Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Gisenyi, Rwanda

This last weekend I went to Gisenyi, which is about a 4 hr. bus ride, with my friends Emmett and Malcolm. Gisenyi is located on the northern end of Lake Kivu, which is divided between the DRC and Rwanda. The area was incredibly beautiful and mountainous. On the way we passed Musanze, which is located at the foot of the Virunga (Volcano) National Park. Through a thick fog we were able to catch a nice glimpse of these volcanoes but I can’t possibly convey the feelings it invokes or even simply give you the chills that went up my spine. I’m no Hemingway. On the other hand, the terrain is quite unforgiving. People live on the side of mountains that seem physically impossible to live on let alone farm on! People must have the physical acuity of a mountain goat. The slightest mistake would send you plummeting down in a way that only Homer from “The Simpsons” could comprehend. It looked like a completely different country than the one that I have intimately known for the past 9 months.
The first thing we saw in Gisenyi was an acrobatics group practicing on the beach of Kivu. If you haven’t seen African acrobatics before, you are missing out. Second was the frontier of the infamous and mysterious DRC but I dared not set foot there. Not until after my Peace Corps service that is. Third was a hot spring. It wasn’t developed for bathing but could potentially make a good tourist destination if people chose to make it one. We walked around a small peninsula and returned to town for lunch. For lunch I had fried sambaza! Mmmm… Mmmm…. Sambaza is a tiny fish about 2 1/2 inches long and is fried (whole) in a light batter and served with a delicious sauce. Birajyoshye! (Delicious!) We had some beers and returned to our cheap yet pleasant hotel room exhausted and satisfied. The next day we made our long journey back to our sites with a newfound deference for the northern province.
I know I said that I wouldn’t do this but I can’t in good conscience leave out the amount of human suffering I witnessed in Gisenyi. I was surprised to find that this more touristy town showed more signs of poverty than Rwamagana which has practically no tourist attraction at all. Beggars were all but few. From my short time there, children seemed to show more signs of malnourishment than other areas that I have seen in Rwanda.

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