Rwanda with Jan, Bill, Lars, and Nirin

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A New Adventure

Yep. I’m still around.  Older, slower, achier,  but still moving. I love Rwanda, the people, the culture, the environment and all those animals that I watched yesterday: baboons, zebras by the hundreds, impalas, giraffes, millions of birds, a few elephants, a couple of lions….and stunning hills, lakes, and trees. A huge fenced national park belongs to them.

I visited gorillas the last time I was here and I loved hanging out with them, occasionally feeling their fur on my skin when they passed by during their daily routines…..but the government doubled the price for the tour, so I decided to skip Rwandan gorillas this time.  My daughter, Jan, and her husband, Bill, are going to Uganda this week to see the gorillas who live there, for half the price! (Uganda is very close.)

I’m just going to hang around the house we rented for a month. These days “relaxing” is a positive choice. I’m planning to hang around Kigali, the capital, which is modern, safe and clean. People are always sweeping and picking up the garbage. And wherever you go, new buildings are being built.

A few observations:  there are tons of motorcycles that serve as taxis, and in the countryside, billions of bikes that carry loads of huge bags, boxes, building materials, and big yellow plastic containers (10 and 20 kilos) of water. Those containers are carried not only on bikes, but also on motorcycles, shoulders, heads, in arms, and on backs. Lots of women and kids carry them. You can’t miss them! Sometimes there are ten stacked up an a bike!

Often giant bags are piled on bikes and walked to their destinations. Bikes serve as wagons, pushed and pulled up and down hills and filled with stuff. And wherever you go, there are people peddling.  It’s a hilly country and there must be a lot of strong muscles. There are definitely a lot of skinny, healthy, good-looking men….and they’re nice too.

The other day we went to a place (Root Foundation: https://www.rootfoundation-rwanda.org/) that gathers dozens of vulnerable kids who are struggling at home, and often end up living on the street. They teach them life skills, confidence, dance, drumming, songs, instruments; and they work with parents as well. The goal is to help these children to fulfill their potentials and grow up to become valuable community members. Lars, Nirin (my friends from France who were here with us), Jan, and I walked in and were welcomed with smiles, hugs, hands…… and we offered laps. I loved being there.

Root Foundation

The essence of this country is its spirit and energy….especially among women. There was a genocide in 1994 and in one hundred days, one million people were killed. Since then, women have united (many more men were killed or sent to prison than women), formed cooperatives, and stepped up to help re-build their communities and the country.  With the support of president, Paul Kagame, today, more than 60 percent of the parliament members are female and 50% of the cabinet.

Of the incredible women that we know here, they have thriving businesses in everything from food distribution to film production to meat processing – and they all give back to the community in some way. And the many cooperatives are creating some amazing crafts: jewelry, baskets, weavings, and more. It’s a diverse country that has risen from the ashes with a palpable energy and an exciting entrepreneurial spirit. It seems like anything is possible here.

That’s it for now. We’re headed out for some lunch in a few minutes (the food is good; the fruits are fantastic).   Do come visit.

 

 

Update – Still around, headed to Rwanda soon

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I am still alive. It’s the first question people ask when inquiring about someone who is over 80!  (I turned 81 in July.)

For many months after the unfortunate election, I did nothing. After living for 30-plus years with people all over the world, laughing with their children, helping them in their fields and their kitchens, learning about their lives…..I just couldn’t believe what was happening in the U.S.

For months, I spent a lot of time in bed, feeling depressed. (I was living with my daughter, Jan, and her husband, Bill, in their downstairs apartment in Seattle.) My 81-year-old memory was fading, and my body was failing.

Then one day I got a note from Hallie, a reader I had met; would I like to go to Vietnam with her?

On a whim, I said yes. It was time to get out of bed.

We flew into Hanoi, taxied to Hanoi Homestay in the old part of the city (Hallie did all the research), and moved in. The best part of our visit was the warm welcome and comfortable rooms of our host. She spoke English, cooked, and advised us about what to do.  She even made reservations, found us taxis, and sometimes joined us. And there were kids around, which Hallie and I enjoyed.

Hanoi was noisy: millions of motorcycles, honking horns, and every time we crossed a street we risked our lives.  We did learn how to do it…you just cross and don’t stop or change direction.

The most interesting thing about the old city is the personalities of the streets.  One street is kitchen stuff, another expensive jewelry, another cheap jewelry, clothes for women, Our street was bamboo stuff. It was fun wandering.

We also went north (by bus) to Halong Bay where we got on a fancy boat for a couple of days so we could see the hundreds of limestone rock islands piercing the water and creating an ocean personality of islands.  It was beautiful. And we took a couple of side trips to villages where village women wore matching home-made clothing.

We were there for two weeks and I did get out of my depressive state. Now I’m back in Seattle, making plans with Jan to go to Rwanda. I loved it there when I went a couple of years ago with her, and this time she has rented a house for a month!! Bill (Jan’s husband) will join us for two weeks and so will Lars and Nirin from France. That’s it for now.

Hooray.  I finally did it (the blog!).  Thanks for hanging in here.                 Love, me

 

 

 

 

Hi All

Well, it’s been nine months since I posted here. Lately I’ve been getting sensitively-phrased e-mails asking me how I am. Everyone knows, because I’ve been totally open about it, that I am 79-years-old; and the implicit meaning of the question is….are you still alive?  A legitimate question. Yes, I am.

The reason I haven’t posted any new stuff is that I was hacked, and the software I was using to write the blogs disappeared from my screen when Microsoft deleted and reinstalled everything. But today, my new friend and tech-tutor, Gabby de Janasz (she’s 21!), helped me set up this new blot-spot. Hooray!

So what have I been doing since February? Not a whole lot. I’ve spent a lot of time in Seattle at Jan’s house, some time in Oregon at my friend, Bonita’s, and the big news is that I am going to Rwanda with my daughter, Jan, on November 15th for three weeks. Thanksgiving with gorillas!

Jan is making the plans (she’s actually been there before and has a bunch of friends that we will see). These days my solitary, nomadic lifestyle has yielded to traveling with others, especially if they are willing to make the plans. My last major travel was to Madagascar and that was with my good friends, Lars and Nirin, who did all the planning.  (Remember them from Tales of a Female Nomad?).  Nirin’s father was from Madagascar; they are in their 50’s….strong and healthy.

I’m pretty healthy, but I’m not great at carrying heavy bags or making major arrangements.

That’s all for now. I will write next when I am in Rwanda. I will definitely add some gorilla pictures to accompany the orangutans!!   Have a great Thanksgiving.

Love, Rita