Gorillas in the Mist (Literally!)

This past weekend I went to Musanze, which is about an hour’s (cramped) bus ride away from here in Gisenyi. Why, you ask (or, I assume you ask)?

Rwanda, and it’s neighbors Uganda and the ultra-dangerous-right-now-but-five-minutes-from-our-house D.R. of Congo are home to the last mountain gorillas in the world. You literally have to hike up the side of a volcano to get to see them. I almost died about 5 times on the climb up, but I made it, and the gorillas were incredible. My knees are sore, the altitude made me dizzy, and my ears still haven’t popped, but it was definitely worth it. The group we saw had 12 gorillas, including one that was about a year old. After finally reaching where they were we got to sit for an hour and just watch them… They walked in between and around us and basically pretended we weren’t there. It was pretty amazing.

Then today it was back to volunteering at the orphanage. Our newest activity has been showing movies on a projector in the library. On Friday we did Alice in Wonderland. We started with about 10 kids and by the time we turned the lights back on it was PACKED with kids (and some mamas!). Kind of crazy since the vast majority speak little to no English and Alice in Wonderland isn’t the easiest plot to follow.

Speaking of English, given the language barrier it can be difficult to explain to the kids what we want them to do during an activity. Fortunately, we have a great helper in Pink John, so called because there are about 10 Johns and this one likes to paint his toenails sparkly pink and loves (LOVES) Justin Bieber. He’s quite fabulous in every sense of the word. He is about 15 and has somehow managed to pick up excellent English so he translates for us and is always a great help. I feel pretty bad for him though because Africa isn’t exactly the most progressive of places. Fortunately all of the volunteers love him so he gets a ton of attention. He is also the only kid who can’t say “Melissa” so he calls me Morris. But he’s Pink John and he’s fantastic so I don’t mind at all.

When I first arrived it was myself, Liesbet from Belgium and Nina from Norway here at the house (plus 3 more at the orphanage itself), but now Liesbet has gone home. Nina and I have grown pretty tired of the white-bread-for-lunch routine so we’ve been experimenting with the local establishments. Today we had brochettes– which are basically shish kabobs of an unidentifiable meat that I am just going to hope (or pretend) is beef. But they are actually pretty tasty and are 2 for 60 cents including potatoes so I can’t complain. I’ve also been trying to turn the crazy Rwandan market offerings into something recognizable– I made some halfway decent quacamole last week (The avocados here are GINORMOUS, like the size of my foot. Seriously.) and some tuna salad for tomorrow. Ahh, the little things that remind you of home. There is one store in town that sells things they think Mzungus (pale people) will like, and apparently canned tuna, Nutella and Pringles are about it.

Pictures of the gorillas and more of the orphanage (including Pink John!) are below…