I will start with a shot of our goal.. to tease you. I give you Mikeno.
This morning the crew got to sleep in a little after an epic week of early mornings and hard days. We knocked on the door of MGVP bright and early to meet up with Magdelina and visit her orphan gorillas.
The orphans are a group of abandoned and humanized lowland gorillas that have been left in the care of MGVP to keep healthy, to study and help in the rehabilitation of future orphans. Although these gorillas have been left in human hands too long, they are part of the future of many orphans to come. Magdalina is incredible, she speaks the language of the creatures, knows each like a beloved child and laughs with full force when they play or act up. Recently, two of their leaders (full on mountain gorillas) have been relocated, so they have been left to rework their social structure. Due to the fragile nature of what the MGVP does, we were asked to wait a while before visiting. The dust has settled for today and we were able to spend some time with these amazing creatures.
The orphans show amazing love for their caretakers, and the caretakers obviously return the love. These guys have taken on the role of friend, playmate and brothers. To prevent the spread of disease, only these chosen few are allowed to interact with the orphans one-on-one. The vets must remain behind a chainlink fence; faces masked and clothes freshly laundered. Visiters like us must be content to stand on top of a car, observing from over a massive stone fence. None the less, the orphans come to visit us, finding any way they can to get close and see the strange new people.
After another incredible hour interacting with these beloved creatures, we had to go. But I think what was most endearing was how much love the vets and handlers have for these little giants. It was so cool to watch them spend quality time together.
My day took a swift turn. It was time to head up to something the Rwandan community has put together to show us how they lived only a few decades ago. My new friends Valerie van Wassenaer and Emmanuel gave me an exclusive tour of their very cool business!
Iby’ Iwacu cultural village is a must-see after your gorilla tour. A small village has (with the help of a few progessive thinking people) put together a true taste of Rwandan culture. The staff are a blend of savvy young guides, students with passion, and ancient local thespians with a wink and sense of humor combined with love of a culture quickly fading in an all too industrialized world. After a Gorilla trek, you would be nuts not to fork out 35 bucks for this two hour extravaganza. They put on a huge show… just for you!
Emmanuel was my personal guide, he explained every plant, how the children got their water, and why, even though he had traveled the world, he still comes home back home to live and work. He loves his people, sees friends around every corner, and for a moment, we all would love to live here, in his friend-filled world.
The dancers and drummers blew me away, and I am happy to say they will be a special part of my African experience. I made more friends today (amazing friends, thanks Valerie), and will be sad that I may never have a chance to connect with them again when I leave this brightest Africa behind.
My last ‘cultural experience’ today was a very cool ride on the local bus home. You know, I have tried to explain it before, but no one ever listens. When in a foreign county, ride the bus. It is the only way to live, breath, and touch a local lifestyle. I sat beside savvy teens and girls who needed a break from balancing things on their head. You are only a bus ride away from making new friends in Rwanda. You know, I have mentioned friends a lot today, but that is what a trip like this is all about. You can take a million pictures of your vacation and feel like you have experienced something… but how many of you got on the bus? Really, then did you actually see anything or just take pictures from the window of a cab?
Thats it for today. Tomorrow I will be visiting The grave of Dian Fossey. I can’t wait. I tread in the footsteps of legends and am humbled. Thank you for coming with me.