My New Pets

This is kind of funny. Also, the following four posts are ones that I wrote in Rwanda but never got around to posting and my life has been crazy enough since I left that I obviously did not even realize I hadn’t posted them. Here you go, enjoy.

As part of a miscalculation on the part of our program, we returned to Uganda to do the wrap-up, evaluation and re-entry sessions. When you enter Rwanda as an American you do not have to apply for a visa. You are granted 90 days within the country as a tourist and can renew it by simply leaving and coming back. From the last time we left Rwanda to go to Uganda we came back with about 99 days left to go before everyone was to head back to America. We considered applying for visas with immigration but that got a little hectic as we discovered that we technically should have applied for visas long before since we were completing internships with Rwandan organizations. Oops. So we bypassed the visa drama and decided to relocate the end of our program from the beautiful shores of Lake Kivu in Kibuye to Lake Bunyonyi in Kabale, Uganda (a short drive from the border).

The trip was short and interesting. We stayed at a neat little place where we had the option of sleeping in safari tents, which I did. We woke up in the morning and unzipped our tent to see the valley lake right in front of us and beautiful flowers and birds all around.

Our first day there we went ahead and got our business out of the way and spent the entire day sitting, talking, eating and drinking. It was a long day. Fortunately, Uganda offers a wider variety of food than Rwanda so we were very content with our food options. After a full day of meetings we decided to go adventuring on the following days. The menu at the ‘hotel’ we were staying in dedicated its first page to touristy things that guests could do while secluded in the hills surrounding Lake Bunyonyi. These included village visits to an orphanage or school that they had little donation buckets out for, boat rides on or across the lake as well as a ‘cultural tour’ of a pygmy village.

Rwanda is more or less made up of three different ‘ethnic’ groups, Tutsi, Hutu and Twa. This is something I knew before coming to Rwanda but we also learned it on several occasions. However, the Tutsi and the Hutu are the ones anyone hears about the most because they were involved in the genocide and that is what most people know about Rwanda. The Twa are also said to be pygmies. As far as we knew we had never actually met a member of the Twa (they are also only 1% of the population) so whenever we would see people who were verrry small we would give each other looks like “hey, its a Twa.” I know we are not the most culturally sensitive people sometimes.

So naturally we wanted to go meet the Twa and they were going to sing and dance for us so we thought it would be interesting, plus we were excited to go on a boat ride across the lake. The boat ride lasted about 45 minutes and we ended up being pretty close to Rwanda actually. It makes sense because the Twa/pygmies/whatever the most PC thing to call them is are Abanyarwandans. We were excited about that because it meant there was decent chance they would speak Kinyarwanda and we would be able to communicate with them.


On the way there our ‘tour guide’ (who basically just rode in the boat with us and called one of the Twa to tell them to come up to the short to meet with us) told us that the pygmies were very rough people. We were not quite sure what that meant but he explained that it meant they were dirty, not clean. This was very apparent when we reached the shore near their village. It was about as rural as you can get. There were a couple of banana leaf mats laid out with things drying on them. One had coffee cherries and a few others had sorghum (for sorghum beer of course).

Turns out they speak a totally different Kinyarwanda than the one we learned, Abacyica? No idea how to spell that. We went up the hill and they lined up and danced for us while they sang and one person beat on a jerry can (using it as a drum). About half way into the first dance I realized that not only were these people very rough but they were also very drunk. Very drunk as in sorghum beer is probably all they had consumed for the past couple of days….or weeks, who knows. They danced to three songs and then upon finishing immediately approached our tour guide for their cut of what we paid for the little excursion. We paid $100 (in Ugandan shillings of course) and they got 10% or $10 of that. Their performance wasn’t necessarily deserving of more money than that but as a percentage of the entire trip, yeah they probably deserved more. After they got their money we took a couple of pictures with them and headed down the hill.

I built a LOT of character this day by using their “toilet.” Yeah, that is about all I have to say about it. Just that it was the worst one I have used thus far in my life.

After a thorough application of hand sanitizer I found everyone inside the little mud house near the shore. We liked to refer to it as their own Sundowner. The place was small, just two benches against the walls and a table in between. About a quarter of the inside was taken up by a little shop thing. The wall decorations were the best part. They had a slew of Museveni’s super awesome campaign posters. They also had a Osama poster with a hodgepodge of his pics on it and a couple other interesting political posters that I really don’t know what they were about. While we were in there we were naturally offered some sorghum beer and what kind of guests would be we if we turned it down. Me and another of my classmates drank the majority of it and one other had a drink or two. We seized this opportunity to get our hands on some Museveni posters and bought them off of their walls.

Once that transaction was finished we headed back to our hotel and had dinner and just relaxed.

When we got back to Kigali later that week I noticed that I wasn’t feeling too hot. There was not anything particularly wrong with me but I had no appetite (which is weird if you know me) and every time I did eat I had terrible cramps in my upper abdomen and felt like my stomach was ripping in half. On top of that I kept getting chills and hot flashes and felt very weak. I ignored it and figured I would get over it soon. Plus, I was able to drink beer without feeling bad so I had just been running off of that and decided that it was totally normal to have all of my calories for the past week be made up of Primus. (:

Finally after it kept going on for about a week, while we were out to eat with our director, I mentioned to him that I had not eaten in almost a week and told him my other symptoms. You can imagine how excited I was when he said “Katy, I think you have worms or an amoeba.” I didn’t question him because he definitely knows more than me about it. The good news was that there were three pills I could take and they would kill anything in my stomach.

I put off getting the pills for a few days because I was unsure about which ones I needed but eventually I ended up at the pharmacy with my director and the pharmacist gave me a single antibiotic pill and told me to take it. Unfortunately I had to wait eight hours after taking it to drink so I made sure to wake up early the next morning and take it so I would be good to go by the evening.

Although I never went to the doctor or had it confirmed, I would believe that I had worms because I feel better now and I can eat! It was good that I ended up with a few extra days in Kigali because I probably would not have found that medicine elsewhere and especially not for as cheap as it was. I also would not have been able to enjoy any of my favorite foods for a final time before I left. Don’t feel too bad for me though because we determined that I got them from drinking sorghum beer with the pygmies in their village. My bad.

Categories: From Rwanda | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “My New Pets

  1. Sam

    Rwanda is really good

  2. Sam

    where do you live in Rwanda?

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