Friday, June 4, 2010

First Impressions

First thing I hear in a taxi pulling away from the Rwandan airport: “Shawty’s like a melody in my head…” It’s like the spirit of Kyle O’Neill reaching back to his birth continent.

Rwanda is a beautiful place with large hills everywhere, hence its name “land of a thousand hills” or, in poorly-spelled French “pais de mille collines." The plane from Brussels arrived at night, so I didn’t get to see the country from the air, but one could get the sense of the landscape from the pattern of the lights of Kigali.

The next morning was an early one, as I accompanied the wrap-up field trip of a Landcare workshop up to the Northern Province to visit some farms and see the countryside. The views were stunning as we climbed up into the highlands of a country made up of highlands. From bigger hills the layout of the country became clearer – lush hills, many of them terraced for farming. The only bad part was I had the seat over a wheelwell of the bus and so my legs cramped from being folded up, but this made the walks when we stopped all the better.

Our group visited two farms, and on one of them there was some very animated conversation about the long-term viability of the projects that had been implemented – whether or not the small farmers could keep the projects going and expand them on their own without donor support. The group of professionals in the Landcare workshop were from Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Rwanda, and Zambia (not sure on Zambia).

On the trip we got to see several extinct volcanoes, one of them incredibly massive and covered in fog on the border with Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). This is the area where the famous mountain gorillas reside. Apparently there is a gorilla baby-naming ceremony this Saturday which is pretty cool, but I think I have some field visits I have to make instead…But I hope to plan a trip to go hiking in the area where tourists can have a shot at seeing them. The gorillas usually don’t attend the ceremony anyway :).

Yesterday I met with a couple people and for the first time saw, in person, one of the runoff harvesting ponds that I am going to be assessing. The first exciting part of the day was without a doubt riding in a matatu (minibus taxi) with Eminem blasting on the system followed by a ride on the back of a motorcycle point-to-point transport. If I can find fast internet at a café or somewhere, I will try to upload the video. The second exciting part was eating “flamingo” – roast chicken basically or perhaps cuka choma, nicknamed flamingo because of the scrawny legs from running all over the place, unlike American factory-raised chickens. It was absolutely delicious and mouthwatering. One of my supervisors, Alex Odour, and an advisor, Wilfred, and myself all tore into the pile of chicken like it was our last meal. This was at a place called Chez Lando.

Until next time.



  1. Way to go, Owen! You're making NMSU proud!

  2. Owen! you are so amazing. I hope your project and visits there are what you need them to be. Cant wait to see pictures and more updates. Love, B

  3. Great Pictures Owen. They tell a story all their own. Good Job!