It might be getting trite to say, but it feels like much longer than a few months since I was last traveling. As I am working through my paperwork from my trips abroad in February and March, I thought I would put together a bit of a summary of the latest trip to Rwanda.
Arrival to Rwanda this time wasn’t via Brussels or Amsterdam, nor Turkey or Qatar, but via Addis Abada, Ethiopia. I was coming from Mali, and it was my first time flying Ethiopian. The food was great as was the coffee and everything was pretty smooth. This was also my first strong indication of the emergence of the pandemic outside the news cycle. About 25% of the airport was already wearing masks, and you could pick up a mask at any of the vendors in the airport. I ate my meal with a curious Italian tourist who asked lots of questions and gave few details about himself.
Almost immediately upon arriving in Musanze, Rwanda, I had the opportunity to go birding with Elie Sinayitutse, a biologist and birder. He brought a few of us out to an emerging wetland complex and gave us a great tour. It was a good refresher for me for some birds I had learned last year in Akagera, but it was mostly learning new things about the birds in the Northern Province of Rwanda. Good pictures of the birds were hard, but the trip was fantastic.
Next, it was time to buckle down to the task at hand: working with students fixing up their projects. The students I was mentoring, Ikirezi Mbuguje Clarisse and Nsabimana Alexis are a couple of folks to watch in the future. Clarisse focused on understanding the relationship between illegal bamboo harvesting inside Volcanoes National Park and work outside the park to plant bamboo. Alexis mapped and assessed land use change outside Gishwati-Mukura National Park, a high elevation park once similar to it’s sibling Nyungwe National Park, that has gone through the beginnings of restoration.
Shout out to the University of Rwanda, the Center of Excellence in Biodiversity & Natural Resources Management, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, and Cleveland Zoological Society for supporting these programs. To be in the orbit of such great leaders training the next generation of conservationists is an honor.
While we were there, we got to spend some time working with and socializing with former students. Hi Ange, Jado, Honorine, Marie Fidèle, Elias, Laban, Marcel, Nelly, and Olivier! It was pure pleasure. My gosh, this crew is photogenic.
For the first time since I have been traveling abroad, I finally got the chance to get some tailoring done. Yvonne Mushimiyimana, a friend and researcher with Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, my colleague and friend Laura Bernstein-Kurtycz, and I headed off to the local market to choose fabrics and have Yvonne’s favorite tailor put together dresses for Yvonne and Laura, and a suit jacket for me.
After the students finish their projects, present their results to a wide range of experts, we usually do a large number of photos. My phone and heart become full, and it’s a good way to blow off some steam at the end of a good, but intense and stressful final week.
Stay tuned for the next blog post on the trip where we travel to Nyungwe National Park, Butare / University of Rwanda, and on… .