed by the retreating forces.  They have come a long way.  Kigali is a thriving, growing city.  There is every charitable project you can imagine here from Heifer International and Give a Cow (the UK’s equivalent) to CARE.  Everything from agriculture to literacy help.  There are projects supported by countries from the US to Nigeria to Slovenia!  I am always seeing interesting project headquarters around the city.

One of the most fascinating energy projects is KivuWatt, which is generating electricity from the methane they are extracting form Lake Kivu.  They have 2 plants now up and running.  We saw the Kirongi operation when we went there.  The country wants to be self-sufficient in all areas, quite a challenge for a very tiny, highly populated, land-locked country!

How Rwanda Turned a Toxic Menace Into a Source of Power

That’s it for now!  Murabeho!

New Arrival!

The Villa Belle Vue Crowned Cranes have a baby!  Last month one of the Crowned Cranes here in the yard made a nest and laid 2 eggs.  Supposedly all three birds are females.  This could still happen, birds can and do lay eggs that are not fertile.  Well, one egg recently hatched and one of the other cranes (the father, I assume) has taken up caring for it along with the mother. Cute!!!!  The parents are very attentive and protective and will honk at you if you are watching from too close a distance.  New baby pics:

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More from Janet

Well, obviously, I am not too good about the blogging.  I always think to myself “that would be interesting to share on the blog” but then never make myself sit down.  Oh well!

I will start with one of my “I must be a spoiled American” stories (well, I hope I am not really) but there are a few different things I do have a bit of trouble adjusting to here.  And of course I assume you want to hear about it!

I have been meaning to discuss eggs.  I miss my chicken eggs from home!!  Very strange, first time I ordered an omelette here early on it was white.  Hmmmm, thinking must be a healthy egg-white omelette.  Ah no.  This is a picture I took of the medium sized brown eggs here:


What is wrong with this picture???  These are eggs, I believe, from egg farms, where they obviously do not properly feed their chickens.  Now like in most parts of the world, they never refrigerate eggs here.   So you can see the white of the egg at least has some substance around the “yolk,” indicating it is not ages old, but they are also very dirty when you buy them so they are not raised in small cages, I guess, that’s good, but investment in an egg cleaning facility would be nice (wow, run on sentence or what?).  In the heat of Namibia I will note, I never had bad eggs and while not washed, they were never really dirty.

Now, I have chickens, I love my chickens, I know the eggs aren’t always perfectly clean when I collect them, but I clean them right away, (okay, for personal home use maybe not always, but they are in the fridge right away and they are for my family from my family chickens-I know where they have been!) .  What they are not is sitting in the 80 degrees heat for days on end in an un-air-conditioned store covered in ….

The very first eggs I bought here Drew cooked up.  Well, they were rotten, in addition to the sickly color, they were actually bad (yes, we shook the rest and yikes, eggs are not supposed to slosh around inside the shell) and I honestly almost threw up when I looked at them.  That in itself turned me off of eggs here, but in a restaurant, what I don’t see.., I can eat them, imagining they are only using good eggs if they taste okay!

The local people let their chickens free range, so the chickens are getting a more balanced diet. The egg color is more orange, and despite being smaller eggs, people will pay more for them.
The local people let their chickens free range, so the chickens are getting a more balanced diet. The egg color is more orange, and despite being smaller eggs, people will pay more for them.

Now we have recently been enlightened as to the type of eggs we SHOULD purchase.  Local Eggs.  These are small and cream-ish in color.  Our taxi driver said he would get us some.  Okay.  He got us a whole bag full (remember everything comes in paper bags here!).  Well, first, of course, I had to wash them, as they were particularly dirty.  Then for good measure I soaked them in a little vinegar water, which was when I noticed that some were floating: double checked with the shake test: Rotten.  Some were standing up in the water (not the freshest, but not rotten), and a minority were sunk to the bottom of the bowl (fresh or pregnant see next paragraph!).  Okay.  Ditch the rotten, have Drew crack and cook the others.  Well, they do have nice yellow yolks, so they definitely have a good foraging diet.

Drew did find one particularly hard to crack open:  Oops, a baby chick in one!  ((That is one of my nightmares, having the kids collect the eggs and getting ones from the hay in the barn and mixing them in with the ones from the coop and accidentally having one of the folks who enjoy our eggs get an egg like this…to my knowledge this has never happened, but I do worry about quality control!)) I am glad that wasn’t me.  I am not squeamish about farm things at home, but here, oh yes I am, just the foreign-ness of everything, sanitation especially.  I have not used any of the rest of the local eggs.  Drew can this weekend, but I am not cracking open any more eggs here.

Next, onward to more pleasant subjects!

Some Nice Things Here

The Birds.  Like the African Paradise Flycatchers that sip drinks from the pool.  Always hear the different songs and calls.

The male with his extremely long tail
The male with his extremely long tail
The female
The female

The People.  Very Friendly. Very helpful.  Beautiful Kitenge dresses.  Beautiful singing and dancing.  I can hear drums and singing as I write this.  Feel pretty safe walking, not at night of course, but during the day.

The Weather.  Okay, maybe a little too hot sometimes for my liking (especially when I am walking long distances and up hills!), but really nice anyway, especially with a pool to enjoy.

The Fruit.  Pineapples are my favorite.  Luke loves the Mangos.

The Gorillas.  They are amazing.  Looking forward to seeing more primates this month at Nyungwe Forest.

The Ban on one-time use, non-biodegrable plastic shopping bags.  I like the fact that purchases are put in wax paper bags (baked goods, bread, etc.), paper bags (although I am hoping this is from sustainable sources, not cutting down the forests) , aluminum pans (the take-away foods/HelloFood), etc.  Reusable shopping bags encouraged.  Glass returnable bottles for some soda, beer.

Kigali is supposedly the cleanest city in Africa. (I will note that when we lived in Windhoek, they also employed street cleaners and it was a very tidy city as well).  They employ workers to clean the streets, using homemade brooms (I think they look like “witches’ brooms”), sweeping up leaves, litter, dirt.  They also have workers who weed and take care of plantings along public ways.  This in combination with a ban on the plastic shopping bags keeps the city looking very neat.  In outer areas like our Kibagabaga, you do see litter, but a lot of the side roads are not paved yet.  It seems that all areas with paved roads are kept clean.

751-sweeping-street-compressed Women-the-hands-behind-Kigali-clean-streets11422908592street-cleaners-1


Photo Credits:

Kigali Conveniences, Continued

Shopping is an adventure in Kigali.

First there are the markets where you can find anything of necessity:  vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, household items, clothing (it will be used, unless you are at a Kitenga booth, where you can pick a wild African Kitenge (or Ikitenge, just like Kinyarwanda or Ikinyarwanda, etc.)* fabric and have something made to order or select something already made), hardware supplies, etc.  I find these a bit overwhelming, although as far as African markets go, the ones here are pretty calm.  You do get sellers trying to get you to their booth, or a fellow grabbing your bag to carry for you (for a price, of course).  Then of course there is the haggling over price (Muzungus are always charged more, so bargaining is a necessity).  I personally am no good at it.  I have only gone with Drew or the other Fulbright Professor so far.  I get too overwhelmed to go my myself!  Ross has promised to take me in May to get some crafts and things. He is the master at negotiation!   Our local market is a short bus ride or a VERY long walk and is called Kimironko Market.

Janet in the Kimironko Market, looking at cloth.
Janet in the Kimironko Market, looking at cloth.
Ross with his favorite seamstress..
Ross and Janet at the Kimironko Market, with Ross doing the negotiating
Ross at the Kimironko Market,  doing the negotiating for Janet

This is how the fabric is displayed in the market (and there is booth after booth like this)!

Just one type of Kitenge Dress Design
Just one type of Kitenge Dress Design

I don’t know if I could pull off one of these wild patterns in a dress, but I do plan on having something made.  Ross has already had a pair of lounge pants made.  There are a lot of seamstresses, and they all use old fashioned sewing machines (not electric) and they iron everything with an old fashioned iron with hot coals in it! It is fun seeing the ladies in their dresses and matching headscarves (I don’t know what the actual name is) in all these bright patterns when you go out.

Then there are the little shops.  It is hard to describe, but there are the same kinds of shops (pharmacies, internet ‘cafes,’ paper supplies, banks, tiny food shops, shops selling plastic stuff, ‘saloons’ or rather, salons, photo shops, forex money exchange shops) everywhere tucked into a tiny storefronts.  There must be hundreds of each kind (if not more) all over, in every section of the city.  It boggles the mind that they all get enough business to make money.

And there are the ‘supermarkets.’  Let’s just say I don’t know where the ‘super’ is!  They are all small markets, with basically the same things and not a whole lot of variety.  But you can get the basics.  The nearest thing to a big supermarket is the Nakumatt in the city center, where they do have a bit more variety and some imported things (mostly very expensive).  One nice discovery is that there are some shops now carrying what I thought was South African imports under the brand ‘Everyday’, but investigated and realize they are actually Dutch, (Africaans is like old Dutch language) at a reasonable price (think cream cheese:  Philadelphia 5,000RWF vs Everyday  2,000RWF; granola:  UK imported 10,000RWF vs 5,000RWF).  I am very spoiled by my Market Basket mentality!  I guess my real problem is I am trying to shop, cook, and eat like an American, not an African.  I will have to try a little harder!

Finally, I will get to the convenience part of this blog!!



Okay their marketing dept. should have come up with a better name, but probably the locals don’t notice anything weird about the name.  With this service I just go on-line, chose the items I want and then they will be delivered the next day.  I can order vegetables and fruit from the market, meat (ah, but, no I don’t), some basic household items like toilet paper, hand soap, wine (too bad I don’t drink!), basically all the essentials.  I pay cash on delivery, including the 1000RWF delivery fee.  It is really nice since I don’t have get a taxi, walk to a store, or carry everything home.  I still have to get things at a store, but I do like getting all the fruits and vegetables delivered at reasonable prices. And they even carry it up the big flight of stairs and leave it on the counter in the veranda!  Talk about being spoiled!

The 3 wheeled delivery cart
The 3 wheeled delivery cart
Friendly, delivery!
Friendly delivery! Actually I think this is a picture of the owner/founder!

There is also a service called GET IT, I haven’t tried IT yet.  Food prices seem a bit more expensive, but you can get all sorts of things even fresh cut flowers delivered (which are extremely inexpensive here when bought by the stem at a small flower stall).

So between GroceWheels, Hello Food, and a few trips to the store once or twice a week, that is how I get all my supplies!

  • *I am not sure why sometimes they use an ‘I’ and sometimes they don’t on a lot of words.  I have also seen Bahutu, Batutsi, Batwa and Hutu, Tutsi, Twa as the ethnic names. It is definitely much more common to see Hutu and Tutsi without the Ba.

Photo Credits:

Nice Cultural Dances



In February Luke’s school had a Cultural Day.  I went and saw the student art displays, heard the poetry readings, and watched a Rwandan student dance troupe from MEG Foundation School/NGO Kinamba Community Project, where the high school students volunteer for their community service requirement.  It was very nice and I wish I had brought the camera.

We have seen the dancers first above at Peak Spot in Kinigi, then at Luke’s school, at Le Bambou, and at the Volcanos National Park before our Gorilla trek.  They are called Intore Dancers.  When the men wear the white wigs, it is the Warrior Dance.

Here is a video of the Peak Spot dancers we saw  (click on that to view)

The baskets the women balance on their heads are called Agaseke baskets and they are unique to Rwanda.  There are cooperatives that employ Hutu, Tutsi, and Batwa women and they call the baskets Agaseke Peace baskets, because all three ethnic groups of Rwanda are working together.


Interestingly, although there are 3 different ethnic groups in the country (a small number compared to most African countries, but then again, Rwanda is a very small country), all speak the same language, Kinyarwanda.  Note:  Rwandans no longer publicly declare themselves as a Hutu or Tutsi, since the genocide all citizens refer to themselves as “Rwandans.” Part of the reconstruction and reconciliation of the country is a stress on the unity of all.